In the mood for an easy-to-make Asian treat? This Healthy Instant Pot Pho Recipe won’t disappoint!
Pho, pronounced as “fuh,” is a Vietnamese soup that’s made from a rich broth, rice noodles, beef or chicken, herbs, and spices. In some regions, lime and charred ginger roots are added to the mixture, especially to further enhance the meaty, umami nature of the broth. A lot of recipes will include cinnamon and star anise, as this soup is also believed to be an outstanding hangover cure.
The addition of apples in this recipe might be unique, but it adds depth by bringing in some sweetness to the dish without overpowering each flavor note. In fact, it joins all the flavors that are featured in this recipe; from the delicately savory broth, the spices and aromatics, to the earthy, peppery, and nutty flavors of cilantro, basil, and other herbs. That bright, nuanced broth will remind you of your favorite Pho restaurant without leaving your home.
Apples are everywhere in the US so they are readily available no matter your location. However, that’s not always the case with coriander seeds, fresh cilantro, mint, and especially Thai basil. There’s no need to be frustrated as there are several ways to substitute these.
While coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, they vary slightly in flavor which leads them to have different substitutes. The best replacement for coriander is cumin while the best alternative for cilantro is parsley. Note that dried cilantro isn’t the best substitute for the fresh ones as it’s one of those herbs that loses a lot of its flavor when dried.
As for mint, you may substitute the fresh leaves with other types of mint such as peppermint or spearmint. You can also use extracts but use them in smaller amounts. For example, use 1 tablespoon of mint extract to replace ½ cup of fresh mint. To substitute fresh mint leaves with the dried ones, use half the amount needed. Thus, if a recipe calls for half a cup of fresh mint leaves, replace it with a quarter cup of dried mint.
Last but not least is Thai basil. This type of basil has a distinctive taste that’s more suitable for Asian dishes compared to the sweet Italian variety commonly found in pesto. However, if that’s all you have, then you can replace Thai basil with Italian basil. Just note that it won’t have the same punch of flavor that the Thai basil brings. It might be necessary to add some other fresh herbs like mint or cilantro to help brighten up the dish and get that flavor punch.
And, of course, let’s not forget that Pho is usually served with hoisin and Sriracha in the US. But, if you’re a health enthusiast trying to eat organic and avoid gluten, soy, corn, potatoes, MSG, lactose, and high histamine foods, you may opt for this hoisin and Sriracha instead. Needless to say though, a homemade sauce will always be the best choice. Check out this gluten-free and soy-free hoisin sauce that only takes 5 minutes to make!
Nonetheless, it’s a highly nutritious, filling, and low-calorie meal. The only thing that’s holding back a lot of people, myself included, is the time and effort that it takes to make pho. Typically, you would have to roast the broth bones, toast the spices, char the vegetables, and simmer the mixture for 12 hours or more. I don’t always have this amount of time to spend cooking this delightful meal. Working parents need quick and easy meals!
Then, I saw my Instant Pot. What if I can reduce the time needed but still can indulge the wonderful flavors of pho?
Several trials and errors later, I’ve come up with this recipe. With the help of my Instant Pot, it took me just a little over an hour from gathering my ingredients to serving the dish! This pho came out super tasty and it always does every time I make this recipe.
I also love how I can easily switch my Instant Pot to “saute,” allowing my veggies to get nicely charred and fragrant. Thawing out the meat is also unnecessary as you may simply toss frozen chicken directly into the pot. Then, add in all the remaining ingredients, do some “manual” pressure, and voila! 30 minutes later you have a flavorful soup to serve to your family – all done with just one appliance!
Best of all, the broth without the noodles can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and frozen for up to 3 months! So, consider making a large batch when making this recipe. Enjoy!
Healthy Instant Pot Pho
- Instant Pot
- 14 ounces brown rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 30-45 minutes
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, cut into 1/4 inch slices and slightly smashed
- 3 cardamom pods, slightly smashed
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, or ¾ tablespoon cumin
- 8 cups cold water
- 1 medium red delicious apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks
- ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, see notes for substitutes
- 4 medium pasture-raised chicken thighs or breasts, bone-in, skin-on
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
- ½ cup fresh whole mint leaves, see notes for substitutes
- ½ cup fresh whole cilantro leaves, see notes for substitutes
- ½ cup fresh whole basil leaves, see notes for substitutes
- Fill a large bowl with warm water and soak the rice noodles for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pho broth. Turn on your Instant Pot and press the “sauté” button. Once hot, add oil and place the onion with the cut-side facing down, then add ginger. Continue to cook, without stirring, for 4 minutes or until slightly charred.
- Add cardamom and coriander. Continue to cook for another minute or until fragrant.
- Add water to the Instant Pot along with apple, cilantro, chicken, and salt. Close the lid, press the “manual” button, and cook at “high” pressure for 15 minutes.
- Once done, turn off the Instant Pot and let the pressure decrease naturally for 10 minutes. Set a timer and if the pressure hasn’t completely released when it goes off, turn the valve at the top to release any remaining pressure.
- Open the Instant Pot and skim the fat off from the broth. Then, remove the chicken and set it aside. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve, into one large bowl.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the flesh from the bones. Set aside.
- Divide the noodles and place them into soup bowls. Ladle the broth into each bowl then top with chicken. Garnish each soup bowl with red onion, mint, cilantro, and basil leaves. Serve and enjoy!
- There’s no need to thaw the meat before making this recipe as you may simply place frozen chicken directly into the Instant Pot.
- To replace ½ cup of fresh cilantro, use either ½ cup of fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons of dried parsley.
- To replace ½ cup of fresh mint leaves, use either ½ cup of fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves, 1 tablespoon of mint extract, or ¼ cup of dried mint leaves.
- To replace Thai basil, use Italian basil. However, note that it won’t have the same punch of flavor that the Thai basil could bring; hence, it might be necessary to add some more mint or cilantro for this recipe.
- Although you may also skip sautéing and simply combine all the ingredients, except the toppings, right away into the Instant Pot, and cook at high pressure for 15-20 minutes, it will omit the charred or caramel flavor that you’ll get from browning your aromatics and spices.
Love this recipe? Share your experience with us in the comments section below! Stay Healthy!