Is Pho Gluten-Free?

Is Pho gluten-free? A gluten-free course member went to dine out at a pho restaurant, and helping them inspired me to write this post.

So, is it gluten-free? According to Wikipedia, pho is a Vietnamese noodle and broth dish. It features broth, thick rice noodles, herbs, and meat.

Based on what pho is made from, it often can be gluten-free and celiac-safe. Let’s talk about the components of pho, when it’s gluten-free, and how to order safe pho at a restaurant.

Is Pho Gluten-Free? How to order Gluten-Free Pho - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is Pho?

Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle and broth dish. This dish is actually considered to be Vietnam’s national dish. While traditionally made with beef, there are many chicken based pho dishes too.

As long as the rice noodles are 100% rice, and the broth and any add-in’s are gluten-free then pho is gluten-free. But how do you know if the pho noodles, broth, or add-ins are all gluten-free?

Is Pho Gluten-Free?

Is pho gluten-free? The short answer? Sometimes. The long answer: the only way to know is to check the ingredients. So let’s talk about what pho is typically made from.

Pho noodles, also known as banh pho, are gluten-free as long as they are made from 100% rice and water.

Pho soup or the broth that the rice noodles are made in, is traditionally made with beef stock and fish sauce. Both beef stock and fish sauce are foods that aren’t always gluten-free. Thus, it’s important to check to make sure what is being used is gluten-free. The same goes for any other broth, stock, or sauce potentially used in the broth.

The good news is, if you’re making homemade pho, you are in control and can make sure it’s gluten-free. Here’s a homemade pho recipe to try if you’re in the mood to make it at home.

Is Pho Gluten-Free? How to order Gluten-Free Pho - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Ingredients to Avoid or Double Check

Pho can naturally be gluten-free but it can also contain gluten. Below are some ingredients to avoid or double-check.

  • Anything breaded – anything that’s breaded could be breaded with gluten or fried in oil that has fried gluten. You always want to check.
  • Soy sauce – unless it’s gluten-free soy sauce, most soy sauce is made with wheat.
  • Hoisin or plum sauce – can often have wheat in it, you always want to double-check.
  • Egg noodles – contrary to what the name suggests, egg noodles are not just made of egg but a combination of eggs and wheat flour. If egg noodles or other gluten containing noodles are prepared in the restaurant, you’ll want to specify your noodles are made in a freshly washed pot with new water.
  • Fish sauce – this sauce is made of fish but some varieties can contain gluten. Again, you’ll want to make sure it’s gluten-free.
  • Any kind of broth: while uncommon, can be flavored with gluten grains or be thickened with flours, so you’ll want to make sure it’s gluten-free.
  • Any other sauce or condiment that’s not single ingredient.  These are great places for gluten to hide and you’ll always want to check them.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but a good starting point. See something that you think should be added? Contact me! Let’s chat!

Is Pho Gluten-Free? How to order Gluten-Free Pho - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

How to Order Gluten-Free Pho at Restaurants

It can be hard dining out with celiac disease, because gluten is everywhere. If it’s not in the actual food then it can be transferred to foods through cross-contact.

If you are looking to order gluten-free pho from a restaurant, it’s important you ensure that it’s celiac-safe and can be made free from cross-contact. Below are questions to ask when checking if there is gluten in the pho at a restaurant:

  • Are any of your dishes gluten-free?
  • What’s your cross-contact protocol?
  • Is anything made with fish sauce? Is your fish sauce gluten-free?
  • Is there soy sauce in this dish? (In the meat or broth?) Can you substitute with gluten-free soy sauce? Can I bring my own GF soy sauce?
  • Is there any hoisin sauce in this dish? Is your hoisin sauce gluten-free?  (In the meat or broth?)
  • Is the meat marinated? With what?
  • Do you cook any other kind of noodles in this kitchen? If so, can you cook my noodles in freshly washed pot with fresh water?

When ordering pho from a restaurant it might be helpful to first call the restaurant and ask them about their options. When calling it might look like:

“Hi, I was invited to dinner with a friend to your restaurant but I have a gluten allergy. I was thinking of ordering the beef pho dish. Can you tell me if it can be made gluten-free? Great, I just want to double-check, is the meat marinated? And are there any sauces or flours added to this?”

If you’ve confirmed it’s possible to dine safely at the restaurant over the phone, ordering gluten-free pho in the restaurant might look like:

“Hey! I have a gluten allergy, I spoke with someone over the phone and they assured me beef pho can be made gluten-free. Is this true? (If they don’t know, ask them to verify with the kitchen). Great, can you please let the chef know I have a gluten allergy and to change their gloves and make sure to use a freshly washed pot and fresh water when making my pho? Great. I’ll take the beef pho with no soy or hoisin sauce. Thanks”

If you want more help with dining out at restaurants with celiac, I cover how to do it step-by-step WITH practice simulations in the Gluten-free Dining Course!

If you’re recently diagnosed with celiac, you want to check out this course!

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