How to Make Chicken Stock with Nettles

Ali Segersten Apr 28, 2011 22 comments
How to Make Chicken Stock with Nettles

Stocks or broths can be used in many different ways, well beyond soups. Homemade stock is far more nutritious than store-bought stock, even the organic brands. For one, commercial stocks, whether chicken or vegetable, use many different "natural" flavorings. What is a natural flavoring anyway? It can be anything, but most often it is a man-made chemical, often containing MSG (free glutamic acid). Did you know that the FDA classifies MSG as "natural" and by using other terms such as "natural flavoring" or "yeast extract," manufacturers can somewhat deceive label-reading consumers into buying their products? The flavoring industry is a billion dollar industry. Most of us won't buy a product that doesn't taste good. Humans have receptors on their tongues for glutamate, the amino acid we recognize as the common "meat" flavor in foods. Using MSG in foods such as chicken stock is a way to cut corners and create a cheap food for a profit. And unfortunately, MSG is a neurotoxic substance causing headaches and in large amounts, possible damage to the brain (in B6 and magnesium deficient people). By making your own stocks using high-quality ingredients, you create so much flavor you would never need to add anything else to them.

Here is an ingredient list for an organic chicken stock made by a well-known company: Organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), Organic chicken flavor (organic chicken flavor, sea salt), Natural chicken flavor (chicken stock, salt), Sea salt, Organic evaporated cane juice, Organic onion powder, Turmeric, Organic flavor.

Now let's look at the ingredient list for a homemade stock: Organic chicken carcass, onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, parsley, rosemary, thyme, black peppercorns, Herbamare, and fresh nettles.

I know we are all very busy and for some of us, just the thought of making your own stock seems overwhelming. But it doesn't need to be. Stocks can be simmered slowly for hours on the stove with very little attention needed. When you roast a whole chicken and have pulled all the meat from the bones, simply toss it in a stockpot (8-quart), add your vegetables, water, vinegar, and salt then cover and simmer for 6 hours or more. If you don't have time to make stock within a few days of roasting the chicken then put the chicken carcass in the freezer and take it out when you are ready.

Nutritional benefits of consuming homemade chicken stock:

  • contains nutrients that can strengthen digestion
  • adds gelatin which is rich in gut and joint supporting components
  • contains many minerals in an easily absorbable form, including calcium
  • adds small amounts of easily digested proteins to the diet

Because it is spring, I've been adding fresh nettles to our stock these days. Fresh nettles can be seen in just about every forest around us this time of year. We've harvested some ourselves but need to get out soon and stock up before they get too big. Nettles are best harvested when only a few inches high. If you are interested in learning more on nettle harvesting please read a post I did last year on Harvesting Nettles with Children

Nutritional benefits of nettles: 

  • rich source of minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc 
  • high in carotenoids, potassium, and Vitamin K1
  • may assist in reversing anemia
  • contains anti-inflammatory compounds
  • is a mild diuretic that can decrease water retention problems 
  • can assist in boosting fertility in women

About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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Hello Ali! I wanted to make this stock, but I missed nettle season! Is it possible to use dried nettles instead?

Thank you!

Hi there,

I don't use a pressure canner but I would assume this would be fine since one would use this same method for canning meats and fish.

If you do freeze them, they are best left at room temp to thaw or placed in the fridge to thaw (usually takes about 2 days for this). Mine will crack too if I place them into hot water.

You can certainly use a slow cooker. I slow cook mine for about 24 hours on low. :)

Hi Leta,

Yes you can hang bunches from your ceiling upside down and let them air dry (this works really well if you live in a dry climate). You can also freeze the leaves and stems to use in stock later on. :)

Yes...the carcass includes all of it! Skin and bones. :)

Can you pressure-cook/can the stock instead of freezing using Ball canning methods? I am not always good about planning ahead, so defrosting frozen stock makes me worry jars will crack if I put them in a hot bath. Being able to keep some stock in the pantry would be easy and I know we would use more of it.

Thanks! Love nettles. They cured my kiddos dust & pet allergy.

Do I have to use a stockpot or can i use my slow cooker?

Does the "carcass" include the skin or just the bones? Obviously I don't know what I'm doing!


Thanks so much for these wonderful recipes, I was receiving recipes from Kraft but now I will cancel the Kraft ones and keep yours.

Thanks so much


I grew up on a farm where we butchered our own chicken and sold the extras to earn a bit of extra cash when money was tight. So I have never bought chicken stock. It is too easy and cheap to make your own.
Recently I have started freezing my vegetable peelings in a container in the freezer. When it gets full, it's time to make veggie stock! Now I have 2 containers going.. one with lighly flavoured veggies that can go with chicken or fish. And another for darker, strongly flavoured veggies that can go with beef or dark stocks. It feel so go to be able to make something fabulous out of 'nothing'.
But nettles are new to me. I wanted to ask, have you ever frozen nettles to use later? We don't have a dehydrator, and freezing is my current way to preserve. Would you freeze the entire plant or just the leaves? Could I maybe just hang a bunch upside-down and let them air dry them?
Thanks in advance for any advice.

This is the one and only recipe I use for making stock. I thank you over and over again. ♥

Megan - Make sure you leave about 2 inches and freeze them uncovered and upright. Then cap them once the stock is completely frozen.

I am having some issues with my glass jars cracking in the freezer. I have them at fridge temp before I freeze them, so I am thinking maybe I filled the jars up too much? How much space do you leave at the top of your jars Ali? Thanks.

Thank you for this beautiful recipe. I have just made this with dulse & ginger instead of nettles. You are right...I will never go back to store bought soup stock!! Homemade stock is a wonderful thing to make time for. I am 8 weeks pregnant & suffering from morning sickness. Sipping this as a broth is helping me so much...

lippian84 - Nettle season in the Midwest occurs later than here in the Pacific Northwest and I know it has been a late spring out there so you might still be in luck! But for an alternative to fresh nettles, you can use dried nettles and/or dried sea vegetables such as dulse and kelp. :)

I'm excited to try this and I've got everything to make stock (after I roast a chicken and eat it) except nettles... I think nettle season is over in the Midwest anyway and I live in a well-built-up area, so I don't trust myself to pick nettles in the backyard. And there aren't any fresh nettles at the only store in town. Is there another green that makes a good substitute?

You can get white lids for mason jars from many stores in Bellingham, including Fred Meyers, look in canning supply area.
I like them because they are not metal, so they do not contanimate any jar contents they come into contact with and they are easy to write on.

Where did you find the white lids for wide mouth jars? I too live in B'ham.

Ali ... thanks for this great post. I just made some bone broth yesterday for the little man in the family. He's recovering from a stomach bug and he sipped it up. I am intrigued by the nettles. Will have to read up on those and source them locally.

And adoring reader,

I just made stock today! I thought that I put too much water in it but I think the real problem is that I didn't let it simmer long enough because it only tastes like flavored water :( Now I know for next time I guess. I love the addition of Nettles! Yum!

Love the addition of the fresh nettles. Great idea. I often add a bit of turmeric if I want a more yellow stock. It is also anti-inflammatory.

Do you ever get a little chickened-out? It's a funny phrase, but I feel like the only animal products we consume sometimes are chicken and wild Alaskan Salmon. We don't eat much in the way of animal products in general, but I am starting to feel it's a little unfair towards to the poultry population. We do get our chickens from a nearby farm, but still.

Thanks for your stock ideas! We made the veggie stock every week and I was just thinking that it might be good to have chicken stock on hand sometimes too.

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