Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters)

Homemade vegetarian pho from scratch. Rice noodles - and whatever else you like - swim in a delicious, aromatic broth. Plus, pho is perfect for customizing to individual tastes. Freeze any leftover broth for easy homemade pho later on.


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Total Time: 55 minutes

If you owned a Vietnamese pho restaurant, what would you name it? Around here, we have “What the Pho?”, “Pho Shizzle,” and then there’s just straight-up “Pho King.” I guess if I opened a pho (pronounced “fuh”) place, I’d have a hard time resisting getting punny, too. Maybe I’d call mine “Pho the Love of All That is Good and Holy.”

Orrrr … yeah. Maybe I’ll just make vegetarian pho from scratch at home now and then, and that’ll be plenty good enough.

Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters) from kitchentreaty.com

So surely you have had (and love) pho, right? Giant bowls of comforting rice noodles swimming in a steamy, aromatic broth (think savory joining up with cloves, star anise, and cinnamon). Traditionally, pho is made with beef – but when us vegetarians get lucky, a pho restaurant will serve a gorgeous vegetarian broth punctuated with tofu, mushrooms, maybe even some broccoli, carrots, or bok choy.

But at its core, pho is noodles and broth. And then the sky is the limit. And when you make vegetarian pho from scratch, you can customize it how you like it, from the broth to what you put into your soup to what you top it with.

Oh, the toppings! Glorious, glorious pho toppings.

Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters) from kitchentreaty.com

Most of the aforementioned punny restaurants around here put a big plate of Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeno slices in front of you, along with some Hoisin sauce and Sriracha. Plop in a pepper for heat, pile with sprouts, tear up a whole bunch of basil and pile it on, squirt on some sauces, squeeze a little lime over the whole glorious mess … it’s all to your liking. That’s the beauty of pho.

Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters) from kitchentreaty.com

So here’s the scoop on making it at home. I’ll be honest – I thought it would be pretty simple to do, but making vegetarian pho from scratch actually is a little time-consuming. The broth, of course, takes the longest to make, though most of that is cooking time. I like to double the recipe and freeze what’s left for (easier) homemade pho down the road.

Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters) from kitchentreaty.com

Once the broth-makin’ is out of the way, you just cook the rice noodles and get all of the remaining soup ingredients and the toppings ready. I use dry noodles – just a quick two-minute-long dunk into boiling water and they’re ready.

For my meat-eating guy, I have the butcher at my local grocery store thinly slice some top round. The noodles go into the bowl, followed by a few slices of the raw beef, and then you pour the boiling broth over the top – it cooks the beef instantly.

Meanwhile, my vegetarian version gets a few sliced mushrooms and maybe a few cubes of tofu. And then we top.

Pho really is fun to make at home, and when you start with a (still-delicious!) meatless broth, you can customize individual bowls for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

Vegetarian Vietnamese soup pho the win!

Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters)

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Homemade vegetarian pho from scratch. Rice noodles - and whatever else you like - swim in a delicious, aromatic broth. Plus, pho is perfect for customizing to individual tastes. Freeze any leftover broth for easy homemade pho later on.

Ingredients:

Broth:

  • 12 cups water
  • 3 medium sweet onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 1 medium bulb garlic, top cut off and halved
  • 1/2 cup dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, halved and smashed lightly
  • 2 thumb-size pieces of fresh ginger, sliced
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 6-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and/or a few dashes of soy sauce to taste

For the soup:

  • Banh Pho flat rice noodles (1 to 2 ounces per serving), plus any of the following:
  • Cubed extra-firm tofu
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Broccoli florets
  • Sliced carrots
  • Chopped baby bok choy
  • Very thinly sliced top round steak (about 1/8 pound per serving)

Toppings:

  • Fresh Thai basil
  • Bean sprouts
  • Fresh jalapeno slices
  • Fresh lime wedges
  • Hoisin sauce (be sure to find a vegetarian version)
  • Sriracha sauce

Directions:

Make the broth:
  1. Add all ingredients to a large stock pot and stir. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool until safe to handle. Place a colander over a large bowl and pour broth into colander. Discard solids. Strain one more time to remove all the bits and pieces: Place a fine-mesh sieve over the stock pot and pour the both back into the pot, through the sieve. Taste, adding salt if desired. Return to the stove and bring to a boil.
Cook the noodles:
  1. Either follow package directions, or, if no clear directions, bring a pot of water to boiling. Turn off heat. Add noodles to water and stir gently until softened, about 1 - 2 minutes. Strain noodles and rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.
Assemble your soup!
  1. Add noodles to a large bowl. Top with vegetables, tofu, and/or beef, as desired. Carefully pour boiling-hot broth over the veggies/tofu/beef, taking care to dunk the beef under the broth so all of the beef cooks in the hot broth. The veggies will blanch in the broth, too, so they should be tender enough by the time you're ready to eat.
  2. Serve with assorted toppings.

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Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.

16 Responses to “Vegetarian Pho from Scratch (with Optional Beef for the Meat-Eaters)”

  1. Hahaha “What the pho?” We have “Pho King” here in Florida as well. I like it, it’s funny.
    Me and my hubs are totally in love with Pho, but I have always been intimidated to try making it at home.
    However, he has been dying to go to this Pho place down the street that looks a little, well, sketchy..
    Now I can totally make it at home and hopefully he will forget all about that little place! Yum!

  2. First, these pictures are beautiful. I feel like that bowl is sitting right in front of me. Taunting me! Unfortunately, pho is not really a thing around here, especially not *vegetarian* pho, so I’ve had to settle for making my own and yours looks a lot better than mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am going to try the pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time of the broth!Then I will let you know how it turns out. Sounds and looks great.

  4. I made the broth tonight in a pressure cooker with the plan of putting the whole soup together tomorrow. While I probably added more ginger than receipe intended I must say the aroma was amazing!!! I could not wait to release the pressure to sample the broth…..so wonderful.
    Pho fantastic. I can’t wait to put it all together.

    • Hi Pam, making this in a pressure cooker is such a great idea! I haven’t done any pressure cooker cooking, but really need to get one and play around with it.

  5. or you could try….โ€œPho the Love of All That is Good and BOWLY.โ€..ha!

  6. YES!! I’m so excited to find a vegetarian pho recipe, I only ever come across meat ones. Which is lame. Pretty amped to try this!

    • They are few and far between! I’m always sad too when I go to a pho restaurant and they don’t have any vegetarian broth. So not cool! We love pho too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. That bowl of pho looks awesome! I love the bowls, too! Around the corner of my home, there’s a place called “Pho is for Lovers”. I do enjoy the Tofu/ vegetarian pho there, but I cannot pass the name….I think it’s a horrible name. My husband said he could never EVER invite his guy friends to come out and eat there, because the thought of verbally asking a dude: “Hey, wanna go to Pho is for lovers?” is too much for him to handle!

    Great post, and love your pictures!!

  8. Finally I have found a blog that relates so much to my life! I am a 15 year long vegetarian and recently married a “meat eater” (people always make fun of me for calling them that). I never cooked meat before and it’s a huge challenge because I can’t taste it. I’ve never even had steak before! Cooking meat is a total guessing game. I LOVE your blog and I can’t wait to be a little more adventurous and try out all your recipes, especially the pho ;p

    • Ha, well, some consider “carnivore” to be insulting and “omnivore” is just sort of what we are regardless of whether or not we eat meat, so I’m with you – I tend to use “meat-eater” too! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s funny – whenever I make something new with meat for my husband, he never really gets to enjoy it because I am grilling him about how it tastes.

      Congrats on your recent marriage! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: A Guide to Vegetarian Food and Wine Pairing | 100% Realtors

  10. First time making phone and you recipient was awesome. Thanks.

  11. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Also, you shouldn’t place chopsticks like that, it’s bad luck and rude. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Not sure what I did wrong but broth came out tasting like like cinnamon/clove tea. Only thing that was left out was the anise because no one carried it anywhere.

    I am sure it was me and not the recipe… any ideas what I did wrong.

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