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Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe

Posted November 6, 2017 by Mike

Like many Vietnamese families who escaped Vietnam after the war, my family was dirt poor and just starting over when I was growing up. The first month dad started a business, we only had $20 left over for food, so that month we ate nothing but instant noodles. I love instant noodles so never saw a problem with that situation then or now, but my dad always feels bad about it when the topic comes up.

Food is really, really important in my family. When my mom was a young girl in Vietnam, she made a living selling food at the market, and always bought herself something different at the market to eat each day as well. Except for that one hard month, we had a tradition that every Saturday morning we would always go out for lunch as a treat, and that treat was almost always pho. Pho for 3, especially back in the 80s, was less than $10, and that made it possible for a young family to get out and have a little bit of fun in between all the hard work. And, just like my mom when she was young, each weekend we would go someplace different to try out their pho.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

A few years after Steph and I got married, we did pretty well and were lucky enough to be able to go travelling for a bit, and Steph insisted that we always try a pho place in each city we visit. I’m pretty confident that I’ve personally eaten at hundreds of different pho restaurants with my parents growing up, and Steph and I have had pho in places as far and wide as Switzerland, Spain (shown below), Colombia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and of course, most any major city in North America.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

So, having established our pho credentials, you can trust this recipe to not steer you wrong, and anyone can make it – it’s pretty much the world’s easiest pho recipe. You need an instant pot, but if you don’t have one, just leave it on the stove and wait as your house fills up with the smell of slow braised beef. If you’re interested in geeking out about pho, here are some notes, but you can just jump to the recipe and make it instead.

The Broth

A good pho is a well made beef broth with charred aromatics, sweetened with sugar, and seasoned with fish sauce. Traditionally this was made with bones, but for this recipe we are going with a cheap cut of meat. I’m a sucker for whatever cut is on sale, and lately we’ve gravitated towards a cut from the ribs called finger meat, which I feel has the perfect ratio of connective tissue, fat, and meat for an incredible pho broth. With such a simple recipe, what you put in is what you get out, and a cut of meat with some connective tissue and fat goes a long way. But really, any cheap cut of meat will do. Because it’s an easy pressure cooked recipe, we’re not going to par boil the scum away (because the low agitation of a pressure cooker means you’ll get a mostly clear broth anyway), but if you’re doing it on the stove top, boil the meat for 5 minutes at a rapid boil to agitate any scum out, drain the water, wash the pot, and refill with cold water to get a super clear broth.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

A note on fat content: Any good noodle soup needs fat for the broth to stick to the noodle and pho is no exception. If you prefer to control the fat content of your pho (and can wait a few hours before eating) this is a trick I learned from Ivan Ramen: 1. Leave the pho in the fridge until the fat solidifies. 2. Scoop it out into a small saucepan. 3. Melt it over low heat. 4. Strain into a small container. The fat will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and you can measure out exactly how much each bowl will have. Add at least a teaspoon to each bowl of pho you make; unless you’re crazy about living fat free, your tastebuds will thank you for it. We do this when making ramen, but for pho we just go with whatever fat is in the meat we use.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -


Charred aromatics are the key to a great pho, and the easiest, most lazy way to char your aromatics is by putting them all on a sheet tray and blow torching them all at once. I like to use a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, star anise, shallots, and onions. If I’m making the pho just for myself (as in not even for Steph) I’ll double the star anise, but that can be off-putting to some. You should seriously consider getting a good blow torch if you don’t have one because they are cheap and insanely useful, but you can also char over a gas range, on an outdoor grill, or under the oven broiler. If you are charring over a gas range, just char the ginger, onions, cinnamon stick, and shallots.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe - Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -


Pho is about balance, but not necessarily subtlety. Personally speaking, I like my pho to be extra, so any pho I make right out of the pot will seem too sweet. Adding the fish sauce will counter balance the sweetness, and the customary squeeze of lime at the table will bring the brightness to offset the umami bomb you just made. The recipe below is a middle ground sort of sweet, but if I made it just for me I’d double that amount of sugar. The sugar it calls for is rock sugar, which you should be able to get just about anywhere, but if you can’t, brown sugar will do in a pinch. Rock sugar is prettier though.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

Fish Sauce

Not all fish sauces are equal, and you really do get what you pay for, especially when you can never pay more than $10 or so. You don’t necessarily need super high end Red Boat brand, but if you’re at the supermarket and see something called nouc mam nhi, go for that one, it’s basically the equivalent of first press or extra virgin fish sauce, and is always a good bet.

The Noodles

If you can, get fresh pho noodles, but if you can’t, the dried stuff works too. Sometimes the noodles will be called rice stick or Thai rice stick noodles. Medium thickness is best. If you’re using dried noodles, soak them one hour to overnight and in either case, let the heat of the broth cook both the fresh or dried noodles.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

The Meat

Pho is beloved not just for its broth but the meaty toppings. Sirloin, well done brisket, flank, tripe, meatballs, the list goes on and on. Anyone who has been eating pho for awhile will tell you that dac biet (which is every meat the restaurant has) is the way to go, and it’s what I order in a restaurant, but at home, you may not want to go that nuts. For me though, a good pho should have 2-3 different meats. If you make this with finger meat, flank, or brisket, you should have some nice well done meat, and to that I’d recommend some beef meatballs, either homemade or from a Vietnamese deli, sirloin that’s been thinly sliced and allowed to cook in the broth (buy sirloin roast to get the nice round pieces), and, for the truly adventurous, omasum. Warning: don’t google ‘omasum’ unless you know what you are getting into.

The Toppings

Thai basil, jalapeños, and limes at the table are basically mandatory everywhere, but we also like to have a dish of mixed chopped onions and cilantro, Mexican style. Hoisin and sriracha sauces are always welcome as well, despite what Bon Appétit said about that.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -

Last Words

I’ve never actually made pho for my parents because I’ve never felt it was good enough (and they have pretty strong opinions). I’ve been hyping up this recipe to them a lot though, and I think it’s going to be the one. Only thing is, it won’t be me making it because Steph has already stolen it for her own (she did the cooking in these photos) and plans to make it for our next in-law dinner together. I’m looking forward to it, and will update with my parents reaction. Stay tuned!

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe
Serves 4

  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 1 shallot, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 5 star anise
  • 2 inches ginger
  • 50g (approx 1/4 cup) rock sugar
  • 1 kg (2.2lbs) beef*
  • fish sauce to taste

To serve:

  • 1lb sirloin roast
  • 8 meatballs (2 per bowl)
  • omasum (highly optional)
  • bean sprouts
  • limes
  • Thai basil
  • cilantro & onion (rough chopped)
  • jalapeno
  • sriracha
  • hoisin

Arrange the onion, shallot, cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander seeds, and star anise on a heat proof baking sheet and blow torch until fragrant. Alternately, char on an outdoor grill, over a gas range, or in an oven broiler.

Transfer charred aromatics along with sugar and meat to Instant Pot/Pressure cooker. Fill to the max fill line with water, about 4 quarts. Set pressure to high and cook time to 35 minutes and cook. Quick release the pressure when cooking time is completed.

Once cool enough to taste, add fish sauce 1 tablespoon at a time until it’s just about overseasoned. If you go too far, just add water. You may optionally strain the pho at this point to get as clear of a broth as possible.

To serve:

Place noodles and meat in a bowl and cover with hot broth. Serve with a plate of bean sprouts, limes, Thai basil, rough chopped onion and cilantro and jalapeno. Have small dipping plates of sriracha and hoisin sauces for each person.

Notes: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, gentle simmer the beef for 4-6 hours.
*We used finger meat in this recipe but the choice of cut is up to you.

Authentic Instant Pot Pho Recipe -


  1. chloe says:

    This sounds so delicious!

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how much water do you add along with the aromatics/sugar/meat into the instant pot?

    1. Mike says:

      That’s a great question, I completely forgot to mention the most important step! It’s 4 quarts or so, fill right up to the max fill line. Thanks for catching that.

      1. chloe says:

        Thanks so much. Can’t wait to try it!!

        1. Mike says:

          Just realized: make sure you’re filling to the pressure cooker max fill line, not total max capacity

  2. Alex says:

    What are your thoughts about the Instant Pot? I’ve been eyeing it up for a while now but have been intimidated by comments about the learning curve on using it properly…

    1. Mike says:

      It’s incredible. It’s become: “what should we have for dinner?” “I don’t know, let’s make something with the Instant Pot” in our house. Highly recommended, there’s very little learning curve, at least the way we use it.

  3. Andrea says:

    I used pressure cooker for almost 60 years. Yes, I’m that old and I still cook from scratch. I never use the p. cooker for soup, where the flavours need time to get out off the meat. P.cooker makes it soft quickly. If you want the flavor to stay in , than use it. Very good to cook smoked meat, potatoes, root vegetables. Experiment with your time of cooking and do not force to open the pot under pressure.

  4. Em says:

    This looks so delicious! I’ve never tried cooking anything with rock sugar (I usually just ate it straight as a kid), but I’ll have to try this one out :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. Kristina says:

    I loved reading about your family, it reminded me so much of my parent’s stories of when they first moved to America from Hong Kong. It’s incredible how strongly a single dish can make such an impact on our families! I’m going to have to try out this recipe soon!

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks Kristina, totally agree on the impact of single dishes on your life – although I have dozens of those, haha

  6. CRAIG HAWLEY says:

    Another tip for a clearer broth: natural release. Manually releasing the pressure will cause the broth to boil/agitate.

  7. Rozita says:

    I love Pho. Especially Bun Ga Hue. Could you enlighten me – what is added to make it spicy? What is the red the paste to make it specially spicy? I can’t seem to get that specific taste! Thanks.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi rozita,

      we’re putting up a recipe for bun bo hue soon!

      1. Kim says:

        Ohhhh please let me know when. That’s one of my favorites!!!

  8. Andy says:

    What do you do with the ginger. I see it says 2 inches when and where do you use it?

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Andy, you char or roast it along with the other aromatics (star anise, ginger, etc) and put it in with the meat to make the broth.

  9. Jackie says:

    I just got an Instant Pot and I’m determined to make pho at home! I’ve only ever made broth with bones before, so I’m a bit confused… Do you eat the meat that you used to make the broth, or is that discarded?

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Jackie – you should definitely eat the meat, if you’ve had pho at a restaurant before it’ll be similar to what’s usually the menu as well done flank

    2. Stephanie says:

      you eat it – it’ll have the texture of the well done brisket that you usually get at pho restaurants. you could also do thinly sliced sirloin/steak too, the way you see in pho restaurants.

  10. Mackenzie says:

    I’m so curious–how did your parents react? My husband loves Pho and I am so excited to make this for him!

    1. Mike says:

      Update: I still haven’t made it for them.

  11. Frank says:

    Hey there, thanks a million for this recipe. I literally just cleaned up the Instant Pot after making this. I did use a few oxtails along with some of those ribs you used. When it came out it was very fatty though. Like, verrry fatty. Really affects the flavor in a not pleasant way. I’m chilling it overnight to try to scrape off a layer. I can’t even taste test it to add in the fish sauce. I did add 1 tablespoon for now, but I’m afraid of overdoing it so I’ll wait until I can lower the fat and warm it back up and add in fish sauce as needed. Any other suggestions? It’s smells great but the taste is just off right now so I can’t really tell how good it is yet. Thanks again!

    1. Mike says:

      Hey Frank, I think you’re absolutely on the right track with chilling it overnight and waiting until tomorrow to season. My only advice is to take out all the solids and strain it before you chill it to make life easier for yourself tomorrow.

  12. Alexandra says:

    Do you have suggestion re: a fish sauce measurement? I am not feeling confident enough to experiment. It’s an unknown ingredient to me. Also, what would your sub measurement be for the use of a standard grind of sugar? Does rock sugar have a different flavour?

    1. Mike says:

      It’s a bit difficult since all fish sauce tastes slightly different, but if you’re following the recipe to a tee, I’d call it 3 tablespoons on the safe side

    2. Tonya says:

      I used half a bottle of fish sauce and it still was a little undersalted.

  13. Vieng Samay says:

    hi, my mom and her family were refugees from Laos and my dad’s family adopted over a dozen refugee boys from Vietnam (even my grandma doesn’t know how many children she has!) so pho has been an important part of my life…always

    I’m moving into my first apartment soon and I look forward to experimenting with this staple to make it my own

    thank you so much for a recipe, since my mother and grandmother and uncles and their wives all have their own particulars for their pho broth but always respond with the cryptic “you just know” when questioned about ratios or measurements

  14. Jenna Lee says:

    This looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it out. What size instant pot are you using? We have an 8qt and a 6qt.

    1. Mike says:

      we have the 6!

  15. J says:

    Followed this recipe and it came out really well! There are a couple of things we changed and might change next time, too:

    – We added about 2-3tsp of salt to the broth because we felt it was overly fishy (we are *not* scared of fish sauce! :) ), but still not salty enough for our tastes
    – We used about 3lbs of beef soup bone, but we don’t think it was beefy enough. Perhaps the bones comprised too much of the weight. We might do 4 or 5 lbs of soup bone next time.
    – We felt that it was just a bit watery initially, so we simmered the broth after pressure cooking until we hit about 2/3 of the fill line. When you say “water to the fill line”, which kind of instant pot is that for? There are 4, 6, and 8 quart instant pots now.
    – We didn’t have a blow torch, and I think we should have more aggressively toasted/burnt the spices before adding. To others about to try this recipe: don’t be afraid to burn your spices and onion a bit! I might even try toasting the ginger next time too, but I might need a blowtorch to get the results I want there in particular.

    1. Mike says:

      We have the 6qt, definitely don’t be afraid to burn the spices, ours are often charred black

  16. Jason S says:

    How much water for the 8qt? Any guess?

    1. Mike says:

      Hey Jason, sorry for the slow response, try about 3/4 to the max fill line.

  17. Shane says:

    Making this tonight. Could you update the recipe to reflect the amount of water (found it in comments) AND what to do with the ginger (also found that.) 😩

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Shane,

      It’s approx 6 quarts of water or just fill to the max fill line on your instant pot. The ginger gets charred and thrown in with the rest of the aromatics.

  18. Amanda says:

    When adding the aromatics and meat to make the broth, does the “meat” in this case refer to JUST the 1kg Beef, and NOT the toppings (sirloin/brisket/meatballs etc)? With that being the case, the meat for toppings would need to be prepared separately?

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Amanda, the meat refers to just the 1kg beef. Most of the toppings should simply be heated in boiling water when you are ready to serve – with the exception of brisket and flank, which need to be cooked for longer and can be cooked with the 1kg beef in the instant pot if you would like.

  19. Bobbi says:

    I can’t have sugar but want to make this for me and someone else who can. Can I make the broth take some out for me then add sugar or does it need to cook with the broth the whole time?

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Bobbi – you can definitely add the sugar in later. Bring the extra portion of broth back up to a boil after you’ve added the sugar to dissolve it. Sugar should be added to taste so if you can’t taste it, you might want to have someone else double check after you’ve added all the seasoning.

  20. maci says:

    How long am I supposed to char the aromatics? I have to use oven broiler. I have never charred anything before.

  21. maci says:

    How long am I supposed to char the aromatics? I have to use oven broiler.

    1. Mike says:

      about 3-5 minutes if you’re on the middle rack but keep an eye on them so they don’t burn

  22. Meems says:

    Lao/Viet husband: “Best pho ever”
    Me: 😇

  23. Emma says:

    What will the broth taste like without the fish sauce? Is it necessary?

    1. Mike says:

      It’s not totally necessary, you can use salt instead to season, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of umami. It sounds like you’ve never tried out fish sauce before, and if so I’d go salt, but if you want to take a leap, this fish sauce is good and easy to find at any grocery store.

  24. MsPurple says:

    My Lao hubs is addicted! Thx for the tips. This is the real deal xo

  25. Jos says:

    I notice you didn’t even blanch the beef for the broth. Wouldn’t it make the broth cloudy and not as clear?

    1. Mike says:

      this is a taste-first easy-second looks-third kind of recipe; without bones in the broth and a high quality cut of meat it should not be very cloudy – you can see the cloud level to expect from any of our top down shots

  26. Theresa says:

    I’m going to have to make this. There’s a Hmong restaurant about an hour from me that makes wonderful pho, but too far away to have on any regular basis. Besides, I needed more recipes for my InstantPot.

  27. AC says:

    Hi, Steph! I just made this tonight and loved it. The husband did mention that there was something that was “missing”, that kept it from tasting like good old SGV or Westminster pho. He felt like it was msg? I really don’t like adding msg to my dishes…is there anything I can do to deepen the flavor without adding it in? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi! i would season it with more fish sauce and sugar! fish sauce will definitely add more depth of flavor and you’d be surprised how much sugar will help too. hope that helps!

  28. Kathleen says:

    Hi. I’m making the pho right now and scoured the San Jose area looking for beef finger meat without any luck. I love the idea that I can just put in meat rather than the bones, so there is much less issue of having to put it into the refrigerator to “defat” it. That being said, can you recommend two or three other types of beef to use if I never am able to find the finger meat?

    Also, I put the spices and sugar in a cheesecloth bag. Is that what you recommend to do so that you wouldn’t have to strain it?

    1. Mike says:

      Hi Kathleen,

      Try a flank steak or brisket, or failing all that, a chuck roast.

  29. Ryan says:

    Hi – great recipe! I’ve obsessed with pho for quite a while, and was thrilled to find a way to make decent pho in an Instant Pot. I’ve now made this about 4 times. I love it, but I also do feel that it is missing something to really bring it over the top. I’m wondering if anyone has any opinions on:
    A) what is the best type of cooking meat to use? I’ve used several ‘cheap’ cuts, thinking why would I spend a lot just to boil all the flavor out and not eat it (I know Mike says to eat it too, but I tried it and it’s not that good IMO), and…
    B) Do you guys think pressure cooking it for longer will yield a richer broth? I’m willing to do this if that means the broth will be richer for sure. I like the ‘delicate’ flavor this recipe creates, but I can’t help but notice restaurant quality pho has a deeper, denser flavor. When I’ve added and added premium fish sauce, there is a definitely a point of it being too much, yet still short of that rich beefy flavor I’m accustomed to taking home from the restaurants. Has anyone achieved this using this recipe as a base and making an adjustment? Thanks!

  30. Toni Favacho says:

    Can i use raw sugar? Dont have rock

    1. Stephanie says:


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