I teach students in my Grocery Budget Bootcamp class to always have an old yogurt container in the freezer for chicken stock.
I usually get a couple strange comments and looks, so I explain that the container is for kitchen scraps – anything and everything that could possibly be added to chicken stock to enhance the flavor should be put into the container.
In this last class, the odd looks didn’t disappear and I could tell more questions were coming. This is one of my best and longest used money saving tricks, so I thought I’d share with you guys just exactly how to make chicken stock using kitchen scraps, including which scraps you should avoid!
Yes, there are kitchen scraps you should NOT put in your homemade chicken stock, so you shouldn’t really put “anything and everything.” I use that phrase though, because there is SO MANY KITCHEN SCRAPS you could put into homemade chicken stock, that you’ll never look at kitchen scraps the same way ever again.
Instead of peeling carrots and potatoes over the trash can, or having a ‘trash bowl’ like Rachel Ray, or even hauling your cutting board to the trash can when you’re cleaning up, you’re going to look at your kitchen scraps as pieces of gold.
Because really, these scraps are how you can make the best chicken stock you’ve ever had. And once you taste it, you’ll NEVER go back to store-bought, and you’ll think twice about throwing your kitchen scraps away!
The first step though, is to break out of the mindset that kitchen scraps belong in the trash can.
This goes for peels, rinds, skins, cores, stem, greens, leaves, cobs… ANYTHING you would typically throw away can *possibly* be used in homemade chicken stock.
The second step, is to realize the importance of washing ALL of your produce.
I admit that I sometimes skimp on washing cantaloupe or pineapple… typically the foods where we don’t eat the outside. If I’m not eating it, why bother washing it?
Since you ARE eating these foods now – or at least, are using them to add flavor to your homemade chicken stock – you do need to wash them.
As a frugal person, I don’t recommend picking up produce wash at the grocery store. They’re all over-priced and over-rated.
Plus, according to the Center for Food Safety:
It turns out that they [fruit and vegetables washes] aren’t any better than water. Multiple studies have found that produce washes such as Fit and Earth Friendly are no more effective in cleaning produce than regular tap water. In a study of three commercial washes, University of Maine researchers found that distilled water was equally if not more effective in removing microbes such as bacteria and mold. Since produce washes are costly, they advise consumers to simply wash fresh fruits and vegetables with water instead of wasting their money on unnecessary washes.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also advises against using commercial produce washes because the safety of their residues has not been evaluated and their effectiveness has not been tested or standardized. The FDA also recommends washing produce in cold tap water.
I suggest using one of these natural fruit and vegetable wash recipes instead (I use #8) and buying as close to the source as possible.
Speaking of buying as close to the source as possible, buying organic doesn’t get you out of washing your produce.
ALL commercially grown organic food is sprayed with pesticides. Yes, the pesticide must be on an approved list by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but pesticides are pesticides and the quantity of pesticide used isn’t always controlled.
What do we do then?
Buy the best quality you can afford, always wash your produce and save your kitchen scraps for chicken stock to make every dollar count!
How to Make Chicken Stock Using Kitchen Scraps
In order to make homemade chicken stock, you first need chicken bones. These bones can be…
- from a whole chicken you butchered yourself
- random drumsticks and thighs from meals
- raw bones with meat on them
- eaten-off-of bones from dinner plates
- bought from a butcher
- a whole chicken you cooked (via the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker) and picked all the meat off of
It doesn’t really matter where the bones come from, but the quality does matter.
Similar to the idea of the quality of your kitchen scraps, since you are using these bones for homemade chicken stock, you want to buy the best quality you can afford.
Personally, we’re committed to buying organic chicken. We think it tastes better, but also because we save every single bone for stock.
There was a time though, when we couldn’t afford for all of our chicken to be organic. In those cases, I bought organic whole chickens, but bought conventional pieces (i.e. breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks) and saved just the bones from the whole chickens, and discarded the bones from the conventional chicken.
You can decide what’s best for your family, but as I mentioned, you need chicken bones!
In addition to chicken bones, you also need kitchen scraps.
Here’s a list of the best kitchen scraps for homemade chicken stock:
- Asparagus – the ends and any part beyond the natural snapping point
- Beets – greens and roots
- Carrots – all ends, peels, and greens (you can also use green carrot tops to make carrot top pesto!)
- Cauliflower – leafy base
- Corn – corn cobs
- Garlic – the outer paper of the head, the peel of each clove, and the garlic itself
- Celery – the white parts near the root, the “mini-rib” near the top, and both the inner and outer leaves
- Ginger – outer skin
- Green Beans – the snipped or pinched off ends
- Greens – any sturdy and hearty greens like beet greens, turnip, collards, chard… you can use the leaves and the stems
- Herbs – most mild ad savory herbs are great for stock, like chives, parsley, and basil. See “Herbs” below for which ones to avoid.
- Leek – all parts of the leaves
- Lettuce – it doesn’t add much flavor, but it can be added
- Mushrooms – stems and caps
- Onions – papery peel, outer layer and all varieties
- Parsnip – all ends and peels
- Pea Pods – the outer shell from peas
- Potatoes – peels
- Squash – the hard outside of winter squash (acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc.), the seeds of any squash
- Sweet Potatoes – peels
- Turnip – all ends and peels
The Worst Kitchen Scraps for homemade chicken stock:
- Avocado – pits and skin
- Cabbage – any kind (including Brussels sprouts, napa, green, red)
- Herbs – cilantro, rosemary in large quantities
- Peppers (hot) – any kind
- Peppers (sweet)
A final notes before you start prepping dinner just to have some scraps for homemade chicken stock:
Avoid scraps that you don’t like.
Your kitchen scraps will impart flavor to your stock, even though you’re using just a little bit. If you don’t like asparagus, then certainly don’t add the ends to your scrap container!
Some scraps will make the chicken stock cloudy, which may or may not be a big deal.
Naturally occurring starch in potatoes, corn and other vegetables will come out as the stock cooks. This isn’t a big deal to me personally, but I just wanted to make sure you knew.
The best homemade chicken stock will come from a variety of kitchen scraps.
If you only put a container full of eggplant scraps alongside your chicken bones, your chicken stock might not taste that great! Be sure to use a variety of kitchen scraps so the flavor is evenly balanced and rich.
Items you avoid for homemade chicken stock may be great in soup!
There’s nothing wrong with adding Brussels sprouts and cabbage and herbs to a pot of homemade minestrone soup. But we don’t want the flavor of these foods to be imparted into a big batch of chicken stock. The flavors are just too strong! Especially when you consider how you may use that stock… cabbage-flavored homemade macaroni and cheese, anyone?
Your kitchen scraps can be raw or cooked!
Anytime I make Instant Pot Chicken, I keep those herbs an vegetables for my next batch of stock.
Don’t forget about your spice cabinet!
Although we’re talking about kitchen scraps in this post, a tablespoon of black peppercorns and/or a teaspoon of celery seed can go a long way in homemade chicken stock.
Once you have chicken bones and kitchen scraps, you can start making chicken stock!
Here’s my method for making slow cooker chicken stock, and here’s how to make Instant Pot chicken stock. If you want to make chicken stock on the stove, combine everything in a big pot and simmer for 2-4 hours.
I have an 8 quart Instant Pot and use about one gallon of chicken bones to one gallon of kitchen scraps. The more bones and scraps you have, the richer and more flavorful the broth will be. Don’t forget that you can re-use the bones and scraps for multiple batches of stock!
Here’s my exact method for making chicken stock.
- Make Instant Pot whole chicken.
- Leave the liquid in the Instant Pot and remove the chicken. Pick the meat off the bones and put all the bones back into the Instant Pot.
- Add my frozen chicken bones and frozen kitchen scraps.
- Add 1 Tbsp black peppercorns and 1 tsp celery seed and fill the Instant Pot to the fill line with water.
- Press the “broth/stock” option and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a colander, set over a 12 quart stock pot.
- Put the bones and scraps back into the Instant Pot and repeat steps 4-6 until the stock pot is full.
- Let the stock cool to room temperature and ladle into old yogurt containers.
- Freeze for homemade stock whenever I need it!