Pad Thai vs Pho: What Are the Differences and Similarities?

Pad thai vs pho… seriously two of my favorite rice noodle dishes! Each offers a certain comfort, and neither is actually too difficult to make! Many people aren’t sure of the differences between the two dishes, though, and they’re often mistaken for the other. 

Let’s clarify some of the similarities and differences, and what’s being discussed when we hear about these two rice noodle dishes.

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What Is Pad Thai?

Pad thai is a stir fry rice noodle dish that originates in Thailand and usually contains rice noodles, meat, peanuts, eggs, and other vegetables. It’s most commonly cooked in a wok, though it can also be cooked in different pans. 

This stir-fry rice noodle dish is very popular in Thailand, but because it is so delicious, it has become popular in other parts of the world, too!

The nature of pad thai makes it easy to adapt the recipe to suit your particular flavor preferences.

What Is Pho?

Recipe: Easy 30-Minute Instant Pot Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Pho is a lovely Vietnamese soup made of bone broth, rice noodles, spices, and meat. Because it is famous all over Vietnam, different country regions make it in different ways. 

However, for various reasons, pho looks a little bit different in the United States than it does in Vietnam. 

Still, though, you can find lots of pho dishes in the United States made with authentic noodles and broth, and you can always make your own, as well!

Similarities Between Pad Thai and Pho

By just hearing basic descriptions of pad thai vs. pho, they sound very similar.

They both:

  • Contain rice noodles, vegetables, meat, soy sauce, and fish sauce. 
  • Are initially from countries in Asia, and they each have a delicious umami flavor.
  • Can be adapted to fit dietary, and taste preferences and are typically served hot, but that is where their similarities end.

Differences Between Pad Thai and Pho

Pad thai and pho are actually two very different dishes.

Here is how they differ:

  • Pad thai is a stir fry dish that does not contain liquid (aside from a sauce), whereas pho is a soup dish that sits in a broth.
  • Secondly, pad thai comes from Thailand, and pho comes from Vietnam. Though both countries are in Asia, they are very far away from each other and have two unique cultures that affect their food. 
  • Lastly, pad thai and pho are also cooked very differently. With pho, the broth is typically poured over rice noodles and meat to cook them and then topped with raw vegetables. Pad thai is cooked in a wok, and all of its ingredients are stirred together.

Common Ingredients in Pad Thai

Pad Thai Ingredients: The Easiest Pad Thai with Tofu Recipe You’ll Ever Make

Pad thai can be adapted a bit, but there are common ingredients that you’ll find in this stir fry rice noodle dish, such as:

  • Rice sticks
  • Tamarind paste
  • Fish sauce
  • Sugar
  • Meat such as chicken, beef, or shrimp 
  • Peanuts
  • Vegetables such as bean sprouts

Common Ingredients in Pho

Chicken Pho Ingredients: Easy 30-Minute Instant Pot Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Common ingredients you will find in pho are:

  • Rice sticks
  • Meats such as brisket or chicken, or even tofu as a plant-based option
  • Fish sauce
  • Aromatics such as ginger, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardamon
  • Toppings such as bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapenos, green onions, cilantro, and lime

What Does Pad Thai Taste Like?

Recipe: The Easiest Pad Thai with Tofu Recipe You’ll Ever Make

Pat thai has a unique flavor thanks to its fusion of many different ingredients. It’s sweet and savory but has salty and nutty notes, too. 

But pad thai will ultimately taste different based on what ingredients you put in it. For example, if you put shrimp in your pad thai, you’ll have a more fishy taste.

If you use tofu, you’ll have more of a soy taste. And you can always change the flavors a bit by using different spices and garnishes.

What Does Pho Taste Like?

Pho also has a unique taste. But, again, like pad thai, it will change a bit depending on the recipe. 

Typically it has a fresh and salty flavor thanks to its broth and umami thanks to the meat it contains. But it can also have a citrusy flavor due to lime juice or a fresh taste, thanks to basil.

The wonderful thing about pho and pad thai is that they can be customized to fit your palate.

Pad Thai vs Pho: Which is Easier to Make?

Pho and pad Thai are both reasonably easy to make. However, making pho entirely from scratch will take you much longer to cook as you will have to simmer a broth for about three hours. 

But if you are just using store-bought ingredients or have a broth already prepared, it can come together in about 20 minutes, as can pad thai. 

As for which is more straightforward, that depends on if you think making a stir fry is easier than making a soup or vice versa. 

If you want to try making either of them at home, it should not be difficult if you have some cooking experience.

Pad Thai vs Pho: Which Rice Noodle Dish Is Better?

This is totally personal! Some people prefer pad thai, while others prefer pho. However, in my opinion, both are delicious, and because they are so different, I crave them at different times. 

Both are comfort foods and will satisfy you differently at different times. Try both and decide which one is better for you!

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The Takeaway

So there you have it – a comparison guide on pad thai vs pho. These two dishes are pretty similar, but they’ve got some major differences that make them unique. Nevertheless, each is very special and totally worth trying if you haven’t!

There’s still a lot you can learn about these dishes as they’re both staples in their respective countries of origin and have been served worldwide for centuries. So try your hand at both of these dishes and let me know your thoughts!

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

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