People have been begging me to make a Pho for the Instant Pot. And I have to admit, I put it off for a bit because I was super intimidated to take a stab at it. After all, this Vietnamese treasure of a top-it-yourself noodle soup is one that seems to takes hours to prepare and simmer with steps galore in order to achieve maximum results.
Could this even be DONE in the Instant Pot?
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. After some serious experimenting to perfect the flavors and Pho experience, YOU CAN!
AND VERY EASILY!
AND without finding super rare ingredients! AND in less than 45 minutes from start to bowl!
Now I should state that this method I’ve come up with is 100% unconventional for cooking a Pho in the traditional sense (much respect to those traditional Pho gurus!), but if you put my version in front of someone when prepared, I would wager they would think you spent all day making the broth – THAT’S how good, rich and deep this Pho is!
Here’s How I Made It!:
The very first thing we’re going to do is tend to the rice noodles. Make sure you use Ban Pho (rice stick) style noodles and use either medium or small size (the package will indicate the size).
Boil some water on the stove (or in your Instant Pot!)…
…place the noodles in a separate pot…
..and pour the boiling water over the noodles so they’re completely submerged (or you can just add the noodles to the pot of the boiling water so long as you turn the heat off immediately. We DO NOT boil rice noodles the same way we do an Italian egg-based pasta)!
After a few minutes of the noodles sitting in the hot water, swirl them around and you’ll see they’ll easily break apart and become flexible.
Now just let them sit in the pot of water (100% submerged or they’ll dry out and harden) and set aside until we are ready to serve the soup. Speaking of which, let’s start that up!
Take an onion…
..and slice it super thin so we have nice, thin rings.
Take some chicken tenderloins (or boneless, skinless thighs)…
…and cut them up into little pieces like so.
Now comes a critical part to making this Pho taste like an incredible Pho. NO SKIMPING HERE! Make sure you get cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and star anise (THE WHOLE star anise, not just anise seed!). The star anise will smell like black licorice (which I hate), but trust me, it won’t make the Pho taste like that and is so critical to achieve that amazing flavor!
Toss the spices in the Instant Pot and let it get heated up/toasty for a few minutes to release the aromas.
When heated, transfer all the spices to a morter & pestle…
…and crush it up with the pestle…
…until we have nice, coarse chunks of the spices. (If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, you can just wrap the spices in a paper towel and bang with a mallet)
Now take a metal tea ball or spice bag or cheesecloth bag (or whatever has very fine straining holes in it – not large ones)…
…unlock and open it…
…add in the crushed spices…
…and lock the ball back up (or tightly tie your spice bag). Set aside.
Now go back the the Instant Pot and add in some extra virgin olive oil.
Once heated, add in the onion…
…sauteé until browned and even charred on some edges…
…remove from the pot and place in a bowl to set aside for later.
Now, add in the chicken…
…toss in some sesame oil…
…and stir until the chicken is mostly white, with some pink still showing. Deglaze (scrape) the bottom of the pot while cooking.
Add in some crushed garlic…
…some crushed/minced ginger…
…and briefly stir with the chicken in the pot, deglazing (scraping) the bottom of the pot.
Now pour in some chicken broth…
…some beef broth…
..and stir and give the bottom of the pot a really good deglazing (we don’t want any food stuck to it).
Lastly, add in some fish sauce (don’t mind the pungent fragrance or be grossed out. It is 100% necessary to have this ingredient in there and trust me – it will NOT taste as it smells once cooked)…
…and some Hoisin sauce (this stuff smells better and I could even lick it out of the bottle since it’s a sweet and savory smokey sauce).
Take the tea ball and drop it into the broth.
Give it all a final, light stir/deglazing, secure the lid and cook at high pressure.
While the broth’s becoming magical, prepare the topping for your Pho. I used some fresh cilantro leaves, limes cut into wedges, a sliced jalapeño pepper and some bean sprouts – but you can literally use whatever toppings you wish for this (some like mint leaves, thai basil and any other things your belly growls for).
Oh yeah, and those onions. They are, in my opinion, the crown topping.
When done cooking and when the lid comes off, fish out the tea ball and discard the spices.
By now, your kitchen is going to smell so good your mouth will be watering. And can we just take a moment to admire that beautiful colored broth? NO fat to skim off or any of that work. This broth is just about ready to go!
But one final ingredient – add in a little seasoned salt.
And give it a final stir – making sure the soup is nice and hot!
Now it’s time to serve this up. Take nice, deep bowls…
…take some of the rice noodles (which should be good and tender by this point since they sat in the water all this time!)
…and place in the bowl.
Follow with some broth and chicken.
Now top it with the jalapeño, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime…
…and, of course, those perfect onions! Add in some chop sticks, get a big spoon and enjoy some of the QUICKEST, EASIEST and TASTIEST Pho you’ve ever encountered!
- 8 oz of dried Banh Pho rice noodles (these are also known as “rice sticks”). Use either small (linguine-sized) or medium (fettucine-sized) or you can use Pad Thai rice noodles too. The thinner the noodle, the lighter the experience
- 3 whole star anise (not the same thing as anise seed)
- 5 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- 1.5 lbs of chicken tenderloins OR boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced so the pieces are 1/4” wide and about 2” long
- 1 tbsp of crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp crushed/minced ginger (I used Spice World Squeeze Ginger as it’s so easy and has great flavor- Costco has it too!)
- 3 cups of chicken broth (1 tbsp of Chicken Better Than Bouillon + 3 cups of water)
- 3 cups of beef broth (1 tbsp of Beef Better Than Bouillon + 3 cups of water)
- 2 tbsp of fish sauce (don’t mind its pungent fragrance – this ingredient is crucial to the Pho’s rich flavor and it tastes nothing like it smells once cooked)
- 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp of Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced (use 2 onions if you want more for the topping as it’s my favorite one – SO perfectly paired with the broth)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, sliced into discs or cut into 6 wedges
- 14 oz can of bean sprouts, drained (or use fresh bean sprouts if you can find them!)
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Before you do anything else, bring a large pot of water (8 cups/2 quarts) to a boil on the stove. When the water’s boiling, turn off the heat (DO NOT allow it to continue to boil) and submerge the cluster of rice noodles (8 oz is usually more than enough) in the heated water, making sure all of the noodles are covered by the water. After a minute, stir occasionally so the noodles break up, allowing them to soak the water up and soften while you prepare the rest of the Pho. Set aside with the noodles remaining in the water until just before serving time (Note: The reason we aren’t cooking the noodles with the Pho broth is because rice noodles are very delicate and will be a disaster if cooked at high pressure. Also, we do not boil rice noodles in water for a period of time like we do with Italian pasta. We simply pour the boiling water over the noodles, let them sit and absorb the hot water and stir occasionally. This is because Italian pasta and rice noodles are very different noodles with different ingredients – egg vs. rice)
- Place the star anise, cloves and cinnamon sticks in the Instant Pot. Hit “Sauté” and Adjust so it’s on the “More” or “High” setting. Heat/toast the spices for 5 minutes, flipping midway through. When done, remove all remnants of the spices from the pot, place in a bowl and coarsely (not finely) crush with a mortar and pestle (or fold in between some dish/paper towels and pound with a mallet). Once crushed, place the spices in a metal tea ball or spice bag (or use my tea bag hack) and lock it shut (Note: These spices are 100% crucial to the broth’s flavor – especially since we’re doing this Pho the super shortcut route. Be sure to use these spices)
- Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot. Once hot, add the onion strands and let them cook until nicely browned giving them some nice color. Remove and set aside when done
- Add the chicken to the pot, immediately pouring the sesame oil over it and constantly stir until the chicken is coated and mostly white in color (about 2 minutes and it’s okay if some is still pink – it shouldn’t be fully cooked yet)
- Add the garlic and ginger, stirring often for 1 minute and deglazing (scraping) the bottom of the pot with a mixing spoon
- Add in the chicken broth, beef broth, chicken, hoisin sauce, fish sauce and deglaze the bottom of the pot once more. Lastly, add in the securely locked tea ball with the crushed spices. Secure the lid and cook at high pressure for 7 minutes. Quick release when done, remove the tea ball (unlock and discard the spices), and stir in the seasoned salt
- When ready to serve, transfer the desired amount of noodles from the soaking pot (the water will be very cloudy by now which is good as it removed a lot of the starch) and place in large serving bowls. Top with some cooked onion, a few bean sprouts, some cilantro, a few jalapeno slices and a lime wedge (You can also add whatever else makes you happy – that’s part of the beauty of a Pho!)
This makes 3-4 good sized bowls of Pho. If you want more, double the whole recipe!
Want it spicier than just the jalapeños? Add some Sriracha or when in the bowl!
If you wish to use beef instead of chicken, the broth ingredients remains exactly the same, just minus the chicken itself. Get about 1 lb of London broil, flank steak, brisket or even filet mignon. BUT, instead of cooking the beef with the broth like we did the chicken, get a super amazing knife and make paper thin slices (like 1/8″) and place a few slices of the raw beef over the noodles in your bowl (your butcher may be able to slice it this thin for you if you don’t have a knife precise enough to make these cuts). Make sure the broth is boiling hot (if it isn’t once the lid comes off, bring the pot to “Sauté” on “High or “More” until it bubbles). Then, immediately ladle the broth over the noodles and beef, submerging the beef in the hot broth and, due to its thinness, it will cook itself within 5 minutes and will be ready to eat ?
If you want to add shrimp, just bring the pot to a boil on “Sauté” once it’s finished cooking the soup and when the tea ball has been removed, toss in the desired amount of shrimp (use RAW, peeled shrimp with tails on or off) and let cook for about 5 minutes until pinkish-white in color and curled-up.
As mentioned, this is by no means the traditional and very time consuming method of making a Pho. I’ve had many a Pho from many different establishments that was made the traditional way and they ALL tasted different, but equally as grand. The flavor of this Pho is right up there amongst the tastiest of them.