Updated: Feb 23, 2021
I'm extremely picky with my pho broth, and I can thank my grandma for this.
In my totally unbiased opinion, my grandma makes the best pho. Unfortunately, I haven't been able enjoy Grandma's signature dish since I ditched animal products. That's why I developed my own vegan broth to get as close to Grandma's pho as possible! The well-known version of this soup is made with beef. However, there are so many variations of this beloved dish, and vegan pho (pho chay) can be just as traditional as the beef version. The aromatics are key to getting the flavors just right.
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The best part is that dish can be made in 2 hours, which is relatively quick compared to making a beef broth. Of course the longer you leave it to simmer, the better it will taste. ;)
Also I know many of you might not live in an area where you can easily buy ingredients to make your own pho broth. If you don’t have access to an Asian market, I highly recommend using a soup base!
Quoc Viet Foods has an amazing vegan pho base that is super quick and easy to use without compromising flavor. It even includes a little spice packet for the pho aroma!
Now, onto the recipe! There are three stages to creating this dish: toasting the aromatics, simmering the broth, and assembly. I will break down each stage below.
1 brown onion, halved with peel on
2 knobs ginger (thumb-sized), sliced
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp coriander seeds
*Note: You can also buy bags of pho spices that include all of above ingredients (minus onion and ginger)
In large pan, toast onion and ginger on high heat until the skins are charred. You can also do this on an open flame.
Once onion and ginger are charred, rinse them with water to remove blackened burnt parts. Set aside.
In large pan toast cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, and coriander until they are fragrant (1-2 minutes). Rinse when done.
Wrap spices in cheese cloth and tie top with kitchen string to create a pouch.
2.5 L water
1 brown onion, halved and peeled
1 fuji apple or pear, halved
3 tbsp mushroom powder
1.5 tbsp salt
5.5 tbsp brown sugar or rock sugar
1-3 tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
Optional: 1 tsp msg
In large stock pot, add all aromatics, water, onion, and fuji apple. Bring pot to boil then simmer (gently boil) on low heat for 30 minutes.
For more porous spice bags, remove the spice bag after 30 minutes. For less porous spice bags, you can leave it longer. Taste test to see if the pho aroma is present (leave it longer if you need more aroma). Then add mushroom powder, salt, brown sugar, and msg.
Continue to simmer for at least 1.5 hours (the longer the better). Then use a mesh strainer to remove all the solids from the pot. The broth will reduce by 1/3, so you will need to top off the pot with more water.
Taste broth and add additional salt, sugar, or msg to your preference. If broth becomes too salty, add more water. In case you over boil the spices and get a bitter broth, add some more water and sugar to balance it.
Top off the broth with a few tablespoons of oil.
*Note: Lightly simmer broth before serving. Broth can also be frozen for later use.
Toppings & Finishes
pho noodles (it should say rice sticks or "banh pho")
toasted king oyster mushrooms, fried tofu, and any other proteins you'd like
lime or lemon wedges
Cook noodles according to package instructions.
Place noodles in bowl. Then add your proteins.
Pour broth over noodles and protein.
Add bean sprouts, lime juice, and herbs to bowl. Top off with sriracha and hoisin sauce if desired.
If using Quoc Viet vegan pho base, use 2 tsp of base to every 2.5 L of water. Add the spice pouch that comes with the soup base, an apple (cut in half), charred ginger, and charred onion (see above instructions) to a pot and pour in water. Bring pot to a boil, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice bag and add in soup base. Continue simmering for at least another 45 minutes. Then use a strainer to remove all the solids from the pot.
Saltiness and sweetness level will be up to personal preference (I personally like a sweeter broth)
This Recipe is for a 5qt pot. For larger pots, you will need to increase the amount of ginger, spices, seasonings, and cooking time to take into the extra water (keep onion and apple the same). I’ve let my broth simmer for 3 hours in a large pot before.
If you steep your spices for too long, your broth will become too bitter. If this happens, add more water and sugar to balance out the taste.
Adding oil at the end brings out the flavors in the broth and also gives us a bit of a fatty flavor.
Try this out and let us know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!