When I witness cool and wet weather, I instantly think of the numerous delicious Pho variations I enjoyed in Vietnam.
Soups that contain bone broth, pasture-raised beef, and immune-boosting spices make my heart skip a beat.
Although a bowl of pho at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant now and then is fine, soup could pose a problem on a ketogenic diet.
In addition, some restaurants use monosodium glutamate for pho. And then there are the rice noodles.
To find out if pho is therefore allowed on a keto diet, what alternatives are available to you, and how to make low-carb pho yourself, read on.
Is Pho Keto?
Pho or phở has its origins in Vietnam.
Now extremely popular in Western metropolitan areas, the soup is not as old and traditional as you might think. There are no records of pho recipes older than 100 years.
It is believed that the French occupation of northern Vietnam and neighboring Chinese traditions have greatly influenced the famous broth. Therefore, it is also thought that pho may have originated from the Vietnamese pronunciation of the French dish pot-au-feu (French for pot on the fire).
In addition, South Vietnam also influenced the famous broth. South Vietnamese cuisine added garnishes such as cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, or Thai basil to the Pho soup.
The hearty soup from Vietnam enjoys a healthy reputation. But is pho also suitable for a low-carb diet like keto?
For that, we need to look at the carbohydrates in pho.
Carbs in Pho
Pho soup is bursting with healthy low-carb foods. Steak, bone broth, leek vegetables, ginger, and spices will unlikely spoil our macronutrient balance.
However, traditional pho is made with rice noodles.
Due to processing, white rice and rice noodles have a higher glycemic index.
Moreover, studies state that regular consumption of refined rice products can affect blood sugar control and be associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Musa-Veloso et al. 20181; Hu et al. 20122).
Therefore, how concerning is a portion of rice noodles in pho?
How Many Carbs Are in Pho Noodles?
100 grams of cooked rice noodles provide the following average nutritional values (*):
- Energy: 109 calories
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 24.9 grams
- Dietary fiber: 1.0 grams
- Net carbs: 23.9 grams
Although rice noodles have undergone another processing stage, we see little difference in the nutritional information compared to conventional rice (*).
But how significant is the portion of rice noodles in pho?
A large bowl of pho contains pretty much 100 grams of rice noodles. Therefore, the above information applies in our case.
Is Pho Keto-Friendly?
Pho is not keto. Rice noodles, surprisingly, have no more net carbs than white rice. However, they are also significantly lower in protein, likely due to the higher level of processing.
The bottom line is that they are almost free of fats, proteins, and fiber. Therefore, rice noodles stimulate blood sugar and insulin secretion to a high degree. Hence, a classic serving of pho with 100 grams of rice noodles will kick most people out of ketosis.
Finally, the carbohydrate limit for ketosis is about 25 grams per day.
Since traditional pho soup is made with rice noodles, it is not keto-friendly.
In contrast, pho broth with beef and vegetables but without noodles is low in carbohydrates and can be safely consumed during a ketogenic diet.
However, delicious alternatives to pho noodles exist through which you can integrate the delicious soup into the ketogenic diet and enjoy the health benefits of the other ingredients without hesitation.
Keto Pho Noodles Alternatives
There are three reasonable alternatives to rice noodles in pho soup: Shirataki noodles made from konjac flour, noodle substitutes made from seaweed, and noodle substitutes made from zucchini.
While you can start with the first two varieties immediately, you’ll need a special cutter for the zucchini noodles. Here are all the necessary product links at a glance:
- Buy Konjak Noodles (0 net carbs)
- Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles (low carb)
- Spiral Slicer Cutter for zoodles (zucchini noodles)
Konjac (miracle) noodles are my favorite when things need to go fast. Since they are all fiber, they have no net carbs at all. That’s why I use them in my Keto Pho recipe.
The kelp noodles are a viable alternative to miracle noodles. Unlike konjac noodles, they contain a negligible amount of net carbs. If you like algae products, buy this variety.
Zoodles are the do-it-yourself variety. Anyway, for this, you need a spiral slicer. With it, you can make zucchini noodles yourself without much effort. This low-carb alternative to pho noodles is fresh and comes without packaged products.
Keto Pho Recipe
As with any other recipe, the base for pho is the broth. I prefer to make a hearty bone broth myself for this.
However, you should simmer the broth for at least 12 hours for pho. If that’s too long for you, you can also purchase bone broth that is 100% keto-friendly.
The best broth you can buy on Amazon is Organic Grass-Fed Bone Broth.
After being simmered for a long time, pasture-raised beef broth is rich in collagen, the essential building block for bones, skin, and hair.
If you want to make authentic Vietnamese pho, you’ll also need spices in your pantry that you may not have.
For that, too, I looked around for the most keto-friendly alternatives on the market and can recommend the following products to buy:
- Organic Coconut Amino Acids
- Vietnamese Fish Sauce (without glutamate and additives)
- Organic Star Anise (without additives, optional)
- Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks (optional)
In my article on Ceylon Cinnamon, you will learn why it is healthier than regular Cassia Cinnamon from the supermarket.
Coconut aminos are a healthier alternative to soy sauce. Unlike the latter, they come in any case without genetic manipulation, additives, and phytic acid, which inhibits nutrient absorption.
If the introduction intimidated you, this Keto Pho Bo recipe only requires 10 minutes of active work time:
Keto Pho (Easy Recipe)
- 8 cups bone broth beef
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp coco aminos
- 14 oz flank steak or ribeye
- 4 garlic gloves crushed
- 1 onion
- 14 oz konjak noodles or zoodles
- 1 ginger root pealed
- 1 ceylon cinnamon stick optional
- 4 star anis optional
- Put the steak in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then slice it thinly.
- Cut the onion in half. Sauté the ginger and onion halves, cut side down, at the bottom of the soup pot until they just begin to turn black.
- Add the crushed garlic cloves, fish sauce, coconut amino acids, peppercorns, cinnamon as well as star anise and pour in the broth.
- Place the pot on medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
- Then briefly bring to a boil and carefully ladle into bowls over the noodles and beef.
- Optionally garnish with cilantro, scallions and chili and serve.
With Keto, You Don’t Have to Give Up Pho
The refined carbohydrates from the rice noodles make the otherwise healthy pho soup a problem on a ketogenic diet.
Fortunately, top-notch low-carb alternatives to rice noodles exist. For example, my keto pho recipe uses konjac noodles with zero net carbs, which you can easily purchase.
In addition, you can also easily make your zucchini noodles with a spiral slicer and put them into the soup raw.
The keto-friendly substitute may not taste exactly like rice noodles, but these alternatives will keep you in ketosis so you can keep burning fat instead of carbs.
Is Pho Keto Carbs FAQ
Is pho OK for Keto diet?
Due to the carbs in rice noodles, traditional pho is not OK for the keto diet. However, you will find keto-friendly alternatives in this article.
Is pho high in carbs?
Pho soup is not high in carbs, but rice noodles are.
How many carbohydrates are in pho?
One serving of Pho Bo has about 700 calories.
Studies click to expand!
1Musa-Veloso K, Poon T, Harkness LS, O’Shea M, Chu Y. The effects of whole-grain compared with refined wheat, rice, and rye on the postprandial blood glucose response: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Oct 1;108(4):759-774. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy112. PubMed PMID: 30321274.
2Hu EA, Pan A, Malik V, Sun Q. White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review. BMJ. 2012 Mar 15;344:e1454. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e1454. Review. PubMed PMID: 22422870; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3307808.
Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.
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