Whenever I finish a bowl of hearty pho, I ask myself: how can something so rich in flavor feel so light in the tummy? We’re breaking down the anatomy of a steaming bowl of Vietnamese Beef pho, the best pho sauces to go with it, and share a simplified homemade pho recipe that you can make with just 30 minutes of prep time!
Simplified Vietnamese Pho Recipe
Pho (pronounced as “fuh”) is a traditional Vietnamese noodle dish that requires a handful of ingredients and long hours of preparation—at least 10 hours to be exact. That’s how long it takes to extract the meaty flavors from beef bones and create the pho broth that everyone knows and loves.
While not everyone has the luxury of time to simmer their beef for hours and hours, no sweat! Our homemade recipe can be done in under 2 hours, so you have plenty of time to do other important matters while having a healthy meal. Sounds like a win-win to us!
What's in a bowl of pho?
A lot goes in a bowl of pho and every single ingredient contributes to how delicious and soothing it tastes. Here’s a quick run down of the fundamental ingredients of pho.
Thin beef strips – This could be steak, brisket, lean, or fatty flank. Whatever cut you choose, make sure it’s sliced as thinly as possible so it cooks through when you pour the piping broth over it. You can always ask your local butcher to do the slicing for you. Tell them it's for pho and they should have an idea on what you need!
Flat rice noodles – These slippery, chewy, and light noodles balances out the richness of the broth. A little tip from us: you can add some sesame oil to your noodles while you drain them to prevent them from sticking together. The sesame oil can also add a subtle nuttiness to your broth.
Pho Broth – If the meat is the heart of pho, I consider the broth the soul! As much as we want to get close to tasting pho that’s usually served in Vietnam or your favorite restaurant, not many of us have the time to do so! For this short cut recipe to work, you’ll need good quality beef broth and the essential aromatics so you can get as close as you can to enjoying the real deal.
Seasonings - To season your broth further, consider adding a splash of fish sauce or a dash of sweetener such as brown sugar, depending on your preference.
Fresh Garnish – A lot of the fun happens here! The garnishes are key to getting the signature freshness of pho. Among the garnishes that you can choose to add or omit from your pho bowl are cilantro, mint, basil, bean sprouts, lime, and red chili. If you ask us, we love having every single one of these fresh herbs in our bowls for the complete pho experience.
Best sauces for homemade pho
Usually, the broth of the pho alone should be flavorful enough to bring the whole recipe together. However, most restaurants will offer sauces on the side for you to elevate the taste of your beef slices. We think it's safe to say that the best sauce for pho are sriracha and hoisin sauce No other duo can compare!
But before you decide on taking the dip, what you want to do is have an initial sip of the broth to check if it tastes meaty and hearty enough for your palette. If you’re looking for an extra sweet or spicy kick, have both sauces served on a separate sauce dish where you can dip your meat separately.
Separating the sauce from the broth allows you to preserve the refreshing taste of the soup while still achieving your desired meat flavor.
Another pro-tip from us: If you're feeling adventurous, you can dip your meat in both sriracha and hoisin sauce!
When it comes to choosing the best sriracha sauce for your pho, you can’t go wrong with the iconic Huy Fong Sriracha sauce. Made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, it's hard to find food that isn't made better by adding sriracha. And because the beef used in pho isn’t marinated, sriracha offers a welcome addition of heat.
What many do not know is that behind the spice is a humble history. Huy Fong’s founder, David Tran, was a Vietnamese immigrant in Los Angeles who was in search for a good hot sauce to pair with pho. He was doing for himself and his fellow immigrants, so they can all be reminded of home through authentic-tasting pho. He derived his rendition of the sriracha sauce from the OG Thai recipe and used jalapeno chilies in the process to make the famous Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce.
We can go on and on about sriracha! In fact, we have a full Huy Fong Sriracha sauce review where we detail our love for this hot sauce and what makes it so magical!
If you're not too big on heat, hoisin is a great alternative choice. And the best brand we can recommend is none other than the hoisin experts, Lee Kum Kee!
A must-have for Asian recipes, hoisin is a thick dark brown glaze that’s made from soybeans, fennel, red peppers, and garlic. It’s usually used as a marinade for meats as a dipping sauce for Peking duck and Vietnamese pho!
A pea-sized amount of this versatile sauce is enough to add a two-in-one sweet and savory taste to your beef strips. You can also read through our complete Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce review.
How to make shortcut pho
Our goal for this Vienamese Beef Pho recipe is to save you some time without falling short on flavor and nutrition. We borrowed this homemade pho recipe from Gimme Some Oven and added links to some pho ingredients available on or online Asian grocery store at Karman Foods!
This might be a simplified rendition of a classic Vietnamese dish but it's enough to give you warmth and happy vibes to last you an entire day.
Simplified Vietnamese Beef Pho Recipe
Our Simplified Vietnamese Beef Pho recipe has the hallmark ingredients of an authentic pho bowl and time-saving prep hacks that don't compromise flavor! The beefy broth, lightweight rice noodles, and healthy herbs come together perfectly, leaving you satisfied and refresh down to the last sip. For the full experience, make sure to have the best sauces for pho ready on the side!
1 large white onion, peeled and halved
Fresh ginger, halved lengthwise about 3-inches
4 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
8 cups beef stock
1 tbsp. sweetener
2 tbsp. Red Boat Fish Sauce
Sea salt, to taste
8 oz. raw steak, thinly sliced
7 oz. Annie Chun's Pad Thai Rice Noodles
Fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, basil, etc.)
Red chilis, chopped
Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce
Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce
Pho Noodle Ingredients
Preparing the broth
Saute the onion and ginger cut-side down over hot oil until slightly charred. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat the staranise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes or until fragrant.
Add in the charred onion, ginger, beef stock, and stir.
When your broth reaches a simmer, reduce to heat to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer for 30 more minutes.
Strain and discard the solid ingredients and stir in the fish sauce and sweetener into the hot broth. Season to taste.
Preparing the noodles
As your broth simmers, cook the rice noodles on a separate pot according to package instructions.
Drain then briefly rinse the noodles with cold water to prevent them from continuing to cook.
Start by portioning the noodles in serving bowls, followed by the steak.
Pour the simmering broth and submerge the steak completely so it cooks.
Top each bowl with your preferred garnish and finish it off with a squeeze of lime.
Serve hot with sriracha and hoisin sauce on the side.