Is Pho Gluten-Free?

pho is gluten-free

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Is Pho Gluten-Free?

Phở or Pho, the beloved Vietnamese dish, has gained immense popularity worldwide. With its flavorful broth, rice noodles, and tender meat, it has become a go-to comfort food for many. But for those on a gluten-free diet, the question arises: Is pho gluten-free? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the answer to this question and provide you with all the information you need to enjoy pho without worrying about gluten.

You may also want to read, Gluten-Free Vietnamese Food.

pho noodle soup gluten free
a bowl of pho here at quán 55

What is Pho?

Phở is a traditional Vietnamese soup that originated in northern Vietnam in the early 20th century. It is made with a combination of bone broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced meat, usually beef. The dish is often served with an array of garnishes such as bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime wedges, and chilies, allowing each individual to customize their bowl according to their preferences.

Interestingly, pho refers to the noodles and not the soup. In Vietnam it is possible to go to a pho shop that does not sell any kind of soup at all. That said, the name pho is now so closely associated with the soup that when we say pho, especially in Australia, we know that we’re referring to the soup and not the noodle.

pho simmered over 12 hours
simmered for over 12 hours to create the perfect broth

The Gluten-Free Status of Pho

The good news for those following a gluten-free diet is that pho is generally considered to be gluten-free. Its main components, such as rice noodles, bone broth, and fresh herbs, do not contain gluten. However, it’s crucial to be aware of potential sources of gluten contamination during the preparation and serving of pho.

pho beef noodle soup
quán 55s soup bot and pho noodle soup

Potential Gluten Contaminants in Pho

While the core ingredients of pho are gluten-free, there are certain components that may introduce gluten into the dish. It’s important to be mindful of these potential gluten contaminants to ensure your pho remains gluten-free. Here are some ingredients to watch out for:

Soy Sauce

Traditional soy sauce, sometimes added to enhance the flavour of pho, is made from soybeans and wheat,  which contains gluten. It’s essential to inquire about the type of soy sauce used in the pho you are consuming and opt for gluten-free alternatives if necessary. 

Noodles

Pho is traditionally made with rice noodles, which are gluten-free. However, some restaurants may use wheat-based egg noodles or a combination of rice and wheat noodles. It’s advisable to confirm the type of noodles used to ensure they are gluten-free.

Processed broth

While pho is typically prepared from scratch using homemade broth, pre-packaged or previously prepared broth may contain additives, thickeners, or flavor enhancers that could contain gluten. Cross-contamination during processing is also a potential concern. This doesn’t apply to quán 55s pho, of course, which is lovingly simmered in grandma’s old broth pot (shown above).

Processed meat

While meat itself is gluten-free, processed meat such as meatballs or sausages could contain fillers or breadcrumbs that contain gluten. It’s important to choose gluten-free options when adding processed meat to your pho. Frequent additions to pho in some restaurants include meat balls and sausage. Traditionally these would be made with rice fillers/binders or no fillers/binders at all. If you’re celiac it would be advisable to inquire about these products if you see them in your soup. At quán 55 we use only quality steak slices in our pho soup.

Flour-based thickeners

Some pho broths may use flour-based thickeners to give a thicker texture. These thickeners often contain wheat-based flour, which means they may contain gluten. It’s advisable to inquire about the use of thickeners and opt for gluten-free alternatives if needed. You would hope to only ever see these in cheap supermarket broths, or never at all. When dining at a quality Vietnamese restaurant you should expect a light, full broth that has no additives.

It’s worth noting that the presence of gluten in pho can vary depending on the specific restaurant or chef. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to read labels, inquire about ingredients, and communicate your dietary needs when ordering pho.

quán 55 phở beef soodle soup is gluten-free

Our phở beef soodle soup is made the traditional way. We simmer bones and spices in a third-generation phở pot to create a broth balanced by spices, fish sauce and love. Rice noodles are used, along with thinly sliced steak and herbs to garnish. Enjoy your pho at quán 55 knowing it is gluten-free. 

pho bo is gluten-free at quan 55

Are Other Vietnamese Dishes Gluten-Free?

Gluten-free Pho and Spring Rolls

Vietnamese cuisine offers a wide variety of gluten-free dishes, making it a great option for those on a gluten-free diet. Here are a few gluten-free Vietnamese dishes you should try:

Hi Tieu

Hu Tieu is a traditional Vietnamese dish made with tapioca starch and rice flour noodles, making it naturally gluten-free.

Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon (Spring Rolls) are translucent rice paper rolls filled with fresh ingredients such as shrimp, herbs, vermicelli noodles, and sometimes pork or tofu. As long as they are served with gluten-free condiments, they are safe for a gluten-free diet.

Mi Quang Noodles

Mi Quang is a rice noodle dish topped with ingredients like pork, shrimp, herbs, peanuts, and crispy rice crackers. The dish is known for its distinctive turmeric-infused broth and is naturally gluten-free.

Hủ Tiếu or Phở for lunch
Hủ Tiếu or Phở shown together, both gluten-free

These are just a few examples of the many gluten-free Vietnamese dishes available. Explore the rich and diverse flavors of Vietnamese cuisine while staying true to your gluten-free lifestyle.

The Health Benefits of Pho

Aside from its delicious taste, pho also offers several health benefits. Here are some reasons why adding pho to your diet can be advantageous:

Nutrient Rich Broth

Pho’s beef broth, made by gently boiling beef bones, ginger, onions, fish sauce, and a blend of spices, provides essential nutrients like collagen, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients support joint health, digestion, and immune function.

Hydration

Pho’s broth is water-based, which contributes to hydration. Staying hydrated is essential for overall well-being and the proper functioning of the body.

Antioxidants

Fresh herbs and spices like basil, cilantro (coriander), and ginger, commonly used in pho, provide antioxidants. These antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and promote overall health.

Warmth and Comfort

Pho’s warm and comforting nature makes it a soothing choice, especially during colder months. It nourishes both the body and the soul.

With its nourishing qualities and delicious flavours, pho is a dish that can enhance your overall well-being.

What's the Conclusion?

Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, can indeed be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet. While the core ingredients of pho are gluten-free, it’s important to be aware of potential sources of gluten contamination, such as soy sauce, noodles, processed broth, processed meat, and flour-based thickeners. By choosing reliable restaurants, asking about ingredients, and avoiding gluten-containing sauces, you can savor a gluten-free bowl of pho with peace of mind. Additionally, Vietnamese cuisine offers a variety of other gluten-free dishes that you can explore. So, go ahead and indulge in the flavors of Vietnam while maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle.

pho noodle soup gluten free

Join us for fabulously gluten-free pho at quán 55

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