Discover the magic of one of the best noodle soups in the world with this easy-to-follow traditional pho recipe! Crafted from scratch with light yet full of flavor, the signature sauce is infused with spices like cinnamon, star anise and cardamom. The soup is totally addictive, every spoonful makes you want more!
Vietnamese Pho recipe
This Pho recipe has been in the works for a while. It has been quietly made and recreated by various members of the RecipeTin family since our first trip to Vietnam. We compared notes, debated vehemently how the latest version compares to the (many) bowls of pho soup we’ve devoured on our travels, and our favorite pho restaurants in our hometown of Sydney.
We take our Pho very seriously. One of the best noodle soups in the world deserves respect!
I’m happy to report that everyone in the RecipeTin family wholeheartedly endorses this final recipe!
What is Pho?
If you’re wondering “What is Pho?” then you’re probably also wondering “Why is she so mad about this???”
I don’t blame you.
Looks like a relatively harmless bowl of beef noodle soup.
In other words, until you take your first sip.
Pho Soup Soup has it all. It’s light but full-bodied, deceptively meaty, salty, complex, with the slightest bit of richness and bursting with lovely spices like cinnamon.
This is hands down one of the best soups in the world!
Pho is the first thing you look for when you land in Vietnam, and always choose vendors that are full of locals rather than tourists!
Best place to try pho?
is of course in Vietnam. Here’s our food guide to Saigon, including the best pho vendors in town that you won’t find in any guide
How to make this Beef Pho
Although you have to deal with a lot of bones and beef, I think you might be surprised at how easy it is actually to make pho. Timing is everything – and it’s a very big pot!
- Quick Cook – Boil for 5 minutes to remove impurities from the beef, which is the way to a nice clear soup;
- Trash – marvel at all the good stuff that comes out;
- Wash the thighs and wash away all the huge scum;
- Slow stew for 3 hours – bones, beef, water, onion, ginger and spices (cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, star anise);
- Remove breast meat – some of the ingredients used to make the pho, the rest are used in the recipe below
- simmer another 40 minutes with only the legs;
Best beef for Pho soup broth
The only way to get enough beef flavor in a sauce is to use a combination of meat and bone. Broth with only bones didn’t have enough flavor – believe me we tried it several times. I’m so upset to see so many bone-only pho recipes online!
One of the most important things in a Pho recipe is using the right combination of beef and bone. Most recipes are wrong so the sauce has no taste.
I think it’s the combination of beef and bone that produces the best pho soup flavor:
1.5 kg / 3 lb beef brisket – The beef of choice for Pho vendors because it has a rich meaty flavor and can withstand hours of stewing without falling apart (like chuck and ribs). Other slow cooker cuts, such as ground beef and beef gravy, are not as “tough”. See the recipe below for a great way to use up leftover cooked brisket!
- 1kg / 2 lb Meaty Bones – Lots of meat on the bone, with beefy flavor and a bit of richness.
Best Substitutes: Oxtail bone, more beef brisket or chuck (equal amount). Next best substitute: any beef bone.
- 1 kg / 2 lb marrow bone – Bones, such as bones, shins and knuckles, with less meat on them, but very large, cut to expose some of the marrow inside so that she can soak in the sauce. It offers the least flavor, but it does add a hint of richness to the Pho broth base. Best Substitute: More meaty bones – Lost some richness, but still very good.
These aren’t hard to find these days, but may not all be available at your local supermarket. I get everything from my butcher or Asian butcher (very good value for money). You’ll find brisket and meaty “soup bones” in larger supermarkets. Bone marrow is now ubiquitous in the freezer section of butchers and Asian stores.
Pho Broth Spices and Other ingredients
Other than the beef, the other sauce ingredients are pretty simple!
The spices are roasted to bring out the flavors before being added to the pot. The ginger and onion are charred, adding a subtle hint of smoke to the sauce – a secret step that adds something extra – making this pho recipe authentic and traditional!
How to serve Pho
The classic ways to serve pho are:
- rice noodles – fresh or dry;
- Thinly sliced raw beef, cooked to perfection, rare when spooning hot sauce – see for more below;
- A heap of bean sprouts, Thai basil and cilantro/coriander on the side – eat on its own with pho;
- lime wedges; and
- hoisin and sriracha sauce (or other chili sauce).
Usually there is only noodles, beef and gravy in the bowl, then everything is set aside.
Thinly sliced raw beef for Pho – best cut
I like to use beef tenderloin for carpaccio. Although it’s a bit pricey for a premium cut, you only need about 30g/1oz per serving, so a little is enough!
Tip: To slice beef, partially freeze it before slicing. Make ultra-thin slimming easy!
↓↓↓The beef is pink because pouring the sauce over the carpaccio will cook it to medium rare, which is the traditional way and the way I like it.
But if the thought of pink beef in your soup makes you uncomfortable, there’s a simple solution: throw the beef in the enchilada and it’ll be cooked in 10 seconds!
Ways to use leftover brisket
The pho broth needs a large piece of brisket for the sauce to have enough flavor. After it’s simmered for a few hours, it slowly breaks down and most of the flavor is absorbed by the sauce.
Although some flakes are used for Pho toppings, I always end up with 500g/1lb leftovers and share my special Caramelized Vietnamese Pulled Beef recipe to use up leftover brisket. Those golden crispy edges are amazing! !
Why make homemade Pho?
I say this is an easy recipe because there are no difficult techniques involved. But that involves handling heaps of meat and bones, a large pot of broth, and lots of patience as he simmers on the stove and works his magic.
- Why make pho at home?
- if you love pho as much as I do but don’t live near a (good) pho restaurant;
- if you want to make a good impression at a party. This recipe makes 6 full meals or 10-12 small bowls as part of a large banquet.
Add Vietnamese rice paper rolls, lemongrass chicken, Bun Cha (Vietnamese pork dumplings) or the famous Vietnamese caramelized pork!
- to save money – you’re in town for 6 bowls of pho for over $60;
You want a quiet Sunday that includes hanging out in the kitchen (Pho is a great Sunday pottery project!)
My situation is mostly #5. Vietnamese neighborhood for pho!