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A Healthy Vegetarian Pho recipe with a flavorful and nutritious mushroom broth. This veggie-packed meal will make you ditch the takeout and whip up this Vietnamese classic at home for a vegan pho recipe the whole family will love.
Here’s the thing about pho – it’s one of those meals that seems completely unattainable at home, but is actually deceptively easy. I’m not going to say it’s a quick process – good pho requires simmer-time- but as long as you have some patience I have full faith in your ability to pull off this vegan pho at home.
I’ll be honest though, I wasn’t fully confident in my abilities to pull off vegetarian pho at home. The one thing that sets apart a good pho from a bad pho is the broth. Pho-real, it’s all in the broth. And the base for standard pho is usually meat.
But about 6 months ago a new vietnamese place opened up close to us that was advertising vegan pho made from a mushroom broth. I was skeptical at first but also deeply excited because I’m trying to consume less meat. Plus mushrooms have amazing health benefits so I tried it with an open mind.
Little did I know that it would eventually turn me into a complete pho diva and now when I crave pho I just want my mushroom broth, something that is not always on the menu at many Vietnamese restaurants. So for any of you vegetarians or vegans out there, I spent many a weekend perfecting this vegetarian pho recipe with the ultimate mushroom broth. Let’s chat about it…
Is Pho Healthy?
The real answer? Depends on who you ask. I’m in the camp that all foods fit so there is certainly a time and place for pho. However, not all restaurants make healthy pho a priority. It all depends on what goes into the stock and the variety of veggies and ingredients in the recipe. Most stocks are made with a beef or chicken broth which can have its health benefits. You can learn more about the health benefits of bone broth here, however it really depends on the quality of the meat which is not something all restaurants are transparent about.
Similarly, I’ve been to Vietnamese restaurants whose pho has just chicken, noodles and bean sprouts with no other veggies and then I have my beloved vegetarian pho restaurant that goes over-the-top with the veggies. One lesson I’ve learned is that if eating out, always order an extra side of veggies to stir in. Alternatively you can just make this vegetarian pho recipe at home!
Ingredients in Vegetarian Pho
- Vegetable stock – you can also replace with water if you’d prefer
- Shiitake mushrooms – be sure to use shiitakes as they bring an umami taste to your flavorful broth!
- Yellow or white onion – you’ll chop this in half before roasting
- Fresh ginger – peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
- Star anise + Whole Cloves – these are your aromatics that really bring a depth of flavor to your broth
- Tamari – you can also use soy sauce if you’re not gluten-free
- Coconut sugar – brown sugar works too
- Salt + Pepper – reduce salt if you’re watching your sodium intake
- Jalapeno pepper – this is entirely optional but adds a nice kick to your Vietnamese noodle soup
- Veggies – baby bok choy, broccoli and carrot
- Noodles – 1 whole package of rice noodles (generally 8 oz)
- Toppings – bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, lime wedges, hoisin sauce and sriracha
How to Make Vegetarian Pho Broth
When it comes to making pho at home, it’s all in the stock. It’s tempting to skip some steps, but trust me you’ll want to go through the whole process for a delicious vegan pho broth.
PART 1: Simmer shiitake mushrooms in vegetable stock (or water) in a large pot for at least 30 minutes to release mushroom umami flavor
PART 2: Roast onion and ginger on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Add star anise and cloves (these are essential spices!) and roast for another 5 minutes. It’s tempting to skip this step but DON’T – the roasting adds so much flavor!
PART 3: Add onion, ginger, star anise, cloves, tamari, coconut sugar, salt + hot pepper (if using) to stock and simmer for 40 minutes.
PART 4: Add veggies to stock and cook for another 20 minutes.
PART 5: Make noodles and add noodles, stock, bean sprouts, basil and lime wedges to bowls and serve!
Now that I’ve broken down the 5 main parts, follow the full recipe below to make this delicious vegetarian pho.
Vegetarian Pho Recipe Swaps
So let’s talk about what swaps to make to make vegetarian pho. The biggest thing is replacing the meat-based stock with a veggie alternative aka mushroom broth. I prefer making a mushroom broth since it brings that meatiness to the recipe with the health benefits of mushrooms and delicious umami flavor. Note: I always use shiitake mushrooms for this recipe as I find them to be the most flavorful.
The other piece is making sure to load up on the veggies. In the last 20 minutes of cooking you’ll add baby bok choy, broccoli and carrots for that extra dose of filling veggies. Feel free to replace these veggies with whichever ones you prefer.
Storage + Freezing
Storage – if you keep the noodles and toppings separate from the soup broth, your vegetarian pho will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. I recommend making the noodles right before eating rather than making them in advance as they don’t keep well in the fridge.
Freezing – you can make the vegetarian pho broth in advance and freeze this. Before adding the vegetables, allow your stock to cool and then freeze in an airtight container. Once ready to eat, remove from freezer and allow to cool on counter for several hours. Then continue with the recipe adding your fresh veggies and toppings.Print
Vegetarian Pho Recipe
- Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 large bowls 1x
- 10 cups of vegetable stock (you can also use water)
- 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms (2 cups)
- 1 large yellow or white onion
- 3 inch knob of fresh ginger
- 3 star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- optional: 1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced
- 2 heads of bok choy, chopped
- 1 small head broccoli (about 2 cups), chopped into florets
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 package of rice noodles (8 ounces)
- 2 cups bean sprouts, cooked
- fresh Thai basil leaves
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Optional toppings: hoisin sauce + sriracha
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
- Chop off end of shitake stem and discard. Chop remaining stem and caps into bite-size pieces.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat add shiitakes to vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let simmer while onion and ginger bake (see below).
- Peel onion and chop in half.
- Peel fresh ginger and slice into 3 small 1 inch pieces.
- Place onion and ginger on a baking sheet and bake on top rack for 20 minutes. Flip halfway through.
- Add star anise and whole cloves to baking sheet and roast for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove ingredients from oven and chop up ginger and onions and add to stock.
- Add toasted star anise and cloves, tamari, coconut sugar, salt, black pepper and jalapeno pepper (if using) to stock.
- Bring stock to a boil and then lower heat and let simmer for 40 minutes.
- Add in bok choy, broccoli and carrot and cook in stock for 10 minutes.
- Cook noodles according to package instructions.
- Divide noodles in bowls and top with soup, bean sprouts, thai basil, lime wedges and optional toppings
- If storing for several days, keep stock separate from bean sprouts and noodles so they don’t get mushy.
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