Pho Ingredients: Does It Contain Shellfish?

If you are a shellfish lover, you may wonder whether or not your favorite Vietnamese noodle soup, pho, contains any shellfish. Pho is a popular dish that originated in Vietnam and has become widely available in many parts of the world. It typically consists of broth, rice noodles, meat (usually beef or chicken), and various herbs and vegetables. However, there are different variations of pho, and some may contain ingredients that people with shellfish allergies should avoid.

In this article, we will explore the question, “Does pho have shellfish?” and provide you with all the information you need to know about shellfish and pho.

What Are Shellfish Allergies?

What Are Shellfish Allergies
What Are Shellfish Allergies

Before we dive into the topic, let’s first understand what shellfish allergies are. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, shellfish allergy is one of the most common food allergies, affecting around 7 million Americans. Shellfish include crustaceans (such as crabs, lobsters, and shrimp) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, and oysters).

Symptoms of shellfish allergies can range from mild to severe and may include hives, itching, swelling of the face, throat, or tongue, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and anaphylaxis.

Pho Ingredients: Does Pho Have Shellfish?

Pho Ingredients Does Pho Have Shellfish
Pho Ingredients Does Pho Have Shellfish

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that typically includes rice noodles, meat (usually beef or chicken), and a flavorful broth made with a variety of herbs and spices. While pho can be a delicious and satisfying dish for many people, those with shellfish allergies may wonder if it’s safe for them to eat.

In general, pho does not contain shellfish as an ingredient. The most common version of the soup called pho bo, is made with beef, while another popular variation, pho ga, is made with chicken. Neither of these meats typically contains shellfish or shellfish-derived ingredients.

However, it’s important to note that some restaurants may use shellfish or shellfish-based products in their pho broths. This could include ingredients like shrimp paste or oyster sauce, which are used to add flavor to the soup. Additionally, some restaurants may prepare their pho in the same kitchen space as shellfish dishes, which could lead to cross-contamination.

If you have a shellfish allergy or sensitivity, it’s important to communicate your needs clearly to the restaurant staff when ordering pho. Ask about the ingredients in the broth and any potential cross-contamination risks. You may also want to consider bringing your own shellfish-free seasoning or condiments to flavor your soup, just to be on the safe side.

Overall, while pho does not inherently contain shellfish, it’s still important to exercise caution and do your research before consuming this dish if you have a shellfish allergy or sensitivity.

Pros and Cons of Eating Pho

Pros and Cons of Eating Pho
Pros and Cons of Eating Pho

If you are not allergic to shellfish, pho can be a healthy and delicious meal. It’s low in fat and calories and high in protein and fiber. Here are some pros and cons of eating pho:


  • Nutritious: Pho is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the herbs and vegetables used in the broth.
  • Low-fat: Traditional beef or chicken pho is low in fat, making it a great option for people on a low-calorie or low-fat diet.
  • High in protein: Pho contains a good amount of protein from the meat and noodles, which can help keep you full for longer.
  • Gluten-free: Rice noodles used in pho are gluten-free, making it a safe option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.


  • High in sodium: Pho broth can be high in sodium, which may contribute to high blood pressure or other health problems.
  • High in carbs: Rice noodles used in pho are high in carbs, so it may not be suitable for people on a low-carb diet.
  • Not vegetarian-friendly: Traditional pho contains beef or chicken, making it unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans.

How to Make Pho at Home

If you want to enjoy pho without worrying about shellfish or any other allergens, you can try making it at home. Here’s an easy recipe for traditional beef pho:


  • 2 pounds beef bones (knuckle bones, shin bones, oxtail)
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 ginger root (3 inches), sliced
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound beef sirloin, thinly sliced
  • Rice noodles (16 ounces)
  • Fresh herbs (Thai basil, cilantro, mint)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Lime wedges
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the beef bones on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes until browned.
  2. Rinse the bones with cold water and place them in a large stockpot. Add 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds.
  4. Simmer for at least 6 hours, skimming the broth occasionally and adding more water if needed.
  5. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. You can refrigerate the brothovernight to remove the fat or use a fat separator to remove excess fat.
  6. Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions, and divide them into serving bowls.
  7. Arrange the thinly sliced beef on top of the noodles.
  8. Ladle the hot broth over the beef and noodles.
  9. Serve with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and sriracha sauce.

By making pho at home, you can customize the ingredients and avoid any potential allergens.

Alternatives to Pho

If you have a shellfish allergy or simply don’t like pho, there are other Vietnamese dishes you can try that don’t contain shellfish. Here are some alternatives:

  • Bun cha: A dish made with grilled pork meatballs served with noodles, herbs, and dipping sauce.
  • Banh mi: A sandwich made with crusty bread, pickled vegetables, meat (usually pork), and mayonnaise.
  • Goi cuon: Fresh spring rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, shrimp or pork, herbs, and vegetables, served with dipping sauce.
  • Com tam: Broken rice served with grilled meat (pork, chicken, or beef), egg, and vegetables.

Tips for Eating Out with a Shellfish Allergy

Tips for Eating Out with a Shellfish Allergy
Tips for Eating Out with a Shellfish Allergy

If you have a shellfish allergy, it’s important to be cautious when eating out, especially in restaurants that serve seafood or Asian cuisine. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Read menus carefully and ask your server about the ingredients if you’re unsure.
  • Avoid ordering dishes that contain shellfish or may be cross-contaminated with shellfish.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) at all times in case of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Consider dining at restaurants that specialize in allergy-friendly cuisine or have separate allergy protocols in place.


So, does pho have shellfish? In summary, traditional beef or chicken pho doesn’t contain shellfish. However, some variations of pho (such as seafood pho) may contain shellfish, so it’s important to ask your server about the ingredients if you have a shellfish allergy. If you’re unsure, consider making pho at home with safe ingredients or trying other Vietnamese dishes that don’t contain shellfish.

Remember to always be cautious when eating out if you have a shellfish allergy, and carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times. By following these tips, you can safely enjoy Vietnamese cuisine without worrying about allergens.


  1. Is pho gluten-free? Rice noodles used in pho are gluten-free, but you should always check the ingredients to make sure.
  2. Can vegetarians eat pho? Traditional pho contains beef or chicken, but there are vegetarian options available at some restaurants or by making it at home with vegetable broth.
  3. Is it safe to reheat leftover pho? Yes, you can reheat leftover pho in a pot on the stove or in the microwave until heated through.
  4. Can I use different meats in pho? Yes, you can use different meats such as pork or seafood in pho, just make sure to ask about the ingredients if you have any allergies.
  5. Is pho spicy? Pho can be spicy depending on the herbs and spices used in the broth, but you can adjust the level of spiciness by adding more or less chili peppers or hot sauce.
About Yen Le

Welcome to Bunker Vietnamese, a website dedicated to exploring the diverse world of Vietnamese cuisine. As a proud Vietnamese-American, my passion for cooking and sharing my cultural heritage has led me to create this platform. Join me on this culinary journey and discover the vibrant flavors and textures that make Vietnamese food so unique and delicious.

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