Simple Vegan Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

I'll take a bowl of Vietnamese Pho over Chicken Noodle Soup any day! This vegan version of this Vietnamese favorite is light and fragrant- filled with spices like black cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and coriander. Loaded with thin rice noodles and topped with a pile of fresh Southeast Asian herbs and my favorite recipe for Simply the Best Crispy Tofu- it is the new age of comfort food!

a bowl of vietnamese noodle soup

What is Pho?

Pho is not just any noodle soup. It is the comforting soup my wife craves when she's sick. The soup I want when it's cold out, but also the only hot soup I can eat in the summer because it is so light and fresh. This is the best vegan broth to make in batches and keep a back up in your freezer. Pho is that kind of dish you want over and over again because it's just that dang good.

The Tricks to making Vegan Pho

  • Remember that traditional Pho is simmered with loads of fatty meats. You can't just simply swap out a vegan vegetable broth for it or the spices will be overpowering and off-balance. Follow this broth recipe and you won't go wrong.
  • Blackening the onion is an important step. Do not be intimidated to cook on top of the open flame. Here is a video on what it will look like. Use tongs to turn.
  • Toasting the spices is key. When you toast your spices, it releases the oils and lets the flavors deepen. Remember that BLACK cardamom is not the same things as GREEN cardamom (the one often used for baking). It has a unique flavor that is signature in this broth. Do not leave it out- but a little goes a long way. (link in recipes below)
  • Cook your broth on a low simmer, not a rolling boil.
  • To add richness and umami, don't skimp on the dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Marinate your tofu ahead of time so that it has time to absorb the flavors
  • Use fresh herbs- and plenty of them (See my guide to Southeast Asian Herbs in the Spice Pantry: Volume 1)

What Noodles are Vegan?

There are a few things to know when buying noodles. The good news: all rice noodles are vegan, usually with just a few simple ingredients. Those are the noodles we'll use for our Pho. Keep in mind that although dry noodles are almost always gluten free, sometimes the fresh noodles you may find in the market are coated with flour to help with sticking. So, if you are trying to stay gluten free, check the labels.

When buying wheat noodles, be aware that egg is sometimes included. Also, there is a sneaky non-vegan ingredient that sometimes finds its way into the ingredient list: L-cysteine. This is a dough conditioner found in many commercial American breads, but also is sometimes used in some dumpling wrappers and noodles. L-cysteine is made from feathers and hair and so we avoid it to keep our ingredients vegan.

If you are shopping for noodles in the market, look for thin rice noodles. I prefer the medium sized "rice stick", but the thin vermicelli is common and easily found as well. Below are a few links to the products I know will work. Follow preparation instructions on the package.


Simple Vegan Pho in a bowl

Simple Vegan Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

This vegan version of this Vietnamese favorite is light and fragrant- filled with spices like black cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and coriander. Loaded with thin rice noodles and topped with a pile of fresh Southeast Asian herbs- it is the new age of comfort food!
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course Recipes-Soups
Cuisine Vietnamese


To Make the Broth

Noodles and Toppings


Start by Making Your Broth

  • Place your onions, skin side down, directly on the burner (see photos in blog).  Turn the burner on to medium and let it char the onion until blackened.  Flip the onion over and char the other side.  Do not worry if the onion slightly falls apart, simply place the pieces on the burner to char.  
  • Once the onions are charred, scrape away any ashen parts and place in a large stock pot with the shiitake mushrooms and ginger.
  • Place the star anise, black cardamom, cinnamon, clove and coriander seed in a small pan and dry toast over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, shaking occasionally, until toasted but not burnt.  You should be able to smell the aromas from the spices, but they should not blacken.
  • Add your spices to the pot, along with the water and no-chicken broth.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • As soon as the broth comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the rock sugar, vegan fish sauce, and salt and let simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  • Strain the broth into a second pot or a large bowl and discard the vegetable components.  

Prepare your Soup Ingredients

  • While the broth is simmering, prepare your crispy tofu and then set aside
  • Lay out a plate for each person with a little of each herb (see The Spice Pantry: vol 1 for information on Southeast Asian herbs), some bean sprouts, chile slices and lime wedges
  • Have a large pot of water hot and ready.  Just before serving, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet (this will usually only take a few seconds).  Strain and rinse the noodles before placing in the bowls.
  • Divide the noodles between the bowls and pour the hot broth over the top.  Lay the slices of tofu on top of each bowl and serve each person with a noodle bowl and a plate of the garnishes.  Serve a side of chili garlic sauce for the table to use as they please.


Keyword Pho, plant based, Simple Vegan Pho, Vegan Pho, vegan recipes, Vietnamese Noodle Soup
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