Soups are a great source of comfort and nutrition. Light ones for those balmy summer days, creamy ones for the chilly winter nights, and even hearty, filling options for when you need that extra energy boost.
Pho is up there with other global soup favorites. The authentic Vietnamese dish is known for its fragrant broth, rice noodles, and a medley of herbs and spices.
When you’re on a low-carb diet like Keto, it can be confusing to decipher if Pho fits into your dietary plan. But like most foods, it all comes down to the ingredients and their nutritional breakdown.
Here’s what you need to know about enjoying Pho while staying true to your Keto diet goals.
Is Pho High In Carbs?
Traditional Vietnamese Pho is made with rice noodles, which are high in carbohydrates. One cup of cooked rice noodles contains about 42 grams of carbs (6). Pho broth is also made by simmering bones and meat, which adds slightly to the overall carb count.
Other less mainstream variations of Pho feature wheat noodles or banh pho, which are also high in carbs. Additionally, the broth can have added sugar and starch to enhance the taste.
So how can you make Pho work for your low-carb diet?
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Swap Noodles For Vegetables
One of the easiest ways to cut carbs from Pho is by replacing rice noodles with vegetables.
Zucchini noodles, also known as zoodles, are a popular low-carb substitute for pasta and can work well in Pho too. Simply spiralize the zucchini and add it to your broth towards the end of cooking.
Other vegetables that you can use are shirataki or konjac noodles, which have almost no carbs. These transparent and gelatinous noodles are made from konjac yam and can be found in Asian grocery stores. They add a nice bite to the broth without altering the taste.
Choose A Broth Wisely
The broth is an essential part of Pho, and it’s where some of the carbs can come from. Traditional Pho broth is made with beef bones and meat simmered for hours until all the flavors are extracted. However, some restaurants might add sugar or flour to their broth for a richer flavor.
If you’re making Pho at home, it’s best to stick with the traditional recipe and skip any added sugars or starches. If dining out, don’t hesitate to ask about the ingredients in the broth or opt for a clear broth instead of a cloudy one.
You can also make your own broth by using chicken, pork, or seafood instead of beef.
Load Up On Protein
Protein is essential for any low-carb diet, as it helps keep you full and satisfied (4). Pho typically contains a variety of meats such as beef, chicken, or shrimp. Take advantage of this and add extra protein to your bowl to balance out the noodles.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, tofu is a great source of plant-based protein that can be added to your Pho. Make sure to ask for extra tofu in place of meat if needed.
Be Mindful Of Garnishes
Garnishes like bean sprouts, lime, and fresh herbs are commonly served with Pho. While they add flavor and texture to the dish, they also add carbs. Keep an eye on how much you add to your bowl and opt for low-carb garnishes like cilantro, basil, and sliced avocado.
What Can Be Unhealthy About Pho?
Pho can be unhealthy if it has high sodium content and is loaded with unhealthy fats. According to the American Heart Association, adults should limit their daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (2). If you’re concerned about your sodium intake, try making Pho at home so you can control the amount of salt used.
Another ingredient that can turn this delicious bowl of soup into a calorie bomb is your choice of toppings. Fried shallots, peanuts, fried dumplings, and fried noodles are common Pho toppings that can add unnecessary calories and carbs. Stick to fresh herbs, lime, and dried for a healthier option.
Watch out for sauces and condiments as well. Sriracha and hoisin sauce can contain sugar and carbs, so use them sparingly or skip them altogether.
Is Pho Healthier Than Ramen?
Pho is known to have a lighter and more nutritious broth, as compared to ramen, which often contains high amounts of sodium and unhealthy fats.
However, as mentioned earlier, some variations of Pho can also be high in carbs and sodium.
It all comes down to choosing the right ingredients and being mindful of portion sizes.
Our Ramen Nutrition Facts article goes deeper into what makes or breaks the nutritional value of this popular soup.
Is Vietnamese Food Keto-Friendly?
Vietnamese cuisine can be relatively low in carbs, and more likely to be keto-friendly when compared to other cuisines e.g. Italian or Chinese.
Traditional dishes like pho (with some modifications), stir-fried meat and vegetables, and grilled meats are all good options for those following a low-carb diet.
However, there are still some dishes that may contain hidden sugars or starchy carbs, so it’s essential to do your research and ask about ingredients when dining out.
Other dishes are outrightly high in carbs, such as banh mi sandwiches or sugary desserts like che. It’s best to avoid these dishes altogether when you’re on a low-carb diet.
Check out our Chinese Food Calories Article to learn more about what may be hiding in your Chinese takeout.
How To Order Keto Pho
The best way to ensure your Pho is keto-friendly is to make it yourself. In this way, you have full control over what ingredients are used and can adjust them according to your dietary needs. Choose pho keto recipes that feature healthy ingredients.
If dining out, opt for clear broth instead of cloudy, and ask about the ingredients in the broth. Swapping noodles for vegetables is also a good idea, and make sure to add enough protein to make it a balanced meal.
Skip high-carb garnishes and toppings, and ask about sauces and condiments before adding them to your bowl.
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Keto Pho With Shirataki Noodles – Recipe (3)
Shirataki noodles aren’t called “miracle noodles” for nothing. These low-carb and almost zero-calorie noodles are perfect for a keto-friendly Pho. Paired with thinly sliced sirloin steak and a whole lot of herbs, this recipe is a delicious and healthy option for anyone looking to cut carbs.
- 8 ounces sirloin, very thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter or ghee
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons liquid or coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated or ground ginger
- 8 cups Bone Broth
- 4, 7-ounce packages shirataki noodles, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Heat up a large pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the thinly sliced sirloin to the pot, making sure to stir frequently so it cooks evenly.
- Stir in the liquid aminos, fish sauce, and grated ginger. Mix well to ensure the sirloin is well coated with the seasonings.
- Pour in the 8 cups of bone broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
- While the broth is simmering, prepare the shirataki noodles. Rinse them thoroughly under cold water, then bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add the noodles for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- After 20 minutes, add the pre-cooked shirataki noodles to the broth and stir.
- Allow the soup to simmer for another 5 minutes, so the flavors meld together.
- Once the soup is ready, carefully ladle it into bowls, making sure to distribute the sirloin and noodles evenly.
- Top each bowl with a handful of bean sprouts, a sprinkle of chopped scallions, and optionally, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
- Serve your Keto Pho immediately while hot.
Nutrition per serving (1 bowl): Calories: 385; Total Fat: 29g; Protein: 23g; Total Carbs: 8g; Fiber: 3.5g; Net Carbs: 4.5g
Keto Pho Chicken – Recipe (5)
Chicken is a leaner, lower-calorie option for protein in your Pho. This recipe is also perfect for anyone who prefers a milder flavor compared to beef.
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds whole
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 stalk of lemongrass cut into finger lengths and bruised
- 1 piece ginger thumb length, cut into pieces
- 4 cups chicken broth low-sodium
- 16 ounces chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- 1 packet shirataki noodles (rinse noodles as per package instructions)
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ½ cup coriander (to garnish)
- 1 lime wedges, (to garnish)
- Begin by toasting the coriander seeds and star anise in a dry pan over medium heat until they become fragrant.
- Once toasted, transfer the spices to a pot and add in your lemongrass and ginger pieces.
- Pour the low-sodium chicken broth into the pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and add in your chicken breasts. Allow the soup to simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set the shredded chicken aside for later.
- While the chicken is cooling, add fish sauce to the broth for an extra flavor boost.
- Prepare the shirataki noodles by thoroughly rinsing them as per package instructions. After rinsing, add the noodles to the broth and let them simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the shredded chicken back into the pot.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, ensuring each bowl gets an even distribution of broth, chicken, and noodles.
- Garnish each bowl with bean sprouts, coriander, and lime wedges before serving.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 154kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 994mg | Potassium: 663mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 34IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg
How Many Carbs In a Bowl of Pho?
A bowl of Pho contains around 30-50 grams of carbs. These are largely from the noodles and garnishes, so making substitutions like using shirataki noodles or skipping high-carb garnishes can significantly reduce the carb count.
It’s also essential to be mindful of the broth and any added sauces or condiments when calculating the carb content of your meal.
Does All Pho Have Sugar?
No, not all Pho has sugar. However, some broths may contain sugar as a flavoring agent, and some dishes may have added sugars in the form of sauces or condiments.
It’s always best to ask your server about the ingredients used in your specific dish to ensure it aligns with your dietary needs.
Is Pho Full of Calories?
A bowl of Pho can range from 300-600 calories, with the majority coming from noodles and protein sources. Choosing lean protein options and skipping high-calorie toppings like fried onions can help make your Pho a lighter meal.
You can also incorporate certain herbs such as ginger and ginseng in your recipes. Explore more options from this post: Chinese Herbs For Weight Loss: A Holistic Approach To Shake Up Your Metabolism.
The Bottom Line
Pho can be enjoyed on a low-carb diet as long as you make smart ingredient choices. Swap noodles for vegetables, choose broth wisely, load up on protein, and be mindful of garnishes.
With these tips you can continue to enjoy a warm, comforting bowl of Pho without derailing your Keto diet.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A review of the alleged health hazards of monosodium glutamate (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How much sodium should I eat per day? (2021, heart.org)
- Keto Pho With Shirataki Noodles (Miracle Noodles) (2019, rgfit.com)
- Protein, weight management, and satiety (2008, sciencedirect.com)
- Quick Keto Chicken Pho (2020, sugarfreemom.com)
- Rice noodles, cooked (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)