Vietnamese Chicken Pho (pronounced fuh) is one of the most comforting meals on a cold day or when you're feeling a bit under the weather. It's served piping hot and is made with a broth that will cure all ills! It has such complexity of flavors, but they all come together so harmoniously. And a bonus is that I'm going to tell you how to make it on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, AND in an Instant Pot!
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Did you know that Vietnamese cuisine is tied to French cuisine? The French colonization of Vietnam is the main cause of the influence when the French brought foods and flavors (including bread and coffee) to the region. I love learning about history and culture of foods and I found THIS ARTICLE quite informative. It's an easy read in case you're so inclined to learn more yourself!
What kind of chicken should I use for Vietnamese Chicken Pho?
There's no right or wrong answer to this question except that you MUST use skin on, bone in. The broth will be that much more rich and full of healthy collagen. You can use thighs or breasts, or a combination, or you can pull a stewing hen out of the freezer that needs to be cooked ... like I did! I also recommend pastured chicken for even more nutritional value.
If you use a whole chicken, there's no need to cut it apart before you cook it. Just put the whole bird in.
As complex as the broth for Vietnamese Chicken Pho tastes, it's really quite simple. Start with a halved onion and some smashed ginger.
Put them in the pot with a little oil to get them a little brown. This helps with flavor and also adds some color to the broth.
Add all of those beautiful aromatic spices: coriander seeds, a cinnamon stick, some star anise, cardamom pods, and cloves. Let them toast a bit in the pot before adding the chicken and the rest of the ingredients.
There are just four other ingredients: an apple, some sugar, some fish sauce, and cilantro. The apple lends some sweetness and the fish sauce brings some je ne sais quoi ... some depth of flavor that is unachievable without it!
Methods of cooking Vietnamese Chicken Pho
There are three ways you can make this broth. You can simmer it for several hours on the stovetop. You can cook it in a slow cooker. Or you can have it ready in about an hour's time by using the Instant Pot. The recipe card has all three methods detailed for you.
When the chicken is done, take it out to cool to the point where you can comfortably handle it. Remove the skin and take the meat off the bones. Shred it or pull it apart with your fingers.
Just look at that broth! So rich and delicious! Put the chicken back in it and reheat it to boiling while you prepare the rice noodles. Different brands suggest different methods so follow the package instructions for the brand you have.
How to serve Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Put the noodles in a large bowl, cover with the broth and chicken, then top it with whatever extras you like, such as bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, basil, thinly sliced red onion, jalapeno, and lime juice. And don't forget the hoisin sauce and sriracha!
Other recipes you might like:
Vietnamese Chicken Pho
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 1 large yellow onion cut in half
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger cut into ¼-inch slices, then smashed with the back of your knife
- 3 cardamom pods smashed
- 1 3-4 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
- 3 star anise
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 Fuji apple cut into ½-inch pieces
- ½ cup cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce (I like the Red Boat brand.)
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 3 pounds skin on, bone in chicken Use a whole chicken, chicken thighs, or chicken breasts.
- 8 cups water
- salt to season
Toppings and Add-ins
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- 1 jalapeno sliced thinly
- ½ red onion sliced thinly, and soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes to reduce the bite
- bean sprouts
- hoisin sauce
- sriracha sauce
- Add oil to large pot and put the onion in cut side down and the smashed ginger slices. Let them cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes until they are a bit brown. (See notes for slow cooker and Instant Pot methods.)
- Add cardamom, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, star anise, and cloves. Cook for about a minute to allow the spices to toast.
- Add the apple, cilantro, fish sauce, and sugar and stir together. Add the chicken, then pour the water over it all.
- Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-1½ hours. Truth is, I like to start it early in the afternoon and let it simmer all afternoon! It doesn't hurt the quality of the chicken and it allows all the flavors to really meld.
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the broth to let it cool enough to handle. Remove the skin, then separate the meat from the bones and tear it into shreds. Return the chicken to the broth and bring it back to a high temperature.
- Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions.
- Divide noodles into bowls, add some broth and chicken, then top with any or all of the toppings that you like! Drizzle with hoisin sauce and sriracha.
- You can saute the onions and ginger right in the Instant Pot. Select the "Saute" option.
- Continue adding the other ingredients as described above, then select "Manual" and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes if using thighs or chicken breasts. Cook at high pressure for 5-6 minutes per pound of chicken if using a whole chicken.
- You don't have to saute the onion and ginger or spices, but your broth will be so much more flavorful if you do. Saute on the stove through Step 3, then add it all to your slow cooker.
- Put the chicken in the slow cooker, then add the water.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4.