pho bowl

First things first, folks: pho is pronounced "fuh", not "foe." Think of the first syllable of "fuhgeddaboudit" and you’re already there. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup that is usually made with broth created by slow simmering multiple animal bones for hours on end. It’s sometimes compared to ramen, though there are some significant different that really make pho stand out amongst the crowd. Tara Rylie, chef and writer behind Rylie Cakes, knows just about no one has time for that, though. That’s why she says her pho recipe "is made with store bought bone broth and simmered with all the spices that create the same delicious flavor without the whole process."

Rylie says that she "finishes the pho off with fresh basil, jalapeños, bean sprouts, hoisin sauce, sriracha, and lime wedges." This means that all those hours saved doesn’t sacrifice all that flavor. Note that, while preparing this recipe to the letter this recipe will create some mighty fine pho, you can also put your own spin on this classic dish, whether you need to sub out certain ingredients because of dietary needs or simply want to change up the flavor.

Gather your ingredients for pho

pho ingredients

Pho uses a lot of ingredients, so let’s not beat around the bowl and get right to the core stuff you really need for this recipe. The main ingredients include three to four cardamom pods, two or three cinnamon sticks, one tablespoon of coriander seeds, two whole cloves, five whole star anise, a teaspoon of grated fresh turmeric, and two to three slices of fresh ginger. You will also need eight cups of bone broth (or beef stock), a tablespoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, two teaspoons of salt, an eight-ounce package of vermicelli rice noodles, about 24 ounces of boneless chicken, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of butter.

This recipe also calls for a few optional toppings. These include a can of bean sprouts, thinly sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro, mint leaves, basil, hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and lime wedges. It’s a lot of stuff, to be sure, but the flavor at the end is very much worth the effort. Yes, with the optional ingredients, you are free to substitute or delete them as you wish. So, if someone utterly hates cilantro, there’s no need to put it in their bowl.

Dry your spices then make the pho broth

spices roasting in dutch oven

Place all your spices in a large stockpot over low heat and toast without oil until the spices become fragrant. Watch closely, as this process only takes two to three minutes and you want to keep the spices from burning and losing their wonderful flavor. Toasting is also a great way to revive some stale spices.

When the spices are ready, pour in your broth, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Bring the blend to a rolling boil for approximately three minutes, stir to combine, then bring the heat as low as you possibly can. Let the broth simmer for at least one hour. Two hours is even better if you can manage it. Ultimately, the longer broth simmers, the more flavorful it gets. Remember that an ultra-traditional recipe may ask you to simmer the broth for as many as seven hours!

Prepare the chicken and noodles for pho

rice noodles for pho on towel

Half an hour before your broth is done, start preparing the noodles and the chicken. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, which generally calls for boiling them or cooking them in boiling hot water. This process should take all of two or three minutes once your water is boiling away.

While bringing that water to a boil, thinly slice the chicken. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the olive oil with the butter. Sprinkle the chicken slices with salt and pepper, then add the meat to the saucepan and cook for two or three minutes per side until done.

Ladle the pho broth over noodles and meat

pho ingredients on cutting board

Before completing this step, make sure you take a moment to taste test your broth. This will be your last chance to add salt, spices, sugar, or any other flavor you think the base broth needs. Season it as needed, then remove all spices with a small mesh strainer or a slotted spoon.

Once your noodles are done, strain them and then transfer the noodles into serving bowls immediately. Ladle hot broth over noodles and then top with chicken. Now, all that’s left is the fancy topping. Oh, and actually eating the finished pho.

Top your bowls of pho

pho in bowls on counter

Finish each bowl of pho off with the toppings of each individual eater’s choice, ideally gorgeously arranged on a bar or a lazy Susan for the most likable Instagram snaps. Traditional topping staples include bean sprouts and lime quarters. Remember that our whole list was also included jalapeño, cilantro, mint, basil, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha. There’s plenty of room for variation here, so feel free to experiment as you become more comfortable with this recipe. Pho is a great choice when you have to feed a large group of potentially picky eaters.