The Simple Ingredient Swap To Use When You're Low On Beef Broth

Whether you're whipping up a stew or in need of the perfect liquid base for your braised brisket, a hearty beef broth will always come to the rescue. Ideally, your cupboards would be stocked with the stuff whenever you're in need of it, but as most home cooks know, sometimes the one ingredient you need to finish dinner is the one ingredient you forgot to pick up at the grocery store. Hey, we've all been there. Luckily, there's almost always a solution — or a pretty good substitution.

In the case of beef broth, there are actually quite a few. Some of the best beef broth substitutions include similarly savory chicken or vegetable broths, bouillon cubes or even dashi, the staple broth used in Japanese cuisine. But if you don't have any of those ingredients on hand either, one of the simplest swaps you can make involves a soybean-derived condiment you probably have a bottle of in your fridge — or, at least, a few leftover packets of from your last Chinese food takeout order. Yep, we're talking about some regular ol' soy sauce. Rich with umami flavor and the same savory saltiness of a classic beef broth, the versatile ingredient will work as a great alternative. 

It's surprisingly easy to turn soy sauce into a broth substitute

To start, you don't want to just pour a whole bottle of soy sauce into your pot and call it a day. Given its potent taste and thicker consistency, a little bit can go a long way when it comes to supplying a punch of flavor. So, how should you actually turn soy sauce into a suitable replacement for a meat-based broth? Dilution is the key. For every cup of beef broth your recipe calls for, mix 1 tablespoon of soy sauce into 1 cup of water, and voila. You can apply this little rule of thumb when you need a quick and easy broth replacement in soups, braised dishes, and beyond.

Now, considering the fact that there are a number of different types of soy sauce, you may be wondering whether your emergency bottle will work for this purpose. While most versions of the condiment will do, your best bet is to use a darker option if you're trying to mimic the taste of beef broth as closely as possible. If you've got a bottle of Japanese soy sauce (aka Shoyu), traditional Chinese soy sauce, or even a slightly pre-seasoned type on hand, you'll be golden. Prefer to cut the saltiness in your dish? Low-sodium soy sauce works fine, too, it'll just result in a less salty final result. According to Tasting Table writer Keri Johnson, though, it's best not to use a sweet variety, since it won't quite nail that meaty flavor you're after.