Is Pho Keto-Friendly? Does It Have Sugar? Best Keto Pho Recipe

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish that has become popular in the United States. It’s traditionally made with rice noodles and beef (although other protein options are available).

As many as 18 ingredients go into making this soup, and there are keto-friendly versions of Pho.

And in this article, I will walk you through which Pho’s version is keto-friendly, provide you with a simple ketogenic pho recipe for those who want to enjoy this delicious soup while sticking to their diet!

Is Pho Keto-friendly? Let’s discover together!

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Is Pho keto-friendly? Is Pho Broth keto?

The traditional Vietnamese dish Pho is typically served with rice noodles, high in carbohydrates and not allowed while following a keto diet.

However, it can also be enjoyed without the carbs of the noodles and still maintain a ketogenic diet, and we call it Pho Broth!

So traditional Pho is not suitable for keto, but Pho broth is. The broth is made from either chicken, beef, or vegetable stock.

A typical serving of traditional beef pho has around 97 grams of carbs per serving (a large bowl with noodles is considered one serving).

Keep in mind that most people add rice noodles to their dish, which adds even more carbohydrates.

However, if you skip on the meat and use just veggies or mushrooms for low carb options, the dish is ketogenic friendly because there are no inflammatory foods that will raise your blood sugar levels like beef or chicken would do.

Replace rice noodles in a traditional bowl with zucchini noodles if you want to stay true to the ketogenic diet. Protein is also an essential factor.

Zucchini Noodles

Meat is traditionally used for protein in a pho-style soup but consider adding some seafood instead to keep your meal low(er) in carbs.

Lastly, feel free to add plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables (e.g., beta-carotene-containing ones such as carrots). These will not only make your broth nice and flavorful but are great for immunity too!

How Many Carbs Are In Pho Broth?

Let’s have a look at how many carbs are in pho broth first:

The long answer: There are about 5grams of net carbs in each cup or 220 calories worth. This is made from the action of cooking down raw vegetables into a concentrated broth.

This is why even with a small amount of meat (which is naturally protein-rich and low in fat), you still have to control your portion sizes because the carbs are concentrated in the soup, not the meat!

The short answer: depends on what ingredients you include — typically around 10g or less per bowl or 150 calories if you add an egg.

Does Pho Broth Have Carbs Or Sugar? 

I get this question asked a lot, and the most recent is from reader ‘Linda,’ who is looking for a keto pho recipe.

Is Pho broth carb-free? No, it’s not completely carb-free, but the carbs in the pho broth are minimally offloaded.

Most chefs do not add sugar to pho broth, but there is a widespread spice used in the preparation of broth in Vietnam, and this seasoning has a bit of a bad effect on health if abused in cooking.

Let’s first get an understanding of what MSG is and why you should be watching your intake.

What Is MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)?

MSG is poisonous as it causes cells to overheat and die, resulting in impaired breathing and death if too much is eaten.

But again, this is mainly hearsay from media sensationalism after Dr. Ho Man Kwok wrote an article about the dangers of MSG for the medical journal The New England Journal Of Medicine, which is still being circulated today.

MSG is known as umami, a savory taste commonly associated with Asian food (particularly Chinese cuisine) and is also found in other foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, etc., not just in your local oriental restaurant. It is used to enhance flavor but also acts as a preservative.

You’ll find it added to everything from soups, broths, meat products, including sausages, chicken, and fish sticks, as well as almost every packet of chips you can imagine right through to frozen ready meals at the supermarket.

Most people are unaware that this additive is often added to many conveniences or ready-made foods like soups, sauces, and even a thickening agent in salad dressings.

In 2010, studies revealed that Chinese restaurant chefs, heavy MSG users, have an increased risk of developing heart disease, which is believed to be directly linked with their high MSG intake.

The study suggests that this is because MSG is referred to as an excitotoxin, an ingredient that overstimulates certain cells in your body (something I’ve discussed before regarding eating nightshades), leading to some cases of brain damage and causing tumors.

This is why we suggest avoiding processed food products altogether, such as Lays potato chips which contain no less than 5 types of added MSG!

But is it really as bad for you today as is commonly assumed?

According to the FDA, MSG is safe and is used in many foods. It is considered a “flavor-boosting” agent and is found naturally occurring in many common foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, etc.

Despite these recent studies into its harmful effects on health (some of which are now discredited) – the fact is there is not much evidence that it causes any adverse effects in humans, even with high intakes.

So how much is too much then? Well, if you have been diagnosed with ADHD or Alzheimer’s disease or suffer from epilepsy or Parkinson’s — chances are MSG isn’t recommended for consumption. But aside from these cases, moderate amounts can be enjoyed from time to time.

It is not a banned substance in the United States and is used extensively in processed foods with no labeling requirement due to its safety levels. You can find it in sauces, soups, salad dressings, etc. It is extremely popular among chefs who claim that just a tiny amount is needed to add flavor.

The best keto Pho broth recipe

The best keto pho recipe is made with beef bone broth, a rich source of beneficial collagen protein. It is also nutrient-rich in traditional Vietnamese spices that provide excellent health benefits. The main ingredients include:

  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Make sure to use a gluten-free fish sauce to avoid any potential inflammatory response from the body. Additionally, you may add different meat such as chicken, brisket, or shank for your pho broth.

To make Pho Broth, you can either buy bone broth powder and water or prepare from scratch. Homemade is the best preparation as you can adjust the spices to your liking (for example, adding more cinnamon).

How To Order Keto Pho?

For keto pho is easy to order if making it at home is not an option.

The best way to stay low carb when eating out at a Vietnamese restaurant is to pick a noodle-free or vegetarian pho bowl.

Order any meat such as brisket or shank without noodles. Add a side of extra vegetables such as bundle beans with garlic and onion. If dining out, ask for double-boiled options without rice noodles in pho soup to avoid excess carbs. 

It is also possible that some restaurants will offer gluten-free pho broth instead of a regular one. Ask for low sugar like one is sweet enough. 

How to cook perfect ketogenic Pho Broth at home in less than an hour?


Pho is the perfect soup dish that can be eaten any time of the year, but it is even more popular during the winter.

This is a great recipe to make and eat in the summer or any time you want to warm up with its soothing flavor.


  • 500 grams of beef bones or meat scraps (this is enough for about 10 bowls)
  • 1/2 cup of fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp of white vinegar
  • 45 g ginger, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 250 g carrot (roughly 5 large carrots)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 300 grams of bean sprouts
  • 1 tbsp of kombu sea moss or at least 3 x 4 inches sheets of dried kelp seaweed
  • 1 lemongrass stalk


  • Rinse the beef bones and meat with cold water and drain.
  • Add the bones and meat to a stockpot with 8 cups of water (let simmer over low heat for about 5 hours on a very gentle flame).
  • When cooking is done, add more water or beef broth if needed, but make sure you don’t make it too salty because after adding the fish sauce, you will want to adjust your seasoning.
  • Remove the bones from your broth, then strain and remove the large pieces of meat (you can eat these later).
  • Sieve the broth through a strainer to remove any small bones or unwanted meat particles.
  • Place the broth back into the pot and add ginger, onions, lemongrass stalk, fish sauce, and white vinegar (use tamari instead to gluten is an issue for you).
  • Boil for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat and adjust seasoning with more salt or fish sauce if needed.
  • Remove from stovetop. Set aside 5 is baby bok choy stalks and cut the rest finely.

We boil our veggies because this process helps them retain their essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and other anti-inflammatory properties.

For the pho broth, we are not adding any oil to avoid having a greasy soup.

However, you can add a bit of sesame oil for flavor and texture as desired if you prefer.

To finish your bowl, place your baby bok choy into the hot broth (about 5 is enough), place your fish in a single layer on top of the broth, and add noodles or chicken (optional).

Finally, sprinkle with some red chili flakes. Now it is time to enjoy this tasty meal! We hope that you have enjoyed our ketogenic recipe guide.

If you want more recipes, check out our ebook, where we list 70+ dishes and recipes suitable for this diet type, and our meal planner is beneficial if you are starting.

Final thoughts

Now that you know “Is Pho Keto-Friendly” and how it can be keto-friendly. We hope you’ll try the Keto Pho Broth recipe I’ve shared. It’s the perfect thing to enjoy while on a low-carb diet, and it only takes about an hour from start to finish!

Suppose you have any problem while doing the keto diet. Feel free to find out your best custom plan here & Dr. Tom Hunter will support all the things you need.

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