Instead of going our for special holidays, our family splurges on homemade Pho Bo, Vietnamese Beef Pho. We love the rich beef broth and fresh herbs that pair to make the perfect comfort food. I’ve made this Pho recipe countless times, in a slow cooker and pressure cooker and both are perfect!
The first few Valentine’s Days that we were married, we tried to figure out what our tradition would be. We had one unfortunate Valentine’s Day dinner at a restaurant where the kitchen took nearly two hours to serve us! After that, we’ve opted to stay in for holidays and cook something special. There are lots of things I love to cook that feel “special” but this is our favorite. After much trial and error, I’ve found some tricks that make the process easy and comparable to any Pho you may have purchased at a restaurant. The key to great Pho is making the best bone broth you can.
I’ve made the broth in both the slow cooker, stove-top pressure cooker and Instant Pot. My preference is the Instant Pot, which is due to the fact that it fits more liquid in it and makes the most broth, in the shortest amount of time! The slow cooker does a great job making a rich bone broth, but it takes much longer. I like to set it up before I go to bed and let it cook all night. Warning: you may wake up during the night because of the delicious smells coming from your kitchen!
Fun tip: Pho is already gluten-free, but you can make it Whole30 friendly if you opt to make zoodles (zucchini in a spiralizer) instead of using the rice noodles. Also, make sure not to buy Soybean Sprouts if you’re avoiding soy!
4-5 lbs Beef bones (I use leg bones. Also good are: shin & oxtail. You want a lot of collagen)
Ginger (about 4 inches long)
Pho Spice Packet (available in Asian grocery store but check ingredients for MSG & any fillers you may not want) OR make your own with the following spices:
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Up to 6 star anise (use 6 if you like this flavor, otherwise use 1-2 or leave out)
Optional: fish sauce and a sliced apple for sweetness
1 tbsp salt
Pho Rice Noodles (look for a package that is labeled Pho. You can buy dried or fresh noodles in the refrigerated section in some stores)
1 lb beef (flank, sirloin or eye of round steak)
Thai chilis (optional)
Steps to Make Pho:
- Roast your beef bones in the oven with ginger and a halved onion, face-down. This should take about 45 min at 400. You DO want burnt onion. That charred flavor is what makes the Pho broth unique. If it’s not very charred, you can put the broil setting on in your oven for a few minutes to achieve the charring you need.
- Put your roasted beef bones, onion and ginger in a crockpot. Either use a Pho spice packet (available at your Asian grocery store) or for a clearer broth, add: 2 cinnamon sticks, a handful of cloves, coriander and cardamom and star anise (to taste… it is very strong!). Optional: fish sauce (a few squirts will do) and a halved apple for some natural sweetness (some recipes add sugar but I don’t find it necessary). Fill your slow cooker up with water and let it cook 10-12 hours. In an Instant Pot, fill no more than halfway and set for 45 min-2 hours at High Pressure. Let the pressure release naturally if you have time.
- If you’ve cooked it overnight, in the morning you will strain it and then set it aside in a pot or several large tupperwares in the refrigerator until dinnertime. If you used the Instant Pot, strain it and “keep warm” or use “saute” button to keep it simmering while you prepare your sides and noodles.
- Prepare all your sides. Chop cilantro, Thai basil leaves, green onions, mint, Thai chilis, and limes. Rinse sprouts. Arrange on platter.
- Reheat your broth. Add salt to taste.
- In a separate pot, boil water to cook your rice noodles. Follow directions on your package. Do NOT cook your noodles in your Pho broth. Depending on the package you bought, it will cook instantly or up to 8 minutes. Drain and add to bowls when ready to serve.
- Slice beef very thin.
- Place noodles in bowls. Add hot broth. Add thinly-slice beef (it will cook in the broth). Serve and allow everyone to add desired toppings. Enjoy!!