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Is Pho Gluten Free? Discover This Famous Vietnamese Cuisine On Your Gluten-Free Diet In 2023.

Susan Adeosun

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

is pho gluten free
While enjoyed by many, does Vietnamese pho count as gluten-free? Photo: Ba Le Ho

Is pho gluten-free? Gluten is a protein in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. However, some people are gluten-sensitive or allergic. An immune disease, celiac disease,[1] can result in damage to the intestines with gluten exposure. 

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup dish made from rice noodles, broth, herbs, and meat. If traveling to Vietnam, you’ll see it in restaurants countrywide. It is considered Vietnam’s national dish. 

If you are on a gluten-free diet plan for any reason, you should research your meals — including pho — for gluten. Here, we discuss pho, its dietary information, and whether it’s safe to consume on a gluten-free diet.

Is Pho Gluten Free?

Yes, pho is gluten-free. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of rice noodles, vegetables, and other ingredients in broth. If none of its other ingredients contain gluten, it is officially gluten-free. 

However, be aware that its preparation and serving might introduce unwanted gluten or gluten-contaminated ingredients.

Does Pho Have Gluten?

No, traditional pho is made with gluten-free ingredients and is considered gluten-free. While some Asian dishes are made with egg noodles, which contain wheat flour, pho is made with rice noodles, which are naturally gluten-free. Also, the basic ingredients used in the broth and toppings, such as meats, herbs, and vegetables, are naturally gluten-free.

Pho soup is prepared by gently boiling beef bones, ginger, onions, fish sauce, and a mix of spices to make a beef broth. The main ingredient — banh pho rice noodles — is then added to the broth while it continues boiling. Extra spices like cilantro and basil are added to taste. 

Thin slices of beef or chicken are also added to the chicken or beef stock as the protein. Vegetarians can substitute this step with tofu. Other vegetables include bean sprouts, ginger, green onions, and chili peppers. 

With such a lengthy list of ingredients as outlined above, gluten may be a concern. So, is pho gluten-free? Yes, it is. Pho, made traditionally, should not contain gluten. But there are some potential gluten ingredients to watch out for.

Ingredients To Avoid In Pho That May Contain Gluten

Pho contains various ingredients. Depending on the mix, there is the possibility that one or more of the ingredients contain gluten. For example, some variations of pho include sauces or condiments that could contain gluten. 

Here is a breakdown of some gluten-containing ingredients:

  1. Soy sauce: Traditional soy sauce is often added to pho. Soy sauce is made from soybeans and wheat, both containing gluten. Soy sauce enhances the broth’s flavor and can be served as a condiment. Other common sauces contributing to pho gluten include hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and fish sauce
  2. Noodles: While flat noodles made from rice are the traditional component of pho, some restaurants might use wheat-based egg noodles or a mix of rice and wheat noodles. 
  3. Processed broth: The great thing about pho is that it is usually prepared from scratch. However, pre-packaged or previously prepared broth may contain additives, thickeners, or flavor enhancers that could contain gluten. Gluten often enters the mix due to cross-contamination. 
  4. Processed meat: Gluten-free pho should not have suspicious processed ingredients. Processed meat like meatballs or sausages might contain fillers or breadcrumbs that contain gluten.
  5. Flour-based thickeners: Pho is usually a thin soup, but some pho broths might use flour-based thickeners to give a thicker texture. The most common type of flour is wheat-based flour, so these thickeners might contain gluten.

In light of this, always read labels and ingredient lists if purchasing pre-made pho products. If you order pho at a restaurant, ask the staff about any gluten ingredients.

What Is Pho?

Firstly, where is pho from? Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, pronounced fuh. It blends rich gluten-free broth, tender rice noodles, and several toppings. Pho is often associated with comfort on a winter day or the freshness of a summer afternoon. Pho comes in various types. Each type is known by its ingredients:

  1. Pho Bo — Beef Pho: One of the best-known varieties, featuring beef-based broth and slices of beef. Its various cuts of beef include rare steak, brisket, and meatballs.
  2. Pho Ga — Chicken Pho: Chicken here is the main event. The broth is made from chicken bones, and the soup is adorned with tender chicken slices.
  3. Pho Chay — Vegetarian Pho: Designed for plant-based eaters, vegetarian pho typically consists of a vegetable-based broth, tofu, and an assortment of fresh vegetables. Some vegetables in pho chay include mushrooms, radishes, ginger, carrots, onions, and spices such as black cardamon, cinnamon, coriander seeds, and cloves.

Beyond its types, pho offers several health benefits:

  1. Nutrient-rich broth: The beef broth is often simmered with bones, herbs, and spices. Combining these ingredients provides essential supplements like collagen,[2] vitamins, and minerals that support joint health,[3] digestion, and immune function.
  2. Hydration: Its broth is water-based. It also has water-rich vegetables, contributing to hydration. Of course, hydration is essential for bodily functions and overall well-being.
  3. Antioxidants: Fresh herbs and spices[4] like basil, cilantro, and ginger[5] infuse pho with antioxidants. Antioxidants combat oxidative stress and promote health.
  4. Warmth and comfort: During colder months, pho’s warmth and comfort make it a soothing choice that nurtures the body and soul.

Pho is not just a dish — it’s a cultural emblem and a multivitamin adventure. Its variations and health benefits make it a great addition to your diet.

How To Order Gluten-Free Pho

Do you need gluten-free meal delivery? Then, being cautious about the meal and its production is important. When making your own pho, homemade broth is sure to be gluten-free. However, in cases where you are ordering pho, here are some ways to ensure your pho is gluten-free:

  1. Choose a reliable restaurant: The gluten content of pho boils down to a restaurant’s cross-contamination practices. Research Vietnamese restaurants in your area that offer gluten-free options or are willing to accommodate dietary restrictions. Check their menu and reviews online.
  2. Call ahead: After researching, call ahead to inquire about gluten-free offerings. This allows you to discuss your needs and ensure they can accommodate you.
  3. Ask about ingredients: Inquire about the ingredients used in their pho, especially the broth, noodles, and toppings. Ask if they have gluten-free rice noodles available. Also, request plain vegetables to accompany the pho. 
  4. Avoid gluten-containing sauces: Check if the restaurant uses soy sauce, hoisin sauce, or oyster sauce in their pho. Ask if they can provide gluten-free alternatives or omit these sauces.

Other Gluten-Free Vietnamese Dishes

Vietnam is a culturally rich country, and her dishes are a testament to that. If you are on a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of options. The same can be said for weight loss and vegetarian diets as well. 

Here are some gluten-free Vietnamese dishes with recipes online that you simply have to try:

Hu Tieu

Hu Tieu is a traditional Vietnamese dish. Hu Tieu noodles are made from tapioca starch and rice flour and are naturally gluten-free.

Goi Cuon — Spring Rolls

Goi Cuon are translucent rice paper rolls filled with various ingredients, such as shrimp, herbs, vermicelli noodles, and sometimes pork or tofu. As long as they are served with gluten-free condiments, they should be safe for a gluten-free diet. 

Mi Quang Noodles

Mi Quang is a rice noodle dish served with toppings like pork, shrimp, herbs, peanuts, and crispy rice crackers. The dish is also known for its distinctive turmeric[6]-infused broth.

Final Thoughts

Traditionally made with rice noodles and a rich broth, pho is inherently gluten-free. Additionally, as gluten awareness grows, more restaurants offer gluten-free versions or adapt to our ever-evolving dietary needs.

However, watch out for certain gluten-containing ingredients that might be used in the preparation of pho, such as soy sauce, fish sauce, powdered broth, or thickeners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can people with celiac disease eat pho?

Yes, people with celiac disease can usually eat pho. Celiac disease is an immune response triggered by gluten consumption. Pho does not traditionally contain wheat or gluten, but always check with the chef to ensure there’s no risk of cross-contamination.

Are pho noodles gluten-free?

Yes, pho noodles are gluten-free. Traditional rice noodles are used to make pho, which are free from gluten.

Is pho broth gluten-free?

Made correctly, pho broth contains bone broth, vegetables, and other spices. None of its ingredients should contain gluten. However, readymade broth might contain gluten.

Is the meat in pho gluten-free?

Meat is generally gluten-free. However, it is important to clarify with the chef due to processed meats and other manufacturing adulterations.


+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Medlineplus.gov. (2023). Celiac Disease. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/celiacdisease.html
  2. Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N. and Sriraam Venkateswarathirukumara (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, [online] 95(4), pp.702–707. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.6752.
  3. Hochberg, M.C., Martel-Pelletier, J., Monfort, J., Möller, I., Castillo, J.R., Arden, N.K., Berenbaum, F., Blanco, F.J., Conaghan, P.G., Domenech, G., Yves Henrotin, Pap, T., Pascal Richette, Sawitzke, A.D., Patrick du Souich and Jean Pierre Pelletier (2015). Combined chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for painful knee osteoarthritis: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, non-inferiority trial versus celecoxib. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, [online] 75(1), pp.37–44. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-206792.
  4. Opara, E.I. and Chohan, M. (2014). Culinary Herbs and Spices: Their Bioactive Properties, the Contribution of Polyphenols and the Challenges in Deducing Their True Health Benefits. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 15(10), pp.19183–19202. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms151019183.
  5. Mashhadi, N.S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L. and Mofid, M.R. (2013). Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. International journal of preventive medicine, [online] 4(Suppl 1), pp.S36-42. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/
  6. NCCIH. (2019). Turmeric. [online] Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric#:~:text=Turmeric%20is%20a%20common%20spice,gives%20turmeric%20its%20yellow%20color.
Susan Adeosun

Written by:

Susan Adeosun, Dr.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Dr Susan Adeosun (MPH, MD) is a Medical Doctor and Public Health enthusiast. She has over five years' worth of experience in public health and preventive medicine and is a firm believer in the famous phrase by Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, “prevention is better than cure.” Her journey through public health, combined with her love for writing, has resulted in the publication of several health articles on various blogs, websites, and peer review journals. When she is not advocating for better health education, she spends her time reading, cooking, and hanging out with friends.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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