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What Is Pho: Is It Vegan, Calories & More

Maybe you heard of pho, but you aren't entirely sure what is it and is it vegan. In this article, we'll explain what is pho, can vegans eat pho, its nutritional value, and more.
Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN

Written by Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN. Updated on December 27, 2022.

Pho is the special Vietnamese noodles that you can often see. They are very popular and highly nutritious. If you’re trying pho for the first time, you may question whether this recipe is plant-based.

In this article, we will discuss what pho is, its types, whether it is plant-based, its health effects, potential disadvantages, and how to solve these disadvantages.

You will also find some nutritional values in this article. Of course, by accessing what the ingredients are and in what quantities they are used.

What is Pho?

Pho is a Vietnamese dish prepared with banh pho noodles, bone-beef broth, and thin slices of beef, sometimes topped with bean sprouts and other fresh herbs.

Unlike Japanese ramen, which is often served with wheat noodles, pho is prepared from rice noodles.

It is vital to remember that there are several pho variants. The most prevalent are pho nam from Southern Vietnam and pho bac from Northern Vietnam, which is regarded as the original pho.

Can Vegans Eat Pho?

Yes, they can. But it is important to know that most of the most common variants regarding the pho, are not vegan-friendly.

As a result of pho’s popularity in Vietnam, individuals are capable of adapting it to almost every meal.

The beef variant is the most popular and common option. However, there are way more different variations.

Popular Types of Pho

Pho Bo

This is the most popular and well-known kind of Pho. It is mostly prepared from beef.

Pho Ga

The pork bones, chicken stock, onions, purple onion, ginger, anise, and cinnamon used to produce Chicken Pho are simmered for hours with purple onion, ginger, onions, anise, and cinnamon to create a broth with a lighter, sweeter aftertaste.

That is another type of pho common among locals.

Pho Tron

It is produced with chicken or beef meats that have been marinated in salt, garlic, ginger, pepper, lime juice, and various spice powders. It’s a drier variation of Pho.

Pho Xao

Traditionally, the meal is made using components comparable to beef pho and chicken pho. The difference is, it is not soupy and is prepared in a stir-fried manner.

Pho Chua

This recipe is not as commonly chosen as Pho Bo and Pho Ga. It tastes like soured Pho.

Dry components include pink rice noodles, ducks, fried potatoes, and pig’s liver. The broth is made with vinegar, sugar, water, and garlic.

None of these popular strains are suitable for a vegan diet. All contain at least one animal product.

However, it is still possible to find vegan and vegetarian alternatives in such a variety.

Pho Chay

In Vietnam, because it has a strong influence from Buddhism, vegan pho is well-known, simple to obtain, and simple to cook at home.

The natural sweetness of the soup is achieved by having the broth simmered for many hours with radishes, ginger, carrots, onions, and spices such as cinnamon, coriander seeds, cloves, and cardamom.

When the vegetable broth is prepared, it will be added to the bowl with rice noodles, tofu, mushrooms, and bean sprouts.

May also include additional veggies, including leeks (fresh or frozen leeks both work), chili, and herbs, to the meal to enhance the taste.

Vegan Pho Nutrition and Calories

Based on the components used to cook pho, it will have a different amount of nutrients.

The following things may alter the nutritional value of your soup:

  • What type of noodles are used
  • What garnishes are used to make vegetable broth
  • Which meat substitute is used
  • Quantity of ingredients

A traditional bowl (3 cups) portion of pho chay, with rice noodles, and a topping like tofu, garnishes, and veggies, would average approximately 350 calories.

The materials were calculated as follows. Food Data Central was used in the calculation:

Meat substitute:
Tofu (50 gr)
Vegetable broth (1.5 cups)
Onions (60 g)
Fresh ginger (0.5 g)
Bean sprout (0.5 cups)
Jalapeno (4 g)
Hoisin (0.3 tbsp)
Sriracha (0.3 tbsp)
Carbohydrate source:
Rice noodles (150 g)
Anise seed (0.5 tbsp)
Vegetable oil (0.3 tbsp)
Salt (0.2 g)
Ground black pepper (0.3 g)
Cinnamon (0.3 g)

Numerous additional vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are also included in Pho.

It’s crucial to remember that the precise makeup of these minerals depends on the ingredients: for example, meat-based pho would include more sodium than plant-based pho.

Is Vegan Pho Healthy?

Many people think of pho as a type of curative broth. It’s a warming soup that can help ward off winter diseases or for reviving and healing after contracting the flu or a cold.

Let’s look more closely at these characteristics and where they originate as they are based on the beneficial properties that a bowl of pho offers.

Pho Includes Ginger

In addition to being a key component of pho, ginger also lends the soup some of its most reviving properties.

There are several different chemicals in ginger that have positive health benefits throughout the body. These chemicals have the following properties:

  • Cancer preventive
  • Antidiabetic
  • Helps to lose weight
  • Protects the heart and brain

Ginger Makes Pho Stomach-Friendly

Pho is generally beneficial to the stomach, thanks to ginger.

Ginger, according to research, may be an effective and less costly alternative to regular anti-nausea medications in persons who are pregnant or receiving chemotherapy and cannot use conventional medications.

Also, in the long run, the high concentration of minerals and vitamins keeps your gut healthy and powerful.

Pho Is a Good Source of Protein

Regardless of whether you’re a meat consumer, a vegetarian, or a vegan, pho may easily be protein-packed.

Traditional animal-based pho varieties are an obvious source of animal protein, but vegetarians and vegans may substitute such as tofu for the meat.

In addition to being a good source of plant-based protein, tofu is low in calories and saturated fat and readily absorbs the broth’s complex flavors.

Vegan Pho Contains Low Calories

Whether consumed for breakfast, lunch, or supper, a bowl of noodle soup containing between 350 and 400 calories is an excellent low-calorie but good vitamin, mineral, fiber, and protein choice.

You may keep using that health benefits further by sticking to the veggies and vegetable broth.

Pho Doesn’t Contain Gluten

Gluten is generally well tolerated by the majority of individuals.

On the other hand, individuals who have celiac disease, gluten ataxia, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), and wheat allergies may need to avoid gluten-containing foods.

Traditionally prepared Pho contains rice noodles and this type of noodle does not contain gluten.

In addition, the ingredients of other added nutrients should be checked. Gluten may be added to some spices as a grounding agent.

The Potential Disadvantages of Pho

We cannot respond to the query “Is pho healthy?” without considering the possible disadvantages of consuming pho.

While pho is low in calories, its carbohydrate percentage is fairly significant. These carbohydrates may be a reason for the nutritional imbalance in regular and frequent consumption.

If you are not creating a vegetarian version of the noodle soup, the sodium content of pho may also be high.

Rice has a higher glycemic index than whole grains. It’s important to include plenty of fiber in vegetables to balance the glycemic index.

Ways to Make Pho Healthier

There are a few basic strategies to maintain and keep pho healthy for you.

If you are concerned about the carbohydrate content, you may reduce the amounts of noodles and increase protein sources. Also, veggies have fewer net carbohydrates owing to their fiber content.

You can use tofu to increase the protein level while reducing the saturated fat amount.

The sodium content of vegetable broth will be less than that of beef broth.

Also, don’t skimp on the veggies, and if you want to pack in even more vitamins and minerals, you can add to the pile of spices and herbs.


Pho is a Vietnamese dish prepared with Banh pho noodles, bone-beef broth, and thin slices of beef, sometimes topped with bean sprouts and other fresh herbs.

The beef variant of pho is the most popular and common option. However, there are way more different variations. It is possible to find vegan alternatives in those varieties, such as pho chay.

Based on the components used to cook pho, it will have a different amount of nutrients. However, a traditional bowl (3 cups) portion of pho chay would average approximately 350 calories.

This soup offers many health benefits due to its ginger content. It can also be rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Still, attention should be paid to the carbohydrate percentage and ways to create healthier pho should be considered.

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