Authentic Vietnamese Pho

Pho, the exquisitely nuanced Vietnamese soup, is made with a beef broth rich with ginger, fish sauce, star anise, and onions. Into that go rice noodles, sirloin, scallions, bean sprouts, and Thai basil. Pho is poised to become the next ramen.

A bowl of authentic Vietnamese pho with rice noodles, beef, lemon, basil, and scallions in it and a pair of chopsticks resting on top of the bowl.

Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is an exquisitely spiced soup constructed of slippery rice noodles and clear beef broth fragrant with ginger and star anise. It’s a beloved breakfast in Vietnam, and honestly, we can’t think of a better reason to get out of bed. Chef David Chang of Momofuku fame is so enamored by pho and its potential for innovation that he claimed in a recent issue of Lucky Peach that pho is the new ramen. Can’t say as we disagree. Renee Schettler

How to Eat Pho

Lucky you! Cookbook author Mai Pham compiled a cheat sheet on how to properly slurp pho. Here’s what she suggests…

Many cookbooks call for the broth to be made with oxtail bones, but I prefer a combination of marrow bones and beef chuck, which is what pho cooks in Vietnam use.

You can serve this soup with any of several different types of beef, whether rare to well-done chuck, brisket, meatballs, tripe, tendon, and so on. (The easiest ones to prepare at home are cooked and raw beef, as in the recipe below.)

Begin by adding bean sprouts, fresh chiles, and a little squeeze of lime. Using your fingers, pluck the Asian basil leaves from their sprigs and, if saw-leaf is available, shred the leaves and add them to the soup. Add the herbs little by little, eating as you go. (If you put them in all at once, the broth will cool too fast and the herbs will overcook and lose their bright flavors.) Push the garnishes in the hot broth with your chopsticks and gently turn the noodles.

Chili sauce and hoisin sauce are traditional condiments, but I avoid them because, to my taste, they mask the flavor of pho.

Eat pho while it’s piping hot. If you wait for it to cool down, the noodles will expand and become soggy and the dish will taste bland. (Some connoisseurs don’t even talk while they eat their pho, preferring to save serious chatting for later). With spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other, pull the noodles out of the broth and eat them, slurping the broth. It’s perfectly acceptable to be seen with clumps of noodles dangling from your mouth, eyes squinting from the steam. The broth is served in large amounts to keep the noodles warm and to help season the dish. It’s not meant to be consumed in its entirety. But if you’re in the mood, it’s not considered rude to tip the bowl and slurp down every last drop.

Authentic Vietnamese Pho

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 1 H
  • 3 H, 10 M
  • 6 main-dish servings
5/5 - 2 reviews
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  • For the pho broth
  • For the pho


Make the pho broth

Haul a large stock pot onto the stovetop and bring 6 quarts (24 cups) water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, bring the beef bones, beef chuck, and just enough water to cover them to a vigorous boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and, using tongs, transfer the bones and beef to the large pot of boiling water, discarding the water in which the meat cooked. (This reduces the impurities in the broth.)

When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim any foam from the surface of the water. Add the charred ginger and onions, fish sauce, and sugar. Gently simmer, skimming any foam as it appears, until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Do not allow the broth to come to a full boil. Only the occasional bubble should rise to the surface of the broth. (This reduces the chance of your broth being cloudy.)

Remove one piece of chuck from the broth, submerge it in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes and then drain the chuck and thinly slice it and refrigerate it. Let the other piece of chuck in the broth and let it gently simmer for 50 minutes more.

After the broth has simmered for 90 minutes total, wrap the star anise and cloves in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth and drop it in the broth. Let the spices infuse the broth until fragrant, about 30 minutes more. (The broth will have been simmering for 2 hours total).

Remove and discard both the spice bag and the onions. Leave the chuck in the pot and continue to gently simmer, skimming any foam as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the pho. (The broth may taste slightly salty but will be balanced once the noodles and accompaniments are added.) Strain the broth, discarding any solids.

Make the pho

Place the cooked noodles in preheated bowls. (If the noodles are no longer hot, dip them briefly in boiling water to prevent them from cooling down the soup.) Place a few slices of the reserved thinly sliced beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Ladle 2 to 3 cups broth into each bowl. (Figure about 1 part rice noodles to 3 part broth.) The hot broth will gently cook the raw beef. Garnish with the thinly sliced onions, scallions, and cilantro. Serve immediately and let individuals garnish their bowls of pho with bean sprouts, herbs, chiles, lime juice, and black pepper. Originally published April 8, 2010.

Print RecipeBuy the Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table cookbook

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    *How To Char Onion And Ginger

    • To char ginger and onions as required above, hold the ingredient with the tongs directly over an open flame or place it directly on a medium-hot electric burner. Char, turning frequently, until the edges are slightly blackened and the ginger and onion are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Peel and discard the blackened skins of the ginger and onions. Rinse what remains of the ginger and onion and add to the broth.

    Recipe Testers Reviews

    I've made this pho recipe countless times. Whether you have family members that are under the weather or it's simply cold outside, this comforting soup will surely make everything better. The broth is outstanding—it's filled with flavor and the various textures of the ingredients make it that much better. I do love to add a little spice to my bowlful just before slurping it, but the rest of my family likes it just as-is. Also, this recipe is so versatile, as you can add shrimp or make it just with vegetables and so on. Oh, and your house will be filled with the amazing aroma of the broth.

    I've tried countless pho recipes over the past years, and my search stopped with this recipe. It's the closest thing I've found to the beefy elixir found in pho joints that never fails to soothe the soul and calm the mind. The scorched onion and ginger, the spices, everything here is in the perfect proportion. I rarely follow a recipe once I make something once, but you better believe I follow this one to the letter. Even my 12-year-old nephew, The Little Philosopher—a very picky eater, mind you—doesn't turn his nose up at this.


    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. Hi there. Thanks so much for this recipe! It looks wonderful. I keep reading it, though, and I can’t seem to find the part where you strain the broth (or even just remove the bones). Do you just allow the bones to sit in the finished broth, avoiding them when ladling out to serve? Thanks again!

      1. Hi Andrew and so glad this recipe appeals to you! Terrific question. I made it a little clearer, I hope, as to where you strain the broth. It’s not until the very end. And yes, you could just ladle the broth out but we appreciate you reminding us most folks would probably prefer a more pristine broth. And you’re so very welcome for the recipe. I tried countless pho recipes before I ended up with this as my go to. I hope you like it as much as I do!

    2. Was wondering why this recipe does not call for cardamom and cinnamon sticks as part of the ingredients to make the broth?

    3. It’s been a few months since I made this, but thought I’d post a quick comment. The instructions are clear and the results are delicious. Worth the time it takes to make it and to fill your home with its star anise goodness. It’s satisfying and rich while still light.

      I tried a pressure cooker pho recipe and it was disappointing. This is the best recipe I’ve found.

      1. Karen, many thanks for your time and your kind and thoughtful review. So happy to hear that you feel this way! I completely agree with everything you say but have to confess it’s always a relief to hear someone else say the same. It’s the best recipe I’ve found, too, after years and years of searching. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to let us know. And I appreciate you nudging me, without realizing, to act on my pho craving as of late…

    4. I have had Mai Pham’s book for some time, and this post inspired me to prepare her recipe for Quick Pho (chicken broth & shredded white meat) – also in the book—and to my taste buds, exquisitely like the favorite pho we enjoy at Pho So in Randolph, MA. What I forgot to purchase, while at our huge nearby Chinese market, were some bowls large enough to accomodate the huge servings we like to have of this for dinner, so I rushed out to the Christmas Tree Shoppes for 3 1-1/2 quart glass mixing bowls…perfect!

      1. I’ve made that recipe as well, Roni. Am so glad that it’s become a favorite for you as well! And yes, my husband got us some ginormous serving bowls from Ikea out of which we slurp our pho.

    5. Hi,
      I am just doing an assignment on Pho and have to talk about the cultural factors and history. I was wondering if you could send me your references that you used for the info above.
      It would be a great help and the information is well worth mentioning in my assignment!

      Kind Regards


      1. Hi Sophie, what a terrific assignment you have! I so wish that was the kind of coursework I took in school! The information that you find above was excerpted from the book with permission from the publisher. So you could contact the author and perhaps she can provide you with sources.

    6. David, I finally got around to making this Pho recipe. Well worth the time spent on it. Making broth from marrow bones adds the extra touch of buttery indulgence to the entire dish. Thank you for yet another Winner at the Primlani Kitchen table. You can view my results at The Primlani Kitchen.

      Pho Bo from Primlani Kitchen

      1. I think I may be following in your steps this weekend, Jeannette. Care to trade chicken pho recipes? I largely follow the ingredients in our pho bo, simply replacing beef bones with chicken…

      1. You know, Curt, the result is surprisingly subdued. Subtle, almost. The broth is infused with just a hint of each element and it all comes together really, really quite nicely…

    7. I normally don’t post any comments on these websites; but I’m so frustrated, this is my second time trying to make pho. My family really loves it and I’ve been wanting to make it at home….it seems like I follow the recipe down to a T; but it never tastes like pho. the one I made today tasted bland and not like the delicious pho I get at restaurants.

      1. Arlene, I’m sorry to hear you’re disappointed. As the author explains, this does make a somewhat lighter, though still quite complex, broth than some restaurants serve. I think you’ll be much happier if you slip in oxtails in place of the other cuts of beef and reduce the amount of water by about 6 cups. Also worth noting, many, many Vietnamese restaurants sprinkle a little fairy dust over their pho in the form of MSG. It’s a product that’s not kind to one’s health, so Mai Pham doesn’t call for it in her recipe, nor do we suggest you use it. But this does explain some of the relative blandness you suggest. And last, I assume you’re stirring in chili sauce and hoisin just before serving? Most restaurants serve the condiments on the side, but some stir them into the soup, which alters the flavor profoundly. Let us know if we can be of more assistance…

    8. Thanks for the story to go with one of my very favorite meals. After a belly full of pho, I have been known to be heard … purring. The ultimate in comfort food.

      I find myself a pho nut. There is a great place north of San Diego right next to the 15 … Barnardo Center exit. I get the mixed bowl, rare steak, brisket, and tendon! I especially love the tendon! P.S. the whole plate of veggies served on the side go right into the hot soup, with a good squeeze of lime. Perfect!

    9. To do real Pho is soooo complicated and time intensive. That’s why I get the Pho powder at the Korean market, mix it with a little beef base, water, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and call it Pho.

      It may not be as good as the slow-cooked broth from the Pho place around the corner, but it’s good and lets me do up a pot of pho for the family for about $12 instead of spending $30 to go get pho for four at the Vietnamese place a couple of miles away.

      The H-Mart near our house also offers thin-sliced rib eye for about $5 a pound and a wide selection of rice noodles. If you’re buying them dry, do the cook/soak in water, then drain and rinse them before putting them in the pho.

      I once made the mistake of putting dry rice noodles in the pho and cooking them in it. They sucked up a lot of liquid and released lots of starch to make what liquid remained rather gummy.

      1. Oh, Greg. Complicated? Time intensive? I humbly beg to differ. Pho does require time, but most of it is time spent elsewhere in the house while the stock simmers gently. The actual making of it couldn’t be more straightforward. And the serving of the pho can be done with the kids, each to themself as far as which embellishments to place in the bowl, if they’re into that type of thing. I hope I’m not coming across as a prosyletizer, but have you made Mai Pham’s pho, the one that’s posted here on the site? I have, countless times. I’m not sure you’d make the same comments after having tried hers. Try it, if you like, and tell us what you think.

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