Is Soy Sauce a Common Ingredient in Pho? Find Out Here

Pho is a popular Vietnamese dish that has gained popularity all around the world. This delicious soup comprises rice noodles, herbs, meat or tofu, and a hot broth that is usually made from beef bones. But one question that often comes to mind is does pho contain soy sauce. This article will explore this topic in detail and provide all the information you need.

What is Pho?

Before diving into the topic, let’s understand what Pho is. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is typically served with beef or chicken. This soup is traditionally served for breakfast in Vietnam and is considered a national dish. It is made by simmering beef bones, onions, ginger, and spices for several hours to create a flavorful broth. Rice noodles are then added to the broth along with thinly sliced beef or chicken, fresh herbs, and bean sprouts.

Does Pho Contain Soy Sauce? Debunking the Myths

Does Pho Contain Soy Sauce Debunking the Myths
Does Pho Contain Soy Sauce Debunking the Myths

The question of whether or not pho recipes call for soy sauce as an ingredient is complex, as the answer can be both yes and no. Traditionally, pho recipes do not include soy sauce as a component in their broth. However, some restaurants may opt to add soy sauce to the broth to enhance its flavor.

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that typically consists of beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, various herbs and spices, and meat (usually beef or chicken). The broth is the cornerstone of this dish, and it typically takes hours to make, as it involves simmering bones, meat, and various aromatic ingredients like onions, ginger, and star anise to create a rich, flavorful liquid.

Traditionally, soy sauce is not one of the ingredients that are used in pho broth. Instead, the broth relies on more subtle flavors like fish sauce and rock sugar to achieve its distinctive taste. However, some restaurants may choose to add soy sauce to their broth as a way of enhancing or adjusting the flavor.

It’s worth noting that while soy sauce is not typically used as an ingredient in pho broth, hoisin sauce, which contains soybean paste, is sometimes used as a condiment for the soup. This sweet and savory sauce is usually served alongside the pho and can be added to the broth or used as a dip for the meat.

In summary, the answer to whether or not pho recipes include soy sauce is both yes and no. While traditional recipes do not call for soy sauce in the broth, some restaurants may choose to add it as a way of enhancing the flavor. Additionally, hoisin sauce, which contains soybean paste, is sometimes used as a condiment for the soup.

Pros and Cons of Adding Soy Sauce to Pho

Pros and Cons of Adding Soy Sauce to Pho
Pros and Cons of Adding Soy Sauce to Pho

While soy sauce can add flavor to the pho broth, it also has its drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons of adding soy sauce to your pho:


  1. Adds Flavor: Soy sauce can add a savory and salty flavor to the broth, making it more enjoyable to eat.
  2. Umami Boost: Soy sauce has umami flavors that can enhance the overall taste of the pho.
  3. Health Benefits: Soy sauce contains antioxidants and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.


  1. High Sodium Content: Soy sauce is high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems.
  2. Allergies: Soy sauce contains soybeans, which can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  3. Altering the Traditional Flavor: Adding soy sauce to pho alters its traditional flavor and may only be appreciated by some.

Alternatives to Soy Sauce in Pho

Alternatives to Soy Sauce in Pho
Alternatives to Soy Sauce in Pho

If you are looking for alternatives to soy sauce in your pho, here are some options:

  1. Fish Sauce: A common ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce can add a savory and salty flavor to the broth.
  2. Tamari Sauce: Made from fermented soybeans, tamari sauce, is a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce that has a similar flavor profile.
  3. Coconut Aminos: This sauce is made from the sap of coconut blossoms and has a mild, slightly sweet, and salty taste that is similar to soy sauce.

Tips for Making Delicious Pho

Here are some tips to make delicious pho at home:

  1. Use High-Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality beef bones and meat to make the broth and fresh ingredients for the garnishes.
  2. Let it Simmer: The longer you let the broth simmer, the more flavorful it will become.
  3. Don’t Overcook the Noodles: Rice noodles cook quickly, so be sure to check them frequently to avoid overcooking.

How to Make Pho at Home Easy

How to Make Pho at Home Easy
How to Make Pho at Home Easy

Making pho at home may seem intimidating, but it is actually quite simple. Here is a step-by-step guide to making homemade pho:


For the broth:

  • 5 pounds of beef bones
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 12 cups water

For the soup:

  • 1 pound rice noodles
  • 1 pound beef sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Hoisin sauce and sriracha for serving


  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Place the beef bones in a single layer on a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes or until browned.
  2. In a stockpot, add onion, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, and cardamom pods.
  3. Add water to the pot and bring it to a boil. Add the roasted beef bones and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the broth for at least 6 hours, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Keep the broth warm on low heat.
  5. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for 15 minutes or until softened. Drain and set aside.
  6. Boil a pot of water and cook the sliced beef for 1 minute. Remove the beef from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  7. To serve, divide the noodles among four bowls. Top each bowl with beef slices, scallions, cilantro, and mint leaves.
  8. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and garnishes. Serve with lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and sriracha.

Compare: Pho vs Ramen

Pho and ramen are two popular noodle soups that are often compared. Here are some differences between the two:

BrothBeef bones, spicesPork or chicken, soy sauce, miso, or salt
NoodlesRice noodlesWheat noodles
ToppingsBean sprouts, herbsSoft-boiled egg, seaweed, pork belly

The Best Places to Try Pho

If you are looking for the best places to try pho, here are some recommendations:

  1. Pho 79 – Westminster, California
  2. Pho Bang New York – New York, New York
  3. Anh Hong – Houston, Texas
  4. Pho Hoa – Vancouver, British Columbia
  5. Pho Van – Portland, Oregon


So, does pho contain soy sauce? Pho is a delicious dish that can be enjoyed with or without soy sauce. While traditional pho recipes do not call for soy sauce, some restaurants may use it as an ingredient. If you want to avoid soy sauce, there are several alternatives available that can add flavor to your pho. Remember to use high-quality ingredients and let the broth simmer for a long time to achieve maximum flavor.


  1. Is pho gluten-free? Pho is typically gluten-free, but some restaurants may use wheat-based noodles. If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, be sure to ask your server if their pho is gluten-free.
  2. Can vegetarians and vegans eat pho? Yes, vegetarians and vegans can enjoy pho by using tofu or vegetable broth instead of meat.
  3. Is pho healthy to eat? Pho can be a healthy meal option as it contains vegetables and lean protein. However, the nutritional value may vary depending on the ingredients used.
  4. What are some common pho toppings? Common pho toppings include bean sprouts, lime wedges, Thai basil, cilantro, jalapenos, and hoisin sauce.
About Mai Tran

As Mai Tran, the author of the Bunker Vietnamese website specializing in Vietnamese food, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all my readers. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I have always had a deep appreciation for the rich and diverse flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Through my website, I aim to share my passion for cooking and my cultural heritage with the world. From traditional recipes passed down through generations to modern twists on classic dishes, my website is a celebration of the vibrant and delicious world of Vietnamese food. Join me on this culinary journey and discover the beauty and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine.

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