Charred Onion Broth

Charred onion broth
You can add anything to this broth. Here, it’s been simmered with fish balls and herbs.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Charred onion and spices give this quick-cooking broth the complexity of long-simmered pho soup. Kombu adds a seafood depth, and you can accentuate it by adding fish bones at the very end and letting them poach for a minute or two before straining. The saffron delivers a unique aroma and golden hue but can be left out as it’s rather pricey.

Charred Onion Broth
50 minutes. Makes about 2 quarts.


  • 1 quart homemade or unsalted store-bought chicken broth
  • 1 yellow or brown onion, halved with skin on
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, scrubbed and smashed
  • 1 sheet kombu, rinsed
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)


  1. Bring the broth and 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. While the broth is coming to a boil, turn another burner to medium-high if using a gas stove (if using an electric or induction stovetop, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat). Put the onion directly on the grate over a gas flame or in the skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until evenly charred all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to the broth.
  2. Once the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Add the ginger, kombu, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan or into airtight containers to store until ready to use.

Make Ahead
The broth can be stored in airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Return to a simmer before using.

Recipe adapted by Angela Dimayuga.