Vietnamese pho is a warm, spicy soup made with beef broth, noodles and meat. It’s a tasty cultural dish that’s very filling. But if you suffer from gluten allergies, you may wonder if you can safely eat pho. So, is pho gluten-free?
The Vietnamese word pho means noodles. Pho is made by simmering beef bones adding ginger, onions and spices like cinnamon, coriander, star anise and cardamom. It’s cooked for hours, which gives it its rich flavor.
Rice noodles are added along with cilantro or basil. Lastly, sliced beef or chicken is added to the hot soup. You can top the soup with bean sprouts, dried chili peppers or lime juice.
Beware of Hidden Gluten
Traditional Vietnamese pho is gluten-free because the noodles are made of white rice flour. These noodles are made fresh daily. But not all pho has gluten-free noodles, plus, some restaurants use soy sauce that contains wheat gluten.
Hoisin sauce should be gluten-free, so always ask before using it. But there are no worries about eating pho with fish sauce; it’s always gluten-free.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a true Vietnamese restaurant that will be naturally gluten-free, but if you’re unsure, steer clear of more American style Vietnamese restaurants since their pho isn’t always gluten-free.
Pho Nutritional Benefits
Pho is delicious all year round, but it is an especially good way to warm your up in the cold winter months. If you’re fighting a cold, try eating pho. The broth,spices, and hearty beef flavor will help you feel better.
Bone broth is high in protein, which is good for your joints. It also contains collagen, which is great for your skin and hair.
Cardamom, a spice that’s nativeto southern India, aids digestive problems like nausea and vomiting.
Cinnamon lowers blood sugar and reduces heart disease.
Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant. It’s beneficial for people with diabetes because it stimulates insulin and lowers blood sugar levels.
Cilantro is an antioxidant. It adds a pungent spiciness to the pho.
Star anise contains ingredients that are great for treating flu and coughs. It also fights off infections, improves your digestion and is rich in antioxidants for improved heart health. Star anise aids digestion such as bloating, gas and constipation.
Beware of High Sodium
Pho has a walloping 384 milligrams of sodium per bowl. This is one-fourth of your daily sodium level according to the American Heart Association. Many recipes call for as much as one tablespoon of salt. Add soy sauce, fish sauce or hoisin sauce and you’ve got a large amount of sodium for one dish. Make pho at home with less sodium for a healthier option.
History of pho
Pho originated in Northern Vietnam in the 1800s. The Chinese influenced adding rice noodles to the recipe while the French affinity for beef influenced the choice to add beef to the recipe. The French influence was thought to be so strong that some suggest the word pho actually came originated from “pot au feu” which is the name of a French soup.
Over time, the popularity of the soup spread across the south. During the war when North and South Vietnam were divided, cooks added other ingredients to the soup, creating today’s version of pho. Pho recipes are different depending on where the chef is from in Vietnam. Many families have unique pho recipes handed down through their families.
Northern pho has fewer ingredients with less meat and less ginger. It’s also served with green chilies without the herbs or bean sprouts. Southern style pho has more ingredients.
Refugees fleeing Vietnam in 1975 brought the pho recipe along with them. Today there are over 2,000 known pho restaurants across the US and Canada. It’s growing in popularity as people seek to eat leaner and cleaner meals.
Final Thoughts on Pho and Eating Gluten Free
If you’re gluten-free, be sure to ask the chef how the pho was prepared before you order it. Also, beware of cross contamination in preparing this soup. Look for an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Then, your chances of getting pho made with rice noodles will be better. Read the labels on the soy sauce and hoisin sauce before you use them. Alternatively, you can enjoy eating pho at home. It’s easy to make and you can put together a healthier version with less salt while guaranteeing there will be no gluten.