Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Total Time

Prep: 1 hour + chilling Cook: 2-1/2 hours


12 servings

Updated: Jun. 27, 2023
Pho is one of Vietnam's most well-known dishes. For many families, the cooking of the dish is a true labor of love and care. With its aromatic broth, slurpable rice noodles and many delicious garnish options, it is very easy to customize a bowl to suit your tastes. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) Recipe photo by Taste of Home
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  • 10 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 to 2 Thai chiles
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • BROTH:
  • 3.5 pounds beef leg or knuckle bones (choose ones with lots of marrow)
  • 3 liters water, divided
  • 4 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2-1/2 pounds beef top sirloin steak
  • 2-1/2 pounds fresh beef brisket
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 piece fresh gingerroot (about 3 ounces), peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 2 large white onions, left whole, skin on
  • 1 piece fresh gingerroot (about 3 ounces), left whole, skin on
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (2.5 inches each)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 large cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons MSG, optional
  • 1 teaspoon rock sugar or granulated sugar
  • 28 ounces Banh Pho rice noodles
  • Table-side Garnishes (Northern Style): Prepared Dam Toi, 1 large onion halved and sliced into strips soaked in ice water, 4 wedged medium limes, 3 sliced green onions, 8 minced Thai chiles
  • Table-side Garnishes (Southern Style): Fresh mung bean sprouts, hoisin sauce, sriracha, lime wedges, Thai chiles and chopped fresh Thai basil, coriander, mint and Culantro (sawtooth herb/Ngo om)


  1. For Dam Toi, which is used as a garnish for northern style pho, in a small bowl, combine sliced garlic, 1 cup water and 3 teaspoons salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight; drain. In a small jar, combine sliced garlic and vinegar. Heat remaining 1 cup water until hot; add to jar. Stir in sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and chiles. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.
  2. In a large saucepan, cover beef bones with 2 liters water. Add 2 tablespoons salt and cider vinegar. In another large saucepan, cover boneless beef with remaining 1 liter water, remaining 2 tablespoons salt, wine and sliced ginger. Cover both saucepans and refrigerate 2 hours; drain (discarding ginger from boneless meat). Add enough cold water to each saucepan to cover bones and meat. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 3 minutes; drain both saucepans and rinse bones and and boneless beef.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°. In a stockpot, cover bones and boneless beef with enough cold water to cover completely (about 5 liters). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, skimming and discarding foam occasionally. Simmer until foam starts to collect more slowly, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, arrange whole onion and whole ginger on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast until slightly charred, 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove and discard charred skins; set aside.
  5. In a dry small skillet, toast cinnamon sticks, anise, cardamom pods and coriander over medium heat until aromatic, 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool. Place spices on a double thickness of cheesecloth. Gather corners of cloth to enclose spices; tie securely with string.
  6. Once foam is no longer collecting on surface of broth, add onion and ginger and spice bag. Stir in salt, MSG if desired and rock sugar. Simmer, uncovered, until beef is tender, about 1-1/2 hours. With tongs, remove beef to a large bowl; cool slightly. Wrap beef tightly in foil and refrigerate.
  7. Continue simmering broth, uncovered, until broth is light golden brown and fragrant, 2-5 hours, stirring occasionally and removing any foam that collects on the surface.
  8. To serve, cook Banh Pho according to package directions; set aside. Remove beef from refrigerator and thinly slice against the grain. For each serving, in a small colander, add an individual portion of noodles and beef. Lower colander into simmering broth until beef and noodles are heated through. Add beef and noodles to a serving bowl. Top with additional broth, about 1 cup. Serve with garnishes as desired.

Pho Tips

What is the best meat for pho?

You can make chicken pho, or even shrimp pho with a beef broth, but beef is the most common meat used to prepare the Vietnamese dish pho. Beef brisket is always a good choice, though it can be substituted with other cuts of beef such as chuck or rump. (Editor's note: This is fresh beef brisket, not corned beef.) Very thinly sliced pieces of steak, beef sirloin or Vietnamese-style meatballs are also common in pho. The best beef bones for making the broth are those where you can easily see the marrow.

How do you serve pho?

While there are many ways to eat pho, two popular ways of serving it are the northern-style version from Hanoi (pho bac) and the southern version from Ho Chi Minh City (pho nam). Pho bac focuses on the delicate broth, so there are fewer garnishes—usually pickled garlic with chiles (dam toi). Pho nam is served with heaping piles of herbs and vegetables, Thai basil, mint leaves, crunchy bean sprouts, thinly sliced onions and cilantro. Spritz with lime juice and add in dollops of either Sriracha or hoisin sauce.

How do you store pho?

Pho is a recipe that is easily made in advance because each bowl is assembled right before eating. The exception is the noodles, which should be prepared right before eating—if you have leftover noodles, store them separately from the broth or they will become soggy. The broth can be stored in the fridge for three to four days or in the freezer for up to a month.

Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam and Truc Huynh

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup noodles with 3/4 cup broth and 4 ounces cooked beef: 507 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated fat), 79mg cholesterol, 1351mg sodium, 58g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 2g fiber), 44g protein.

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