Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
This pho soup recipe will have you slurping a big bowl of steaming hot pho in less than 60 minutes! The easy broth is bursting with beefy, earthy, complex yet delicate flavors laced with quintessential cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamon. I’ve shortcut the long simmering processes by using quality beef bone broth then adding charred onions and ginger and toasted spices, then simmering for just 45 minutes while you prep the garnishes. To your rich, savory pho broth, you can add beef, chicken, pork or shrimp along with your chewy rice noodles, a handful of fresh herbs and a splash of lime juice, hoisin and sriracha. This pho recipe also earns major points because it can be prepped ahead or frozen and then just warmed when ready, so you can sit back and enjoy pho in your slippers just the way you like it!
Servings Prep Time
4bowls 15minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Servings Prep Time
4bowls 15minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
Ingredients
Broth
  • 1 large white onionpeeled and halved
  • 2 3-inch pieces of fresh gingerhalved lengthwise
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cardamon pods
  • 1 1/2tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2tablespoon fennel seedsoptional
  • 8cups quality beef bone brothsee recommendations in notes
Add later
  • 1tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1tablespoon beef bouillon or better than bouillonmore or less to taste
Assembly
  • 6-8ounces rice stick noodles
  • 8ounces beef tenderloin (fillet mignon)shaved paper thin (see notes for protein options)
Toppings
  • Sliced green onions
  • cilantro, mint, and/or Thai basil
  • Bean Sprouts
  • sliced chiliesThai bird chiles, serrano, Fresno or jalapenos
  • sliced radishes
  • Lime wedges
  • sriracha
  • hoisin
Instructions
  1. Place the steak, pork or chicken in the freezer so it is partially frozen by the time you’re ready to use it, 45-60 minutes in the freezer is ideal. Slicing partially frozen meat is much easier to get razor thin.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once smoking, place onion and ginger in pan cut side down. Cook for about 3 minutes until onions are charred, then flip onions over (don’t flip ginger). Cook another minute then remove pan from heat.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven/stockpot over medium high heat. Add star anise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and coriander and toast for 3 minutes. Add the charred onions, ginger and beef broth. Stir to separate the onions somewhat. Cover the pot to bring to a simmer, then reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes (no more).
  4. While the broth is simmering, prepare garnishes. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles, rinse in cold water and toss with a drizzle of sesame oil (to prevent the noodles from sticking together); set aside.
  5. After 45 minutes, strain the broth and return it to the pot. Stir in fish sauce and brown sugar. Taste and add beef bouillon or better than bouillon to taste. Adjust other seasonings if desired.
  6. To assemble, divide noodles and beef between 4 bowls. Bring the broth back to a simmer so it’s piping hot and will cook the protein. Ladle the hot broth over the steak so it is completely submerged in order for it to cook. Let everyone top their bowls with desired garnishes – the more the better!
Recipe Notes

Protein options:

Pho is most commonly made with beef but may use whatever protein you desire.  If using steak, chicken or pork, you will need to slice them razor thin in order for the protein to cook in the broth upon contact.

  • Steak: I recommend beef tenderloin because it’s the most tender cut of beef, which is what you want and need for a steak that cooks by hot broth alone.  Because you only need 8 ounces, go for fillet mignon if you can, which is the most tender cut of the entire beef tenderloin.
  • Chicken:  I recommend chicken thighs because they are much juicer and more flavorful.
  • Pork:  I recommend pork tenderloin for pho because as its name implies, it is tender!  It also has hardly any excess fat so it doesn’t become chewy.
  • Shrimp:  use raw, peeled, deveined shrimp with the tail removed.

Tips for Making Pho Recipe

Homemade pho is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of tips and tricks to make life easier and your pho more delicious: 

  • Quality beef bone-broth makes the soup! Kettle and Fire (found on Amazon, Sprouts (shelf stable/not frozen) or use their store locator) or Bonafide Beef Bone Broth (found frozen at Whole Foods, Walmart, or use the store locator) are my top picks.
  • Rice noodles: Are very thin rice noodles, sometimes called rice sticks or rice vermicelli. They should be easy to find in the Asian section of your grocery store.  You may use wider rice noodles if you prefer. Angel hair pasta or another thin noodle won’t deliver the same texture. 
  • Season with beef bouillonReally amps up the flavor, even if you have used a less quality broth. You can use bouillon powder, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.  Wait until the soup has simmered for the full 45 minutes before deciding how much beef bouillon you would like to add.  You will need more or less depending on what broth you use and personal preference.  That being said, you want the broth slightly on the salty side because the saltiness will dilute when combined with the noodles, beef and toppings.
  • Where to purchase whole spices: I don’t recommend powders for this pho recipe.  You can pick up whole spices a la carte at the bulk bins at Sprouts or WinCo. 
  • Slice protein thinly:  Otherwise, it won’t cook in the broth!  I recommend asking your butcher to shave it for you, otherwise, freeze for 45-60 minutes before slicing as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife.
  • Char onions well:  You want the cut side of your onions to be very charred, burnt looking, for the deepest possible flavor.
  • Don’t over-simmer the broth: Don’t simmer the broth longer than 45 minutes otherwise it will taste too strongly of cinnamon and star anise. 
  • Dunk raw meat if desired: If you can’t wrap your head around adding raw protein to the serving bowls, you can add it to the hot broth and let it partially cook before adding it to the serving bowls.
  • Resist the urge to sauce your pho: The hoisin and sriracha should be reserved for the meat and not squeezed directly into the broth.  In fact, at Vietnamese restaurants, side dishes are often provided for the hoisin and sriracha so you can dunk your steak directly in the sauce.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Storage: Once the bowls of pho are assembled, they’re best enjoyed right away.  The broth itself will last up to 5 days in the fridge.  If possible, store the pho broth, toppings, and rice noodles separately for best results. 
  • Freeze: You can freeze the broth without the meat or toppings for up to three months. Thaw before reheating.
  • Stove: Reheat large batches of pho on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally until hot. You will want the broth hot enough so it will cook raw protein if using.
  • Microwave: Transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 90 seconds, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.  You will want the broth hot enough so it will cook raw protein if using.

Make Ahead

You should wait to assemble the bowls of pho until you’re ready to eat them, but you can prepare the individual components ahead of time:

  • Broth: Make the broth, strain it, and store it covered in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for up to three months.
  • Toppings: Prepare the toppings then store in individual containers in the fridge for up to three days. 
  • Rice noodles: Take extra care not to overcook your noodles, drain, then toss with a drizzle of sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.