Consommé starts as a full-flavored, rich stock which is then reduced with egg whites to remove the sediments and fat. The final result is a clear, intense tasting clarified liquid that is served as soup for an appetizer. Invented by the French, consommé is a popular dish that is loved for its taste. It also possesses a unique viscous texture that is thicker than everyday broth.
Consommé has a range uses in cooking. It is the basis for aspic, a savory jelly containing pieces of meat or seafood. It can also be used added to casseroles, soups and many other side dishes. Dumplings are taken to a new level when served in a flavor-packed consommé.
If you are looking for a beef consommé substitute then the best options are to use either beef broth, beef stock, or mushroom consommé. Making homemade consommé is also an excellent option if time permits. It may take several hours of cooking time, but the final result will be much better than a store-bought product.
Suggested alternatives to beef consommé
1. Beef stock
Beef stock is the best back-up option if you don't have any consommé in the kitchen. It can be purchased in a packet, such as beef bouillon cubes, which is fine if you're looking to save time. If you have time to spare, the homemade option will offer a much tastier, flavorsome liquid.
To make homemade stock, you'll roast 2 pounds of beef bones for 30 minutes. Then add them to a stockpot of water with chopped onions, carrots, celery, and your favorite herbs. Simmer the bones for eight hours, allowing the collagen in the bones to provide the liquid with a delicious gelatinous texture.
2. Beef broth
Another suitable alternative to beef consommé is beef broth. It is cooked for a much shorter time than stock.
Although they both have a similar meaty flavor profile, broth will have less intensity. This difference can be fixed by simmering the broth on a low heat for 15-30 minutes until it reduces. This cooking process will decrease the liquid and increase the flavor.
3. Mushroom consommé
If you need a plant-based, vegetarian alternative to using beef, mushroom consommé is a good option. You'll get that delicious umami flavor that would typically come from beef.
If you want to make homemade mushroom consommé, then check out this recipe over at the NY Times. It uses a combination of fresh white and porcini mushrooms for added taste.
How to make beef consommé
This is a simple recipe for making beef consommé at home. For a better flavor, consider replacing the store-bought stock with a homemade version. As mentioned above, you'll need the best part of a day to simmer the bones. It's worth your time if you can spare it.
- 4 egg whites
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 celery stalks
- 4 small tomatoes, such as Roma
- ¾ pound ground beef, premium sirloin
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- 6 cups beef stock
- Add egg whites and pepper to a large bowl and whisk until a foamy texture forms.
- Pulse the celery, tomatoes, and ground beef several times in a food processor.
- Combine all the ingredients into a large stockpot and heat on high, frequently stirring, until boiling. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes. No stirring is required.
- Remove from heat and carefully pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve that is lined with cheesecloth.
- Season and serve steaming hot in a bowl or allow it to cool for later use.
Store beef consommé in an airtight container for 3-4 days or freeze the consommé for up to six months. Always label food with the date it was made for easy freezer management.
How does clarification work?
During the process of slow-cooking stock, protein from the meat transfers into the water. This results in a cloudy looking liquid. During clarification, this protein coagulates and collects at the top of the pan. By carefully filtering the liquid through a cheesecloth, the solids separate from the liquid, resulting in a clear stock.
Beef consommé is a clear soup that's relatively time-intensive to make at home, and not always available in stores. If you're looking for a suitable alternative, then beef stock or broth are your best options for replicating a similar flavor and texture. Naturally, they won't perfectly mimic consommé. Consommé changes its form and taste when it is cooked with egg whites for almost an hour. This step helps to clarify the liquid – reducing the fat and increasing its viscosity.
If you are looking to replace consommé as a soup, eaten on its own, then your best option is to change the menu item. Using an alternative like stock, won't cut it as a soup. French onion is another rich, flavorsome soup you might want to use instead? Check out our recipe here.
For recipes that use beef consommé combined with other ingredients, you can get away with using beef stock or broth. For most, the difference will barely be noticeable.
What is your favorite use for consommé? Let us know in the comments below.