This classic and savory slow cooker bone broth recipe is a flavor-packed drink that will nourish and warm you up during cold winter days. Enjoy for breakfast or as a quick pick-me-up afternoon sip, or use it as a versatile stock to add richness to soups, stews, sauces, and other quick weeknight meals. Plus, I share with you some of my favorite recipes to enjoy this bone broth!
Homemade long-simmered (bone) broths or stocks have been part of my regular diet since childhood. My mom's special chicken soup or bone-in beef stew recipe would simmer for hours on the stove, releasing warm and savory aromas throughout the kitchen.
In the winter, stews and stocks like this slow cooker bone broth recipe were just part of our diet—sipped on to prevent a nasty cold, restore strength after an illness, or maintain general health when freezing temperatures was on everyone's mind.
Whatever meat was left on the cooked bones ended up in a salad or between a sandwich, while some of us were drawn to the bone marrow topped with a bit of sea salt.
I love making slow cooker bone broths or stocks at home
- Because I have control over the quality of the ingredients;
- It is a great way to use any vegetable offcuts, peelings, or trimmings;
- And it is one of the most affordable and nutrition-rich foods you can easily make.
I have adapted one of my recipes for the slow cooker. It's convenient, requires less attention than a Dutch oven or a stove pot, but still slowly builds up all the stock's flavors. Plus, I even find that the meat retains more flavor.
So, let's dive in.
Broth vs. Stock
Bone broth, stock, broth, believe me, I use these words interchangeably here at home. But there is a difference.
Traditionally, a good stock is made with animal bones and is simmered long enough on the stove to extract all their rich collagen and minerals. It's normally minimally seasoned and often used as a base to make other dishes. Any liquid called stock gels once cooled in the refrigerator; otherwise, it's a broth.
A broth is an already deliciously flavored liquid by simmering meat with or without its bones, aromatic vegetables, and herbs in water for two to three hours over the stove. My mom's chicken broth is delicious enough to drink as-is, or she often uses it to make a hearty stracciatella soup after removing the meat—which ends up in a chicken salad.
Sometimes, it's fish or just vegetables and herbs that become a good broth base to extract their flavor.
Bone broth is a bit of a mix between a stock and a broth. Well, at least in my kitchen. Although I simmer for several hours—at least 8—animal bones with some meat in water, like with stock, I also lightly season it, using veggies and herbs, so it becomes a delicious drink to consume on its own—like a good broth.
Best bones for bone broth
You can use bones from just about any animal. I often use beef bones, marrow or knucklebones, or chicken necks. It really is a personal preference.
I'm not particularly eager to mix bones from different animal sources. Flavorwise it's not my cup of tea, but you totally could.
I normally buy mine at my local farmer's market—often, I can order them in advance online. But if you ask for soup bones at the butcher stand in your local grocery store, they'll most likely have them in the back and will gladly sell them to you.
I encourage you to get either organic bones, 100% grass-fed beef bones, or bones from a pastured chicken. Often local sources (anything less than 48 hrs away) offer far better prices than grocery stores. You might have to do a bit of research to see what's offered in your area. If that's not available to you, see where you can find the healthiest and reasonably priced sustainable food online. The slight extra cost is so worth it for your health and difference in taste.
Bone Broth—My Ingredients
There are so many ways to make and enjoy a long-simmered bone broth. But I am sharing a classic recipe that I like to make during the winter months—plus how to use the broth in some of my favorite alternative ways.
- Vegetable scraps: I often make my broth with vegetable scraps from leftovers in the fridge. In the end, you are going to strain the stock and discard the vegetable solids anyway. You can use the ends, peels, roots, stalks, and leaves from vegetables such as carrots, shallots, onions. Other great options to add flavor are celery and leeks. Yellow onions, scallions, and celery are my favorites to add to a broth, so sometimes I throw in the whole vegetable. The sweetness of a yellow onion and the buttery heartiness of celery add a beautiful richness and extra flavor!
- Don't forget garlic: because garlic softens during the long simmer time, its intense flavors become sweeter and more mellow. Its distinct taste perfectly balances out all the other characteristics of the broth.
- Soup bones: I love buying soup bones that become soft when making the broth like chicken, turkey, or pork necks—they also are very cheap. Beef bones, knuckles, marrow bones, short ribs, etc., are some of my other favorites as well. Go for what is on sale at your local farmer's market.
- Vegetable Broth Seasoning or Vegetable and gluten-free Bouillon Cubes: This type of seasoning is optional, but I love adding a healthy seasoning mix that instantly adds a deep flavor and makes the bone broth a worthy drink.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: a mild-flavored apple cider vinegar will extract minerals from the bones, and the acidity helps balance out the flavors.
- Herbs: Feel free to discover which herbs you like best. You can't go wrong with adding dried or fresh Thyme and Rosemary sprigs.
- Sea salt or Himalayan salt: I don’t put a lot of salt in my broth, just enough to give it some taste and as an extra nutrient. You can opt to add some salt later based on preference when serving the broth individually as a drink or use it as a base for other dishes.
Favorite ways to enjoy bone broth
Homemade slow cooker bone broth can easily replace ready-made stock for hearty soups, stews or add heartiness to rice or quinoa dishes. But here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy leftover bone broth.
Reheat a cup of bone broth, pour it into a mug and enjoy like your cup of coffee—add additional seasoning to taste. It is incredibly satisfying. My husband, who loves his cup of Joe in the morning doesn't mind replacing it now and then with this hearty broth. Better yet, pair a bowl with my Parsley and Anchovy Mini Frittatas for Sunday brunch!
Sometimes I love making a quick breakfast bowl with wheat and gluten-free cream of Buckwheat (Try Cream of Buckwheat from Pocono). This organic cereal is ready in no time. Cook it in water over the stove according to package directions. When soft, pour over a cup of bone broth and some cheese. Let it softly simmer until cheese is melted and the liquid is hot—it will cook away a little but leaves a wholesome flavor to the dish. You can even stir in an egg until fluffy but still moist. This cheesy and protein-rich breakfast is hearty and incredibly filling.
For Lunch or a Quick Dinner:
Make my savory Asian-inspired Noodle dish with leftover bone broth (gluten-free). It is straightforward to make, yet this dish is filling, comforting, and delicious.
As an afternoon pick-me-up drink:
Drink it like a cup of hot tea in the afternoon or before your evening meal. Add a little extra Vegetable and Broth Seasoning while reheating it over the stove and some fresh chopped Parsley leaves to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion.
Should I roast my bones first?
I never do because it's so much easier to make, and I always get a deep and delicious bone broth flavor with this slow cooker recipe.
Also, I love how the meatier bone-in-cuts become deliciously tender after a long simmer. Usually, I take those meatier pieces out when sufficiently cooked and serve them as a snack to nibble on and enjoy the bone marrow as well. Some of that meat offers a deeper flavor to the broth, yet it becomes a succulent bite when taken out earlier. You can also shred the meat, season with some salt, oregano, and olive oil, then enjoy as-is or with some Italian bread.
But you totally can oven-roast your bones in advance. Some even say that it gives the bone broth a richer, deeper flavor. There is no right or wrong here.
How long will bone broth keep in the refrigerator?
About 3 to 4 days. I let the slow cooker bone broth completely cool at room temperature and then strain the liquid before I store it in the fridge. I always skim off any fat that has hardened at the top before reheating the broth or using it in other dishes.
If you know that you will not consume it in the next few days after making the bone broth, store it in the freezer.
How to store bone broth in the freezer?
Once cooled, I strain the liquid and store it in glass mason jars or glass food storage containers. Make sure to leave enough room at the top for the broth to expand. The broth keeps well in the freezer for about 6 months.
Defrost by placing it in the fridge the night before.
- 3 cups vegetable ends from carrots, shallots, green onions, or dark green ends of leeks
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (you can also use celery instead)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 to 5 pounds beef bones or beef marrow bones (if preferred, you can also use pork neck bones or chicken necks)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 vegetable bouillons (optional)
- Black pepper ( 10 turns with the pepper mill)
- 2 or 3 fresh Thyme or Rosemary sprig
- 2 tablespoons of sea salt
- In an 8 QT slow cooker, cover the bottom with all the vegetable ends, the onion, and the garlic.
- Add the meat bones and pour the vinegar over the bones—season with salt or vegetable broth seasoning and pepper. Then throw in the fresh sprigs.
- Cover everything with water but leave about 1-inch space between any liquid and the pot's rim or fill the pot to its maximum capacity.
- Throw in the vegetable bouillons (optional)
- Cook on low for 8 to a maximum of 24 hours.
- When ready, allow the broth to cool. Remove the big pieces of meat with a large slotted spoon, then strain the stock into a large bowl. Transfer the liquid to airtight containers and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 6 months.
- Immediately enjoy the meat bones or peel off the soft meat and enjoy in casseroles, omelets, .... (fill in)
After refrigeration, always skim off the fat congealed on top before reheating or using it as a soup or stew base.
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(Note: this post was initially published in December 2018. This post has been updated to include new info and photos)