Crock Pot Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Crockpot Pho Recipe   

It’s no secret that good Pho broth requires a gazillion hours of simmering time. Time that I just don’t have. Tony, a boyfriend from a lifetime ago, told me his Dad used to simmer giant vats of pho broth overnight for his little pho restaurant in Houston. So, one day, I thought it would be really genius to do the same. Dump a bunch of beefy, tendony, knuckley, marrowey bones into the largest stockpot that I have and let it simmer away while I slept.

Crockpot Pho Recipe

It didn’t quite work out as I had intended:

11:30pm Initial hard boil of the bones to get all the yuck, guck and scum off. Char ginger and onion.

11:38pm Dumped out water, added clean water, the clean bones, spices, ginger and onion. Let the dance begin.

11:45pm Nighty-night

12:35am Is the flame low enough? Maybe I need to check to see.

1:23am Hmmm…I smell something funny. Go check.

2:41am What if it boiled over? Go check.

3:24am What if there’s a gas bubble in the pipe and the the stove spontaneously bursts out in big flames? Maybe I should sleep on the couch closer to the kitchen.

4:45am Gosh I’m hungry. Sneak a big spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Ice Cream.

4:51am Did I forget to put ice cream back in freezer? What if the gas bubble really does happen and stove spontaneously bursts out in flames? Then sleeping on couch is a dumbass idea. Crawl back to bed.

6:00am Kids wake up. Jumps up and down on my belly trying to wake me up.

6:15am PHO-KING TIRED

Enter the Slow Cooker

A few weeks later, I was contacted by the peeps at Crock-Pot® The Original Slow Cooker <- yes, they are insanely paranoid about me using their correct trademarked name, so much that they’ve given me very specific instructions 4 separate times on how to properly spell/mark their product names.) They sent me their new eLume Crock-Pot® Programmable Slow Cooker with Touch Screen Technology to test.

crock-pot-elume <- shiny, pretty and fancy. Oh crap, I forgot the ™ after eLume™.

It’s the perfect size (6.5 quarts) for a big mean mama pot of PHO!!!

Oh yeah, baby! It solves my problem of paranoia when leaving stove on all night.

What I love about the eLume™ Crock Pot® is© its™ lighted™© touchscreen®™©. Just a light tap is all that you need and it’s totally programmable from 30 minutes to 20 hours of cooking time. You can also set it to start cooking at a certain time, but when making my Crock Pot Pho Recipe, I don’t recommend a delayed start time since we are working with raw meat bones.

Crockpot Pho Recipe

How to make Crock Pot Pho

Whether you use the Crock Pot Pho method or the traditional stove top method, there are a couple of steps that you’ll need to do before throwing it all in the Crock Pot or slow cooker. Namely, toasting the spices, grilling the onion/ginger and pre-boiling the bones. These aren’t absolutely necessary steps…you’ll still make great pho…BUT these extra steps will make the difference between good pho and pho-bulous pho.

Toasting the Vietnamese Pho Spices

Toasting spices for Crock pot Vietnamese pho

You can buy Pho spices at most Asian supermarkets – you can buy the spices separately (coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel and cardamom pod) or purchase them already mixed up in a package (which also includes a small mesh bag). The quality of these pre-mixed spices are just okay – but sometimes it’s just convenient to pick up a bag, not to mention much cheaper if you don’t already have many of these spices. A Pho spice pack will typically sell for $1-$3.

This day that I made the Crock Pot Pho, I used individual spices. I didn’t have cardamom pod. So yes, if you are missing one of couple of the spices, it’s okay. To get the best flavor from these spices, you’ll toast them in a dry skillet.

Grilling Ginger and Onion

This is a totally optional step, but it really gives the ginger and the onion a deep, sweet, mellow flavor. When I’m making Pho the traditional stovetop way, I’ll char them in the broiler. But with the crock pot method, I didn’t want to use the oven at all. After toasting the spices (above) in a frying pan, I add a bit of oil and grilled the onion half and thick ginger slices.

crockpot-pho-beef_090418__004_onion-web

Pre-Boiling the Bones

Knuckles, leg bones with lots of marrow are the best for making soup. The marrow will also make the soup rich and thick. The bones are pre-boiled for a few minutes on high heat to clean the bones and get rid of the nasty scum.

You’ll bring a big stockpot of water to a boil on high heat. Add the bones and boil hard for 10 minutes. You’ll see brownish scum rise to the surface. If you hadn’t taken the time to pre-boil the bones, all that scummy stuff ends up in your soup.

crockpot-pho-beef_090418__003_scum-web <– nasty pho-reaky scum

Drain, discard the scummy water and briefly rinse the bones.

Now you’ll add the spices, ginger, onion and bones to the slow cooker.

crockpot-pho-beef_090418__008_pot-web

Fill with fresh, clean, cool water about 1-1/2 inches below the surface. Set your slow cooker on low for 8 hours. I haven’t tried this method on high, but I’m sure it would be just fine.

So let this cook during all day while you’re at work or at night while you sleep and you’ll be rewarded with the cleanest, best tasting pho soups ever. Because the slow cooker doesn’t let the stock boil hard, it’s safe, easy and convenient.

Here’s what the stock looks like when it’s been cooking for 8 hours on low. Notice that the level of the liquid is still pretty high. The low, even setting doesn’t evaporate the precious liquid as much as a stove top can. The stock is strained before serving.

Crock Pot Pho Soup

Other Pho Ingredients

I used different ingredients than my previous version of traditional Vietnamese Pho and I wanted to highlight them. Instead of using dried rice noodles, I used fresh rice noodles found at Asian markets, in the refrigerated section because all these need is a quick dip in boiling water. Very fast!

Crock Pot Pho Noodles

I also bought a package of Vietnamese Beef Balls (called Bo Vien Dan). There are all sorts of balls – beef, pork, chicken, fish, crab, and my favorite – beef tendon. They come frozen in a package and they are pre-cooked, so all you need to do is throw the frozen balls into the same pot of boiling water as you cooked your noodles in. Just boil for a couple of minutes until the beef balls are heated through. I like cutting these beef balls in half, so make them easier to eat. It’s not so pretty trying to stick an entire beef ball in your mouth. Unless…you’re like really into that.

Crock Pot Pho Beef Balls

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Crockpot Pho Recipe

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Crock Pot Pho Recipe

Servings: 4 Prep Time: Cook Time:
crockpot vietnamese pho

This is a recipe for a 6.5 quart (or larger) Crock Pot. Any smaller really isn't that great - you won't get enough stock out of it...because the beef bones are really chunky and big. The thinly sliced meat for the bowls may be easier to slice if you freeze the chunk of meat for 15 minutes prior to slicing. You really want them as thin a possible. You can also do what I do - palm your butcher a $5 bill and he'll slice the meat for you on his fancy slicing machine

Ingredients:

For the Pho Stock:
4 pounds beef bones
1/2 onion
4 inch section of ginger, sliced
1 package Vietnamese Pho Spices (or as many of these spices as you have: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole coriander, 1 teaspooon fennel, 3 whole star anise, 3 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod)
9 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon sugarFor the Pho Bowls
16 ounces fresh or dried rice noodles
1/2 pound flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round steak, sliced as thinly as possible.
11 ounces Vietnamese beef balls, cut into halfFor the table
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
fresh herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, mint
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot chili sauce

Directions:

1. Bring a large stockpot with water to boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the beef bones and boil vigourously for 10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, heat a frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the Vietnamese Pho Spices and toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Dump the spices to the empty Crock Pot or slow cooker immediately. Return frying pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger slices and the onion half. Cook until the ginger is browned on both sides and the onion half is nicely browned and softened. Add the ginger and the onion to the Crock Pot or slow cooker.

3. When the bones have been pre-boiled, drain, discard water and rinse bones briefly to clean them. Add the bones to the Crock Pot or slow cooker. Fill the Crock Pot with fresh, clean, cool water to just 1-1/2 inches below surface, add the fish sauce and sugar. Cover and set the Crock Pot or slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours. Taste and season with additional fish sauce if needed.

4. When you are just about ready to eat, you'll prep the rest of the ingredients for the Pho bowls. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the beef balls and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove the balls, keeping the water boiling and now cook the noodles according to package instructions. If you are using fresh noodles, all they need is a couple of minutes. Drain immediately.

5. Strain the stock with a fine meshed sieve. Discard the solids.

6. Line up 4 large bowls on counter. Distribute the noodles, beef balls and thin steak slices evenly amongst the bowls. Ladle the hot Pho stock into each bowl. The hot stock should cook the thin steak slices. Serve with lime wedges, fresh herbs, chili peppers, Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce at the table.

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vietnamese-pho-beef-noodle-soup-recipe Vietnamese Pho Recipe (cooked the traditional, long, slow, stovetop method)

vietnamese-chicken-pho-recipe Vietnamese Chicken Pho Recipe (Pho Ga)

Comments 188

  1. maggie (p&c)

    This is great! I have hat size slow cooker and would LOVE to make some homemade pho. There actually isn’t a ton of great pho in New York, which is kind of surprising.

  2. Carrie Oliver

    Beef Tendon Balls? But tendons are chewy (at best), no? Or just a poorly translated name ;) Anyway, I’m with Homesick Texan, great excuse to buy a new toy for the kitchen.

  3. Dirtykitchensecrets

    Haha…Love the PHO-KING Tired! Genius play on words! I hope to make this one soon…when i get a crock pot!

  4. JMom

    My girls and I are crazy about pho but had never made it at home successfully. It’s because we didn’t have your method of getting the flavorful broth!

    I’m definitely trying this out.

    LOL! on your traditional method :)

  5. radish

    I’ve been wanting to get a slow cooker for awhile now. Would you recommend this brand? I’m not very knowledgeable on them.

  6. Sky

    This sounds fabulous! Do you have any advice on how to make the pho vegetarian? I always enjoy vegetarian pho when we go out for Vietnamese food, but I’ve no idea what to substitute for all the meat.

    Thanks for sharing these tips!

  7. The Single Guy

    OMG, that was too funny about your first attempt at making pho stock! You crack me up! That crock pot is really fancy and shiny, I can see why you wouldn’t to try it out. But I’m still to lazy to go through all that work for, what, six quarts of pho? That sounds like it’ll be gone in a day. I’d just go get some pho since the restaurants make big vats of them. Love pho!

  8. Elise

    Jaden™, love seeing Crock-Pot® recipes on your Steamy™ Kitchen™ blog®, especially those of classic Viet®namese®®® cooking. Crock-Pot® slowcooker™ makes a lot of sense for making most stocks™. xoxoxo Elise®

  9. Janet

    That “Pho” went a long descriptive way! Loved it! I can’t wait to make this now! Oh, and I’m Stumbling, too!!

  10. Jodi

    Jaden,

    You are brilliant. Pho in a slow-cooker? What?!?! I cursed with joy reading your post.

    I think this recipe just single-handedly redeemed the crock-pot.

    Many many thanks.

  11. Kate

    Um Jaden? I think I might just love you. And I mean LOVE you. Pho is one of my favorite favorite things and I don’t have ANYPLACE nearby that makes it. And I also have no time to simmer soup forever.

  12. Chris

    Crock pot and Vietnamese….the combination sounds so wrong but the picture looks so great! I’ll have to try this too!

  13. Haley W.

    Pho is probably my husband’s favorite food. I love it, too, and you have it put together his favorite way now. I’ve never made in at home before, but now that we live far away from any pho restaurants, this will be a great surprise for him!

  14. Wendy

    Hmm, I had the same question as Janet above re: crockpot pho ga. Might experiment combining your chicken recipe w/the crockpot recipe, but any advice would be much appreciated!

  15. deborah P.S.

    Seriously pray tell, what are beef tendon balls? They just sound umm, funny :)
    Yet your Pho looks beyond lishy…I’m going to make some, just as soon as we get the low down on the balls…LOL!

    lol! tendon balls are just beef balls mixed with bits of tendon. I know it sounds funky. but they are the BEST! a little more bounce than regular beef balls. i don’t know how else to describe it!!! ~j

  16. Shoshanna

    You are a friggin GENIUS Jaden, GENIUS!!! I’ve always been turned off by how elaborate the Pho making process is and since I live on the West Coast where good Pho can be found for cheap; it has never been worth my while to make it from scratch. However, since you have posted this fabulous Pho recipe for the crock pot, I will definitely have to try it! You ROCK!

  17. Hudsons

    Hi there, will def be trying this, love your photos too,keep up the great work !!
    Love you long time

  18. Carolyn

    Jaden,
    This is a genius idea. Of course, would love one of those eLume Crock-Pot® Programmable Slow Cookers with Touch Screen Technology to try it out with. But I have a crockpot somewhere around here. I made amazing beef broth the other night from buffalo tail bones. Bet it would do in a pinch. Wonder if I can get more buffalo soup bones?

  19. Judy

    I think this is how I am going to taste Pho for the very first time!!! It was going to be in Sarasota when we met you guys for lunch but that was not to be and I am really wanting to try it! Wish me luck!

  20. Mackenzie

    This sound’s great and that new cooker looks awesome, can’t wait to try this! :))

  21. Justopia

    Oh yaay! I think I’ve got everything I need in the house. When I get home from this trip I am going to cook up a pot of Pho in my slow cooker. What a great idea! It’s too hot in summer to cook soups/stock on the stove, so this is ideal! :) Thanks for the great idea.

    Now I just need to get back into my kitchen. It’s been too long.

  22. Joanne

    Thank you! I was just thinking about making pho this week, and I got mad at hubby for not picking up the beef bones for me yesterday, now I have to get them myself. I can’t wait to make this tomorrow. No more hot simmering stock holding me hostage to the house all day! Now, I wish I had a great pho place closer to me, but I’m willing to work with what I’ve got.

  23. Alta (TastyEats)

    Love love love this idea! I don’t use my slow cooker often enough! But now, I will! I love me some pho. I do love the pic of the cow on your beef tendon balls package, looks a little like that cow has mad cow disease to me, I’m just saying! I do like those little meatballs though when I buy pho (those and the other “odd” meat parts, like the gelatin-y tendon and such, oh they’re so good!), so I figure I’d like them at home too! Will have to swing by the super-gigantic Asian grocery close to me! Thanks!

  24. Barry

    PHO-KING TIRED <– love it!

    “yes, they are insanely paranoid about me using their correct trademarked name, so much that they’ve given me very specific instructions 4 separate times on how to properly spell/mark their product names.)”

    Ahh, welcome to my world (though I’d be on the other end). Trust me when you become a mega-star might, you’ll need to do that too. Well, have people do that on your behalf.

    This Pho looks awesome but I’m lazy and lucky. The sandwich shop around the corner from where I work in Los Gatos makes excellent Pho.

  25. Shimmergirl

    Ha ha ha, too pho-king funny. I held my sides laughing while reading your blog. Will try your recipe this weekend.

  26. Dawn in CA

    I am so missing the awesome Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street from my old S.F. apartment. Dang, that city has the most delicious, cheap food I have ever had! No such thing as “good” and “cheap” when it comes to food up here in Sac town…unless you’re eating at my house.

  27. cakebrain

    hey cool! I never could figure out how to use my crockpot for Asian meals (other than congee and brisket). I’m going to have to try this one soon. I made those slow simmered Chinese soups in my crockpot but my mom said it didn’t taste right :(
    I suppose I’ll have to find me some bones now…

  28. giabella designs

    Hey Jaden:

    Great post…..I have been wanting PHO for so long but didn’t want to take the time to cook it…..worth a try with a crockpot. Keep up the good work and when are we going to hear how your meeting in NY went? :)

  29. Hélène

    What a nice crockpot. Mine is so old. I love the idea of simmering all night in this beauty. I can eat bowls and bowls of PHO. It’s so good.

  30. Quynh

    That looks delicious! and what a beautiful, functional crock pot. I’ve always wanted to make pho at home but my mom says it’s too much work.. and with the plethora of nearby Vietnamese restaurants in my area selling pho for 3-4 dollars a bowl, it’s easier to eat out. I will definitely try this recipe one day though!

  31. Jen

    I am SO excited to try this! I love pho, but have never found such a do-able recipe. Thanks!

  32. Paula Maack

    Pho-King hillarious!!!!!!!!!

    Beautiful and brilliant post, too!
    Me want pho!!
    NOW.
    Yummy, yum, yum!!!

    Awesome job, Jaden. Thank you!

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula

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