A well known and loved dish throughout the world, pho is a Vietnamese soup filled with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and usually protein. Our favorite pho is made with raw beef so thinly sliced that it lightly cooks on the hot broth.
If you decide to switch out your rice noodles for a low-carb alternative – like the zucchini noodles in this recipe – you will still find a beefy broth filled with the aroma of cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom. And as you slurp up your zoodles, you’ll encounter those deep savory notes of fish sauce with bright, peppery bits of fresh basil and a squeeze of lime.
What’s in traditional beef pho?
Aside from the delightful mix of spices that gives this dish its exotic flair, pho is a simple soup made from slow-cooked bone broth and served with fresh veggies, meats, and noodles. Every culture has a homemade soup that soothes the body and soul, and bone broth is the key. This particular brothy soup is unique for its complex combination of deep aromatic spices and bright, fresh herbs which give it its distinctive pho flavor.
What’s so great about bone broth?
Not too long ago, buying premade, good-quality broth at the grocery store was practically impossible. Pretty much all store-bought broth used to be made to save on cost and was filled with ingredients that were the opposite of nutritious.
Homemade broth is loaded with nutrients – minerals, gelatin, and glycosaminoglycans (which include substances like chondroitin and glucosamine, keratin and hyaluronic acid, and more.) These nutrients are said to benefit bones, hair, nails, joints, and gut and immune health.
Thankfully these days, high-quality bone broth can be found online and at most grocery stores. Read your labels. The ingredients should be simple: water, bones, and possibly vegetables, vinegar, sea salt, and spices.
How to make beef pho with zoodles
Making pho is really all about infusing the broth with its unique pho flavors. If you want to make your own chicken broth (which works as well in this recipe as beef broth), use this tried and true recipe. For this recipe, we use a slow cooker and allow the flavors of the onion, ginger, garlic, and spices to infuse the broth over time. But if you’re short on time, you can certainly cook it stovetop to serve it up more quickly.
There are many ways to make zoodles, the popular noodle alternative made from zucchinis. To be sure to get the zoodle texture you’re looking for follow this recipe for zoodles .
If you’re using beef as we do, you’ll want to start with frozen and then partially thaw it so you can easily slice the steak against the grain as thinly as possible. Just before serving, top your hot broth and noodles with the meat so it lightly steams to perfection. Lime, green onion, and basil should be added at the end to balance out the earthy depth of the broth with bright, fresh notes.
Beef pho in an Instant Pot
Got an instant pot? You can reduce your cooking time by hours.
In your pressure cooker, add the broth, onion, ginger, garlic, honey, peppercorns, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, cardamom pod, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and sea salt. Close the lid and cook for 10 minutes and use the quick-release. Strain the broth and replace back into the pressure cooker to keep hot.
While the broth is cooking, follow the same instructions as below to prepare the zoodles, thinly sliced beef, and toppings. And when your broth is ready, Divide the zoodles among the bowls. Place several slices of raw sliced beef and carrot and scallion ribbons on top. Pour hot beef broth into each bowl and serve immediately with lime wedges and optional sliced jalapenos.
Meal planning with Beef Pho
#RealPlanners love to include a soup a week in our idea of a perfect meal plan. Make it in advance so you always have a quick, warm meal for lunch or a last-minute dinner. For the beef pho, cook the broth and prep the other ingredients separately so that they can be combined just before you enjoy it.
For a Vietnamese-themed meal, pair this soup with these fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with shrimp, or this Vietnamese clay pot fish that would be fantastic served over steamed rice or riced cauliflower.
How to store leftover beef pho
Pho is best when served fresh, meaning the broth should be combined with the noodles, protein, veggies, and herbs just before serving. Because of this, be sure to only combine as much as you plan to eat in one sitting.
Leftovers can then be stored separately until you’re ready for your next serving. Heat the broth to just below a boil, drop in your noodles until they are evenly hot, and then add the beef, lime, green onions, carrots, and basil to finish.
This beef pho recipe with zoodles is sure to be a new favorite, especially on chilly days that call for a bowl of hot and comforting soup. Add it to your meal plan, try it, and let us know what you think!
Beef Pho with Zoodles
For the broth:
- 1 onion
- 6 inches fresh ginger
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 pt beef stock, or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce, plus more to taste
- 4 star anise
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
For the zucchini noodles:
- 8 zucchinis
- coarse sea salt
For the pho:
- 8 oz london broil steak, (or other lean steak) frozen and partially thawed
- 4 scallions
- 1 carrot
- 1 jalapeño pepper, optional for heat
- 1/2 c fresh basil
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 3 limes
- For the broth: Coarsely chop the onion. Cut the ginger in half and coarsely chop the garlic.
- In a slow cooker, add the broth, onion, ginger, garlic, honey, peppercorns, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, cardamom pod, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and sea salt. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for up to 8 hours to allow the flavors to infuse. Strain the broth and replace back into the slow cooker to keep hot.
- For the zucchini noodles: To make zucchini noodles, either purchase a julienne peeler or a spiral cutter, OR simply use a sharp knife to cut the zucchini first lengthwise into strips, then slice those strips as finely as possible into spaghetti-like pieces. Sprinkle some sea salt over the zoodles and let them sit for 25 minutes in the sink to sweat out excess water. After the 25 minutes, rinse and pat them dry with a paper towel. Use raw or cook in a large pan over medium heat for about 2 minute
- For the pho: Slice partially thawed steak AGAINST the grain as thinly as possible; set aside. Slice scallions into long thin strips. Use a julienne tool or sharp knife to slice carrot into ribbons. Thinly slice jalapeno, if using. Chop basil.
- Divide the zoodles among the bowls. Place several slices of raw sliced beef and carrot and scallion ribbons on top. Pour hot beef broth into each bowl and serve immediately with lime wedges, basil, and optional sliced jalapenos.