Vietnamese Pho: Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup Recipe

What the Pho?!

I’ve been working hard perfecting the techniques and recipe for Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, or Pho, just for you. It’s taken years of kitchen experiments, eating out and scouring for good recipes. Of all the cookbooks that I own, the best recipe that I’ve found for Pho is from:

Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese KitchenInto the Vietnamese Kitchen Cookbook, which is one of the most comprehensive books on the cuisine of Vietnam. The book also won nominations for a James Beard Foundation award and two International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Definitely a must-have book for Asian food lovers.

So, let’s get right to the Vietnamese Beef Pho Recipe!

The dish is pronounced “fuh” and not “foo” or “foe” or “puh”

Yeah, Pho is cheap eat out…but to be able to make a home made version? Pretty Pho-king amazing, if you ask me.

Pho Spices

It’s best if you can get each spice separately, but I do find that the spice packets are pretty convenient. They cost less than $2.00 and even come with a mesh bag to put all the spices in. Spices include cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander pods, star anise and cardamom. Whatever you do, don’t use the Pho spice paste that comes in a jar or can. Nasty stuff, that’s Pho-sho’.

Pho Spices use for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Best Bones for Pho

Leg and knuckle bones are the best to make the stock. See that wonderful yellow marrow below in the photo? That’s pure flavoring that makes your Pho taste full, meaty and rich. But let’s say that you can’t find leg/knuckle bones. Go ahead and use whatever beef bones your supermarket has and just supplement with some oxtail bones or a pound of beef meat (rump, chuck, brisket, etc.) for extra flavor.

Bones are parboiled first for a good 10 minutes in rapidly boiling water – this gets rid of the yucky impurities like blood particles and extra fat. You’ll see gray foam float up to the surface as you boil. After 10 minutes, dump out all of the water, rinse out your pot, rinse the bones, and refill with clean, cool water. I know it’s an extra step, but this will give you the pure, clean-tasting broth.

This is just after blanching – the golden gelatinous goodness is where all the flavor and body is.

UPDATE 4/11/2010 I started getting comments of the broth being too greasy — and after 8 pots of testing, I found out why. When I normally make pho broth, I use a combination of knuckle and leg bones, normally with 20% of the bones having the marrow (below photo). When I started increasing the % of bones with marrow – the broth started getting too fatty. I guess too much of a good stuff is not a good thing! ;-) The fattiness is easy to remedy. Refrigerate overnight and just discard the layer of fat that accumulates on top. For best results though, keep the bones with marrow to 20%.

Bones for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Charring Onions and Ginger

Charring or roasting the onions and ginger gives you a wonderfully mellow and naturally sweet flavor. I used to char over an open flame on my stovetop with a pair of tongs, but that got pretty tiring. Plus, metal tongs + long time over flame = very hothothot hands. So now, I just raise my oven rack to the highest position and turn my broiler on. See how golden the ginger gets?

Char onions and ginger for Vietnamese Pho Recipevietnamese-pho-recipe-ginger

Damn Scumbag!

So here is my broth boilin’ away with the mesh bag of spices, charred ginger, charred onions and beef bones. You can see floating bits of fat and the damn scumbag.

Fat & marrow bits = good eats. Try to keep that in the broth!

But gotta get rid of the scum! I use a very, very fine mesh strainer designed just for scum. heh. A scumbag strainer. Can you imagine if I had a line of cookware and tools – “Steamy Kitchen Scumbag Strainer.” Straining the scum keeps your broth pure and clean. The lower the simmer, the less scum you have.

A note on broth simmering time – I simmer the broth for 3 hours. According to both Andrea Nguyen and Corinne Trang (author of Authentic Vietnamese Cooking and former editor and director of Saveur’s test kitchen) – all of the flavors in the bone have been extracted after 3 hours.

Skim the Scum when making broth for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Thin Sliced Meat

You can use a thinly sliced flank steak, london broil, sirloin, eye of round or tri-tip. Instead of beef slices, you could use beef balls (Bo Vien) found in the freezer section of your Asian market. The secret to cutting meat is to cut across the grain. You want your beef slices as thin as possible, and I always throw the whole chunk of meat in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice thinly.

How to slice steak for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Pho Noodles

Rice noodles for vietnamese pho recipe

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup typically uses rice noodles. You can buy them dried or fresh. I love the slippery softness of fresh noodles (look in the refrigerator or freezer section.) Most restaurants will use dried, flat rice noodles. Look for ones that are medium thickness and flat like these.

Pho Condiments

Condiments for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Pho-tastic condiments! On the tables of every Pho restaurant, you’ll see these two condiments, Cock Sauce (Sriracha hot chili sauce) and Hoisin Sauce. You can squirt and slather as much of these two condiments as you want…but I’m a purist.If I’m going to spend a couple of hours carefully crafting a rich, flavor-packed, clean soup – I better taste every damn drop. Condiment sauces just get in the way. Sometimes, I’ll squirt a bit of each sauce in a little dish and dip my meat in the sauce as I take a bite. You ask….why do we call it Cock sauce? See that rooster on the bottle?

Pho Vegetables and Herbs

Fresh mint, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, limees, sliced chili peppers are just some of my favorite accompaniments. Set a plate at the table and your guests can pick and choose what they like. Here’s a great Pho-tograph of fresh vegetables and herbs.

Fresh Herbs for Vietnamese Pho Recipe

Recommended Tools

These are tools that I recommend and use in my kitchen.

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Vietnamese Pho: Beef Noodle Soup Recipe

Servings: 8 Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 4 hours

Adapted from my favorite Vietnamese cookbook
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen

Sometimes, I omit the 1 pound of beef meat in the broth (you'll see I've made it optional) - as I've found that as long as I have good bones, the broth will have enough flavor to not need the extra beef meat.



2 onions, halved
4" nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 pounds of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
1 pound of beef meat - chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large slices [optional]6 quarts of water
1 package of Pho Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (halve if using regular table salt)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) - or 1oz of regular sugar

2 pounds rice noodles (dried or fresh)
Cooked beef from the broth (shredded or thinly sliced)
1/2 pound flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thinly as possible.
big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of fresh bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot sauce


Char: Turn your broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil the bones: Fill large pot (12-qt capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth: Add ginger, onion, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside (you'll be eating this meat later in the bowls) Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning - this is a crucial step. If the broth's flavor doesn't quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect.

Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible - try freezing for 15 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Remember the cooked beef meat that was part of your broth? Cut or shred the meat and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Your guests will "assemble" their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles - there are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that's needed. The package that I purchased (above) - needed about 45 seconds in boiling water.

Ladling: Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. the hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests can garnish their own bowls as they wish.

Comments 627

      1. Georg Michae

        thank you very much.
        I told my Vietnamese girlfriend and her friend, I know how to make pho, thy laughed at me, so I invited them to diner. Needless to say they could not believe it. They looked at me like I am from outer space.

        Coming from the Middle east myself, we like to use a lot of the same spices you listed, I actually used a little more.

        I used skimmer and paper towel to remove the scum.

        Tanks again for making me look good

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          Georg – that makes me so happy! btw, my husband’s middle name is Georg (without the e at the end) and it’s pronounced it “gae-org” Is this how you pronounce your name too?

  1. Christine

    Thank you for much for the post. I have been wanting to make a pho that would rival my mother’s pho ga. It was amazing. I was hoping you could help me fine tune it to perfection.

    Questions – My broth turned out really thick and would turn gelatinous when it turned cold. Is this normal? Or should I reduce the bone and increase the water mixture. (I had to use a smaller pot). It was also a deep brown color. Should I parboil the bones longer next time?

    Thanks again!

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        The first boiling “scrubs” the bones of its scum. It rises to top and you rinse that off. The scum doesn’t taste good (bitter and yuck) anyways.

        1. Kris

          I roasted the bones at 400 for about 25 min before boiling. I figured it can only add flavor. it also eliminates that yucky boiled meat smell. I did the parboil, and got no scum!

  2. Hanh

    Instead of putting your pot in the freezer to get the fat out, try putting some ice cubes in your pot. The ice cubes will float and harden the fat and you can just scoop it out.

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  3. RJ Taylor

    This is a fantastic recipe, and I’ve made it several times for my family – thank you!

    Quick question: Do you think it would turn out the exact same if I simply doubled all the ingredients? I always worry when “steeping” the pho spices. Any tips?

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  4. yjburley

    When you strain the broth, do you put the bones and all the other ingredients back in or do you just cook the broth only?

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  5. shy


    whenever its breezy here in the windy city, my husband and I crave for pho, our comfort food… ;)

    wish me luck as I will be trying this dish first time, hopefully It’ll be a success…

  6. sean

    Don’t forget thin sliced onion on top. I love that little bit of crunch! Slice thin and cover with ice water for extra crisp….. This is my favorite meal!

  7. Ann

    I am a big fan of vietnamese food. This is the second time I made pho and first time I followed your recipe and I must say, your recipe is even better and will be sticking to making pho your way. The only thing I did different is i toasted the spices. :D

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  8. Eddie

    I found this recipe to be very easy, compared to others. I love eating beef pho but as a African American man(I’m so Asian on the inside lol) who loves asian food and sriracha haha I was afraid to attempt such a traditional meal. However I made it! It was really good I even made some for my coworker, who I introduced pho to a few weeks prior. My only “issue” was a dark broth…but i still think it was great. Cant wait to make more especially now in cool January.
    Thanks for this recipe!

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      The recipe makes enough broth to serve 8 large bowls (sorry, I didn’t have an exact measurement) – and yes, you can freeze extra. I like to get resealable ziplock freezer bag, quart sized. Place the bag inside a tall, skinny bowl – so that when you pour the broth into the bag, the broth doesn’t spill out of the bag. Seal, but leave a bit of room inside bag. The liquid will expand a bit as it freezes, so you must make sure you have some empty space in the bag. Lay bag flat in freezer so that it will freeze flat.

  9. Rita Rosenthal

    I made this tonight and it was delicious!!! I didn’t have cardamom so I left it out but will get it for next time. Thanks for the recipe!!1

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  10. Frank Wise

    What a awesome blog I am going to try this today I am excited I love pho always pay to eat it might as well make it myself. I have always wanted to open a Asian restaurant who knows maybe I might have to do so if I can master the art of pho lol.

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      Marie – you’ll have to go to an Asian market and look for the spice pack. I don’t really have a brand preference – usually the store only has one kind.

  11. Kaye

    Hi, thank you so much for this recipe! I made this yesterday and it was a huge success! Unfortunately there is a serious lack of Vietnamese restaurants where I live, so I will be remaking this over and over again! Which dish should I try next??

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  12. Shanon

    Is the 1lb of beef meat optional? I forgot it at the store. Do I need to go back. Everything else is in the pot simmering except for the thick cut beef meat. Does this make the broth more flavorful?

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      Shanon – it’s fine! Yes, it will make it more flavorful – but don’t make a special trip just for the meat. Compensate with just a little more fish sauce.

  13. Susan

    I already have plain beef broth on hand, so about how long do you suggest I let that simmer with the spices? Thanks! :-)

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  14. Jo

    Please tell me how to print off the recipes, I would like to carry them with me so I can buy when I’m out shopping. Thank you so much!! I love the beef Pho…..I crave it and LOVE that I can make it at home!! <3

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  15. Kaye

    Thank you so much! I will be making my way through these and introducing our friends to such delights! Non! 😃

  16. Taisiya

    Can I make a half portion? My biggest pot is only 5 quart and I don’t have many people either. What do I do in this case? Thank you.

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  17. Luke

    my pho is about 1 hour from being done. Regardless of how it turns out I wanted to thank you for taking the time to provide this recipe. I’ll let you know when it’s done!

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      1. luke parrish

        I made it 3 times this weekend and finally nailed it. The first time i didnt boil the scum out of the bones long enough. The second time i ended up with too much broth and the color wasnt right. The third time it was on the money and i feel a little more confident in the process. I look forward to making it again!

  18. Katie

    I really loved this recipe. I just finished making it tonight and it turned out great. I did add one more black cardamom pod, a few extra Ceylan cloves, and a lot more kosher salt. I can’t wait to make this recipe again! I also made sure I used high quality spices from Penzey’s rather than the cheap alternatives. It cost more, but I think it really contributed to the overall taste. Now I have lunch to eat all week. :)

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