If you want to make pho from scratch but do not have time for a long simmer in a stockpot, use a pressure cooker. This recipe goes with the post I wrote about how to use the Instant Pot to make my pressure cooker pho recipes in The Pho Cookbook.
Note a few things before diving into this recipe:
Get a 4-pound chicken. Once the giblets and moisture absorbing liner were removed, the chicken below had a net weight that was just above 4 pounds.
When there is a weight measurement in my recipes, use a scale to verify things. This is important on your first time with any of my recipes. A digital scale unfortunately never lies! Go back and forth between metric and imperial to dial in small measurements like that for the cilantro.
Read the “Pho Manual” in the book for 99.9% of the pho knowledge I have (the remaining .1% is boring or distracting). For example, in my kitchen, 1 inch of chubby ginger weighs 1 ounce. The apple is my supermarket workaround for Chinese yellow rock sugar.
Chicken pho is delicate, practically tonic like. Some cooks use the same spices for beef pho as they would for chicken pho. That’s not what I grew up with or what I’ve had in Vietnam. I flavor my chicken pho with coriander seeds, a few whole cloves and fresh cilantro. It’s simple and delicious. You can get the ingredients at a regular supermarket! No tricky dance moves.
Strain through unbleached muslin for clear broth. (If you wonder why I prefer muslin, read this post.) Skim some fat but leave a nice amount. The muslin captures some fat so don’t waste time trying to get it all.
Cut into fine threads, lime leaves are an ultra-traditional pho connoisseur’s garnish! The first photo below was taken by my friend and food stylist Karen Shinto when we were in Hanoi in 2015. It was at a chicken pho shop.
If you have a lime tree, pick some tender leaves. Mine from the garden are Makrut (Thai) lime leaves. Leave out the spine because it’s darn tough to chew.
Mint is fabulous with chicken pho. Its brightness enlivens and refreshes.
Related post: Make Instant Pot Pho from The Pho Cookbook!
Instant Pot Chicken Pho
Yield 4 bowls
To cook in advance, partially cover the unseasoned broth and let cool, then refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months; reheat and season before using. The cooked chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature to use.
This recipe was adapted for the Instant Pot. The original recipe came from my book, The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2017). For more about using the Instant Pot with my pressure cooker pho recipes in the book, check this post.
- 1 (4 lb) whole chicken
- 1 rounded tablespoon coriander seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- Chubby 2-inch section ginger, peeled, thickly sliced, and bruised
- 1 large (10 oz) yellow onion, halved and thickly sliced
- 7 to 7 1/2 cups just-boiled water
- 1 small (4 oz) Fuji apple, peeled, cored, and cut into thumbnail-size chunks
- 3⁄4 cup (.7 oz) coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs
- 2 1⁄4 teaspoons fine sea salt
- About 1 1⁄2 tablespoons fish sauce
- About 1 teaspoon organic sugar, or 2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
- 10 ounces dried narrow flat rice noodles (banh pho or pad Thai noodles)
- About half the cooked chicken from the broth
- 1⁄2 small (2 oz) yellow or red onion, thinly sliced against the grain and soaked in water for 10 minutes
- 2 thinly sliced green onions, green parts only
- 1⁄4 cup (.2 oz) chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- 2 or 3 tender lime leaves, cut into fine threads (omit spines)
- 4 handfuls beansprouts
- 4 to 6 sprigs mint
- 4 to 6 sprigs Thai basil
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 2 Thai chiles or 1 jalapeno, Fresno, or serrano chile, thinly sliced (keep seeds intact)
- Sriracha and/or hoisin sauce
Make the broth
- Rinse the chicken and set aside to drain. Put the coriander seeds and cloves in a 6-quart Instant Pot. Use the Saute and More functions to toast the spices several minutes, stirring, until fragrant. Add the ginger and onion. Stir until aromatic, 45 to 60 seconds, to coax out a bit of flavor. A little browning is okay.
- Add 4 cups of the water to arrest the cooking process. Put the chicken in the cooker, breast side up. Add the apple, cilantro, salt, and 3 to 3 1/2 cups water to barely cover the top of the breast (it will cook by the steam in the IP). Lock the lid in place.
- Program the IP to pressure cook (Manual) on low pressure for 15 minutes. When done, unplug the cooker and let the pressure decrease naturally, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam.
- Let settle for 5 minutes before using tongs to transfer the chicken to a bowl; if parts fall off in transit, don’t worry. Add water to cover the chicken and soak for 10 minutes to cool and prevent drying. Pour off the water, partially cover, and set the chicken aside to cool.
- Skim some fat from the broth before straining it through a muslin-lined mesh strainer positioned over a medium pot. Discard the solids. You should have about 8 cups. Season the broth with the fish sauce, extra salt, and perhaps the sugar (or maple syrup.
- Use a knife to remove the breast halves and legs from the chicken. Set aside half of the chicken for another use (a Viet cabbage slaw or chicken sandwiches!). Reserve the remaining chicken for pho bowl assembly.
Prep and assemble the bowls
- While the broth cooks, or about 30 minutes before serving, ready the ingredients for the bowls. Soak the noodles in hot tap water until pliable and opaque. Drain, rinse, and drain well. Divide among 4 soup bowls.
- Cut or tear the chicken breast and leg into pieces about 1⁄4 inch thick. Place the onion, green onion, and cilantro in separate bowls and line them up with the noodles, chicken, and pepper for a pho assembly line.
- Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. At the same time, fill a pot with water and bring to a rolling boil for the noodles.
- For each bowl, use a noodle strainer or mesh sieve to dunk a portion of the noodles in the boiling water. When the noodles are soft, 5 to 60 seconds, pull the strainer from the water, shaking it to drain excess water back into the pot. Empty the noodles into a bowl. Top with chicken, then garnish with onion, green onion, cilantro, and pepper.
- Check the broth flavor once more, raise the heat, and bring it to a boil. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl. Enjoy immediately with any extras, if you like.
From Andrea Nguyen's The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2017). Ge yourself a copy for your pho journey and adventure!
Courses breakfast, lunch, dinner