Instant Pot: Vietnamese Beef Pho

The moment I start to think this winter wasn't too bad, it snows! Thankfully it wasn't a heavy snow storm, but it was perfect weather to warm up with a bowl of soup. With my Instant Pot, the obvious choice was to make a big pot of Vietnamese Pho. For me, the key to a solid bowl of pho is all in the broth. It's a combination of spices, savory beef and a nice balance of sweet and salty...

It took me awhile to attempt making pho from scratch, simply due to the handful of spices I don't usually use, the long cook time of the beef with bones, and just not wanting to dedicate the time in general to the overall cooking process. But with the Instant Pot, I am thrilled to make my soup in a fraction of the time. Making the broth is done in two parts. The first part involves cooking the beef to extract all the richness and flavor. The second part involves adding the spices to impart the complexity of the broth. Once the broth is made, everything else is easy! The meatballs and noodles can be prepared while the broth is cooking and any of your desired toppings or stir ins can be prepared in advance, My family loves building our pho soup bowls together where we have all the toppings out and each person can top as they please.

You'll notice I included a recipe for homemade beef meatballs, but feel free to use prepared meatballs or your choice of meat, such as chicken breast, pork or even shrimp.

Also, I had my rice noodles prepared in advance- either fresh rice noodles or dried rice noodles prepared per package directions - so I could add them when ready to serve. The noodles will warm up with the hot broth poured on top.

You can also prepare the toppings in advance or while the broth is developing, to save time.

Beef Meatball Pho Soup
original Joelen recipe



2 pounds beef shank
1 pound beef oxtail
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 ounce whole star anise pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 slice fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1-2 pounds fresh rice noodles, or prepared dried rice noodles

Suggested add ins or toppings:
chopped fresh cilantro
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves
bean sprouts (mung beans)
limes, quartered
thinly sliced green onion
crushed pork cracklings
sriracha hot pepper sauce
hoisin sauce

In your Instant Pot:

Add the beef shank, oxtails, onion, garlic, star anise pods, cinnamon stick, clove, peppercorn, ginger, sugar, fish sauce and 8 cups of water into the IP pot.

Secure the lid of the IP and ensure the valve is set to SEALING.

Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 30 minutes on HIGH pressure.

The display will reflect ON while the IP comes to pressure. Allow a few minutes for your IP to come to pressure.

Once at pressure, the display will reflect 30 (the number of minutes you initially set ) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.

When the IP beeps after pressure cooking for 30 minutes, allow your IP to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes. While naturally releasing pressure, the display will reflect numbers counting up from 1. The numbers indicate how many minutes the IP has stopped cooking since it beeped (or how many minutes it has been naturally releasing pressure).  No need to touch your IP while it naturally releases pressure. When the display reflects 15 (which is 15 minutes since the IP has beeped), turn the setting on top of your IP to venting. Doing so allows the IP to quickly release pressure. I use a wooden spoon to carefully turn the setting to avoid close contact with the potential steam. You may also want to turn your IP away from cabinets to allow the released steam to escape freely. The pin at the top of your IP will drop when all pressure has been released and it's safe to open.

Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen).

Using a slotted spoon, remove meat from pot and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

Using a slotted spoon, remove any whole spices and discard.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and carefully strain the broth to catch any solids; discard any solids.

Rinse and dry your IP pot and return to the IP. Transfer the strained broth into the pot. Taste and season with more sugar and/or fish sauce to suit your taste preference.

Rinse any scum (if any) from the meat previously removed and return back to the pot. 

Prepare the meatballs: Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix it well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

Remove meatballs from freezer and place 1/4 of the meatball mixture in a food processor. Process to a completely smooth but firm paste. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.  Transfer the beef paste to another bowl. Repeat and process the remaining beef 1/4 of the mixture at a time to avoid overloading your food processor work bowl.   

Cover the processed beef mixture and chill in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, press SAUTE on the IP and bring a broth to a boil.

Remove the processed beef mixture and using wet hands, form into meatballs slightly smaller than the size of a golfball. The mixture will be sticky so be sure your hands are wet when forming the meatballs. 

Place the meatballs into the boiling broth and allow them to float and cook for about 7-10 minutes.

To serve: Place some prepared noodles into a serving bowl and top with a few meatballs. Ladle hot broth over the noodles and meatballs in the bowl. Garnish with your choice of toppings.


  1. How many servings does this make?

    1. We usually get 4-6 servings out of the recipe as written