Homemade Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe

Making your own Vietnamese pho soup at home is not hard, all you need is a straightforward recipe, a few secrets and a nice big stockpot. Jump to the full Pho Recipe now or read on to see how we make it.

If you’re sitting there and wondering “what is pho,” it’s a delicate (and delicious) Vietnamese noodle soup, made from beef bones, ginger, onions and lots of aromatic spices.

It’s nothing short of soup perfection. The way all the spices and flavors from star anise, cardamom, fennel seeds and cinnamon come together is incredible and the best part? You can customize; it’s encouraged that you add any and all the condiments you desire to make it your own.

We make this at least once a month, always making sure there is leftover broth to freeze for another day. While it takes a bit of time, most of that is hands-off, so let’s get going towards amazing pho at home, shall we?

Pho-Inspired Grilled Chicken Wings RecipeWe love all the flavors of pho so much that we’ve even made Pho-Inspired Grilled Chicken Wings marinaded in ginger, garlic, lime and fish sauce.

Seven Secrets to this Amazing Pho Soup Recipe at Home

The Best Bones for Making Pho

You can’t make an awesome soup without awesome beef bones, right? So, look for knuckle and leg bones that contain marrow. We buy beef knuckles from a local Asian market and find them to be pretty inexpensive.

It’s Best to Parboil and Rinse the Bones

When you simmer bones they release “scum” or impurities. If you don’t get rid of this, you’ll be stuck with a cloudy broth. Not good. We like our soup to be as clear and clean as possible, so we add an extra step. Add the bones to a large stockpot, cover with cold water then bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes then throw the water and bones into a strainer. Discard the water then rinse the bones to get rid of all the impurities. Also, make sure you give the pot a rinse, too — there will be scum on the bottom and sides of the pot.

Pho Soup Recipe with Video

Charr The Onion and Ginger

To create that distinctive and deep flavor of great Pho, slide onion and a sizable piece of ginger under the broiler. Broil until well charred. That’s going to give you nice depth and color.

Don’t Forget the Spices and Toast Them

Even though we’re simmering the broth with spices for a few hours, we still like to give all the spices a quick toast before adding to the pot. To do this, throw them into a dry pan over medium heat, stay close and shake the pan a couple of times to make sure they toast. You’ll know when they’re ready when you start to smell them. It only takes 2-3 minutes.

Pho Recipe with Video

Yellow Rock Sugar

Don’t just use regular white sugar from your pantry. We know that buying yellow rock sugar seems pretty particular and we’re all left with the problem of what to do with it after making this pho, but here’s the deal: using plan old sugar sadly produces a sweet, flat broth, whereas the rock sugar rounds things out and brings everything together. Plus, you’ll need that leftover rock sugar for the next time you make this recipe!

Use Fish Sauce

Buy some. You really can’t make pho soup (or other Vietnamese recipes) without it. Our fish sauce sits within arm’s reach of our stove. We use it in everything and absolutely will not make pho without it. We’ve come to trust the Three Crabs brand of fish sauce, which you can buy online or in Asian markets. Update: We have recently given Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N a try and we prefer it over other ones we have tasted. We really like the clean fish flavor it has over other brands. Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen suggests that when shopping for fish sauce, look for glass bottles, not plastic and allow price to guide you. Go for the mid-high priced fish sauce (which will run you $4 to $5).

The Best Noodles and Condiments

You can buy fresh noodles at Asian markets, which is a nice treat, but dried rice noodles work perfectly as well. Even if you use fresh or dried, never cook the noodles in the broth. If you do this, the broth will become cloudy. So, cook them in another pot (they only take a few minutes) and add the cooked noodles to your bowl just before adding hot broth. As for condiments, we’re partial to Thai basil (you can substitute regular basil if you need too), fresh mint, crispy bean sprouts, a teeny tiny splash of fish sauce and some Asian chili sauce. Some like to add hoisin sauce, but we rarely do — it can take over the delicate deep flavor of the broth.

Oh, and while it’s not a “secret” make sure you have some freezer space to store some of that extra broth for the best make-ahead meal, ever!

Pho Soup Recipe with VideoDid you enjoy this Recipe? If so, we bet you’ll love these:

Recipe updated, originally posted August 2010. Since posting this in 2010, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear and added a quick recipe video. – Adam and Joanne

4.7 from 30 reviews
Homemade Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Making your own fabulous bowl of Vietnamese pho at home is not hard, all you need is a straightforward recipe, a few secrets and a nice big stockpot. We realize our recipe may look daunting, but this is quite simple to do and there is a lot of inactive time while you wait for the broth (we’ve just been extra tedious to share everything we know).

Our recipe will yield 3 1/2 to 4 quarts of broth.
Created By:
Yield: 6 servings
You Will Need
FOR the Broth
  • 5 to 6 pounds of beef knuckles or leg bones
  • 6 quarts cold water
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 6 star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 black cardamom pod (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1-inch piece yellow rock sugar (see note below)
FOR Assembly of Pho Soup Bowls
  • 1 to 2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh “banh pho” noodles (see note)
  • 1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (see note)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onions (see note)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
OPTIONAL Garnishes Served Alongside
  • Sprigs of fresh mint and/or Asian/Thai basil
  • Bean sprouts
  • Thinly sliced red chilies (such as Thai bird)
  • lime wedges
  • Fish sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
Directions
FOR Pho Broth
  1. Parboil Bones: Add beef bones to a large pot that will hold at least 10 quarts. Then, cover bones with cold water. Place pot onto high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes. During this time, impurities and foam (or scum) will be released and rise to the top.
  2. Drain bones, discarding the water. Then, rinse bones with warm water and scrub stockpot to remove any residue that has stuck to the sides. Add the bones back to the stockpot and cover with 6 quarts of cold water.
  3. Char Onion and Ginger: Move an oven rack to a high position then turn broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  4. Place quartered onions and halved ginger onto baking sheet then broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning onions and ginger occasionally so that they become charred or browned on all sides.
  5. Toast Spices: Add cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves and the black cardamom pod to a dry frying pan. Place onto low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant. About 5 minutes.
  6. Place toasted spices into a cotton muslin bag/herb sachet or cheesecloth then tie with butchers twine to seal.
  7. Simmer Broth: Bring stockpot with parboiled bones and water to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer. Add charred onion and ginger as well as the bag or sachet of toasted spices.
  8. Next, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, a 1/4 cup of fish sauce and the rock sugar.
  9. Continue to simmer broth, uncovered, for 3 hours. If at any time foam or scum rises to the surface, use a spoon to remove it.
  10. Strain Broth: Use tongs or a wide mesh spoon to remove bones, onion and ginger from broth then strain broth through a fine mesh strainer.
  11. Skim Fat: The broth will have a layer of fat at the the top. There are two ways to remove this. First, if you plan to enjoy the broth now, skim the fat from the top of the broth using a spoon. If you do not mind waiting, you can also pour broth into containers then refrigerate overnight. As the broth cools, the fat will solidify, making it very easy to remove.
ASSEMBLING Pho Soup Bowls
  1. Heat Broth: Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
  2. Soak or Rinse Noodles: If you are using dried noodles, add noodles to a bowl then cover with hot water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and opaque. If you are using fresh, add to a colander then rinse with cold water.
  3. Cook Noodles: Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Place noodles into boiling water and cook for about 10 seconds or until they collapse. Drain noodles then divide between bowls. (We like to fill each bowl by 1/3 with noodles).
  4. Fill Bowls: Now, arrange slices of raw meat into bowl. Then top with hot broth. Finish broth with onion slices and cilantro.
  5. Serve bowls with a plate of optional garnishes listed above.Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe Step 3
Notes and Tips
Black Cardamom Pod: Oddly enough, black cardamom is a member of the ginger family. It is quite powerful - providing a smoky aroma. You can buy black cardamom at Asian markets, however, if you have difficulty finding it, you may leave it out of the recipe.

Yellow Rock Sugar: This is also known as “lump sugar” and is sold at Asian markets. Look for it sold in a box. You will most likely need to break the rock sugar into smaller chunks. You can use a hammer or rolling pin to do this.

Noodles: You can usually find fresh noodles at Asian markets. If you cannot, simply use dried “banh pho” noodles. Follow directions on package for cooking. For the fresh noodles, you will most likely need to immerse the noodles into boiling water for a few seconds. For dried, you will need to soak the noodles in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes or until softened and opaque. Check the package for specific directions.

Raw Beef: Either ask your butcher to thinly slice the meat or if slicing at home, place beef into the freezer for 15 minutes to harden a little. Then, carefully thinly slice the beef across the grain into 1/16-inch thick slices.

Onions: Raw onion can be overpowering. So, thinly slice the onions then submerge them in some water. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes then drain and rinse. This will tone down the “raw” flavor of the onion.

Recipe adapted and inspired by Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.

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212 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Roxanne September 7, 2016, 12:21 am

    I made this soup and I was floored ! I love pho, this was some of the best I ever had. The fact that I made it at home myself was such a bonus. Loved the recipe, thanks so much. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Reply
  • OI HANOI August 4, 2016, 8:47 am

    Wao Nice

    Reply
  • Yassin June 19, 2016, 8:41 am

    Hi

    Excellent broth but I found that mine tasted a lot sweeter than the ones I have in pho restaurants. I used same amount of water, spices and rock sugar in your recipe. Is it because of the sugar?

    I also found that the spices overwhelmed the flavor of the beef (adding to the sweetness). I did throw them in the water without a cheesecloth or anything, I don’t know if that may have caused it? What do you think?

    Reply
    • Joanne June 19, 2016, 11:47 am

      Some of the spices and the rock sugar would have caused the broth to taste a little sweeter/more fragrant. Next time, you could try leaving out the sugar. I’d stick to the same spices, though.

      Reply
  • Stephanie June 19, 2016, 6:12 am

    Hello,
    I would like to try your recipe, but I have one question and need your suggestion. I don’t eat beef, would like to use chicken bone instead beef bone for making broth, when I make chicken broth, do I still need to add spice into broth?because this beef broth looks heavy flavor due to add spices, so that can match with beef meat, if I want to make chicken noodle soup and add spices into broth, it’s probably off-taste, so can you give me suggestion how to make chicken broth taste as traditional Vietnamese soup and can match with chicken meat? Hope get your respond, thanks.

    Reply
    • Joanne June 19, 2016, 11:48 am

      Hi Stephanie, Replacing chicken for the beef is possible. Personally, I’d eliminate the rock sugar and cardamom called for in our recipe for chicken.

      Reply
  • Terry June 11, 2016, 5:20 pm

    What do you mean by impurities on the bones….I took out all the soft stuff (marrow?) in the middle. Is that what you do to “clean” up the bones ?

    Reply
    • Joanne June 12, 2016, 12:07 pm

      Hi Terry, When you parboil the bones, there is often foam/scum that comes away from the bones. This isn’t great in the broth because it can make it cloudy. To parboil we add the bones to a large stockpot, cover with cold water then bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes then throw the water and bones into a strainer. Discard the water then rinse the bones to get rid of all the impurities.

      Reply
  • Charlamagne December 14, 2015, 8:31 pm

    We’ve made this recipe many many times and always love the heck out of it. Due to availability issues, we’ve subbed in oxtail or neck bones at times for the marrow, both of which turn out excellent, but straight leg bones full of all that delicious marrow produce the best results in our experience. Also we triple the fish sauce, omit the salt, and I personally add some MSG at the table, although the wife doesn’t. This is such a stellar recipe, though, and has provided us with so many amazing meals. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Tony November 9, 2015, 9:32 am

    Beef bone marrow best broth yes.

    Reply
    • Jason April 25, 2016, 12:49 am

      Pardon my ignorance I know I’m opening an old thread but can you send me a link as to what these bones would look like. Honestly every time I go to a butcher shop they look at me crazy anything. Will help

      Reply
      • Joanne May 18, 2016, 1:08 pm

        Hi Jason, When you are in the butcher shop ask for beef knuckles or marrow bones. I don’t have a photo to share, but you should be able to google them and find photos. Hope that helps!

        Reply
  • Dorothee July 31, 2015, 7:58 am

    Hello,

    I made this recipe today and I thought it was delicious!
    I didn’t use the star anise and the cardamom because I am not a big fan and I didn’t use the sugar you use, just normal one! It was very nice! Just a little bit salty but I think it comes from the fish sauce!
    Thank you for this recipe!
    I thought it was better than a lot of pho soup I had at the restaurant! 🙂
    Dorothee

    Reply
  • Jocelyn June 12, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I made this yesterday and it was really good! I did run into a few problems… I don’t know what I did wrong but it ended up turning out fine.

    I had to double this recipe and also doubled the simmer amount for a more intense broth. In the first hour of simmering the smell of the broth was very nice, but the longer the broth simmered, the more the smell faded.

    I tasted the broth 3 hours after simmering and was still very plain. I added 1/2 c more of fish sauce, 2 pho spice bags, and let it sit for another 3. And then magic! The broth came out tasty!

    Reply
  • Yvonne Saito June 8, 2015, 10:40 pm

    I had a recipes that used 8 cups of beef broth. I used everything else except the cardamom. I used medium rice noodles. It was all delicious.

    Reply
  • Jen April 26, 2015, 4:03 pm

    Thanks a million to Adam and Joanne for taking your time to post this. I tried this yesterday and my family loved it very much. My kids said the broth tastes better than the restaurants. I am so happy that I can finally made PHO. My mom always says Pho is very hard to make. Now, that’s not true anymore. There are so many Pho restaurants in our area, Southern Cal, but homemade Pho is the best. Also, thank you for the clear instructions!!! Love it!!!

    Reply
    • Joanne April 27, 2015, 3:42 pm

      So happy we could help!

      Reply
  • Tera January 24, 2015, 1:27 pm

    Just made this with stock we had. Seriously amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Reply
  • Lexa November 13, 2014, 5:26 pm

    This looks delicious!!!! I want to make it this weekend. Do you know approximately how much broth it makes. I really don’t need leftovers. Thanks

    Reply
  • Vanda September 28, 2014, 5:48 pm

    My grocery store only had star anise seeds. Will that work and do would you know how much I would use? Thanks

    Reply
    • Joanne October 3, 2014, 11:21 am

      Hi Vanda, Anise seeds and star anise pods are actually different – the seeds come from the parsley family. Here’s a link to an article explaining the difference.

      If you have an Asian market or international grocery near you, we recommend looking there. They should have the pods and usually sell them for much less money than more traditional grocery stores.

      Reply
  • Kim September 14, 2014, 4:22 pm

    I had my first bowl of Pho last week, and have been dying to make some at home. I was all set to make a “faux Pho” today for dinner… but after reading your recipe and instructions, and then going through all of the comments, I have decided to put it off until I get ALL of the proper ingredients and have sufficient time to simmer the broth.

    Will check back in after I’ve made it! Thanks very much for a wonderful tutorial!
    Kim

    Reply
  • Peter Pham September 1, 2014, 5:17 pm

    I made it and it was not very good. It’s so-so to eat, but it could be better. The broth is bland.

    Why do you choose 3 hours of cooking, not more or less?
    Look forward to seeing your answer.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Joanne October 23, 2014, 12:09 pm

      Hi Peter, Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. 3 hours has been enough time for us for a flavorful broth. You can always simmer longer for a richer broth, though.

      Reply
  • Vinny August 28, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Should we simmer the soup for – let’s say 5 hours instead of 3 hours you instruct and would it make better broth?

    Reply
    • Joanne October 23, 2014, 12:18 pm

      Try it — It could be fun tasting the broth at 3 hours, 4 hours or more to see what you like best. It’s your soup, after all.

      Reply
      • Chef Nathalie September 13, 2015, 6:53 pm

        A simmering time of 8 hours is required to make beef stock. I don’t see how this would be any different. Although I would certainly hold off on the addition of the fish sauce until the later stages to avoid over salting.

        You could also roast your bones (after the first clarification boil) along with your onions and ginger for
        deeper flavor.

        Finally, palm sugar to taste would be a nice alternative to rock sugar.

        Good recipe.

        Reply
        • Joanne September 16, 2015, 2:20 pm

          Hi Nathalie, 3 hours really does make for excellent Pho — the timing is pretty consistent across other Pho recipes. You can always simmer longer, though! Thanks for the tip about palm sugar.

          Reply
  • helen August 2, 2014, 12:34 am

    Hi, I have a question. Do I leave the lid on or off whilst simmering?

    Reply
    • Joanne August 7, 2014, 12:38 pm

      Off and make sure you keep the broth at a low simmer.

      Reply
  • Rob July 8, 2014, 12:51 am

    Hi, I havent made this yet, but am certainly going to. I just wanted to comment on your clear instructions and presentation.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Jessiey May 23, 2014, 8:20 am

    I just came back from VIETNAM !!! and I am soooo super craving for their beef noodle …
    I ate that almost every morning once I woke up there. LOLZ… it was super delicious for sure . I still cant forget the taste.. it feels the taste still melting in my mouth .. 😀

    I cant wait to try this.. thank you for sharing your recipe.. however, I couldn’t mange to get three crab brand but I found red boat brand of fish sauce. will it actually ruin the taste ?

    Reply
    • Joanne June 20, 2014, 2:18 pm

      You are so lucky, we would love to travel to Vietnam! We hope our recipe meets your expectations 🙂

      Reply

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