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Classic Vegan Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

This recipe is really pho-nominal. “Pho” (pronounced more like FUnny than PHOne) is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with rice noodles steeped in an insanely flavorful broth, topped with lots of fresh aromatic veggies.

Traditionally, pho is made with beef broth and garnished with raw flanks of steak, but this version is completely vegan, of course, and you won’t be missing a thing โ€“ with the deep licorice flavors, smokey onions, and bright herbs on top, it’s like culinary heaven.

This recipe has been on my list for a long, long time. Way back in October, I found star anise (a classic spice used in pho) at a local market for the first time and took an Instagram poll to see what I should do with it. Pho was the overwhelming consensus. The people asked for a vegan pho and they’re getting a vegan pho!

Vegan_Pho

Makes 4-5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger
  • 3 pods of star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • (optional) 1 serving nori or wakame seaweed
  • 12 oz flat rice noodles
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, basil, and/or cilantro
  • 1-2 red or green chilies
  • 4 green onions
  • 3 limes

Vegan_Pho_Side

Making pho is really, really simple. It’s basically three steps: 1) create a broth, 2) add rice noodles, and 3) garnish with the right toppings.

Making a Pho Broth

At least 90% of pho’s awesomeness comes from the broth. There are a lot of ingredients that go into creating this distinctive flavor, but the process couldn’t be simpler.

First, cut a white onion into quarters and loosely chop about 1/4 cup of fresh ginger root. Add these to your oven’s broiler until the outside layers are nearly charred. You could just throw these raw ingredients into the broth, but taking this extra step develops much deeper and more complex flavors in the final broth. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Then, throw all the following ingredients into a large stockpot and allow to simmer for 60-90 minutes: 4 cups of vegetable broth, 3 cups of water, the charred onion, the charred ginger, 3 whole star anise, 1 whole cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 sheet of nori or another type of seaweed (these last two ingredients help emulate the flavors of fish sauce, which we’re obviously not adding in our vegan version).

Finally, let this simmer for an hour or more, uncovered, before giving the broth a taste. If it needs more salt or anything else, don’t be afraid to add it here. Lastly, use a kitchen strainer to pour the broth into a separate container, discarding the vegetables and spices.

Vegan_Pho_Broth

The Rice Noodles

This is the easiest part. Just before the broth is finished and you’re ready to serve, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Likely, this will mean steeping them in a bowl with hot water for 8-10 minutes until softened. About 12 oz of noodles should be enough pho the whole family.

Toppings

While the broth is still simmering, prepare a large platter of toppings so that everyone can choose what they want to include in their soup. Tear up any combination of mint, basil, and/or cilantro leaves. Rinse some bean sprouts. Slice some red/green chilies and some green onions. Oh, and don’t pho-get to quarter some limes โ€“ they add a lot of brightness to the dish and should be squeezed over each serving bowl at the last minute.

Assemble

To assemble the bowls, add a generous spoonful of rice noodles to the bottom of a large soup bowl, ladle the broth over top, and then allow each person to add whichever toppings they’d like to include in their bowl.

Vegan_Pho_Spoon

25 Comments

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  1. Looks yummy. I pho out a lot. I live in a city with lots of Vietnamese restaurants. Its easy to veg there. I like that your broth has color. It seems when I eat it out, the veg broth is clear, so when you add the chili sauce, it turns it pink, which I do not like.

    • The traditional broth must be clear, regardless vegan or not. Pho has to smell onion and ginger. We do not use chili sauce with Pho, only fresh hot chili slices. (South VN use siracha and hoisin sauce but North VN don’t) The broth is important, so are the herbs. Thai basil, fresh bamboo shoot, mint leaves, spring onions, fresh chili and fresh lemon wedges are the must. Without them, the taste is not completed. For the vegan version, I often saute fresh oyster or shitake mushroom to top up the soup. No vegetable in Pho. This is for a traditional version.
      The recipes are changed if proper materials/herbs can’t be found.

  2. Well, now I have a great (and delicious) project to look forward to this weekend! Thanks for choosing Pho to highlight star anise – cannot wait to make this! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I’ve been looking for a vegan pho recipe for a while and this sounds good! Do you ever add hoisin and sriracha to it at the end?

  4. I made like a triple batch of this cuz I didn’t want to make the same mistake as I did when making your miso soup recipe and not make enough!! But it’s been a busy week and haven’t had time to have the leftovers I’ve kept it in a jar in the fridge for a week now how long do you think it’s good for?

    • Hey LaReine! Good question.. If it still smells and tastes the same, I’d say it’s good for quite a while. There’s nothing super perishable in the ingredients; just cooked veggies and spices.

  5. Hi,
    Thank you for the amazing recipe! I am dying to try it, just onde questionar, do you Have a good recipe for the base vegetable broth? Thanks a lot!

    • Hmm, that’s a good question Ambroisa… Star anise has a strong licorice flavor that isn’t really matched by any other spices. The closest substitute would to fennel seeds and those might work okay in this pho if star anise is completely out of the question.

  6. This was quite awful. Way to much cinnamon & star anise, overpowered the dish. Next time I’ll try to cut those way down and increase the umami factor with shallot instead of plain old onion. Hopefully my family will try it next time because last night’s pho was pho-gettable. Ha.

  7. I made this tonight. So delicious! I found a small container of star anise at my Wegmans along with all the other spices. I added tofu and decided to let it simmer in a small pan with broth instead of cooking it a different way. Also delicious! My meat eating parents enjoyed it as well.

  8. I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! The only thing I did differently was I cooked the broth in the crockpot (because I was going to be gone most of the day). Super easy and really hit the spot. Thanks for the recipe!

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  1. Pingback:A PHO-nominal vegan spin of this classic Vietnamese noodle soup! :) | Clean, Lean and Healthy

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