This winter, cozy up to a warm bowl of easy vegetarian pho.
This recipe allows you to enjoy the iconic flavors of pho in a fraction of the time. It’s ideal for chilly weeknights when you’re craving a comforting recipe.
This nourishing soup boasts a deeply flavorful broth infused with spices such as coriander, cloves, and star anise. It’s the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Serve with tahini tempeh summer rolls or edamame dip to create a complete meal bursting with fresh flavors.
What is Pho Chay?
Pho is a classic Vietnamese soup traditionally made using beef stock. It consists of a rich, flavorful broth, soft rice noodles, and, most importantly, a healthy dose of toppings.
Pho chay is the vegetarian version made without beef broth, but you’ll still find just as much flavor in this rendition.
Standard pho chay garnishes include cilantro, basil, mint, bean sprouts, and fresh lime slices. You can add hot chilis if you want to amp up the spice.
While this recipe isn’t 100% authentic, it still captures the same signature pho flavor without any meat. Plus, while traditional pho takes a whole day to cook, you can have this recipe ready in under an hour.
Ketjap Manis. If you’re wondering why this pho is so tasty, you can thank the flavor of this sweet soy sauce. Ketjap Manis originates from Indonesia and has a darker color and thicker consistency than regular soy sauce. It adds a unique molasses-like flavor to the broth. Here’s the brand I use the most.
Edamame. Frozen edamame brings an easy punch of protein and fiber to this recipe. Without the edamame, your soup will be less hearty and filling.
Rice Noodles. Not only do the rice noodles make this recipe gluten-free, but they’re also easier to digest. Plus, rice noodles are very cheap and easy to buy online.
Sriracha. This red sauce packs a mean punch of spice derived from chili peppers. The zesty flavor adds a hint of heat to the pho broth.
Star Anise. This odd-looking spice has a unique flavor likened to a mixture of licorice and pepper. Be sure to buy whole star anise since the ground version will dissolve in the broth and make it too pungent.
Cinnamon Stick. You might not associate the sweet spice with savory pho, but hear me out. Adding a whole cinnamon stick to the broth creates a subtle sweetness that helps elevate the dish.
Cloves. This simple spice is another must-have for creating a rich, flavorful broth. Cloves are also full of antioxidants, which increases the nutrition in this soup.
How to Make Pho Chay:
While this recipe goes heavy on the ingredients, it actually comes together with minimal effort. You’ll find the full, printable recipe in the recipe card at the end of this post, but let’s go over the steps first.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon stick and toast until fragrant, around 3-4 minutes.
- Immediately spoon out the spices into a separate bowl to avoid burning. Set aside.
- In a large pot, combine the toasted spices with the vegetable stock, onion, ginger, and Ketjap Manis.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain the broth, reserving the solids. Chop the onion and ginger and add them to the pot along with the bok choy and edamame.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Add the rice noodles and allow them to sit for a few minutes while they soften.
- Ladle the broth into bowls and evenly distribute the bok choy, edamame, and noodles.
- Sprinkle the cilantro and chopped green onions and add sriracha to taste. Squeeze lime juice on top right before eating.
Swap in hoisin sauce for sriracha. Not a fan of spice? Try adding hoisin sauce on top instead to deepen the flavor in every bite.
Add coconut water to the broth. Try replacing a cup of vegetable broth with coconut water to create a subtle hint of coconut.
Substitute different herbs for garnish. If you think cilantro tastes like soap, try adding mint, basil, or licorice leaves for a fresh, zingy taste.
When storing pho, be sure to separate the solids from the broth. If you don’t, you can expect uber-soggy noodles and mushy edamame in your pho leftovers. If properly stored, the broth and solids should last for a week in the fridge.
How do I prevent my rice noodles from overcooking?
By cooking your rice noodles directly in the broth before serving, you can achieve perfect al dente consistency.
Can I use soy sauce instead of Ketjap Mani?
Absolutely, but since Ketjap Manis is sweeter than soy sauce, you may want to add additional sugar or a different sweetening agent.
Can I omit some of the spices?
If you’re short on star anise, cinnamon, or cloves, I would recommend swapping in other spices to enhance the broth’s flavor.
If you’re in a pinch, try subbing in allspice for star anise, nutmeg for cinnamon, or even pumpkin pie spice for cloves. If you’re using these spices in powdered form, start with the smallest amount and taste test as you sprinkle more into the broth.
Try These Other Cozy Soups:
- Thai Coconut Soup – A healthy, creamy soup using a coconut milk base.
- Maple Butternut Squash Soup – An ultra-silky soup bursting with heartwarming fall flavors.
- Nourishing Lentil Soup – A hearty, protein-packed soup with a rich, savory broth.
Easy Vegetarian Pho (Pho Chay)
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 onion small, peeled and quartered
- 1 thumb ginger about a 3-inch chunk, peeled and smashed with side of knife
- 2 tbsp ketjap manis dark and sweet Indonesian soy sauce
- 2 cups bok choy chopped
- 1 cup edamame frozen and shelled
- 2 oz rice noodles or cellophane/bean thread noodles
- 1 tbsp cilantro chopped- for garnish (optional)
- 1 tbsp green onions chopped, white parts only, minced- for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 lime cut into wedges
- * Sriracha chili sauce to taste optional
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon stick and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices into a bowl to avoid burning them and set aside.
- In a large pot, add the toasted spices and all ingredients from stock through ketjap manis and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Taste the broth and add more ketjap manis, if needed. Strain the broth, reserving the solids. Chop the onion and ginger and add them back to the pot with the bok choy and edamame and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the noodles and allow to sit for a few minutes while they soften.
- To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Divide the bok choy, edamame, and noodles evenly into each bowl. Sprinkle on the garnishes and add sriracha to taste. Squeeze lime juice to taste over the top of your bowl before eating.