How to Make the Best Homemade Pho

Making 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 Homemade Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Watch The Video

Homemade Pho Recipe Video

Seven Secrets for Making the Best Pho Soup

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 condiments you desire to make the soup your own.

A Bowl of Homemade Pho

The Best Bones for Making Pho

We make this at least once a month and always make 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?

You can’t make an excellent soup without great beef bones. 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.

Substituting store-bought beef broth for this homemade beef broth just won’t cut it. We know our process takes longer than some, but trust me, this homemade pho broth has so much more flavor. You won’t regret it.

You may also like these Pho-inspired grilled chicken wings!

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, and then pour 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 stockpot.

Char 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 excellent flavor 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.

Homemade Pho Spices

To toast the spices, 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 two to three minutes.

Yellow Rock Sugar

Don’t just use regular white sugar from your pantry. We know that buying yellow rock sugar seems pretty particular, 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.

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).

Update: We have recently given Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N a try and we prefer it over other ones we have tasted. We like the clean fish flavor it has over other brands. 

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 to), fresh mint, crispy bean sprouts, a teeny tiny splash of fish sauce, and some Asian chili sauce.

Hoisin sauce is also pretty common, but we rarely add it ourselves — 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!

More Easy Recipes

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

Homemade Pho

How to Make the Best Homemade Pho

  • PREP
  • COOK

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).

Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 quarts of broth (enough for 6 servings)

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need


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)


1 pound 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

For the Table

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


  • Make Broth
  • 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. 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.

    Meanwhile, move an oven rack to a high position then turn broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 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.

    Add cinnamon sticks, coriander 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. Place toasted spices into a cotton muslin bag/herb sachet or cheesecloth then tie with butchers twine to seal.

    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. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, a 1/4 cup of fish sauce and the rock sugar. 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.

    Use tongs or a wide mesh spoon to remove bones, onion and ginger from broth then strain broth through a fine mesh strainer. 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.

    • Assembly
    • Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

      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.

      To cook the 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).

      Arrange slices of raw meat into bowls, and then top with the hot broth. Finish broth with onion slices and cilantro. Serve bowls with a plate of optional garnishes listed above.Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe Step 3

Adam and Joanne's 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.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values. We did not include any table condiments (example: hoisin sauce).

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 436 / Protein 23 g / Carbohydrate 74 g / Dietary Fiber 3 g / Total Sugars 6 g / Total Fat 5 g / Saturated Fat 1 g / Cholesterol 20 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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323 comments… Leave a Comment
  • jb November 14, 2022, 11:48 am

    This must be a good recipe . . . .I don’t see people adding or subtracting ingredients. That’s a good sign you have created a good recipe! Makes me want to make this soup.

  • jean fields October 4, 2022, 10:05 pm

    Imade it today it smell good taste good follow the recipe.thank you i will be making this for a winter dish here i seattle.

  • Peter Plantec September 16, 2022, 9:01 pm

    This recipe was an exciting find. I have been unable to find “real” Pho recipes and the stuff in local Pho shops isn’t close to the real deal. This recipe comes very close to what I think of a pho. The fennely taste is almost always missing. I love that you char the ginger and onion to bring out more oldworld flavor. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Joanne September 17, 2022, 4:45 pm

      Hi Peter, We are so happy that you enjoyed the recipe! We love charring the onion and ginger, too.

  • Grace Brunetti April 10, 2022, 2:36 am

    Amazing!!! My husband refuses to eat Pho at restaurants, but when I made this for him he was amazed how beautiful and the delicious the flavors were! We all enjoyed this recipe… Looks like I have now it will be a regular dish at my house hold. Thank you!! Amazing!

  • Jessica February 24, 2022, 9:39 am

    This recipe is amazing. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to make this at home. One of my favorite things to eat during the cold months and this turned out so good. Thank you for this recipe!

  • Jeanny February 19, 2022, 3:14 pm

    This may be a dumb question, but I’m generally of the opinion that the only really dumb question is the one I didn’t ask, so . . .When you say “6 star anise”, is that 6 whole stars or six of the little pods that make up the star? Thanks!

    • Joanne September 17, 2022, 4:45 pm

      Hi Jeanny, You need to use 6 whole stars of star anise. Not a dumb question!

  • Theresa Smaroff December 29, 2021, 5:50 pm

    This recipe is AMAZING!!! I have to leave out the fish sauce due to shellfish allergy and I add lo sodium soy sauce. I use the crockpot to boil the meat bones for 12-18 hours. I learned the hard way you can over dry roast the spices- it makes it very bitter – definitely keep tabs on when you can smell them dry roasting. Mine only took 3 minutes. I use a little siracha in the broth when it is assembled. Crazy good recipe and my only go to for Beef Pho.

  • Heidi A Sullivan November 20, 2021, 10:17 pm

    Made this on a Thursday. I didn’t have the sugar or the cardamom pod. It was actually kinda yucky. Threw the meat back in with the spice sack and let it rest for a few days. ( I actually was waiting for the sugar lumps and cardamom pod) Redo on Saturday… took out the meat and added the sugar chunk and the cardamom pod and simmered for a couple more hours. Perfection!! Who knew that just two ingredients would make the difference!! If you are contemplating this recipe absolutely don’t skimp on any of the ingredients!

    • Adam November 21, 2021, 3:01 pm

      Hi Heidi, We are so glad that you gave it another try 🙂

  • Patricia D OShaughnessy September 23, 2021, 4:39 pm

    The raw beef at the end does it get cooked from the broth and noodles?

    • Adam September 24, 2021, 6:11 pm

      Yes, if you decide to cook the thinly sliced raw beef with the broth the hot broth does the cooking. If you prefer you could cook the meat separately but we like how tender the meat is when it is cooked in the bowl with the hot broth.

  • Christopher September 10, 2021, 12:12 pm

    So, I have personally worked at Vietnamese restaurants. I’ve watched them make Pho plenty of times. You aren’t far off with this recipe, but there are a couple of things I’d like to mention. First, I’ve never witnessed anyone char veggies for Pho. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m only saying I haven’t seen it happen in an actual restaurant kitchen. Second, all of the necessary spices purchased separately could become quite costly. If one is lucky enough to have a good Asian mart close by, it is usually possible to buy a “Pho Kit” for a few dollars which will even include a bag to hold the spices. Lastly, I want to thank you for this recipe, it pushed me to get out there and make some great soup again.

  • Nick August 18, 2021, 9:15 pm

    Would roasting the bones, like you would when making a consume or Demi glacé give you a greater depth of flavor? It’s an all day process anyway, what’s another couple of hours?

    • Joanne September 11, 2021, 2:19 pm

      Hi Nick, yes, roasting the bones does add a richer beef flavor.

  • Laurie Rasor July 22, 2021, 6:56 pm

    Have A Good Day

  • Charles S Porterfield June 9, 2021, 12:11 pm

    6/10/21..I had to use Ox tail with lots of meat on the bone for my broth. Do you have a suggestion for what I can make with them after I prepare the broth. I plan to place the broth as you suggested, in the fridge overnight and continue again tomorrow. Thank you, Charles P.

    • Joanne September 11, 2021, 2:20 pm

      Hi Charles, I’d enjoy the meat in my soup.

  • Denisse Pylant April 2, 2021, 5:57 am

    Lol! That’s what I keep telling myself!

  • ed March 11, 2021, 11:36 am

    Could you just boil everything in one step, let the entire pot cool undisturbed, and get the scum along with the solidified fat?

    • Joanne September 11, 2021, 2:20 pm

      Hi Ed, We prefer the method shown. It produces the cleanest tasting (and looking) broth.


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