Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Phở Chay)

  • Preparation: 30 mins
  • Cooking: 20 mins
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Servings: 4-6

Description Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Phở Chay)

There are few better comfort foods than Vietnamese Pho. When I'm on the verge of a cold or in need of a culinary pick-me-up, I sit down to a restorative bowl of aromatic broth, slippery rice noodles, and fresh, customizable garnishes.
Between the broth, noodles, and assorted garnishes like onions, herbs, chiles, and lime, phở (pronounced "fuh" not "foe") is a wonderful interplay of textures and flavors. Traditionally, Vietnamese Pho is made with beef or chicken bones. Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Phở Chay), may be found at Buddhist establishments or restaurants catering to contemporary, Western clientele but, sadly, these often leave much to be desired.
Other Vietnamese Pho Recipes:
Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe (Pho Ga)
Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Recipe (Pho Bo)
In the interest of making vegetarian phở at home, I consulted my mother, who recalled her experience living in a Vietnamese Buddhist community that made meat-free phở broth with a medley of spices, ginger, and lots of carrots. Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Phở Chay) is my interpretation. While it admittedly lacks the richness of meat-based phở, it's still quite fragrant and filling without being heavy. There's also room to make it your own by adding different proteins or vegetables. I continue to work on perfecting the broth, so let me know what you think!


  • Broth
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Vietnamese cassia-cinnamon
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • Noodles
  • 1/2 pound dried flat rice noodles (known as bánh phở; use 1/16", 1/8", or 1/4" width depending on availability and preference)
  • Garnishes
  • 1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 chile pepper (Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño), sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • Large handful of herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, culantro/saw-leaf herb
  • Hoisin sauce, sriracha (optional)
  • Toppings (optional)
  • Protein such as fried or baked tofu, bean curd skin, or seitan
  • Mushrooms
  • Vegetables such as bok choy, napa cabbage, or broccoli

Method Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Phở Chay)

1, For the broth
Char onion and ginger over an open flame (holding with tongs) or directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water. In a large pot, dry roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning. When spices are aromatic, add vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.
2, For the noodles
While broth is simmering, place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand for 20-30 minutes or until tender but still chewy. Drain. (If soaking does not soften the noodles enough, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds.)
3, For the toppings (optional)
While broth is simmering, prepare toppings as desired – slice and cook tofu, lightly steam or blanch vegetables, etc. Toppings should be unseasoned or only lightly seasoned so as not to interfere with the flavor of the broth.
4, To serve
Divide noodles between two bowls. Arrange toppings over noodles. Ladle about 2 cups of broth into each bowl. Serve with garnishes on the side, which diners should add to taste.

Chef's Note

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