My gluten free pho ga is an Asian chicken soup with rice noodles and homemade broth. Make this quick chicken pho recipe for dinner tonight!
Are you a pho fanatic? You’re not alone! I can’t get enough, and in my opinion, the spicier and creamier the broth, the better.
This twist on traditional chicken pho is also SUPER easy to prep, so it’s a great way to kick off easy prep month here on the blog!
All through the month of March, we’ll be posting tried and true recipes that are not only tasty, but are a cinch to cook. Preparing portions of a meal ahead of when you plan to serve it is a big time saver.
For example, I like to make the batter for my sheet pan protein pancakes the night before I cook them up.
What is pho ga?
Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is traditionally made with an aromatic beef-based broth that is flavored with spices such ginger, peppercorn, fennel, and anise.
Typically the noodles are served with slices of meat and a handful of fresh herbs, sliced peppers and scallions, and a dash of fresh lime.
While classic pho is usually made using beef or pork, this flavorful take uses chicken instead. The Japanese word “ga” translates in English to CHICKEN. Hence the name, pho ga.
While chicken broth is a bit lighter than beef, seasonings like fennel seeds, onion, fresh ginger, and star anise punch up the flavor.
An authentic recipe for pho requires a long simmering time. It can take hours to marry the flavors. But this is quick and easy meal prep month!
So, for this QUICK version of gluten free chicken pho, we added a bit of prepared chicken broth (along with water), which speeds up the process without losing that bold flavor. This is a soup you can’t help but slurp!
Oh, and I have other soup recipes that come together in super quick fashion too. Be sure to check out my recipe for Asian-Inspired Zoodle Flu Buster Soup, or use your blender to make a batch of Spicy Roasted Corn Vegan Soup.
How to make gluten free pho
If you’re anything like me, going to a Vietnamese restaurant for a meal like this can be challenging. This is primarily because you can never be one hundred percent sure if the soup has hidden gluten-containing ingredients like soy sauce or other flavorings that may be hard to ask about when ordering.
Most of the traditional ingredients are free from gluten, such as rice noodles, meats like beef or chicken, and fresh vegetables. However, many times the broth contains soy sauce or other ingredients that may contain hidden gluten, like bouillon cubes or flavorings.
That’s why I’m super excited to finally perfect a from-scratch, completely gluten free pho ga using:
- A homemade broth using wholesome, nourishing foods
- Tamari sauce
- Gluten-free fish sauce (yup, some brands have hidden gluten)
- Gluten-free rice noodles (most should be free of gluten, but some aren’t made in separate gluten free facilities, so read the labels)
Ingredients and substitutions
In the soup:
- Rice noodles – The foundation of pho ga, look for long, flat rice noodles (similar to a skinny fettuccine shape).
- Chicken – Either chicken thighs or breasts will work in this recipe. However, if you use chicken thighs, be sure to remove the fatty scum from the top of the broth after cooking the chicken.
For the broth:
- Broth – Either vegetable or chicken broth will work here, but chicken gives pho ga a richer flavor.
- Onion – White onion is more traditional for flavoring the broth, but yellow or red onions will work as well.
- Fresh whole ginger – I highly recommend using whole ginger root, if it’s available, as it provides a very strong flavor to the broth. However, minced ginger is a good substitute.
- Whole black peppercorns – It’s key to use whole peppercorns in pho ga, as we will toast them over dry heat to bring out a deeper pepper flavor. Cracked black pepper could work as well, but avoid using ground pepper.
- Star anise and Cinnamon– Whole star anise gives off a wonderful flavor (and smell!) when toasted, but you could substitute this with anise seeds if you have them. The Cinnamon complements star anise, definitely a must!
- Fennel seeds – Another aromatic seed that shouldn’t be skipped. However, you can also substitute this with coriander seeds if you can’t find fennel.
- Fish sauce – You might be thinking, “Why is there fish sauce in a chicken soup?” We highly recommend you do not skip this ingredient, as it provides a key flavor component that ties in all the flavors of the pho ga broth.
- Tamari – A dash up levels the flavor of the broth, so don’t skip it! You can use gluten-free soy sauce if you prefer it.
- Sugar (optional) – A small amount of sugar rounds out the bold flavors of the soup. It’s optional, but highly recommended.
- Cilantro – Fresh cilantro provides a nice peppery flavor to pho ga, but if you don’t have it (or you’re one of the few who hate it) then substitute with Thai basil.
- Toast the spices. Arguably the most important step in building flavor is to heat the aromatic ingredients. In this case, you’ll toast some onion, fresh ginger, star anise, and fennel seeds.
- Build and simmer the broth. Next, add the raw chicken ,water and broth, cinnamon sticks, and a handful of fresh cilantro. Bring it all to a boil and then leave it to simmer.
- Remove and shred the chicken. Next you’ll remove and shred the poultry, and then it’s time to keep building flavor. Add fish sauce, tamari, and a bit of sugar.
- Garnish and serve! Simply add the cooked rice noodles to a bowl, top with shredded chicken, then pour in the broth. Top the soup with toppings of your choice and dig in!
Meal prep tips for gluten free pho ga
While making pho ga from scratch is actually super simple, there are a few ways to speed up the process to make the prep as easy as possible.
- Use store bought broth: While you can use water to make a completely homemade broth, I used packaged broth in this recipe to cut down on the broth cooking time.
- Use pre-cooked chicken: Using precooked chicken like a whole rotisserie chicken will cut about 15-20 minutes off of the prep time. Simply shred the chicken and you’re good to go.
- Prep ingredients ahead of time: Pho is a PERFECT meal prep recipe! Simply prep the ingredients and cook up the broth and chicken a few days ahead of time. Then, build the meal when you’re ready to serve.
Recipe Questions and Tips
The ingredients themselves are generally rich in nutrients and nourishing for the body. However, when you don’t make it yourself, it can be high in sodium or contain fattier cuts of meat, so it’s important to consider portion sizes.
This is a healthier version of traditional pho ga because it is lower in sodium and uses chicken breast (a leaner meat).
Refrigerate any leftover chicken pho in a covered container. Leftovers should be used within 5 days. To store for a longer period, the soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.
I realize I’m sharing some non-traditional PHO options here, but I hope it helps the recipe seem less intimidating. It’s definitely a dish that’s too good not to try, real deal or quick version!
This recipe was originally posted in September 2016 and was updated with new photos and instructions in March 2021.