Pho is a popular dish that originates from Vietnam and has won the hearts of food lovers around the world. This traditional Vietnamese soup is typically made with bone broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, usually beef or chicken. The name ‘Pho’ refers to the noodles, not the soup itself, but it’s the combination of both that makes this dish so special and unique.
The magic of Pho lies in its slow-cooked broth, simmered for hours to extract the maximum flavor from the bones. The infusion of spices like star anise, cardamom, cinnamon stick, and cloves adds a distinctive aroma and taste. Final touches of fresh herbs, lime juice, and chilli give Pho its characteristic refreshing and comforting quality.
However, as delicious as the traditional Pho is, it’s not suited for vegetarians or those looking to reduce their meat intake. But don’t worry, we have a solution – a Vegetarian Pho recipe that captures the essence and complexity of traditional Pho, without any meat.
The Rise of Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism is experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly in developed economies like Europe and the United States. In fact, Americans who identify as vegetarian or vegan now make up at least 6 percent of the population, with some estimates suggesting this figure could be as high as 10 to 15 percent[^1^]. The global market for vegetarian meals is also growing, representing about 4% of total food sales[^2^].
This shift towards plant-based diets is driven by a variety of factors, including health concerns, environmental sustainability, and ethical considerations. As a result, the food sector has started investing more in products that appeal to vegetarian consumers[^3^].
The rise of vegetarianism is not just about abstaining from meat; it’s also about finding plant-based alternatives that can offer the same satisfaction and complexity as traditional meat dishes. This is especially important when it comes to beloved traditional cuisines, such as Vietnamese Pho.
In response to the growing demand for vegetarian options, many chefs and home cooks are creating vegetarian versions of classic dishes. For instance, a vegetarian Pho might use a rich mushroom broth in place of the traditional bone broth, and tofu or seitan can stand in for the meat.
These plant-based alternatives not only cater to vegetarians but also to the growing number of ‘flexitarians’ – people who are reducing their meat consumption without completely eliminating it from their diet[^1^]. Therefore, the rise of vegetarianism represents an exciting opportunity for culinary innovation, pushing us to rethink our food traditions and come up with creative new ways to enjoy our favorite dishes.
What Makes Vegetarian Pho Different?
The key difference between traditional and vegetarian Pho lies in the broth and the protein used. Traditional Pho uses a meat-based broth, typically cooked with beef or chicken bones for several hours. The proteins are usually slices of beef or chicken.
On the other hand, vegetarian Pho swaps the meat-based broth for a vegetable or mushroom broth. The proteins are replaced with plant-based alternatives such as tofu or seitan.
Here is a basic list of ingredients used in vegetarian Pho:
- Vegetable or mushroom broth
- Rice noodles
- Tofu or seitan
- Onion, ginger, garlic
- Spices like star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Fresh herbs like cilantro, Thai basil, and mint
- Vegetables like bok choy, mushrooms, and carrots
- Lime wedges, bean sprouts, and sliced chili peppers for garnish
Vegetarian Pho can be just as nutritious as traditional Pho, if not more so. It’s lower in fat and cholesterol due to the absence of meat. Plus, the abundance of vegetables adds fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
For example, a standard bowl of beef Pho contains around 350-450 calories, with a significant portion coming from fat. On the other hand, a bowl of vegetarian Pho made with tofu and a variety of vegetables can contain as little as 200-300 calories, depending on the portion size and specific ingredients used.
It’s worth noting that the nutritional value can vary widely depending on the specific recipe and portion size. Nevertheless, both versions offer a hearty and satisfying meal that can be part of a balanced diet.
Step-by-Step Vegetarian Pho Recipe
- 2 quarts of vegetable or mushroom broth
- 8 ounces of rice noodles
- 14 ounces of firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1 large onion, halved
- A 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- 4 cloves
- 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari
- Fresh herbs (cilantro, Thai basil, mint)
- Assorted vegetables (bok choy, mushrooms, carrots)
- Lime wedges, bean sprouts, and sliced chili peppers for garnish
- Prep the Broth: In a large pot, add the halved onion and ginger. Char them over medium heat until they develop some color. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds to the pot and toast until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
- Cook the Broth: Add the vegetable or mushroom broth to the pot along with the soy sauce or tamari. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Prepare the Rice Noodles: While the broth is simmering, prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Prep the Tofu: Press the tofu to remove excess water, then cut into cubes. You can choose to cook the tofu as is, or for extra flavor, marinate in a bit of soy sauce or tamari before pan-frying until golden brown.
- Prep the Vegetables: Slice the vegetables as desired. Some vegetables like bok choy or carrots can be added to the broth in the last few minutes of cooking to soften them up.
- Strain the Broth: After the broth has simmered, strain out the spices, onion, and ginger. Return the broth to the pot and keep warm over low heat.
- Assemble the Pho: Divide the cooked rice noodles among serving bowls. Top with tofu and vegetables. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles, making sure to cover the ingredients.
- Garnish: Serve the Pho with fresh herbs, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and sliced chili peppers on the side. Each person can customize their bowl with these garnishes to their liking.
Vegetarian Pho is best served hot, immediately after it’s made. Here are a few tips on how to serve it:
- Herbs: Offer fresh herbs such as cilantro, Thai basil, and mint on the side. Diners can tear up the herbs and add them to their soup to taste.
- Sprouts and Lime: Bean sprouts and lime wedges are traditional accompaniments for Pho. The sprouts add a nice crunch, and the lime can be squeezed over the soup for some acidity.
- Chili Peppers: For those who like it spicy, offer thinly sliced chili peppers. They can be added to the soup to taste.
- Soy Sauce/Tamari and Hoisin Sauce: These sauces can be served on the side for anyone who wants their soup a bit saltier or sweeter.
Customizing Your Vegetarian Pho
One of the best things about making Pho at home is the ability to customize it to your liking. Here are some ideas and tips for personalizing your vegetarian Pho:
- Choose Your Protein: While tofu is a common choice for vegetarian Pho, you can also consider other plant-based proteins like tempeh, seitan, or even edamame. If you’re not strictly vegetarian, eggs can also be a great addition.
- Vary Your Veggies: Feel free to use any vegetables you like or have on hand. Some other good options could include bell peppers, snow peas, broccoli, or spinach.
- Pick Your Noodles: Thin rice noodles are traditional in Pho, but thicker rice noodles, udon, or even ramen noodles can also work well.
- Spice It Up: If you like your soup spicy, add some heat with sliced jalapeños, sriracha, or chili garlic sauce.
- Add More Flavor: Consider adding more flavor to the broth with additions like lemongrass, lime leaves, or a touch of coconut milk.
- Customize Your Garnishes: In addition to the traditional garnishes of herbs, bean sprouts, lime, and chili peppers, you might also consider adding roasted peanuts for crunch, pickled onions for tang, or even a few slices of avocado for creaminess.
Other Pho recipes:
- Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo) Recipe – A Complete Guide
- Chicken Pho Recipe: Authentic Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Pho Ga)
Cooking and eating vegetarian Pho at home can be a rewarding and delicious experience. Not only does it allow you to explore the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, but it also provides numerous benefits.
Firstly, making your own Pho gives you complete control over the ingredients, allowing you to opt for fresh, nutritious choices. With its hearty broth, protein-rich tofu, and assortment of vegetables, vegetarian Pho is a wholesome meal that can contribute to a balanced diet.
Secondly, the recipe is highly customizable, lending itself to endless variations. Whether you prefer a spicy kick, an extra helping of greens, or a different type of noodle, you can tweak the dish to perfectly suit your taste buds. This flexibility makes it a fantastic option for families with diverse preferences, as everyone can “design” their bowl of Pho.
Lastly, there’s a certain joy in the process of cooking Pho. The act of simmering the broth, preparing the toppings, and assembling the bowls can be quite therapeutic. And when you finally sit down to enjoy your homemade Pho, you’ll find that it tastes all the better for your efforts.
In conclusion, whether you’re a seasoned cook or a kitchen novice, whipping up a pot of vegetarian Pho is a culinary adventure worth undertaking. Enjoy the process, savor the flavors, and most importantly, have fun with it!
FAQs about Vegetarian Pho Recipe (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
What is vegetarian Pho?
Vegetarian Pho is a variant of the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho, which typically includes beef. In the vegetarian version, the beef is replaced with tofu or other plant-based proteins and vegetable broth is used instead of beef broth.
How long does it take to make vegetarian Pho?
While the exact time can vary depending on the recipe, it generally takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make vegetarian Pho. This includes time to prepare the ingredients, simmer the broth, and assemble the bowls.
Can I use any type of noodles for vegetarian Pho?
Traditional Pho uses thin rice noodles, but you can substitute them with other types like thicker rice noodles, udon, or even ramen noodles based on your preference.
Is vegetarian Pho gluten-free?
Yes, vegetarian Pho can be made gluten-free by using tamari instead of soy sauce, and ensuring that your vegetable broth and other ingredients are also gluten-free.
How can I add more protein to my vegetarian Pho?
Besides tofu, you can add other plant-based proteins like tempeh, seitan, or edamame. If you’re not strictly vegetarian, eggs can also be a great addition.
How do I store leftover vegetarian Pho?
It’s best to store the broth, noodles, and toppings separately in the refrigerator. The broth can be kept for up to 5 days, while the noodles and toppings should ideally be eaten within a couple of days. To serve, simply reheat the broth, combine with the noodles, and add your toppings.
Can I freeze the Pho broth?
Yes, the Pho broth can be frozen for up to 3 months. Just make sure to cool it completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to use it, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat on the stove.
- 10 cups vegetable stock
- 1 large white onion, peeled and halved
- 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
- 5 star anise
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon whole cloves
- ½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce (use tamari for a gluten-free option)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Char the onion and ginger either in a broiler or directly over the flame of a gas stove. Once they're charred, add them to a large pot.
- Add the vegetable stock, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and whole peppercorns to the pot.
- Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water until they become soft. Slice them thinly once they're rehydrated.
- Strain the broth to remove the solids, then return it to the pot. Stir in the soy sauce and brown sugar, adjusting the seasoning as needed.
- To serve, place some of the sliced mushrooms in a bowl, ladle the hot broth over them, and add your choice of noodles and toppings.
For a richer, more flavorful broth, you can also add a tablespoon of miso paste to the broth while it simmers. This ingredient adds an umami flavor that will take the broth to the next level.
To give your pho an extra kick, try adding a dash of chili paste or sriracha sauce when you serve it. This adds a bit of heat and depth to the flavors.
If you like your pho extra savory, add some chopped scallions or chives when serving. The oniony flavor of the scallions will bring a nice contrast to the other ingredients.