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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 pho recipe (also qualifying as a vegetarian pho recipe) is a savory and simple dish, chock full of vegetables and with a pho broth that is both deep and rich with flavor.
Curious About 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.
Making Vegan Pho
Traditionally, pho has a limited number of ingredients that are added to the broth. I like to get creative with that part, but we can talk about that in a minute. The point I’m trying to make is that the key to pho is a really flavorful broth. Pho broth is complex, but making a vegan pho broth as good (or better than) the original is totally achievable. It took me some time and some experimentation, but if I’m going to rank my vegan recipes, my vegan pho broth is my FAVORITE. Best of all, the ingredients I use to make it can all be easily found in mainstream grocery stores.
Making Vegan Pho Broth
The trick to vegan pho broth is layering on the flavors. To do this, I start by toasting my star anise, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a dry, hot stockpot. This one takes a minute. You want the aromatics to be fragrant and not to burn. Then, I add my ginger and onions to the still-dry stock pot. When these ingredients hit the hot pan, they begin to char giving the pho broth some additional flavor.
From there, it’s all pretty easy. I add my vegetable stock and tamari and allow the broth to simmer. Usually for about an hour. Then I strain out the larger ingredients and return the pho broth to the stock pot and allow it to cool slightly. This step is important, as miso is the final ingredient.
What is Miso?
If you’re unfamiliar with miso, it is my favorite vegan ingredient. I use it all the time in dishes like my Miso Ramen with Miso-Glazed Delicata Squash or my Veggie-Loaded Easy Vegan Ramen Soup. Miso will also find its way into my vegan cheeses.
Miso is fermented soybean paste. Usually. You can get different varieties, like Brown Rice Miso Paste and Chickpea Miso Paste if you’re trying to avoid soy. These varieties are a little harder to find (most stores carry soybean miso paste), but if you’re interested in trying them, I really like South River Miso. I’ve used both their brown rice and chickpea miso pastes with great success.
What’s wonderful about miso is that it’s an umami bomb. It’s savory, sweet, sour and salty. And absolutely wonderful at adding depth of flavor to vegan recipes. And, while it may sound a bit daunting and mysterious, it’s actually quite easy to cook with. You can read more about miso in my Easy Vegan Miso Soup recipe.
Adding Miso to Vegan Pho Broth
The trick to getting miso into this vegan pho broth is twofold. First, because miso paste is fermented, it’s a probiotic. To get the benefits of a probiotic, you don’t want to expose it to too much heat. So, I add miso paste at the end of the cooking process after the broth has cooled off.
Second, miso paste doesn’t dissolve very easily, so I don’t add it directly to the broth. Instead, I remove about a cup of the broth from the stock pot and add the miso paste to that. I’ll still that with a small whisk until the miso is completely dissolved, making a miso slurry. Then I add the miso slurry to the broth.
Making Your Vegan Pho Super Healthy: Add Plenty of Vegetables
Once I had the pho broth nailed down, I started thinking more about what to serve in my vegan pho broth. 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 spiralized carrots and shiitake mushrooms add so much nutrition to this Vietnamese noodle soup. In this version, I also added zucchini zoodles, red peppers and 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.
Extra Credit #1: Brining Your Shiitake Mushrooms
You can certainly just wash and slice your shiitake mushrooms and add them to your vegan pho. When I do it this way, I like to pan fry them first. If that’s your choice, then I recommend simmering them in about 1/4 cup of water before pan frying them. They’ll come out crispier and absorb way less oil. You can see how I did this in my Vegan Bibimbap with Korean Tofu recipe.
If you want to dazzle your dinner guests, may I suggest brining your shiitakes before roasting them in the oven? It sounds crazy, but I picked up this tip from America’s Test Kitchen (I’m a bit of a food science geek) and it works beautifully. Not only will your shiitakes be plump and pleasantly chewy (instead of leathery), they’ll have just the right amount of salt seasoning. My only warning: keep them hidden until dinner is served. Guests will want to me snacking on them!
Extra Credit #2: Baked Tofu in a Miso Glaze
Remember how I said I can’t get enough of miso? It’s true. For this vegan recipe, not only do I add miso paste to the broth, but when I’ve got a little extra time, I make Baked Tofu with a Miso Glaze. Tofu prepared with way is WAY better than any boring tofu you’ve had floating in your bowl in the past. It’s crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and bursting with umami flavor.
This ingredient takes a little time between pressing your tofu and making the glaze (which is a combination of mirin, miso paste, maple syrup and sesame oil) but it is so worth it. It will make you a full-time vegan faster than you can say Meatless Monday. You can find the recipe for miso-glazed tofu here.
Adding Zest & Spice to Your 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. Actually, I insist on this one — THE LIME IS NOT TO BE MISSED!! It 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!
What’s in My Kitchen to Make this Vegan Recipe Easier?
Want to know what tools and resources I keep on hand to make my vegan cooking even easier? Here’s a short list of what helped me create this blog post and recipe. For the complete list, visit my Shop where you can find the kitchen gadgets I like as well as a list of books that I recommend.
Vegetables never had it so good!
I’m telling you, vegetables just taste better when you cut them into fun shapes. Okay-that’s only partially true. What totally true is that you can spiralize zucchini and replace your pasta for a veggie-forward “pasta” dinner (and make it even better by topping it with my Homemade Garden Vegetable Tomato Sauce). Not into zucchini? How about those crispy sweet potato chips topping my Veggie-Loaded Easy Vegan Ramen Soup? Who doesn’t love chips!
Admittedly, I didn’t own a tofu press for a long time. I pressed my tofu by wrapping my tofu in a clean tower and topping it with a heavy cast iron skillet. I did this for a number of years without issue until my cast iron tipped off of the tofu on day and landed on my new hardwood floor, denting it. My husband gave me this tofu press for Christmas after that.
Now that I have a tofu press, I’m all about them. And this tofu press is pretty slick. It applies even pressure to a block of tofu. And pressure matters. Too little and you won’t drain enough of the liquid. Too much and you’ll crush your tofu, making it impossible to cube it for even cooking.
Down a broiler pan? These aluminum baking sheets come highly recommended by the cooks who know best – Epicurious, Cooks Illustrated and Food & Wine. I bought mine because I needed a good, sturdy baking sheet to use under the broiler. One that wouldn’t warp – and this one lives up to the task.
Aluminum is a good conductor of heat, so these baking sheets cook evenly. They’re also light in color, so they discourage over-browning.
Noodle bowls are a favorite of mine and I love serving them when I have guests. I recommend picking up a set so that you have plenty of room for all of that delicious broth! I’m currently digging this decorative set!
Like the noodle bowls, eating miso ramen is more fun with the right spoon. These Asian soup spoons are perfect for this ramen noodle bowl!
Veggie Loaded Vegan Pho
Searching for a tasty vegan pho recipe that will bring this authentic soup to your table in a cruelty-free manner? This vegan pho soup is savory and easy to make. It’s full of healthy vegetables and features a pho broth that is both deep and rich with flavor. Make it with slurp-worthy rice noodles or skip the noodles and make your vegan pho with zoodles for a healthy boost!
Vegan Pho Broth
- 2 whole star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass scored and smashed with a knife handle (see Recipe Notes for alternatives)
- 1 inch fresh ginger sliced into 1/4" coins
- 1 yellow onion quartered
- 2 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth I like Pacific Foods Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
- 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
- 1/4 cup light miso paste I like Sweet White Miso from South River Miso but it by mail order. Cold Mountain Miso can be found in most grocery stores. I would recommend their Yellow Miso for this recipe.
- 1 tbsp organic turbinado sugar or other desired sweetener
Optional Additional Ingredients (the more, the better!)
- 1 pkg. Vietnamese rice noodles I like to use Lotus Foods' Traditional Pad Thai Rice Noodles or sub noodles for zucchini zoodles
- 20-25 shiitake mushrooms washed and cut to maintain even size; for aesthetics, I like to keep the small shiitakes whole
- 2 quarts water for brining the shiitake mushrooms
- 5 tsp table salt for brining the shiitake mushrooms
- 1-2 tsp sesame oil for roasting the shiitake mushrooms
- 1 zucchini washed and spiralized
- 1 carrot washed and spiralized
- 1/4 head purple cabbage julienned
- 1 red pepper washed, deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2-3 scallions trimmed and sliced into garnishment size; for aesthetics, slice these on the diagonal.
- Baked Tofu with a Miso Glaze this is optional. You can find the recipe here.
Herbs & Spices (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 bunch fresh mint washed, destemmed and torn
- 1 jalapeno washed, deseeded and sliced thin
- 1 bunch fresh basil washed, destemmed and torn
- 2 limes washed and quartered
- sriracha sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a large, dry stock pot. When hot toast the star anise, cinnamon sticks and cloves for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the onions and ginger coins. Allow to char briefly.
Add the vegetable broth, the lemongrass and the tamari. Allow to simmer while preparing the other ingredients, but not more than 1 hour.
Wash the shiitake mushrooms and prepare the brine by adding the salt to the water. Submerge the mushrooms in the brine by weighing them down with a plate. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Drain the mushrooms and pat them dry. Toss them lightly in 1-2 tsp of sesame oil and spread out a baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
If desired, prepare the rice noodles in accordance with package directions. I like to add a small amount of oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Cook to al dente.
Prepare the optional ingredients: spiralize the zucchini and carrots, julienne the purple cabbage, slice the red pepper and scallions.
Prepare the herbs and spices: wash and tear the mint and basil. Slice the jalapenos and quarter the limes.
When the ingredients are prepared, place a second stock pot or a large bowl in the sink with a large colander over the top. Strain the vegan pho broth to remove the larger ingredients. Allow to cool slightly.
Remove 1 cup of the slightly cooled broth into a small bowl and stir in the miso paste to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the broth.
To create your bowls, add the optional ingredients (the zucchini, noodles, carrots, red pepper, purple cabbage) to the bottom of the bowl and spoon over the hot broth. Season with the herbs and spices.
- Don’t forget that a lot of the flavor comes from the lime, herbs and spices added at the end of the dish. As I say in the blog post, I insist on the lime. It is not to be missed! Getting a nip of mint or basil in a bite really makes this recipe stand out as well.
- Want to take this recipe up a notch? Try making it with my Baked Tofu with a Miso Glaze. It is super flavorful, makes the dish more filling and adds protein.
- Pho is better with noodle bowls and slurping spoons! I found some inexpensive, fun options on Amazon that make serving this dish all the more fun!
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.