I’ve been obsessed with pho since my first yummy, slurpy, bowl. The only issue is that in America, many of the Vietnamese restaurants claim to have vegan pho on their menu, but when you ask the right person, you find out they use pork in their broth. I tried ordering vegan pho from vegan restaurants, but they tasted horrible. Most of them just used plain vegetable broth, which is a TRAVESTY! Seriously, NEVER use vegetable broth for pho.
So I began the long journey of creating the perfect vegan pho broth. Lucky for all of us….I finally did! And I’m here to share it with you all. This vegan pho recipe tastes almost as authentic as the delicious bowls I had in some of the best Vietnamese restaurants. I really hope you give it a try!
Click “Jump To Recipe” (directly below the title of this post) to skip the blog post and go directly to the recipe! You’ll miss out on helpful tips for this recipe though.
Where do Pho and Bun Bo Hue Come From?
Pho and Bun Bo Hue both come from Vietnam. Pho is believed to have originated in Northern Vietnam, near Hanoi. Bun Bo Hue began in Hue, a former capital of Vietnam, which is why Hue is in the name. Bun means noodles, bo means beef (a common ingredient included in traditional bun bo hue), and Hue is the city.
What is the difference between pho and bun bo hue?
Pho and Bun Bo Hue are two AMAZINGLY delicious soups that look similar to each other, but they have several differences. Bun Bo Hue noodles are typically made with round rice noodles, while Pho uses flat rice noodles. The broth in Bun Bo Hue uses beef and pork, while Pho uses only beef (of course we won’t be using either of those in my recipe!). Also, pho broth includes star anise and sometimes cinnamon, whereas bun bo hue uses lots of lemongrass to lend a fragrant flavor and fermented shrimp paste for an added depth of flavor.
In most pho recipes, some onion and ginger are cut in half and charred in a pot before being added to the broth. This gives them a more intense flavor. In my recipe, I use techniques from both pho (charring onion and garlic to intensify their flavors) and bun bo hue (using lemongrass instead of star anise to add a fragrant flavor to the broth), which is why I say this broth can be used for vegan pho or bun bo hue.
You can use any type of rice noodle you want; flat or round, fat noodles, or thin vermicelli noodles.
What is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a perennial grass that is grown in tropical environments of Asia, Africa, and Australia. We eat the lemongrass stalk, which has several tough layers wrapped around the core. Peel the first few layers and you’ll find a smooth stalk with a light almost-citrusy fragrance. Break the stalk and you’ll be able to smell the fragrance much better. It smells sooooo good!
When cooking with lemongrass, it’s best to break the stalks if using them for a broth (like this recipe). This helps the lemongrass flavor infuse in the broth better. You shouldn’t just put the whole, unbroken, stalks in your broth. Lemongrass can also be finely minced and used in any recipe. Sauté minced lemongrass, garlic, and onion before making a curry or soup or even a stir fry. It’s a delicious ingredient.
When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks that are pale yellow with a little green. Try not to purchase lemongrass that is brown, but if they are a little brown on the outer leaves, I’ll still buy them and just peel the outer leaves.
One of the main ingredients in this vegan pho / bun bo hue is lemongrass. Studies have shown that lemongrass has antifungal, antibacterial, and antidiarrheal properties.
Lemongrass contains the compounds chlorogenic acid, isoorientin, and swertiajaponin which help fight inflammation in the body, especially when the lemongrass is made into a tea.
More large-scale studies need to be conducted on lemongrass, but so far researchers have found that lemongrass can also boost red blood cell levels, lemongrass extract might help lower cholesterol, and it can prevent some infections.
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Vegan Pho / Bun Bo Hue
- 1 yellow onion, cut in half
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 16 Lemongrass stalks, lightly bruised or crushed
- 5 ounces or about 18 dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
- 1 kombu sheet
- 6 tablespoons mushroom powder, optional, use 1 tablespoon of salt if you can’t use mushroom powder
- 12 cups water
- rice noodles, cooked (cook 1 cup of noodles per person)
- Use ANY vegetables you want. This is what I usually use:
- Green vegetable, such as spinach, bok choy, yu choy, or napa cabbage
- mung bean sprouts
- culantro or cilantro
- Thai basil
- sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers
- raw white onion, thinly sliced
- sliced dried mushrooms leftover from stock
- thinly sliced carrots
- vegan ginger-garlic meatballs, recipe from my cookbook
- coconut aminos or soy sauce
- lime or lemon juice
- fried chili paste or regular chili paste, like Sambal
- Use a rolling pin, or something else heavy and sturdy, to bruise all of the lemongrass. You can also use the back of a knife to hit the lemongrass. Watch the cooking video, if needed, to see this step. This step will allow more lemongrass flavor to infuse the broth. Set aside.
- Place the pressure cooker on medium-high heat. Add the halved onion and garlic and cook them until the cut sides of the onion and garlic are charred, or at least browned. No oil is needed for this step, but you can add a little if you feel the need.
Once browned, add the lemongrass, mushrooms, kombu, mushroom powder (if using), and water. Pressure cook on high if using an electric pressure cooker, for 40 minute. If using an old school stove top pressure cooker, put you stove on medium heat and pressure cook for 40 minutes once the top part of the cooker starts spinning and whistling (you should know what I mean if you already use this type of pressure cooker).
- Once done, remove the lemongrass, kombu, and mushrooms, but save the mushrooms. The stock is now ready. You can adjust the seasoning by adding a little more mushroom powder or salt, if needed.
- To serve, place some rice noodles and veggies in your bowl. Pour some of the broth in the bowl. Season with a little coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you’re not soy free), lime or lemon juice, and chili paste (if you like spicy food).