Guess what, party people? I found a Paleo-friendly, Whole30-compliant, and most importantly, authentic chicken pho recipe that you can make in an Instant Pot. Close your eyes and imagine the most slurptastic bowl of chicken noodle soup from the bestest mom n’ pop pho joint in Vietnam, and you’ll get a sense of what this tastes like, ’cause it’s a recipe from Vietnamese cooking maven Andrea Nguyen’s latest cookbook, The Pho Cookbook!
As James Oseland has proclaimed, “Andrea Nguyen is the world’s greatest expert in Vietnamese cooking,” and I agree. Ten(!) years ago, I bought Andrea’s debut cookbook, Into The Vietnamese Kitchen; it showed me that I could finally recreate restaurant-quality Vietnamese food at home. I’ve been a super fan of Andrea’s ever since—cyberstalking her via her Vietworld Kitchen website and eagerly collecting all of her subsequent cookbooks. About a year ago, Henry and I traveled to Vietnam with her (you can read all about my breathless fan-girling over here) as she and the equally awesome Karen Shinto shot photos and gathered inspiration for The Pho Cookbook. The results are to die for—especially for a pho junkie like me. This gorgeous collection of pho recipes is perhaps my favorite of Andrea’s single-subject tomes. Each page is packed with indispensable tips on sourcing the best ingredients and seasoning the broth just right.
Oh, I can hear the Paleo police now: “But rice noodles aren’t Paleo!”
You’re right. Technically, rice isn’t “Paleo” (according to earlier definitions, anyway)—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make this soup. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my personal Food Freedom, a lovely term coined by Whole30 headmistress Melissa Hartwig in Food Freedom Forever, includes occasional bowls of non-Paleo rice noodles.)
Because rice and rice noodles can make me feel sleepy, though, I often swap out the rice noodles for zucchini noodles (a.k.a. “zoodles”), which is what I did with this chicken pho recipe. Zoodles add freshness and bonus nutrients, all without a side of narcolepsy.
I initially made Andrea’s Pressure Cooker Chicken Pho recipe as written in my 8-quart stovetop pressure cooker, and it was perfect (of course—Andrea would never steer us wrong). Still, I wanted to adapt the recipe to work in my 6-quart Instant Pot electric pressure cooker because I’m lazy and I hate babysitting my food. Because the Instant Pot cooks at a slightly different pressure and takes much longer to depressurize than a stovetop pressure cooker, I modified Andrea’s recipe a bit: I decreased the amount of water by a cup, reduced the salt proportionately, and altered the cooking time.
No Instant Pot or pressure cooker? No worries—check out Andrea’s note at the bottom of the recipe for stovetop stockpot instructions!
Ready for a crave-worthy
pot of Andrea’s chicken pho?
Hands-on Time: 30 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
For the broth:
- 1 tablespoon
- 3 whole cloves
- Chubby 2-inch (5 cm)
section ginger, peeled, thickly sliced, and bruised
- 1 large (10 oz | 300
g) yellow onion, halved and thickly sliced
- 7 cups (1.66 l)
- 1 (4 lb | 1.8 kg) whole chicken (no bigger!)
- 1 small (4 oz | 115
g) Fuji apple, peeled, cored, and cut into thumbnail-size chunks
- ¾ cup (0.7 oz | 20
g) coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs
- 1 tablespoon Diamond
Crystal kosher salt (or 1½ TEASPOONS fine sea salt or Morton’s kosher salt)
- About 1½ tablespoons
- 1- 2 teaspoons maple
For the bowls:
- 4 medium zucchini,
spiralized and blotted dry with paper towels
- About half the
cooked chicken from the broth
- ½ small (2 oz | 60
g) yellow or red onion, thinly sliced against the grain and soaked in water for
- 2 thinly sliced
green onions, green parts only
- ¼ cup (0.2 oz | 5 g )
chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
- Thai basil leaves (optional)
- Paleo sriracha (optional)
- Lime wedges (optional)
- 6-quart Instant Pot or stovetop pressure cooker
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Silicone spatula
- Large bowl
- Fine mesh strainer (this one is more budget-friendly than mine)
- Stock pot
- Spiralizer (I like the Inspiralizer and Oxo Spiralizer)
Let’s tackle the fragrant broth. Toss the coriander seeds and cloves in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Press the sauté button on your Instant Pot (or place a stovetop pressure cooker over medium heat) and toast the spices for several minutes, shaking or stirring, until fragrant. Throw in the ginger and onion and stir everything until aromatic, 45 to 60 seconds.
Pour in 4 cups (1 l) of the water to stop the cooking process.
Carefully place the chicken in the cooker, breast side up.
Add the apple, cilantro, salt…
…and remaining 3 cups (0.71 l) water.
Press the Cancel/Keep Warm button, lock the lid in place, and make sure the valve on top is in the sealed position.
Press the Manual button and set the Instant Pot to cook under high pressure (~12 psi) for 14 minutes. (If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, bring to low pressure, 8 psi, over high heat on a gas or induction stove, or medium heat on an electric stove. Lower the heat to maintain pressure, signaled by a gentle, steady flow of steam coming out of the cooker’s valve. Cook for 15 minutes, or a few minutes longer if your cooker’s low setting is less than 8 psi. If your cooker only has a high-pressure,15 psi, setting, cook for 12 minutes.) Your aim to gently poach the chicken and not overcook it!
When done, turn off the Instant Pot and let the pressure decrease
naturally for 20 minutes. Set a timer and if the pressure hasn’t completely released when it dings, turn the valve at the top to quickly vent the remaining pressure. (If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, slide it to a cool burner and let the pressure decrease naturally, about 20 minutes.) Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam.
Wait another 5 minutes before using tongs to transfer the chicken to a large bowl; if parts fall off in transit, don’t stress.
Add cold 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 Chinois or muslin-lined mesh strainer positioned over a large pot. Discard the solids. You should end up with about 7 cups broth.
If using right away, season the broth with the fish sauce, extra salt, and maybe a smidge of the maple syrup. Trust your taste buds! Or, 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.
Use a knife or your hands to separate the breast meat and legs from the chicken. Set aside half of the chicken for another use, like Madras Chicken Salad. Reserve the remaining chicken for pho bowl assembly. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature to use.
Ready to serve the pho? Here’s how to prep and assemble the bowls:
While the broth cooks, or about 30 minutes before serving, prep all the ingredients for your pho feast. Cut or shred the chicken into bite-size pieces.
Discard the skin or save it for cracklings. Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls.
Divide the zucchini noodles among four soup bowls. (If you like softer zoodles, use a mesh strainer to dunk them in boiling water until the desired softness before placing the drained zoodles into the soup bowls.) Top the zoodles with shredded chicken.
Check the broth flavor once more, raise the heat, and bring it to a
boil. Ladle about 2 cups (480 ml) broth into each bowl.
Then garnish with onion, green onion, cilantro, basil, pepper, and sriracha if desired. You can squeeze on fresh lime juice, too. Enjoy immediately!
Andrea’s Notes On How Cook Chicken Pho On The Stovetop:
To make this recipe in a 6- to 8-quart (6 to 8 l) stockpot, toast the coriander seeds and cloves over medium heat, then lightly cook the onion and ginger in the pot. Add 10 cups (2.5 l) water along with the chicken (breast up), cilantro, and salt. Partially cover, then bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, skim the scum, then lower the heat to gently simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours. At the 45-minute mark, if the chicken is not cooking through, use tongs to rotate it. The chicken should be cooked after simmering for 1 to 1¼ hours. Transfer it to a large bowl, flush it with cold water, drain well, then set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to cool. When the broth is done, let rest for 15 minutes, then defat, strain, and season. The rest of the recipe is the same.
Adapted slightly with permission from The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my Webby Award-Winning iPhone® and iPad® app, and in my New York Times-bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).