Is Pho Keto-Friendly? + Low-Carb Noodles to Try

Pho is a popular Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, thin slices of meat, and bean sprouts. If you’re on the keto diet you might be wondering, is pho keto-friendly? It basically is except the rice noodles that aren’t low-carb. You can swap in a low-carb cabbage or noodles.


Have you ever tried Pho? It is a popular Vietnamese soup with ingredients like thinly-sliced beef or chicken, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and various herbs/spices. Fun Fact: The modern version of Pho was invented in Northern Vietnam during the first decade of the 1900s. If you’re on the Ketogenic diet, then you might be wondering: is pho keto-friendly? The diet doesn’t allow high-carb ingredients or refined grains, so the biggest issue would be the rice noodles. The keto diet is a low-carb/high-fat (LCHF) diet with a macro split of 70% carbs, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. Grains and especially refined grains aren’t allowed on this diet.

The main issue with Pho in terms of the Keto diet is rice noodles. They’re lighter than wheat noodles but have 25g of carbs, which is half the total carbohydrates allowed on the keto diet. So, this is something you’d have to tweak to make the food keto-friendly. The good news is there are low-carb alternatives like Shirataki noodles that are 97% water. The main issue with rice noodles is they’re made from refined grains that are high-carb. In theory, brown rice noodles might seem like a good option. While it’s slower-digesting they’re also relatively very high in carbs.

What Is Pho?

This is a Vietnamese soup. The modern version first appeared in Northern Vietnam over a century ago during the early 1900s. It includes lots of healthy ingredients including:

  • Thinly-sliced meat (beef, chicken, etc.)
  • Beef intestines
  • Rice noodles
  • Beef bone broth
  • Bean sprouts
  • Herbs/spices
  • Spicy paste

You can find different regional versions of Pho that include some tweaks to basic Pho. It includes some changes to the meat and broth, and extra garnishes like bean sprouts, lime, and so on. Meanwhile, the chili sauce seems to have originated from Southern Vietnam.

There are even different Pho dishes that aren’t soup-based. They include stews, sautéed/stir-fried noodles, and salad with Pho noodles and herbs/dressings.

Today you can find Pho offered in Vietnamese restaurants throughout the world. Google reports that noodle soup has been increasing in popularity during the past decade or so. Consumers are also looking for recipes to make the broth/noodle dish. There’s also been a spike in Pho searches on the weekend. So, it seems consumers want to try out some new recipes when they have extra free time on Saturday and Sunday.

If you’re on the keto diet it’s a dish you might want to try out on the weekend. Some of the authentic ingredients might be a little tough to find. However, in terms of making tasty noodle soup, it’s a great option.

One issue you’ll want to determine though is whether or not it’s a keto-friendly food. Is it low-carb and low-fat so you’ll stay in a state of ketosis?

There’s no question that Pho has become one of the most iconic Vietnamese foods around the food. Another popular one is the Banh mi sandwich that includes a baguette, pork sausage, veggies, and mayo.

Is Pho Keto-friendly?

This is the big question if you’re on the keto diet and want to eat Pho for the first or thousandth time. Keto is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. The low carbohydrates cause your body to go into a state of ketosis. Your body then gets energy from fat stores and liver-produced “ketones.”

The keto diet has also been trending during the past years. One of the main differences with the earliest low-carb diets is it’s moderate-protein and high-fat. For example, the Stillman Diet (1967) was low-carb, low-fat, and high-protein.

Many of the next low-carb diets were higher-fat but not as high as the Keto Diet. Another thing that sets Keto apart from many other low-carb diets is it’s high in “good” fats. That includes foods like fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil.

What is Keto-friendly food anyway? The standard macronutrient split is 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. There’s some leeway allowed but it’s critical that fats are sky-high and carbs are rock-bottom.

So, let’s take a closer look at Pho. It’s loaded with sources of good fat including bone broth, meat (beef or chicken), and beef intestines. If you’re not a fan of animal innards you can skip the intestines and just go with extra beef or poultry.

Bone broth is a key ingredient of Pho. It helps to add healthy fat, flavor, and nutrients. The food is so healthy it’s even featured in a Bone Broth Diet.

Then there are the veggies. They get a green light for being low-carb since they’re “light” including:

  • Basil
  • Bean sprouts
  • Chili
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Scallions
  • Watercress

The bean sprouts might be surprising since grains and beans typically aren’t allowed when you’re on the keto diet. However, bean sprouts only have 2.1g of carbs, so they get a thumbs up.

The big question mark is the rice noodles at 25g of carbs.

Low Carb Noodles

When making Keto Pho one alternative for the rice noodles is cabbage. It has a taste and texture similar to rice noodles. One cup of cabbage is about 4.1g of carbs.

Here are some low-carb noodles you could add to your Pho:

1. Shirataki Noodles

This noodle is also known as “miracle noodles.” They’re 97% water, which helps to explain why there’s super-low in carbs and calories. These yam noodles are close to 0 calories. They’re also a super-low 1g net carbs per 100g of noodles.

One of the main benefits of shirataki noodles is they absorb the flavor of meat, veggies, and herbs added to them. This makes them ideal for Pho since there are lots of protein, veggies, and herbs/spices added. The noodles will team up with the other ingredients instead of overpowering them.

Besides the water, another key feature of the noodles is they’re made from yams instead of grains. Whole food yams are ironically high-carb. 

2. Cabbage Noodles

When picking noodles for Pho you don’t want an overly powerful flavor so you can enjoy the flavors of the animal and plant-based ingredients. That’s why these are a good option.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of cabbage noodles. First, they’re just 6g of carbs per 100g of cabbage, which is quite low. Keep in mind the cabbage is for the Pho batch so the figure is lower per serving.

Then there are the nutrients. That includes 55% of the daily value of Vitamin C and 85% of RV for Vitamin K/Potassium.

3. Onion Noodles

They have one-third the carbs of flour-based pasta. They’re also high in lots of nutrients like Vitamin B/C, potassium, phosphorus, and fiber.

Onion noodles are also high in a certain kind of antioxidant. This can help to boost heart health and lower blood pressure after learning is pho keto-friendly.   

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