Immune-Boosting Pho Recipe

Whether you tend to approach cold and flu season by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, or by stocking your cupboards with an arsenal of natural immunity-boosters, I’ve got a recipe for you that I think could revolutionize your approach to staying healthy this winter. It’s a delicious version of pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup that’s chock full of health-promoting aromatic spices.

As an enthusiastic vegan cook and an herbalist, I just had to play with the classic recipe a little bit to see if I could make an animal-friendly version that’s even more effective and delicious than the original. I’ve added burdock root (Arctium lappa) to support liver function and to increase the mineral content. The astragalus in the recipe is prized as an immunomodulator. It will help to make your immune response more effective without causing your immune system to become overactive. Finally, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it helps your body to respond more healthfully to physical and mental stress.

In many traditions, tonic herbs like these are considered to be most effective when cooked into food, but it’s the taste of this soup that will keep you coming back for more. I can’t think of anything more comforting than cozying up with a bowl of this healing pho on a wintry day. Enjoy it as a meal or make a big batch of the broth and drink a bit each day as a delicious tonic for your immune system this winter.


**Tip: you may be able to purchase the medicinal herbs for this recipe in the bulk section of your natural food store. If you can’t find them there, you can order bulk herbs online.

For the broth:

  • 2 unpeeled organic onions, cut into quarters
  • 8-12 garlic cloves, smashed
  • a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, cut into thick slices
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches long)
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cup dried burdock (Arctium lappa) root
  • 1 Tbsp. dried (Astragalus membranaceus) root
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root
  • 3 Tbsp. tamari, or Coconut Aminos

To make it a meal:

  • 1 pound rice noodles
  • 8 ounces fried or baked tofu (or seitan), sliced
  • 6 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • Handful of fresh basil or cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime
  • Optional sauces for serving: hoisin or sriracha

To make the broth:

Start by dry-roasting the broth ingredients to bring out their flavor. Heat a very large soup pot over medium-high heat. Do not add any oil or water to the pot. When the pot is heated, add the quartered onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anist, and cloves. Stir occasionally, allowing the veggies to char slightly and the spices to start to give off their aromas. This should take about 5-10 minutes.

Next, add 4-6 quarts of filtered water until your pot is a little bit more than ¾ of the way full. Add the medicinal roots (burdock, astragalus, and eleuthero) and give the pot a good stir. Bring the broth up to the boil, uncovered. Then, turn the heat down to low, partially cover the pot, and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep the pot about ¾ of the way full. If you have more time, let the broth simmer longer.

Once you’re finished simmering the broth, allow it to cool enough to handle. Strain the veggies, spices, and herbs from the broth using a strainer lined with cheesecloth and make sure to wring out your herbs and veggies by wrapping the cheesecloth around them and squeezing it with your hands. This helps to make sure you get to enjoy every last drop of the broth. (You can snack on the cooked onions, garlic, and ginger for an extra immune-boost.) Finish the broth by adding 3 Tbsp. of tamari or coconut aminos.

You can enjoy a cup of the broth each day as an immune tonic. It will keep in the fridge for about a week, or you can freeze it in small batches to use throughout the winter. Or, if you’d like to enjoy the Pho as a meal, cook your rice noodles according to package directions and place them in serving bowls with your tofu/seitan and mung bean sprouts. Cover each portion of noodles with a generous serving of broth and garnish with hand-torn basil leaves. Bring a small bowl of lime wedges to the table along with hot sauce and/or hoisin sauce so that everyone can serve themselves