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

Knuckle bones are the best to make the stock. The knobby knuckle bones, about the size of your fist, is full of gelatin – which gives body and richness to your broth. The knuckle bones make the biggest difference in your broth! You can find knuckle bones at Asian markets, but at regular supermarkets – you might have to ask your butcher.

Leg bones are also great for the pho broth. Take a look at the photo below. The bone that’s at 12-o’clock position is a leg bone that contains marrow. The marrow is good, but it’s extremely fatty. If I have a lot of marrow bones, I’ll scoop out the marrow with a small spoon or knife and discard after the par-boiling (see below). Having too much marrow will give you a greasy film on your pho broth.

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. Alternatively, you can buy knuckle bones online – Blue Valley Meats offers 100% grass fed knuckle bones for $9 per bag.


beef knuckle bones for pho

Blue Valley Meats knuckle bones

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.

If you have a lot of marrow bones, use a spoon or knife to scoop out and discard some of the marrow. Do this after the parboil, while the bones are still hot. The marrow can only be scooped out when the bones are hot, otherwise, it solidifies.


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. If you have a lot of marrow in the bones, use a small spoon to scoop out and discard some of the marrow. 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.

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Comments 667

  1. Lauren

    Cheers to steamy kitchen for such an awesome recipe and entertaining tutorial. I made it for the first time last week, and friends and family are already lobbying for another batch, so here I am!
    Both times, it’s been plenty flavorful. I’m not sure how previous commenters are ending up with bland broth, because the water:bone:meat ratio seems pretty dead-on to me. I think more likely, people may have failed to season properly.
    I changed it up a little this time, and used 4# of laterally-cut beef leg bones and 3# of beef shanks. I highly recommend using shanks; they add a lot of flavor, and they are a very budget-friendly cut. However, their meat is not really good for serving in the broth.
    I’m sure I’ll be making this again soon. Thanks again for the great recipe.

  2. Anh Sawyer

    Where did you get these fabulous white bowls with the straight edge and with the matching plates to hold your delicious looking pho? Thanks for a great site!

  3. Kevin

    This recipe looks pretty good, but your stock procedure has a major flaw. During the initial blanching process, you should NEVER boil the bones. You should cover them with twice their volume with water and bring only to a low low simmer. Proceeding otherwise will coagulate the albumin in the bones and prevent all of the impurities from being released. The bones should be simmered only lightly for 10 minutes while being occasionally gently moved but NOT STIRRED (this will agitate the impurities and emulsify them into the liquid). After this, shock in an ice bath and rinse. And then proceed with similar caution in the actual stock-making. This will expononentially improve the flavor and clarity of your stock

  4. Mary

    I am wondering if I need to put the spices in a spice bag? Since I am going to strain everything after the 3+ hours second simmering, won’t that clean out the spices enough? Just curious, and trying to cut out a step?
    If there is a need for the bag, will someone please tell me?
    Thanks, Mary

  5. aurel

    Too eliminate the fat from this soup I have a very simple method.After the broth is done and is only liquid put it in the fridge over night. In the next day you have something looking like this so you have to realize how much fat can be in these bones.The link is from a Romanian forum about the same kind of soup but a little bit different. Basically the making of the broth is similar to Vietnamese Pho soup.

  6. Alexis

    If you’re going to save some for later (entire pot won’t be served the day you make it) then don’t add the fish sauce to the pot. Add it to taste in each bowl. I added mine to the pot and it tasted great that night. But the portion that sat in the fridge over night was FAR too strong to eat the days following and I had to throw it all out. When I talked to some Vietnamese friends they said that if you add the fish sauce to taste in each bowl, that will solve the problem. Happy cooking!

  7. Ann

    This is a detailed recipe. There are small mistakes: we do not use cardamom (instead we use black cardamom) nor fennel.


  8. Pho-cking Grateful Cook

    We made this tonight with broth from local wild elk knee bones…WOW! And I was lazy before and didn’t char the ginger and onions but we did it this time…it made a TON of difference. Our kitchen smelled like a Vietnamese restaurant all night. Mmmmm!

  9. lauren

    you’re hilarious – and your pictures rock! this is one of the best, most thorough, succinct recipes I’ve ever come across (I read A LOT of them – also used to be a professional chef) Thank you!

  10. sklxbnz

    incredible recipe and VERY simple!!!
    i used my toaster over to do the charring and used some left over (frozen) beef stock since i had no beef bones. it work like a charm!!
    thank you!!!!!!!!!!

  11. jayce yenson

    we can simplify the process by using New Choice Pho flavor Beef Broth made her in USA. All you need is slice eye round, noodle and vegetable and you still can have a delicious bowl pho in less than 10 minute.

  12. Pat George

    Really, If you are going to pronounce something correct and tell people that this is the only way to say it, you better know where the word comes from. Pho is pronounce as “fuh” in the north of Vietnam only and Foe in the South of Vietnam. I know this because one I have been there and my wife is Vietnamese. So, please before correcting anyone on how to pronounce something remember that some say tomaytoe some say tomotoe, for the word tomato. This is one thing I can’t stand.

  13. pepe popo

    Really?? That’s your gripe? How incredibly lame! You should really get a life.

  14. Jennie

    To jayce….if you had real pho there’s no way on earth would you eat something like you mentioned and call it pho! Disgrace.

  15. Jiggles McPhuqstique

    Hey Pat George, sorry for your wife. You seem like a bit of a tosser.

    To the author of this recipe, thank you, Pho (however you say it) is one of my favourites. I am eager to try this.

  16. Francella

    Using another recipe, and just found this one! I’m confused if I am supposed to throw out the chuck roast that I am cooking with the marrow. In this recipe it is listed as optional. I just need to know, since I just spent $11 on it.

  17. joe

    george what a great whinger you are weather its spelled pho phu fue or what ever, you are going to end up a foe (do you know the mening of foe tosser?)one word of advice to you george go on ebay and buy a life.once again youre a tosser and a looser ask everyone haha.and jaden did a great job with this recipe i lovedddddd it weel done jayden.

  18. Shahid

    I made pho for the first time using this recipe. It turned out wonderful. We cannot eat pho outside because our beef has to be Halal. I wasn’t always a Halal eater so i knew what pho was and really missed the taste.

    Now thanks to you Jayden we can indulge ourselves again.

  19. LeAnn

    The purpose of the spice packet is to keep all the spices contained. Sometimes the longer you cook the spices it could overwhelm the broth, thus allowing the removal with ease.

  20. Lina!

    Man I spend 25 bucks a day to eat pho at my favorite place!! I told myself I wanna make it to save me money…. I’ve looked and looked for recipes and found this one!! I’m making it right now.. It’s simmering smells sooo good!! Cnt wait to eat it

  21. Patti

    I am making the broth right now. It smells so good. After paying 17.00 for a bowl of Pho at our local Thai restaurant I knew I could do it myself. I used beef knuckle bones and chef’s low salt broth to beef up the soup. I love this recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out!!!

  22. Barbara

    Wanted to add…. We add Daikon when we simmer the broth and it is removed when the ginger, onion etc is removed. Also we have had wonderful results when we skim off fat and impurities as the broth simmers. This way there is no need to refrigerate overnight and you get a clean clear broth. We skim several times as it cooks. And last… one person asked about the bag for the spices. What a pain to have to try and get every little seed from your broth if you don’t use one. If you can’t find one then you could use cheese clothe, tie it and float it. we also tie it to the handle of the pot so the very top does not dip in and let the spices loose in the broth. Hope that makes sense.

  23. Salynah

    Thank you for the recipe and well done explanation :).
    wondering, how long can i keep the soup? should i keep in the freezer?

  24. SteamyKitchen

    Hi Salynah – you can refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze the soup. Just make sure that you don’t have noodles in the soup – just freeze or store soup only. The cooked noodles will get soggy and gummy if stored.

  25. Melissa

    I took me 2 tries to get this right, but when I did…oh so wonderful! I strain my broth through cheesecloth to get it to the same looks as my twice weekly Pho purchase from my fav restaurant. It goes so fast in my house I just can not make enough!

    Thank you Jaden for such easy to follow and visually appealing instructions! I am a fan!!!

  26. Damien

    Hi! Fellow Tampanian here. Just wanted to say I made your pho this past weekend and it was awesome. Thanks for the recipe! Mine was a bit greasy, but i used a lot of bones with marrow. I just let it sit in the fridge overnight and was able to skim off all the fat the next day. It has such a great depth of flavor. So much better than any pho i have had in town (except for BT’s, hers is pretty amazing). I used fresh noodles for the first time from Oceanic. What a difference they made.

  27. Jesse K

    Well done! I’ve seen some badly thought recipes phor pho ;p. This is spot on. I feel I should point out though that may help answer some questions… Pho is a bit like bolongese sauce or other home made dishes in that there are as many ways to flavor it as mothers in the world. In my travels in SE Asia I had too many variants to count including pho with local grubs. My favorites were Pho with cross rib beef cut, tripe, tendon , and tounge and a fish pho that was more like a bouillabaisse. Bloody brilliant! The northern north western styles lean more to beef and land critterswhile south and se was more fish and water critters. Just be creative after trying this delicious recipe.
    Side note, 17 dollars for pho? That’s robbery! I dont think i ever saw it for more than 10 dollars in the U.S. in seven cities!

  28. alex

    Awesome recipes and super funny? What talent!! You had me at pho-king! I love it. I’m making this recipe and I had to try it 10 minutes into the simmering and it tastes wonderful. Can’t wait for the finished product. I just had surgery and you have me laughing, which at this point is pretty painful : )

  29. Dara

    NO! It’s packed full of flavor. Besides, I usually slice and divide among the many bowls. Different cuts work just as well. Enjoy!

  30. Fork and Whisk

    I love Pho. I used to live in Orange Country in Socal and finding good Pho was no problem. Now I live on the Central Coast of California, and we have some great restaurants, just not restaurants that serve good Pho. So this recipe is going to be a life saver. Thank you so much for the post. Can’t wait to try it.

  31. Jay Ruby

    To Patty

    If you spend more than 7.50 on a bowl of pho your getting ripped. I am in NY and for an XL bowl never spent more than 8.50. You can go to sf and go to pho garden and get a 4lb bowl for only 22 dollars and if you eat it in an hour its free.

    On a side note my gf found this recipe and I will be using it to make only the 5th dish of my life today( just currently got into cooking) any prep tips would be appreciated.

  32. mary

    Hi, I was wondering where I can find leg/knuckle bones. ????
    I am very new to cooking, and I love Pho. 🙂

  33. Amy

    You should be able to buy the bones at most Asian grocery stores with a butcher section. They will usually have bone (often with some meat still attached) in the display with all the other bone-less cuts, so if they don’t speak much English and you can’t communicate in another language, you can just point to which piece you want. Otherwise, if you have any butcher shops near you where they do the cuts themselves in the back (instead of getting shipments of pre-cut, pre-packaged meat), you can often ask for the bone by request even if they don’t have it on display.

  34. Jay Ruby

    I went to my local grocery store and they had beef bones pre packaged. Had meat on it still but I didnt get any of the scum and it came out amazing. Make sure you use enough salt. I also used regular sugar because I went to three supermarkets 2 of them asian and no one knew what yellow sugar was

  35. Kent

    I have been watching videos about how to make pho on you-tube, and I have been reading the ingredients of 25-30 different recipes for pho off the internet. They are all basically the same ingredients.
    What I do not understand is why, in every pho restaurant we have ever eaten at, and that is MANY, the soup broth always has MSG.
    None of these recipes have MSG.
    Why is that?

    1. SteamyKitchen

      MSG is kinda bad for you, it’s a chemical, but it does some amazing things in terms of flavor. But I can always tell when a restaurant uses MSG – I tend to have an allergic reaction and get really super sleepy/lethargic afterwards.

      That being said, I grew up in a house where my Mom used MSG in some dishes. It was common back then. An alternative to straight powder MSG is to use beef broth bullion or concentrate to boost the flavor. Yes, it still has MSG and I don’t know what else, but it does add a big kick of flavor.

  36. Kent

    We went to this restaurant on Federal Drive.
    Dong Khanh

    333 S Federal Blvd, DenverCO80219

    It was really good. But if you keep driving south on Federal Dr., you’ll run into many more Vietnamese restaurants. My wife and I got a kick out of the fact that there are so many numbered ones, like:
    Pho 79
    Pho 55
    Pho 27


  37. Seth

    How many servings does this make? Was going to try for an 8 person dinner – is this enough?

  38. Joe Gurri

    Did a version of this in the slow cooker. Easy and delicious. Started the broth early in the morning, ready at dinner time.Huge family favorite. Thanks for all the great tips.

  39. Angela

    Amazing!! I, I’ve just finished making this and the flavour is awesome. Definitely a winner recipe. I used beef bones and oxtails, yum. The meat is delicious and the soup is to die for, it tastes so authentic, thank you so much!

  40. Adrienne

    I was wondering if it is the ingredients are the same with seafood pho? because I really like seafood pho.

  41. Suzanne in Austin, Texas

    Hi Jaden,
    I plan to make the broth, chill, skim all fat and freeze it. Another commenter noted that the fish sauce makes for a very strong flavor the longer it sits. What are your thoughts about leaving it out until I plan to reheat and serve it over a couple of days? Maybe use half and add as I heat individual bowls? Can’t wait to start this tomorrow! Thank you so much!

  42. Suzanne in Austin, Texas

    Hi again,
    Since I will be simmering this for 3 hours, I am afraid I will loose too much liquid in the steam. Should I not cover the pot at all? Thank you…it is smelling incredible already and I am just 30 minutes into the 3 hours!

  43. Ru from San Jose, Ca

    Suzanne If you are losing to much liquid just add small amount of water to the pot as it cooks. Personally I don’t add water to it and just let it cook down a bit.

    For a super clear and clean broth take your beef and beef bones and soak them in water overnight. This allows it plenty of time to release as much contaminants as possible.

  44. I love Pho from San Jose

    I am Vietnamese and I used to work in the kitchen for a Pho place when I was in college for many years. I helped the chef to prepare spices so I know what spices were used. I would like to point out some of the differences. I know that there are many versions and variations of pho flavor. The recipe only called for roasted star anise and cloves. They used charred charlottes, gingers and lots of green onions (1-2 inches in length from the roots) in the broth. However, those ingredients were added to the broth about 15-30 mins before serving. There was no fish sauce though. before Laddling: add finely chopped green onions, cilantro, and thinly sliced onions.

    No MINT

    optional but highly recommended
    Culantro, Ngo Om

  45. I love Pho from San Jose

    Since cooking the broth with full ingredients and spices added for a long time tends to darken the broth and as water vaporizes, the broth loses its flavor. I would like to share some tips on improving the color and flavor of the Pho.

    Slow cook the bones/meats with minimal water first as instructed by the author. Before serving, add more water to the pot as called for by the recipe. Bring it to a boil, then add the rest of the ingredients. let it shimmer for about 15-30 minutes. this way the color of the broth will be clearer with better flavor. you can double the bones/meats then divide the broth into two batches, saving the second one for later.

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