Homemade Pho Chay (Vegan Pho) Recipe - Imagine slurping on noodles immersed in an umami-packed savory broth that's flavored with warm spices! This bowl of noodles will keep you warm and full during the cold season!
I personally LOVE pho. It's one of my favorite dishes but once I became a vegetarian, I couldn't be more disappointed in vegan and vegetarian pho at the restaurants. They were bland and unsatisfying. Then I came across the vegan pho recipe by Viet Vegan. It was so much better than all the vegan pho I had at the restaurants. Since the discovery of her recipe, I've tweaked the recipe to make my own. So this pho chay recipe is adapted from her recipe.
What is Pho?
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup dish consist of broth and rice noodles topped with meat, herbs, and vegetables.
What does "Chay" mean?
According to Intrepid Travel, "Chay" means you eat foods (vegetarian food) that the Vietnamese Buddhists eat. So if you find Vietnamese food with "Chay" in their name, it is safe to assume it's vegetarian-friendly!
How to make the broth for Pho Chay (Vegan Pho)
The flavor of the broth is the star of the dish. I used to think the flavor comes from the bones and meat. And I learned that it actually comes from the vegetable and spices!
- Charred vegetables - Charring vegetable gives the subtle smoky flavor. I charred onion, ginger, and giant green onion in my air fryer. You can find the giant green onions (different from leek) at your local Asian grocery stores. If you have a hard time finding them, you can use regular green onion. Just make sure to char them not as long as onion.
- Daikon, dried shiitake, and bay leaves - These ingredients give the depth of flavor.
- Spices - I use cinnamon, black peppercorn, fennel seed, clove, coriander seed, and star anise. They are the spices that give the signature pho its fragrance.
As the daikon, onion, and giant green onion cooks, it sweetens the broth without adding sugar. These ingredients are often used in many Korean soup dishes to enhance sweetness and savoriness. The dried shiitake mushroom and bay leaves make the broth savory without using the meat. And all the warming spices perfume the broth with the signature pho fragrance that we all love.
Tips on making Pho Chay (Vegan Pho)
- Make sure to char your onion, ginger, and green onion! The smoky flavor from the charred vegetables will make your broth extra yummy! I used an air fryer to char my vegetables but you can also broil your vegetables in the oven to get the same effect.
- If you can't find giant green onion, you can use regular green onion. Since the regular green onions are significantly thinner, you don't have to char them as long as the onion.
- When seasoning your broth, it needs to be a little saltier in taste to compensate for adding unseasoned rice noodles at the end.
- Add the spices at the end (the last 15 minutes). These spices have a very distinctive flavor and adding the spice at the last 15 minutes was more than enough time to perfume the broth with warming spices.
- You can freeze the leftover broth in the freezer. This recipe makes enough to yield 4 large servings of pho. Since it's just my hubby and me, I freeze the leftover broth. It lasts a couple of months in the freezer.
Noodles for the pho
- Dried rice noodles/rice sticks - You can cook the noodles in boiling water for about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodle under cold water and you can serve them. Dried rice noodles last a very long time and it's easier to find them.
- Fresh rice noodles - Most Asian grocery stores sell them in their refrigerated section. All you have to do is pour some boiling water to loosen the rice noodles and quickly rinse under cold water. Although I like the texture of fresh noodles better, I don't like the fact that you can only purchase them at Asian grocery stores.
How to customize your vegan pho (condiments and toppings)
- Condiments - It is very common to find these three condiments at the pho shop. They are sambal oelek (chili garlic paste), sriracha, and hoisin sauce.
- Vegetables and herbs - I like baby bok choy, bean sprout, green onion, thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced jalapeno, and lime wedges in my pho. But many people like to add herbs like Thai basil, mint, and cilantro.
- Other toppings - I added some seitan slices on mine and sauteed mushrooms on my husband's pho. These toppings are great substitutions for meat.
Storing and reheating method
- You can freeze the broth for a couple of months in the freezer. But if you plan to eat the next day, you can just store them in the refrigerator.
- When storing the leftover, store the broth, noodles, and toppings SEPARATELY. If you were to mix the noodles and the broth together, the noodles will soak up all the broth and gets soggy and mushy.
- When reheating the broth, I like to boil mine instead of reheating them in the microwave. The broth needs to be hot enough to soften the noodles and blanch the vegetables. You can microwave the broth for a long time to achieve that temperature but be very careful to handle the bowl because it will get very hot.
Looking for a tasty appetizer to go with Pho Chay dinner?
- How about crispy air-fried spring rolls?
- You can also serve refreshing summer rolls just like how you get at the restaurant!
How to make Vegan Pho (Pho Chay)
Homemade Pho Chay (Vegan Pho) - Imagine slurping on noodles immersed in an umami-packed savory broth that's flavored with warm spices! This bowl of noodles will keep you warm and full during the cold season!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Boil
- Cuisine: Vietnamese
- Diet: Vegan
For the broth
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 giant green onion, cut into large pieces (different from leek, see note)
- 2 to 3 inches of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
- 14 cups of water
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 daikon (about 500 to 600g), cut into big chunks
- 3 to 4 teaspoons salt
- 10 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 star anise
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon clove
- 1 teaspoon peppercorn
- 1 tablespoon Yondu (optional)
For pho chay (vegan pho)
- Rice noodles, cooked according to package
- Vegetables and herbs such as baby bok choy, bean sprouts, green onion, jalapeno, lime wedges, Thai basil, mint, and cilantro (for serving)
- Other toppings such as seitan slices, sauteed mushrooms, and/or tofu (for serving)
- Condiments such as sambal oelek, sriracha, and hoisin sauce.
- Add the water, bay leaves, daikon, and shiitake mushrooms to the pot. Bring it to boil.
- Meanwhile add the onion, giant green onion, and ginger to the air fryer and cook at 400F for 10 minutes. This should char the vegetables. Once the vegetables are charred, add them to the pot.
- Once the broth comes to a boil, add the salt and reduce the heat to low, place a lid, and simmer for an hour.
- Mix together all the spices and place them in a teabag or cheesecloth. Set aside.
- After an hour, add the prepared spice bag to the broth and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes.
- Strain the mixture and serve with noodles, vegetables, herbs, and condiments.
- If you can't find giant green onion (although it looks very similar to leek, they are different), go ahead and use regular green onion. Since the regular green onion is significantly thinner, you can use 4 to 5 of them and add to the air fryer for 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes to char them before adding to the broth.
- The longer you boil the broth, the deeper the flavor. However, do NOT place the spice bag until the very last 15 minutes so the spices won't overpower the taste.
- For extra umami, you can add 1 tablespoon of Yondu to the broth.
- Please refer to the "Storing and Reheating Method" and "Tips on making Pho Chay" section above for more information.
Keywords: vegan pho, pho chay, homemade pho, noodle soup, soup