Did you know there’s an easy way to use bones and vegetable scraps instead of throwing them away? There sure is – and it’s called Instant Pot bone broth! This tried-and-true homemade bone broth recipe is made with leftover vegetable scraps and poultry bones (like chicken or even your Thanksgiving turkey). If you love cooking healthy on a budget and hate food waste, read on my friend, this post is for you.
Why I Love Instant Pot Bone Broth
Bone broth gets a lot of attention for its health benefits (which I’ll discuss in a sec, don’t worry) but honestly, the biggest reason I love it is because it’s frugal and it helps combat food waste.
Think about it, when you buy a beautiful whole chicken or turkey — hello, holiday meals! — you and your family obviously enjoy the meat, but what usually happens to the bones? Unless your family has a tradition of using those bones to make stock or broth (if so, lucky you), they probably go in the trash. The same is true with veggie scraps like ends of celery and onions and peels from carrots. *womp, womp*
Throwing away food scraps like veggies and bones is a bummer for two main reasons:
- You paid for the whole bird (bones and all!) and/or vegetable, so you’re basically throwing away money.
- The vegetable scraps and bones many people throw away are actually very nutritious! Using the whole bird or veggie is a way to honor your food more fully.
Bone broth helps you reduce food waste and squeeze in additional nutrients, which is awesome, but typically that process would take a long time. The Instant Pot makes the process of making bone broth way more efficient.
What are the benefits of bone broth?
As promised, let’s talk about nutrition. The differences between broth, stock, and bone broth are based on time, as they all contain the same basic ingredients (vegetables and/or bones). Stock is simmered for a short amount of time (45 minutes), broth is simmered for a longer amount of time (4-6 hours), and bone broth is simmered for a very long time (up to 24 hours).
When bones are cooked over a long period of time, they release amino acids (aka the building blocks of protein), collagen (a type of protein), vitamins, and minerals that wouldn’t normally be available to our bodies. This can be a positive and a negative thing. I’ll explain.
Animal bones contain beneficial minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous, and their marrow includes other nutrients, including vitamins A and K2, selenium, zinc, and manganese, among others. These nutrients all have health benefits.
A big part of the allure of bone broth comes from proteins (like collagen) and amino acids. Collagen (yep, the same trendy stuff you’ve seen being sold in powder and pill form) is touted as a remedy for everything from joint pain to hair, skin, and nail health issues. Here’s what you need to know…
Collagen, like all proteins, is made up of amino acids. Different amino acids perform different roles in the body. When collagen is cooked for a long time, it turns into gelatin (another protein) that contains amino acids that help our bodies build connective tissues. One small study showed that drinking bone broth helped people with rheumatoid arthritis decrease their symptoms. Can collagen improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails? The evidence isn’t quite clear on that, yet.
My advice? Bone broth can provide additional protein, which is a positive! But if you’re eating enough protein from a variety of sources, your body will most likely have enough amino acids to build and maintain healthy tissues without supplementing with individual proteins or amino acids like collagen.
Are you still wondering about protein and amino acids? Read my Protein 101 post!
It’s hard to know exactly how much of each nutrient you’re really getting when you drink bone broth, especially the homemade stuff. The nutritional composition, prior cooking, size, and amount of bones used can all vary widely from cook to cook.
Bones can store and release a variety of minerals, but not all of these minerals are beneficial. Certain heavy metals, such as lead are stored in bones and could pose problems if you consume a lot of bone broth regularly.
My advice? Since the majority of us will not be testing the bones and broths we use for heavy metals on a regular basis, be mindful, but don’t panic. Drinking broth by the cupful on a daily basis? Not a great idea. Feeding bone broth to kiddos? Also not a great idea. Consuming moderate amounts of bone broth and using it in cooking as an adult? That’s a-okay.
How to Make the Best Bone Broth in the Instant Pot
What do I need to make bone broth?
Bone broth ingredients are simple and customizable! All you need are some bones that are leftover from roasting or smoking a whole turkey or chicken, apple cider vinegar, aromatic vegetables, salt, pepper, and herbs.
- For the bones, you can use the chicken or turkey carcass of a bird you just prepared, or you can store the bones for later use. To store bones, wrap them in aluminum foil and place in a gallon-sized freezer bag.
- Apple cider vinegar is included to help break down the bones.
- I always use carrots, onions, and celery, but other vegetables can work too. (see ‘Recipe Modifications’ below) Pro tip: Whenever you’re cutting vegetables in your kitchen, wash them thoroughly and add any scraps to a gallon-sized freezer bag. Once you accumulate enough scraps to fill up a bag, it’s time to make stock!
- A bit of salt, peppercorns, and some fresh herbs can add flavor to your broth. My not-so-secret ingredient is crushed red pepper flakes. This gives the broth a bit of heat!
The amounts of your ingredients can and will vary – I know mine is a little bit different every time! That’s part of the fun.
1. Add all of the ingredients to the Instant Pot
A 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot will work best for this recipe. Add the vegetables (I use a freezer bag filled with a mix of cleaned vegetable scraps), then the bones.
You may need to jostle around the ingredients so that they all fit in the Instant Pot. If you have a particularly full bag of vegetables or a large carcass, your ingredients may not all fit – but that’s okay! Take out any that don’t fit and save in a freezer bag for future stocks and broths. Just be sure that your ingredients don’t go over the fill line on your Instant Pot.
Finally, add 10 cups of water or enough to come close to (but not over) the fill line as well as fresh herbs, peppercorns, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
Gently stir ingredients and ensure that the sealing ring on your Instant Pot is intact and clean. (If it doesn’t seal – you’re in trouble! This happened to me once and I was pissed.)
Add the lid, then turn the venting knob to sealing mode. Press the ‘manual’ button, make sure that you’re in high-pressure mode, and set the timer for 120 minutes (aka 2 hours). It may take some time (about 10-20 minutes) for your Instant Pot to come to pressure and the timer to start.
Once the timer goes off, do a quick release (i.e. turn the knob to venting mode and let the Instant Pot release all of its pressure). Once the quick release is done and the little metal plunger comes down, remove the lid and turn off the Instant Pot.
You may get some sputtering when you quick release – if this happens, just lightly cover the vent with a paper towel to absorb some of the liquid. (Or if you don’t mind a mess, let it fly!)
Turn off the Instant Pot and wait at least 20 minutes. Your hands and your face will thank you. (Sincerely, someone who has burned herself with steam and a hot Instant Pot because she is impatient.)
Set up a strainer over a heat-proof bowl. Using oven mitts or silicone mitts, carefully pick up the inner metal pot of the Instant Pot and slowly pour the contents into the strainer. If you’d like the broth to be a bit less cloudy, strain the broth again using a fine mesh strainer.
Broth can be kept refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.
Can you freeze bone broth?
Absolutely! To freeze, measure out the broth into freezer-safe containers once it is cooled. (Please don’t put hot containers directly into the freezer! Unless you liked cracked containers and big messes.) Pre-measuring helps you ensure you have the right amount on hand for future recipes so you can use exactly what you need. 1, 2, and 4-cup portions usually work best.
- Use dried herbs instead of fresh – Dried herbs that are large enough to be filtered out of your broth are okay (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil). I would avoid any powdered or finely ground herbs, as these will make your broth more cloudy.
- Make it milder – If you don’t like spice, omit the peppercorns and red pepper flakes.
- Use different vegetable scraps – Mushrooms, shallots, leeks, turnips, parsnips, and bell peppers also work in this recipe.
- Swap in fresh vegetables – If you don’t have a bag of vegetable scraps hanging around in your freezer, that’s totally fine! I listed the amounts of fresh vegetables you’ll need in the recipe below.
- Add smoky flavor – If you have a smoker at home, you can totally use leftover bones from a smoked chicken or turkey. (We often do!) Using the bones from smoked meat will impart a delicious smoky aroma into your broth.
- Use other types of bones – I have not tested this recipe with other types of bones yet (beef, lamb, pork, fish), so I can’t speak to how those substitutions would work out. See the links I included in the previous sentence for some advice from other bloggers!
- Make it without bones – Well, it won’t be a bone broth, but you can still make a delicious vegetable broth from scraps in your Instant Pot! Here’s a recipe for Instant Pot veggie broth using scraps.
Instant Pot Bone Broth
- pressure cooker
- 2 cups carrot ends or peels
- 2 cups celery roughly chopped
- 2 cups onion ends or peels
- 1 small turkey or chicken carcass fresh or frozen
- 10 cups water
- 1 tbsp sea salt coarse
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 0.5 tsp red pepper flakes *optional
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 handful fresh herbs (rosemary or thyme) *optional
- Add vegetables and bones to a 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot. Cover with about 10 cups of water, or enough to get to the fill line on the inner pot. Add salt, peppercorns, red pepper flakes (if you'd like a bit of a kick), apple cider vinegar, and fresh herbs (if you have them).
- Gently stir ingredients and ensure that the sealing ring on your Instant Pot is intact and clean. Add the lid, turn the venting knob to sealing mode. Press manual, select high pressure, and set for 120 minutes. It may take some time (about 10-20 minutes) for your Instant Pot to come to pressure and the timer to start.
- Once the timer goes off, do a quick release (i.e. turn the knob to venting mode and let the Instant Pot release all of its pressure). Once the quick release is done and the metal plunger comes down, remove the lid and turn off the Instant Pot.
- Let cool for 20 minutes.
- Place a metal strainer over a large, heat-proof bowl. With gloves, carefully pick up the Instant Pot and pour its contents into the strainer. You can strain one more time through a finer mesh strainer if you like. (I usually do.)
- Use immediately in a recipe, on its own, or cool and store for later use. (see recipe notes)
- Where are the nutrition facts? Typically, I would include these but the nutrition facts for this recipe can vary widely. When bones break down, they release additional collagen protein, but it is unclear how much. Parts of the bones and fibrous parts of the vegetables are also discarded, but they do release some vitamins and minerals during cooking.
- I listed approximate amounts for carrots, celery, and onion, but what I typically do is add a freezer bag full of frozen vegetable scraps to the pot.
- Storing broth: Broth can be kept refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 1 week. To freeze, measure out the broth into freezer-safe containers once it is cooled. Pre-measuring helps you ensure you have the right amount on hand for future recipes so you can use exactly what you need. 1, 2, and 4-cup portions usually work best.