dinner/meat/noodles/recipes/soup/vietnamese food

Oxtail Pho Recipe

Posted June 28, 2013 by Stephanie

If you’ve never had pho, you’re missing out. Slippery, thin rice noodles, flavourful meat, savoury stock and a bunch of fresh herbs make a bowl of pho something to covet when you’re looking for something filling, yet light. It’s simple enough to head out to a Vietnamese restaurant for a quick bowl, but if you’re looking for a particularly morish bowl of noodles, you should make the stock yourself. Yes, it’s a two day process, but this stock is like all good things: all the more sweet because it was worth the wait.

This recipe uses oxtails to create a rich, deep, luxurious stock. Most pho recipes call for leg bones, but I went for all oxtails. I can’t say if there’s a difference between using leg bones or oxtails because I haven’t tried it myself, but the oxtail-only broth was some of the most intensely beef-y broth I’ve had.


Even though this recipe is time consuming, it’s mostly hands off. You might be tempted to skip out on hard boiling the bones the first time around, but it’s an important step that results in a clear soup. Don’t forget to char your aromatics as well, it lends a complexity to your soup that you won’t get if you just pop in raw onions and ginger. This pho takes a bit of effort, but at the end of it all you’ll have a giant bowl of noodles swimming in beefy deliciousness. Oh, and hoisin and sriracha are a must!


i am robust, i am savoury: i am oxtail pho!

Oxtail Pho Recipe
makes two giant bowls of pho, or four regular size ones


  • 1 3-4 inch chunk of ginger
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 2 pounds oxtail
  • 5 quarts water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 small daikon, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

To serve

  • pho noodles
  • sliced green onions
  • roughly chopped cilantro
  • red chilis
  • Thai basil
  • lime wedges
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha

Toast your ginger and onions in the oven on broil until the onions are sweaty everything is nicely charred. Peel the ginger and onions and set aside until you’re ready to start your broth.

Toast the coriander seeds, cloves, and star anise in a dry pan on low heat until they are aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Tie the spices up in cheesecloth for easy removal from your soup.

Put your oxtail pieces in a large pot with cold water and bring to a hard boil for 5-10 minutes to force the scum and impurities out. Drain, rinse the oxtails and wash your pot.

Fill your clean pot with about 5 quarts of water and add the oxtail, ginger, onions, spice packet, cinnamon stick, carrots, and daikon. Bring to a boil and lower to a very gentle simmer, uncovered. Simmer for as long as you can; reducing it will intensify the flavour. I let my broth simmer for about 4 hours until the water reduced to 3 quarts. At this point take out the oxtails and set aside. Remove everything else from the stock and discard. Strain the stock into a new clean pot and cool before putting in the fridge overnight.

Remove the meat from the oxtails and discard the bones. Shred the meat, cover and put in the fridge for the next day.

The next day a large amount of fat will have coagulated on the top of your stock. Skim and discard. Gently heat the stock up and season with fish sauce and sugar. Add the sugar and fish sauce in increments until you’re happy with the flavour. Bring the stock to a roiling boil.

Prepare your noodles according to the package, strain and place in a large bowl. Add a generous amount of oxtail meat (the stock will heat the meat up), top with broth, and garnishes. Enjoy!



  1. Eli's mom says:

    Gorgeous image of a bowl of pho! :)

  2. madscar says:

    This is amazing:) I love it!

  3. b-to-the-rian says:

    i’ve tried Pho a handful of times at local spots in STL and it was different degrees of awful but everyone i know that loves food ravs about it. seeing how your blog has increased my food cred 1000% with my non-food foodie friends, this is getting made tonight. i can’t wait, looks and sounds amazing

  4. Mary Frances says:

    Wow, this looks fantastic! :)

  5. This recipe looks really good. I can’t wait it give it a try.

  6. Connie says:

    This recipe looks amazing! I love pho and am definitely going to try making this! :)

  7. Emma says:

    It may take two days to make but this is still the simplest beef pho recipe I’ve come across (that doesn’t cheat and use bought stock) – can’t wait to try it, as I can always get hold of oxtail but it’s much harder for me to get beef bones for broth.

  8. Llora says:

    yU!MMY! im inlove with ur blog!… takoyaki recipe got me here and i also followed you in pinterest and instagram! thanks :)

  9. Maria V says:

    I’m going to try your recipe this weekend but wanted clarification as to when the carrots and daikon are added since it’s not mentioned in the instructions. I would assume they’re added along with the ginger, onions, and spices, but I may be wrong.

  10. Just ate this for dinner. So good. Love the charred onion and ginger. What a great way to use oxtail.

  11. Looks delicious. Going on our menu for next week!

  12. Kathy says:

    I have never had pho as good as my moms and it’s totally because she uses ox tail to make the broth. I can’t wait to try to make pho for the first time.

  13. Sheldon says:

    What’s the daikon in the recipe for?? Aromatic for the broth?

    1. steph says:

      yes, it makes the broth slightly sweeter.

  14. LAH says:

    Your instructions left out when to add the carrots and daikon.

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      thanks! i added them into the instructions :)

  15. Vicki says:

    Is fish sauce used to replace salt in this recipe?

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      yes, but if you want to do half salt and half fish sauce, you could do that too. don’t skip out on the fish sauce though, it adds a lot of flavor :)

  16. claudia says:

    This is my first time cooking with oxtail and found your recipe. Very excited to make it. When simmering the broth for the longer stretch, is it covered or uncovered. I’m thinking uncovered so it will reduce, as you mention, but don’t want to assume because we all know that’s not a good idea!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi claudia!
      yes, uncovered. i’ll update the recipe. hope you like the pho :)

      1. claudia says:

        Thank you, and for being so prompt. I simmered uncovered and it reduced just as you said in 4 hours. I am eating it right now and it is so good! Also, because of your post I looked up the word morish, an excellent word now added to my vocabulary. : )

  17. Chris Glenn says:

    Stephanie: Truly amazing web site, I’m 71, I have been taking “pictures since I was 8, I know what it takes to get the kind of pictures and food styling you are doing…truly supper amazing!
    To those that are having trouble finding bones to make soup and stock, a word of advice:
    One of the best investments of time and effort is to become really good friends with a butcher, patronize him only, give recommendations and ask your friends to tell the butcher you sent them to him…he will bend over backwards to see that you are happy! (As I am sure you are aware…it’s a cutthroat world out there in the grocery business!) This also applies to people that supply you with veggies, bread and etc.

  18. Miryam Azrhari says:

    I have been looking for good pho recipe in a long time, and I think I finally found the perfect one. Your instructions were pretty easy to follow. Normally I mess up most of the recipes I try, but because you explained it so well I didn’t mess up this time! Also, I never tried putting sriracha. Thank you for adding that to your to serve list, it tasted really good. However, the pho itself was the best pho I have ever eaten. I also tried a lot of your other recipes, and the food always truns out very tasty. I will definitely try this recipe again and I wish you and your blog the best.

  19. Tom says:

    Giving this a try. Simmering right now. I wonder how necessary the overnight chill is? Simmer long enough and fat should still rise. Thanks for your tips!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi tom,
      the over night chill is just to help to remove the fat/clarify a bit so if you don’t have a problem with it, go ahead and eat it right away!

  20. Ira says:

    Hi, would you be posting a version of this for the instant pot any time soon? I made the chicken pho with instant pot and it was amazing! Thanks!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi ira,
      we’ll put it on our ever growing to do list! thanks for the idea! there is a instant pot pho without oxtails, if you want to check it out: http://iamafoodblog.com/authentic-instant-pot-pho-recipe/

  21. David Brock says:

    Hi, you mentioned 5 quarts of water. It’s that U.S. quarts or Imperial quarts? Also, if I were cut the water in half I guess I would need to cut the other ingredients as well? Thanks.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi david,
      us quarts and if you wanted to halve it, you can cut everything in half – or you could have a ridiculously rich stock that you could add water to later on. hope that helps :)

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