This vegan pho recipe will appease all your cravings for a delicious, intensely flavoured vegetarian pho. Thick slurpy rice noodles in a deliciously spiced umami broth and topped with smoky crumbled tofu, sweet frizzled onion, fresh herbs and sprouts. A bowl of soup so good you won’t believe that this vegan pho is made 100% from scratch in less than one hour!
I have yet to experience a good vegan pho in a restaurant. The ones I’ve had have always just been noodles and vegetables in a miso broth. That’s so lazy and uncreative! I mean, if I wanted a vegetable miso soup, I’d just make it myself at home (or go to a Japanese restaurant)! Pho isn’t pho without all the spices and the deep umami broth, a smoky, meaty element, lime, fresh herbs and chilies on top.
Just like with my vegan clam chowder, I’ve also been working on trying to come up with a good vegan pho recipe for quite some time now. As you know, it usually takes several hours to make as boiling bones and other gross things takes a long time.
You don’t need to worry that making a vegetarian pho will take a long time, though. Even when you make a vegetable stock from scratch it doesn’t need more than an hour maximum to extract all the flavour from the vegetables. It’s pointless to simmer vegetables for longer than that.
You’ll see lots of other vegan pho recipes on the internet advertising themselves as “quick vegan pho - ready in just 30 minutes!”. They rely on packaged vegetable stock with a few spices thrown in and simmered together. However, with just another 15 minutes of simmering time, you can make your own deeply flavoured, preservative- and salt-free homemade vegetable stock from fresh veggies!
I’m lucky that my local supermarket offers packages of vegetables specifically for making stock (and they generally cost under $2.00 per pack!). They usually contain some combination of carrots, celery tops, turnips, parsnips and leeks. To that I add onion (which I blacken in the pot first to add additional flavour), ginger, garlic and whatever other veggie scraps I happen to have lying around.
If you’re the kind of person who freezes vegetable peelings and scraps for stock, throw all that in (if you’re not that kind of person, you should be, haven’t you seen this video?).
While the vegetable stock and the spices are easy, what’s been perplexing me for years with vegan pho is how to get the right kind of umami and depth of flavour. I’ve tried LOTS of different things. Miso is just the wrong flavour, Marmite made it bitter for some reason. Soy sauce is too salty and, imo, distracts from some of the delicate spices and flavours.
My favourite umami turned out to be Maggi Liquid Seasoning (the company indicates that it is suitable for vegans). The flavour is hard to describe – it’s umami and adds a touch of sweetness to vegan pho, less saltiness than soy sauce and brings out the flavours of the spices better.
Although it’s not so well-known in North America, Maggi is common in pretty much every other cuisine in the world so you may be able to find it in large supermarkets in the ethnic food aisle or in an Asian supermarket. If you can’t find it, you can go ahead and use soy sauce.
So while your vegetable stock is simmering, you can prepare the noodles and various toppings. I took the idea for the crumbled seasoned tofu and sweet frizzled green onion from my (amazing!) vegan ramen recipe.
The smokiness from the tofu is another key pho element that is essential to recreate in any vegetarian pho recipe worth its salt, in addition to its meaty texture. If you don’t want to use tofu, you can also choose a meaty mushroom and prepare it in the same way.
Get yourself a spoon, a pair of chopsticks, a big-ass bowl of this vegan pho and prepare for your mind to be blown!
Wanna see how to make this vegan pho recipe? Watch the video:
For the broth:
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped -$0.14
- A chunk (about 8 cm / 3 inches) of ginger roughly chopped - $0.15
- 3 star anise - $0.20
- 3 cloves - $0.01
- 2 sticks of cinnamon - $0.57
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds - $0.02
- 5 cloves of garlic roughly chopped - $0.20
- 700 grams (25 oz) mixed vegetables and/or vegetable scraps for stock (I had carrots, turnips, parsnips, celery tops and leek – see photo), roughly chopped - $1.49
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms - $0.32
- 3 litres (3.2 quarts) water - $0.00
- Maggi Liquid Seasoning or soy sauce to taste (I added about 1 ½ tablespoons) - $0.28
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt to taste - $0.03
For the soup:
- 2 - 3 tablespoons neutral oil divided - $0.15
- 200 grams (7oz) extra-firm tofu mashed with a fork - $0.80
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce - $0.10
- 1 teaspoon miso paste - $0.11
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar - $0.04
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika - $0.12
- 3 green onions very thinly sliced into matchsticks and white and light green parts separated from dark green parts - $0.45
- 1 head of bok choy leaves separated and larger ones chopped - $0.33
- 250 grams (9 oz) wide rice noodles - $3.50
- 200 grams (7 oz) bean sprouts - $1.59
- A small bunch of cilantro and/or basil (Thai basil if you can get it) - $1.19
- 1 lime quartered - $0.43
- 1 long red chili pepper sliced - $0.48
- Heat a very large pot over medium-high heat and add the onion and ginger. Fry, stirring frequently, until they begin to char and blacken. This should take about 10 minutes. Be careful no to let the bottom of the pot burn or else it will make your soup bitter.
- Add the star anise, cloves and cinnamon and dry roast for a couple more minutes until fragrant. Add the coriander seeds and give them 20 – 30 seconds to release their aroma.
- Add the garlic, veggies, shiitakes and water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to just a bare simmer. Leave for 45 minutes until the stock is dark and flavourful. Strain and add Maggi liquid seasoning (or soy sauce) and salt to taste.
- Meanwhile, heat a small pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot add the tofu and fry until crispy. Combine the soy sauce, miso paste, rice vinegar and paprika in a small bowl and pour over the tofu. Fry until the liquid is evaporated and the tofu is crisp. Remove to a plate.
- Reduce the heat under the pan to medium and add an additional 2 – 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the matchstick white and light green parts of the green onion. Allow to fry until golden brown – about 5 – 10 minutes, then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the bok choy until the stems are tender. Remove to a plate then add the rice noodles to the pot. Boil until al dente then strain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Divide the noodles between four bowls and ladle over the hot stock. Top with the bok choy, tofu, bean sprouts, frizzled green onion, dark green parts of the green onion, chili pepper, lime slices and cilantro/basil.
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FYI The seasoning you mention is is mostly MSG! Even the Wurze brand is MSG. 🙁
I'm well aware that it contains MSG, as do many other food products. Numerous studies have consistently demonstrated that there is absolutely nothing wrong with MSG in food. Please inform yourself so that we can squash this racist myth (so-called "Chinese restaurant syndrome") once and for all. Here's some information to get you started: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be ; https://greatist.com/grow/why-msg-has-a-bad-rap ; https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3
While everyone in Asia isn't wrong and millions of people are just crazy, there are some legit allergic reactions to MSG. I, for instance, can tell within a few short minutes if you've neglected to tell me it's in something, or if you've told me you don't use it, but it's really in there. How do I know? Anaphylactic shock. My throat swells shut and I can NOT breathe. An epi-pen and trip to the ER - praying I don't die on the way - tell me that I'm not wrong that SOME humans have a legit issue with MSG. I'm not saying it's bad. But it IS bad for me. And there are others like me.
Sure, people have allergies to all kind of food, myself included. That's why I always read the ingredients on packaged foods and know all the alternative names that my allergin could be listed as in order to avoid ingesting it. Unfortunately, this is just a blog of recipes and there's not enough space to list all the ingredients of each product I use just in case someone somewhere might be allergic to it. Based on the research into whether "Chinese restaurant syndrome" actually exists, MSG is a non-issue for me and I'd assume that those who are allergic to it, or any other ingredient, would know to read the ingredients and avoid it.
Thank you for this! I love Maggi, you are never going to please 100% of the people 100% of the time!
April Dawn says
Ur awesome Melissa ????
I loved this soup! My kitchen smelt amazing, and the flavours and textures of each element came together beautifully! Thank you so much for inventing and sharing this recipe (and for encouraging us to make the stock from scratch! It's totally worth it and really special!) The day after, I ate the veg that were left over after straining the stock in a 'rice salad', just adding sesame seeds, cashew nuts and soy sauce. Yummy!!
Oh man! Looks great! Saving to make it this weekend. That tofu preparation is interesting! Should be immeasurably better than my local restaurant's, who simply drops huge cubes of unseasoned raw tofu into the pho 🙂 I just discovered your blog, from a link to this recipe on reddit. So glad!
This looks devine ! I am new to Vegan recipes and your site has been amazing for ideas of what to make.
Thank you from the UK 🙂
I made this today! After tasting the broth itself I was a little bit weary of the end product because usually the broth it what makes or breaks pho. However, in this recipe all of the other ingredients combined make it a great dish! The miso tofu adds a lot more umami, the lime, cilantro and basil make the soup more fresh, the bean sprouts add crunch, and of course the spice (I added sriracha instead) seals the deal. It probably would've tasted even better with the Maggi seasoning. In the future, however I might consider adding less water for stronger flavour. Thanks for the recipe!