Is Pho Keto Friendly?

  • Date: September 9, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Traditional pho is made with rice noodles and the broth may have sugar added, this makes pho not keto-friendly. However, with a bit of forward planning, I’m sure your favorite Vietnamese will be able to accommodate your keto needs. If not, why not try making your own keto-friendly pho at home, I promise you will not be disappointed!

What Is Pho?

Pho (pronounces ‘fuh’) is Vietnamese for soup or broth. The word pho comes from the Chinese term fành which means to boil something down until concentrated.

In Vietnam, there are two main types of pho: beef noodle pho and rice vermicelli pho. Beef noodles are usually served as an appetizer while rice vermicelli is eaten at lunchtime.

All I know is, both versions are delicious and were a pre-keto favorite of mine.

Is Pho Keto-Friendly?

Pho is like pretty much every other recipe out there, it has been adapted over time and everybody has their own take on it. however, the main ingredients remain fairly static.

Are the ingredients in Pho Keto Friendly?

The main ingredients in traditional Pho are;

  • Beef Stock
  • White Onion
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Star Anise
  • Corriander Seeds
  • Cloves
  • Sirloin Steak
  • Palm Sugar*
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce*
  • Rice Noodles*
  • Scallions (Spring Onions)
  • Red Chilli
  • Thai Basil
  • Lime

Does Pho Broth Have Carbs Or Sugar?

Palm Sugar

Traditional pho broth is perfect for keto as it does not contain the sugars (palm sugar) that can often be found in more modern, shop and restaurant produced pho.

A lot of American Vietnamese restaurants will make their broth with rock sugar too which can add hidden carbs.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of those ingredients that can cause debate in the keto community. In short, it is low in carbs, however, some would argue that the ‘quality of the product is low as it can contain by-products of wheat and gluten.

Wheat nor gluten would be classed as ‘clean keto’.

If you are living a clean or strict keto lifestyle, you may want to stay away from soy sauce and can replace it with coconut aminos, especially if you are cooking at home.

For more on clean keto, check out our article, Lazy, Dirty and Strict.

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles have around 25 grams of carbs per 100 grams, so these are definitely not keto-friendly. 

So in summary, pho is not keto, it contains sugars and carbs making it not keto-friendly.

However, other than the ingredients flagged above, the other ingredients are keto-friendly.

Can You Eat Pho Without The Noodles On Keto?

If you are eating out and you have plenty of carbs left in your day, you may get away with eating pho without the noodles and not kick yourself out of ketosis.

Nutritional Value of Pho without the Noodles

Pho without the noodles will be low in carbs, but also low in fat, meaning that it will be ok for a keto diet, but not necessarily ideal for a keto diet due to being low in fat.

The whole ethos of a keto diet is to keep your macros to 70% Fat, 25% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrates (Carbs).

% of Carbs should not exceed 20 grams per day for a traditional keto diet. Depending on whether you are doing Lazy, Dirty or Strict Keto, will depend on how strictly you track these macros, and how willing you are to eat sugars as we have referenced above.

In order to keep your carb consumption under 20 grams, you need to be conscious of what you are eating and stick to low carbs healthy foods, that are also low on the glycaemic index. The reason for this is so as to not to spike your blood sugar and knock you out of ketosis.

If keto is new to you, why not check out our Keto Starters Guide.

Ordering Keto-Friendly Pho in a Restaurant

If you are eating pho out, and want it to be as keto-friendly as possible, your best bet is to call ahead.

If pho is made traditionally, it can take up to 12 hours to create. So, if you can ring ahead, check with the restaurant if they use sugar or not in their pho

If they do, they may be willing to make a portion for you without sugar.

If not, you can ask them how much they use and see if you can make it fit within your macros (IIFYM). Instead of the noodles, ask them to leave these out and add some extra bean sprouts.

Homemade Keto Pho Recipe

If you want to make keto pho at home, and if you haven’t I highly suggest that you do, you can easily make keto-friendly pho.

This recipe can be made in the slow cooker if you have the time, or the insta pot if you want you pho pronto, the method that we have used is using a good old fashioned pan, in case anybody doesn’t have fancy gadgets!

Here’s our tried and tested keto pho recipe.

Keto Pho Recipe

Course: Lunch, DinnerDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Carbs

5.5

grams
Fat

5

grams
Protein

33

grams
Calories

220

kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (240 grams) Sirloin Steak – cut into thin strips

  • 2 Large Zucchinis (Courgettes)

  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

  • 2 Star Anise

  • 3 Whole Cloves

  • 4 Cups (950 ml) Beef Broth (check out our broth recipe)

  • 1-inch piece of fresh Ginger sliced (thinly sliced)

  • 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce (Use Coconut Aminos for clean keto version)

  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce

  • 2 handful of Bean Sprouts

  • For Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh Cilantro (Corriander)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh Basil

  • Finely slices Jalapeno

  • Lime wedge for serving

  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

Directions

  • TOP TIP: Place the steak in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden slightly, this makes it easier to slice thinly.
  • Make your zucchini noodles (courgetti) using a spiralizer. Split these between two bowl
  • In a medium saucepan, toast cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves on low heat until they become fragrant.
  • Add the bone broth to the pan and stir
  • Add the ginger, soy sauce (or coconut aminos), and fish sauce. Bring to a boil, and simmer for around 10 minutes to allow the spices to fully infuse the broth.
  • Slice the beef into as thin strips as you can manage.
  • In a separate pan, flash fry the beef for 30 seconds on either side to seal in the flavor
  • Divide the beef into two portions and add to the zucchini.
  • Pour the broth into the serving bowls, over the meat and noodles. The beef will finish cooking
  • Top the pho with bean sprouts, fresh herbs, sliced scallions. Drizzle with Sriracha to taste and squeeze the lime on top.

Best Noodles for Homemade Keto Pho

This all depends on what you like, check out our article on spiralizing courgette (courgetti) which we have used in this recipe. However, it is also amazing with Shirataki noodles (also known as Konjac noodles)

Shirataki noodles are made from glucomannan. This is a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant.

“Shirataki” is Japanese for “white waterfall,” this is because of the noodles’ translucent appearance.

Shirataki noodles take no cooking and the heat from the broth will be enough to cook these.

Mixing up your Pho

If you’re making this delicious dish at home, why not try mixing up your flavors by using chicken or pork? Not traditional by any stretch, but still tasty!

If you a looking for a vegan pho keto recipe, switch out your fish sauce and substitute with coconut aminos and swap out the meat for tofu.

Final Thoughts

Pho is not clean keto unless you are making it at home. However, for the majority of us, with a few substitutions, we can probably enjoy a steaming bowl pf pho in our favorite restaurant and at home. Enjoy!

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