Kitchn Love Letters

The Instant Pot Recipe I Make Over and Over Again

published Sep 21, 2021
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Credit: Christine Gallary

One of my favorite comfort foods is Vietnamese pho. It hits the spot every time with its perfect combination of meaty, fragrant broth, slippery rice noodles, and fresh garnishes. I’ve made beef pho a few times, but found I didn’t like having to track down the different cuts of meat and bones that really make for a flavorful soup, so I just go out to eat it when the craving hits. But chicken pho? Now that’s a different story. A few years ago I made Andrea Nguyen’s dead-simple Instant Pot chicken pho and have never looked back. It’s one of the recipes I make most often in my pressure cooker, and we even had it last month for dinner on my daughter’s first day back at school when everyone needed an extra dose of comfort.

Andrea Nguyen literally wrote the book on making pho (here’s her beef pho recipe), and her recipes are always meticulously tested and easy to follow. This Instant Pot chicken pho is no exception. All of the ingredients can be easily found in most grocery stores, and you end up with lots of fragrant broth and perfectly cooked chicken with the press of just a few buttons. In fact, you get so much chicken it’s enough for serving with the noodles plus more for chicken salad or sandwiches.

Credit: Christine Gallary

How To Make Instant Pot Chicken Pho

The chicken is obviously the star of this soup, and it’s also where you want to make sure to follow the recipe. Get a 3-pound whole chicken, and don’t be tempted to get something bigger, even though I know that’s easier to find. A 3-pounder fits well in a 6-quart standard pressure cooker, and the timing in the recipe and amount of water needed is calibrated for this weight so that the chicken is not over- or under-cooked. Get the highest-quality chicken you can, as I’ve found it really makes a difference in the flavor of the meat and the final broth.

To make the chicken pho, start by toasting coriander seeds and dried cloves in an electric pressure cooker (no oil needed), then add ginger and onion and cook until fragrant. Put the whole chicken, a peeled and chopped sweet apple, cilantro, and some salt in the pot, then add about seven cups of water (I never bother to heat it up first), making sure you don’t go past the fill line in the Instant Pot. The whole process to get everything into the pot usually only takes me about 10 minutes, but do plan to start making the pho at least an hour and a half before you want to eat.

Pressure cook on the low setting for 15 minutes, and then it’s just really a waiting game (this is a great time to soak the noodles and prepare any garnishes). Let the pressure naturally release for 20 minutes after the cook time is up, then let everything cool with the lid off for 5 minutes before you transfer the chicken to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and help cool it down.

Strain the solids out of the broth, then season the broth with fish sauce, maple syrup, and more salt as needed. Take the meat off the bones, and finally assemble the bowls with cooked rice noodles, sliced or shredded chicken, piping-hot broth, and fresh garnishes. I like a little sliced jalapeño and some Thai basil, but mint, bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, or sliced onion are also great toppers.

Why You Need to Make Instant Pot Chicken Pho

There are so, so many things to love about this recipe. It’s gluten-free and can be made-ahead, making it a perfect weekend project that needs very little hands-on cooking. Diners can customize each bowl just the way they like it, so my spice-averse daughter can skip the spicy toppings but I can load up on them. The broth is nourishing and warming, but delicate at the same time.

It also makes enough for two dinners for my family of three. After we have it the first night, I freeze some chicken directly in the remaining broth to keep it from drying out and make sure I have some dried rice noodles in the pantry for when we need a quick weeknight meal. Oh, and did I mention our dog is also super-happy when we have chicken pho for dinner? She waits at my feet as I’m taking the chicken off the bones, knowing that a few tasty morsels will find their way to her if she’s patient enough. It’s a win-win, chicken dinner for all.

Get the recipe: Instant Pot Chicken Pho

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.