Advanced Planning Tip:
Vegan pho (this veggie-loaded version anyway) has a lot of time dedicated to preparing the vegetables. I spiralize zucchini instead of noodles, add broccolini, carrots, red pepper, shiitake mushrooms, mint, jalapeño, basil, purple cabbage…there is so much good stuff in this vegan pho bowl. It’s worth the effort, but plan ahead for the prep time!
Prep Time Tip:
Between the prep time and the cook time, there’s a total of 2 hours. I usually save this one for Sundays in the wintertime, or for when I am having guests over for dinner and want to dazzle them with my vegan cooking skills. You can certainly multi-task though and work on your additional ingredients while your vegan pho broth simmers.
Vegan Pho Recipe: An Introduction
Searching for a tasty vegan pho recipe that will bring this flavorful cultural dish to your table in a cruelty-free manner? This pho recipe (also qualifying as a vegetarian pho recipe) is a savory and simple dish, chock full of vegetables and with a vegan broth that is both deep and rich with flavor.
Curious About Vegan Pho, But Not Sure What It Is?
Let’s start with the basics. If you’ve not tried pho, you are definitely missing out. Pho is a delicious Vietnamese rice noodle soup that, for lack of a better description, has so many layers of flavor that it will make your taste buds sing. Traditionally, the clear broth is a beef bone broth, simmered with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and lemongrass then served over rice noodles and usually accompanied by thinly sliced beef, bean sprouts, rice noodles, mint, basil, lime and jalapenos.
For years prior to going a vegan diet, it was one of my favorite things to eat. I made my quest to create a vegan pho recipe that matched the depth of flavor of the traditional preparation. I tried a number of different recipes, but nothing came close to the original. Then, in September 2018, I traveled to Vietnam and learned the reason (in addition to the bone broth) – fish sauce. Perfect. Another non-starter for a vegan diet.
The Trick to Making Vegan Pho Broth with Depth of Flavor… Quickly and Easily
Fish Sauce. What’s a Vegan to Do?
I do, actually, have a recipe for vegan fish sauce. It’s pretty easy to put together and it stays in the fridge for about a month. If I have it on hand, I’ll use in my vegan pho. Some days though, I just don’t want the extra work, so I’ve come up with a way to make vegan pho without a fish sauce substitute. Instead, I rely just on tamari (if making a gluten free version) and miso paste (more on that below).
Cloves, Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice
Cloves, cinnamon and star anise toasted in the bottom of your stock pot for a minute or two are essential. Ginger and lemongrass also lend themselves to a vegan pho broth that smells wonderful, but tastes really thin.
If you’ve read through my past posts, you know I spend a lot of time talking about umami. Often referred to as savory and depth of flavor. Good pho broth is really complex and I needed my pho broth to match that. Then it hit me: miso paste. You know that savory fermented soybean paste that makes miso soup – which is essentially water and miso paste — so incredibly…deep? It turns out that adding some miso paste to the broth just before serving makes a huge difference.
Making Your Vegan Pho Super Healthy: Add Plenty of Vegetables
Once I had the vegan pho broth nailed down, I started thinking more about what to serve my vegan pho broth with. As I mentioned, traditional pho is pretty basic in its additions – usually beef and rice noodles. I decided that since I was already bucking the trend with my vegan pho broth, I might as well continue and do the additional ingredients my way as well.
Vegetables like spinach, broccolini, carrots and shiitake mushrooms add so much nutrition to this soup. In this version, I also added baked tofu, zucchini zoodles, red pepper, edamame, purple cabbage. Who doesn’t like to cook with all the colors? Adding vegetables of your choice can take this dish to the next level of healthy and supplementing your rice noodles with zoodles is a good way to replace processed food with whole food. #winning.
Adding Zest & Spice to Your Vegan Pho Recipe
Of course, the final step to a good vegan pho experience is not to forget the herbs, spices and other flavor enhancers at the very end. If you’re thinking about skipping this part, I really encourage you not to, or at the very least, buy a lime and squeeze its fresh juice into your bowl. The lime just wakes everything up. Fresh mint, basil and cilantro, sprinkle in some chopped scallions, sliced jalapenos and a little sriracha are totally worth it as well!
Veggie-Loaded Vegan Pho
Searching for a tasty vegan pho recipe that will bring this flavorful cultural dish to your table in a cruelty-free manner? This vegan pho recipe (also qualifying as a vegetarian pho recipe) is a savory and simple dish, chock full of vegetables and with a vegan broth that is both deep and rich with flavor.
Vegan Pho Broth Ingredients
- 3 whole star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass scored and crushed
- 1 inch fresh ginger peeled and sliced into 1/4" coins
- 1 white or yellow onion quartered
- 2 quarts low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup low sodium tamari
- 1/4 cup light yellow miso paste
- 1 tbsp organic turbinado sugar
Optional Additional Ingredients (the more, the better)
- 1 pkg vietnamese rice noodles optional (sometimes I add these in addition to the zucchini zoodles)
- 8-10 shiitake mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
- 1 8 oz block extra firm tofu drained, pressed and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 zucchini washed and sliced thin or spiralized
- 1 carrot washed and sliced thin or spiralized
- 1/4 head purple cabbage sliced into thin slivers
- 1 cup edamame pre-cooked
- 1 red pepper washed, deseeded and sliced into thin strips
- 2-3 scallions ends trimmed and sliced thin horizontally
Herbs and Spices to Add (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 bunch fresh mint washed, destemmed and torn
- 1 jalapeno washed and sliced thin
- 1 bunch fresh basil washed, dried and torn
- 2 limes washed and quartered
- sriracha sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat up a large, dry stock pot. When warm, add the star anise, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Toast for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the vegetable broth, ginger coins, lemongress and onions. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
While the broth is simmering, wipe and slice the shiitake mushrooms and press the tofu.
Lightly oil two cookie sheets with avocado oil (or an oil of your choice). Lay out the cubes of tofu, spacing them so that they are not touching and lightly season with salt and pepper. On the second tray spread out the sliced shiitakes. Roast both the tofu and the shiitakes in the oven. After 15 minutes, flip the tofu cubes and shiitakes (the shiitakes may be done at this point, depending on how thinly they are sliced). Continue to monitor (checking every few minutes) both the tofu and the shiitakes. The tofu should be lightly browned and the shiitakes should be well cooked, but still retaining moisture and not browned. When finished, removed from oven and set aside.
While the tofu and mushrooms are roasting, prepare the rice noodles in accordance with the package directions. Cook to al dente (still slightly firm) so that they don’t become mushy when added to the vegan pho broth.
Prepare the accent ingredients. Wash and quarter the lime; wash and tear the mint and basil leaves; wash and slice the jalapeno.
Optional additional ingredients: wash and spiralize the zucchini; wash and spiralize the carrot; slice the cabbage; prepare the edamame; wash and cut the red pepper and scallions.
When the ingredients are prepared, place a second stockpot or large bowl in the sink with a strainer over the top. Strain the vegan pho broth to remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, lemongrass, ginger coins and onions. Allow to cool slightly.
While the broth is cooling, gently mix the miso paste with warm water and stir until a thin paste is formed. Gently stir the thinned miso paste into the pho broth.
In a pho bowl, or deep bowl, add the rice noodles and selected additional ingredients. Ladle in the pho broth and then season with lime, mint, basil, jalapenos and sriracha sauce.
- Try as I might to provide a perfect recipe, vegan pho does require a little taste testing and adjusting as it’s being made. Here are some hints to supplement if necessary. If the broth lacks depth, try adding more miso paste 1 tbsp at a time. This will increase the complexity of the broth and provide a saltier taste.
- Don’t forget that a lot of the flavor comes from the lime, herbs and spices added at the end. The lime is not to be missed. It brightens up the whole dish. Getting a nip of basil and mint in a bite really makes this recipe stand out as well.
- Not sure how to press tofu? Drain the liquid from the tofu package and slice the block lengthwise (you’ll have two pieces then about the size and thickness of a thick slice of bread). Place a folded towel under one slice, then add a slice on top, add another tofu slice and another folded towel on top. I used to do this with paper towels, but I’m trying to use them less so now I use a clean tea towel. Place a heavy object (like a cast iron skillet on top). Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog – everything from how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.