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The Best Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

April 24, 2019

My family loves Pho (pronounced “Fa” as in ha!).  When both kids are home visiting, our favorite Pho restaurant is on speed dial. My daughter and I always order the veggie pho, while the men opt for a meatier version.  We have all changed our eating habits just a bit so I decided to explore a fresher take on this family favorite.

There are a few pantry staples that you will need to purchase first to make homemade Vegetarian Pho. Unless you have a huge selection of spices in your cupboard, you probably will not have the spices needed for this dish, i.e. – star anise, cardamom pods, coriander seeds and black peppercorns.  You will also need rice noodles, which are gluten free and healthier than regular pasta noodles. Having these spices and noodles on hand will make it easier to whip up a huge pot of Pho any time the craving hits.

As with any vegetarian dish – feel free to add any and all veggies you have on hand. Some of my favorites are fresh spinach leaves, diced or shredded carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, broccolini and baby bok choy.

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe. You will need to give the broth at least an hour to develop a deep, rich flavor.  Contrary to that advice, I have also made this in a pinch with good results by only simmering for a total of 30 minutes instead of 60. I have seen a few recipes that say you do NOT have to char the onions and spices – but it is imperative that you do to get the best tasting broth. Charring develops the flavor and is necessary to a truly great bowl of Pho.

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The Best Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Ingredients:

For the Pho Broth:

  • 2 whole star anise (if you want to make a milder broth, I recommend using just 1)

  • 2 cardamom pods

  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds

  • one 2 1/2-inch cinnamon stick

  • 1  1/2 tsps.  black peppercorns

  • 1 tsp. goji berries -optional, but I highly recommend them. If you can’t find them at the grocers you can purchase here. 

  • 2 shallots, halved (or leeks)

  • 2 small onions, quartered

  • 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar (optional)

  • 1 Tbsp. Asian Fish sauce (the best is Red Boat)

  • 4 quarts Veggie Stock (Zoup is the best – (Wegmans and Wal-Mart have the best prices). You can also purchase on the Zoup website, and they always have a coupon available to take to the grocers. I am going to throw in that their shipping, including packaging, is exemplary. I have ordered broth in bulk from Wal-Mart and one of the jars was broken and the rest were frozen solid.  That will not happen if you order from Zoup.

  • Optional veggies: fresh spinach, diced carrots, baby bok choy, mushroom, broccoli, broccolini

  • 6 oz. rice noodles (any width)

Garnishes:

  • 1 cup sliced scallions

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro

  • Bean sprouts, chopped basil, chopped mint, thinly sliced jalapeno and lime wedges

  • Dollop of Sriracha for extra spice

Directions:

For the Noodles:

Cook rice noodles according to package directions (boil water, add noodles and cook for about 5-10 minutes). Unlike regular pasta you do not need to salt the water. They cook quickly and you can do this while your broth is simmering. Rinse and set aside.

For the Broth:

  1. In a large cast-iron skillet (do not add oil!), combine the star anise, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns and goji berries. Cook over low heat, stirring, until very fragrant, 5-10 minutes.  Don’t skimp on this – it’s vital to the wonderful deep flavor.  Remove and transfer to a small bowl.

  2. In the same skillet, combine the shallots and onions (still no oil needed – you are dry-roasting).  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until very deep golden brown (almost black on the ends) – 10-15 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

  3. In a large pot add all of the vegetable broth and the pan-roasted onions and shallots or leeks. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes (longer is better!)

  4. Stir in the toasted spices, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. (If you are on a time crunch, you can add everything at once and simmer for 30 minutes)

  5. Strain the broth into a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Add broth to a clean saucepan and stir in the fish sauce and optional brown sugar. Keep on a low simmer until you are ready to serve.

Prepare the Pho:

Add rice noodles to large soup bowls.  Ladle the piping hot broth over the noodles.  Top with scallions and cilantro. Garnish with bean sprouts, basil, mint, jalapeno and serve with lime wedges and Sriracha.

Enjoy!

The Best Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
Author: Gay Van Beek for Canterbury Cottage Designs
Ingredients
Ingredients:
  • For the Pho Broth:
  • 2 whole star anise if you want to make a milder broth, I recommend using just 1
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • one 2 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 tsps. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. goji berries -optional but I highly recommend them. If you can’t find them at the grocers you can purchase here.
  • 2 shallots halved (or leeks)
  • 2 small onions quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar optional
  • 1 Tbsp. Asian Fish sauce the best is Red Boat
  • 4 quarts Veggie Stock Zoup is the best – (Wegmans and Wal-Mart have the best prices. You can also purchase on the Zoup website, and they always have a coupon available to take to the grocers. I am going to throw in that their shipping, including packaging, is exemplary. I have ordered broth in bulk from Wal-Mart and one of the jars was broken and the rest were frozen solid. That will not happen if you order from Zoup.
  • Optional veggies: fresh spinach diced carrots, baby bok choy, mushroom, broccoli, broccolini
  • 6 oz. rice noodles any width
Garnishes:
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • Bean sprouts chopped basil, chopped mint, thinly sliced jalapeno and lime wedges
  • Dollop of Sriracha for extra spice
Instructions
Directions:
For the Noodles:
  1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions (boil water, add noodles and cook for about 5-10 minutes). Unlike regular pasta you do not need to salt the water. They cook quickly and you can do this while your broth is simmering. Rinse and set aside.
For the Broth:
  1. In a large cast-iron skillet (do not add oil!), combine the star anise, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns and goji berries. Cook over low heat, stirring, until very fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Don’t skimp on this – it’s vital to the wonderful deep flavor. Remove and transfer to a small bowl.
  2. In the same skillet, combine the shallots and onions (still no oil needed – you are dry-roasting). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until very deep golden brown (almost black on the ends) – 10-15 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  3. In a large pot add all of the vegetable broth and the pan-roasted onions and shallots or leeks. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes (longer is better!)
  4. Stir in the toasted spices, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. (If you are on a time crunch, you can add everything at once and simmer for 30 minutes)
  5. Strain the broth into a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Add broth to a clean saucepan and stir in the fish sauce and optional brown sugar. Keep on a low simmer until you are ready to serve.
Prepare the Pho:
  1. Add rice noodles to large soup bowls. Ladle the piping hot broth over the noodles. Top with scallions and cilantro. Garnish with bean sprouts, basil, mint, jalapeno and serve with lime wedges and Sriracha.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Yolanda Thomas May 20, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    This looks so good. Wish my neighbor had some already made so I could have some.

  • Reply GayVanBeek May 20, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I will make you some girlfriend!!!

  • Reply Kris @ Junk Chic Cottage April 25, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Yum!!!!! Hope you are having a great week Gay. I cannot believe May is just around the corner. I will be a happy girl when I can get my flowers going. Been thinking about you. Hope all is well.
    Hugs,
    Kris

  • Reply Nana Diana April 28, 2019 at 8:30 am

    That sounds really good, Gay. Something my hubby would like for sure. AND no MSG-which you usually get in Oriental restaurants. You make the dish and I will bring the wine and dessert (gluten free, of course). xo Diana

  • Leave a Reply to Nana Diana Cancel Reply

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