Vegan pho is a quick and easy way to enjoy a big bowl of delicious, steamy Vietnamese soup. Packed full of veggies and loaded with flavour, this 30-minute pho recipe will warm you up from the inside out.
What is Pho?
Pho is a Vietnamese soup, typically with a base of beef bone broth. Traditionally, beef bones simmer for several hours when preparing to make pho, and the broth is filled with flavours from cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, plus garlic, ginger and spicy chiles.
The delicious thing about pho is that, while the bone broth cooks forever, the soup ingredients are subject to minimal cooking. When serving pho, you pour the hot, bubbling broth over the ingredients, so the "cooking" actually happens in the individual bowls of soup via the hot broth. The hot broth cooks the ingredients a little in the bowl, but they still retain their freshness.
Now, obviously, a vegan pho is not exactly authentic -- but it’s delicious, all the same. Rice noodles are almost always included in a bowl of pho, but there are endless other options for ingredients in this delicious vegan pho soup.
How to Pronounce "Pho"
People often mispronounce the name of this delicious soup when they read it on a recipe or a menu in a restaurant. It seems natural for us who speak English to pronounce is as "FOH" (like foe); however, the correct pronunciation is "FUH" (like fun). Try saying it that way the next time you order this soup in a Vietnamese restaurant, and you will be rewarded with a knowing smile!
How to Eat Your Vegan Pho
In Vietnam, pho is actually breakfast food. People buy their bowls of pho in the morning on the way to work and school, and eat them from street stalls. You should always use chopsticks when eating this soup, at least until all the noodles and other ingredients are finished. Oh, and you need to lean right over the bowl to avoid splattering everywhere! When all that's left is the broth, you can put down your chopsticks, pick up the bowl and drink the broth to polish it off.
Here's What You Need to Make this Recipe
- Mushrooms: I used dried mushrooms because the flavourful soaking water is a delicious addition to the pho broth. If you prefer to use fresh, use 6 ounces of fresh mushrooms and add them into the broth with the bok choy, along with two additional cups of vegetable stock.
- Soy Sauce: Use tamari, or gluten-free soy sauce, to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Star Anise: I know star anise can sometimes be hard to find. If you can't find it, use 2 teaspoons of Chinese Five Spice powder instead.
- Rice Noodles: It's important to drain and rinse your rice noodles under cold water.
- Tofu: I used firm tofu and cut it into cubes. If you're not trying to make this recipe vegan, you can substitute it with your favourite protein.
- Veggies: This vegan pho is filled with baby bok choy, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges, and both the white and green parts of scallions.
- Liquids: You will need no-sodium vegetable stock and sriracha, sambal, or another type of hot sauce.
- Herbs & Spices: I used garlic cloves, ginger, a cinnamon stick, cloves, and basil (you can use cilantro instead).
How to Make Vegan Pho, Step By Step
Step 1: Begin Broth
First, combine vegetable stock, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves in a large pot. Bring your broth to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce heat, and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
Step 2: Prep Mushrooms
While the broth is simmering, rinse your dried mushrooms and soak them in two cups warm water for 15 minutes or until tender. You can also use this time to cook the rice noodles if you didn't do it before!
Step 3: Add Bok Choy
Next, add the baby bok choy to the simmering broth, and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Step 4: Divide Servings
First, divide your cooked rice noodles and tofu cubes into 4 soup bowls. Next, remove the bok choy from the broth and divide among the bowls.
Step 5: Add Mushrooms to Broth
Stir the mushrooms (and the water they were soaking in) into the broth and bring it back to the boil. At this point, stir the soy sauce into the broth, as well.
Step 5: Garnish & Serve Vegan Pho
Turn off the heat and using a ladle, top the soup bowls with the broth and mushrooms. Top off each bowl with scallions, and bean sprouts, then serve with basil or cilantro, hot sauce, and lime wedges.
PRO TIP: Although this vegan pho is pretty much a meal by itself, you can serve with garnishes such as hot sauce, lime wedges, peanuts, or cashews.
What is Umami?
Umani is a taste group, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. In Japanese, umami means “pleasant savory taste.” Foods that have the amino acid "glutamate," like this vegan pho, are high in umami flavour. Besides the mushrooms and tofu mentioned above, aged cheeses, tomatoes, fish sauce, soy sauce, and ketchup are umami flavours. Umani is a “meaty” taste, so meats and seafood are typically high in umami. Learn more about the “fifth flavour” here: What is Umami?
Why Vegan Pho?
Pho just lends itself to an amazing vegan soup -- I just HAD to make a vegan version. I used reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms in this soup, along with some diced tofu, and I loved the umami flavour that they created together. There is definitely a “meatiness” with some ingredients, and these are up there with the best.
Vegan Pho Recipe
- 6 cups vegetable stock no sodium
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger peeled and sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 0.5 oz dried shiitake mushrooms 1 package
- 8 oz wide rice noodles cooked, drained and rinsed under cold water
- 2 baby bok choy sliced in half, lengthwise
- 4 oz firm tofu cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 1 bunch scallions green and white parts, sliced
- basil or cilantro
- lime wedges
- sriracha, sambal, or other hot sauce
- In a large pot, combine vegetable stock, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, and cloves.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- While broth is simmering, rinse dried mushrooms, then soak them in two cups warm water for 15 minutes or until tender. You can also use this time to cook the rice noodles if not already done.
- Add the bok choy to the simmering broth for 5 minutes
- Into 4 soup bowls, divide the cooked rice noodles and top with tofu cubes
- Remove bok choy from the broth and divide among the bowls
- Strain the mushroom soaking water and add to the broth, along with the mushrooms, bringing back to the boil.
- Stir soy sauce into the broth, turn off the heat, and using a ladle, top the soup bowls with the broth & mushrooms
- Top off each bowl with scallions, and bean sprouts
- serve with basil or cilantro, hot sauce, and lime wedges.