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

Homemade Pho

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

This Orange Honey Teriyaki Chicken Recipe is simple to make and tastes amazing.

We 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.

Try our homemade vegetable broth which is hearty enough to enjoy alone  as soup and works perfectly as a replacement to boxed stock in your favorite 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

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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317 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Txmama71 November 30, 2019, 11:51 am

    Never in a million years did I think that I could make Pho, until now. The way this recipe breaks everything down makes the long process very easy to follow. The result of this recipe is better than anything I’ve ever had at a restaurant. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Dawn November 12, 2019, 10:02 pm

    I LOVE this recipe! The only problem is that I have to be careful how often I make it, or my family will get sick of it.

  • Karen October 18, 2019, 2:59 pm

    Loved the info thank you thank you

  • Irina July 22, 2019, 5:26 pm

    Hi does the meat that you put in the bowls cooks when you pour the hot broth on top? Or does it stays uncooked?

    • Joanne July 23, 2019, 4:58 pm

      Hi Irina, We make sure the broth is very hot at the moment we add it to the bowls with beef. It does start to cook the meat (especially since it is so thin). If you are worried, you can always precook the beef before adding to the bowls.

  • jonah February 16, 2019, 12:01 pm

    Have you tried roasting the bones before simmering to add a deeper flavor? How can I still rinse but also brown and roast the bones?

    • Adam May 12, 2019, 1:17 pm

      We have never tried roasting the bones but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. If you would like to roast the bones we suggest that you parboil them first to remove impurities and then roast them.

  • Stellabella71 February 5, 2019, 11:25 am

    I would like to triple this recipe for a dinner party this weekend. What would you suggest for the spices. Would doubling up on spices be enough?

    • Adam May 12, 2019, 1:18 pm

      We recommend tripling all ingredients. You will need a large pot or might need to use two pots.

  • Rachel January 13, 2019, 8:55 pm

    Absolutely fantastic authentic pho flavor and a wonderful way to use bone broth

  • kelly January 10, 2019, 10:24 pm

    Hi, Is it possible to use 5 Chinese spice instead of fennel and coriander seeds as I don’t have any in my pantry at the moment.

    • Joanne July 29, 2019, 1:31 pm

      While it won’t be exactly the same flavor, you can definitely give it a try.

  • Kenny January 3, 2019, 10:28 am

    I absolutely LOVE Pho!! I tried making it once using a very similar recipe. The smell and flavor of the broth was wonderful and clear until I added the fish sauce. The sauce clouded the broth and that wonderful flavor disappeared. Perhaps it was the brand of fish sauce I was using but when I tasted it prior to adding it, the broth had the flavor of what I eat in restaurants. I will try making this recipe first without the sauce and then add some of your recommended brand (if I can find it here) and try it again. Seems like almost criminal to not use fish sauce in Vietnamese cooking but, hey, if I don’t like the taste….

    • jizz Dog February 1, 2019, 10:32 am

      yea brua, i hate fish sauce too…… slowly gettin over the stank tank smell….. but its not a bad idea to hold off on the big batch and just add it to your own bowl as needed. better to not muck up all the hard work

  • Ron December 31, 2018, 3:20 pm

    Would using beef broth instead of water (or half broth, half water) not be a good idea? Have you tried it? I want to make this soup but want to use beef broth.

    • Joanne July 29, 2019, 1:32 pm

      Hi Ron, You can use broth if you prefer, the soup will be a bit richer.

  • Sandra December 11, 2018, 11:27 pm

    You didn’t say what kind of onion in your recipe.

    • Joanne December 12, 2018, 2:03 pm

      Hi Sandra, Any kind of onion will do the trick. We usually buy yellow or white onions for Pho.

  • Nick Russomano December 10, 2018, 4:26 pm

    I had both a success and failure with this recipe. The first time I made it, it came out absolutely amazing and tasted just as good if not better than the Pho from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. The following two times, I did not have such luck. It came out with just a hint of the flavor as the first batch. The only thing I can think of is maybe I tied the spice bag too tight on the later too and it did not allow the flavors to disperse properly. Regardless, when done properly this recipe results in restaurant quality pho!

  • Shanna Anderson November 11, 2018, 2:57 pm

    This recipe makes awesomely delicious pho!! Although it’s a lot of upfront work, in the end it’s worth it. With my big family, it is very expensive to get pho at restaurants and I have two growing boys who want double or triple the meat. This recipe allows for us to tweak it the way they want it. This will forever be my go to recipe. Thanks for sharing and adding your tips and tricks that make this oh so good.

    • Adam May 10, 2019, 4:01 pm

      What a lovely comment! So glad that your family loves the recipe 🙂

  • mina November 10, 2018, 4:48 pm

    I made this yesterday and followed the recipe to the dot, simmering uncovered.. I am not sure what happened, but seems like it didn’t make much broth at all. I started with the 6quarts as directed, and after discarding the bones and onions etc I only had 2,5 quarts broth. Is this normal?

    • Adam February 16, 2021, 1:32 pm

      Hi Mina, it is important to cook the broth at a low simmer otherwise it can reduce down quite a bit. Next time you could try partially covering the pot towards the end of cooking if you see that the broth is getting too low.

  • Mr. Rick November 9, 2018, 2:20 pm

    I lived in Vienam for six years. And loved their pho, the little street restaurant had the best. Coming back to America left a void in my life,I missed the pho and found it hard to find the same taste as vn pho. Maybe in part of the way we ate our meal. Any way I will try this recipe, it seems like it might be what I’ve been looking for.


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