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
  • Yonatan Ohana March 6, 2021, 9:22 am

    That pho looks awesomely tasty and juicy to eat!!! Thanks for the guidance to make it!!!

  • Susan Farnam February 15, 2021, 8:29 pm

    This soup is fantastic! The video was really helpful also. One question though – why do you recommend putting the spices in cheesecloth since you strain the broth at the end? Would it work just as well to simply add the spices to the pot directly?

    • Adam February 16, 2021, 1:22 pm

      We recommend using cheesecloth since you are trying to create a clear broth. When you strain at the end the strainer isn’t as fine as cheesecloth. If your strainer is very fine you should be ok.

  • Mike W February 3, 2021, 3:34 pm

    My daughter and I recently pressure canned a big batch of chicken stock. Our first project with a pressure canner. It came out so well we’re anxious to make pho broth next.You mentioned freezing the big batch of stock in the recipe. I guess my question would be, what are your thoughts on the spices losing their perfume on the shelf.

    • Adam February 16, 2021, 1:25 pm

      Hi Mike, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the spices losing their aromatics. With that said, we have not experimented with canning the broth ourselves.

  • Ines Kao January 24, 2021, 5:35 pm

    I have watched many different pho making videos and I find yours is the most helpful. It’s very clear with step by step instructions. The blog is also very detailed with good information. The pho turned out superb! I can’t believe I actually made pho. Thank you very much!

  • AC Foster January 14, 2021, 2:22 am

    I had a very disappointing experience with store bought broth (tasted like chemicals) and some time on my hands due to the Covid slowdown, so after looking through nearly a dozen recipes I decided to give this one a try based on the spice combination and technique. Fantastic. The resulting broth is super aromatic, complex and delicious. Totally worth the investment in time and ingredients. Luckily there’s a large asian market not too far away so I was able to get the bones and yellow rock sugar fairly easily and I happened to have black cardamom from an an Indian dish I made a couple weeks back. I found that at a tiny Indian spice and sari store tucked away in a strip mall off the highway. I followed the recipe almost to the letter but for an extra splash of fish sauce and a pinch of salt and it tastes every bit as good as the broth I’ve had at restaurants. So thankful for the bone parboiling recommendation. It’s a process, but you really do not want that stuff in your soup. Yucksville dotcom. Prepped and simmered last night, strained this morning, skimmed the fat this afternoon and served to glowing reviews for dinner tonight. Not a drop left in anyone’s bowl. Thanks so much for the great, thorough recipe.

    • Adam January 17, 2021, 1:15 pm

      We are so glad you loved it. Thank you for the very kind review 🙂

  • Jon Fields January 3, 2021, 8:28 pm

    Very delicious recipe! I only had access to neck bones and I was nervous about how it would turn out, but the broth came out amazing! I bumped up the fish sauce from 1/4 to 1/2 cup and added a touch of high quality powdered beef base as well. Thank you for the great recipe! Yummmm

  • P July 26, 2020, 2:01 am

    A true pho recipe is cook from heart not measurement u add season according to taste and no o u don’t need to add more spice
    Just add enough water at the beginning and then start to adjust Ur seasoning accordingly

  • Pauline June 12, 2020, 7:37 am

    This sounds delicious! What cut of beef do you use for the thinly sliced beef?

    • Adam February 16, 2021, 1:28 pm

      Hi Pauline, we have more details and tips for this in the recipe and article above.

  • Jeff May 13, 2020, 8:49 pm

    This recipe is fantastic. I added cardamom pod but I believe it was a green pod and not black? Anyways, other twist I did was adding 3 large peeled cloves of garlic. I also let the broth sit for closer to 3.5 or 3.75 hours. Unfortunately, I was only able to yield about 7 cups of broth, which is half of the minimum yield mentioned in this recipe! It couldn’t have been from just the extra 30 mins on the stove. Anyone have any ideas on how I can make sure to get closer to 3-4 quarts next time? I used about 5.2 lbs of bones per the recipe as well. But bottom line is even though I only yielded 7 cups, it’s on another level of delicious. I’m a very intense critic when it comes to Asian cuisine and pho in particular, but this was seriously good.

  • Jonathon Walker April 16, 2020, 8:49 am

    Made this today and it was delicious. Thanks for the recipe. It will be part of our regular rotation from now on.

  • Sherry February 16, 2020, 9:25 pm

    My husband’s family grew up in Vietnam and they say no fish sauce goes in Pho.

  • Christy February 16, 2020, 5:07 pm

    So good! It is a big time taker but worth every second! How do you make sure the meat cooks? I am not able to get it with every try.

    • Adam February 16, 2021, 1:30 pm

      Hi Christy, it is important that the broth that you are adding to the bowls with meat is very hot. If your worried you can always cook the meat quickly in a pan beforehand.

  • Esteban January 12, 2020, 3:39 pm

    Great recipe! Tastes much better than any restaurant Pho I’ve had. One thing I added to the broth was ox-tail mixed with the beef bones. Ox-tail gives so much more flavor to the broth making this recipe even better. Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

  • K BOOT December 6, 2019, 11:03 pm

    It tastes great but it’s actually more around 2 and 3/4 of a serving size if you’re expecting to get a restaurant size serving.

  • Shawn December 6, 2019, 9:51 am

    I’ve been using this recipe for several years now I believe as a base recipe. One of the things I’ve noticed about good pho recipes is they come with lots of side notes. The only change I’ve made really is that I’ve never had black cardamon, I just use regular cardamon pods and add 1 or 2.
    I’ve never understood the obsession with clear broth but for good color make sure you get some char on the onions and ginger and don’t peel them. I run my broth though a strainer and then chill it overnight to remove most of the fat, not all. I tell people all of the time that making pho like this at home is well worth it but don’t try to substitute ingredients until you’ve tried it like this recipe directs.


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