Boat Noodle Soup vs Pho: What’s the Difference?

Boat noodle soup vs pho is a trending topic that has caused foodies to find the difference between the two meals. Pho and boat noodle soup are two nutritious rice noodle recipes known for their richness and flavor. Pho is a renowned Vietnamese dish that is a delicious Thai Boat Noodle Soup Cousin. Yay! It’s surprising to say that these two dishes are closely related dishes despite having differences in boundaries. Pho and boat noodle soup are two different delicious recipes having similar key ingredients, i.e., broth and solid ingredients such as rice noodles, meat, vegetables, etc.

Pho and boat noodle soup have broths made of meats. However, pho broth is prepared using beef bones and meat, while boat noodle soup broth is prepared using beef and pork. You can add your favorite spices or sauces to them in addition to adding some fundamental veggies like onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, etc. This article will help you understand the prime differences between pho and boat noodle soup in detail.

What Is Pho? (Boat noodle soup vs pho)

Pho is an incredibly delicious Vietnamese dish {Link the article on “Is pho Thai or Vietnamese”} consisting of rice noodles, beef broth, meat, veggies, and spices. It is equally loved all across the Vietnamese due to its taste and richness of flavors.

What Is Boat Noodle Soup? (Boat noodle soup vs pho)

Boat noodle soup is considered as a Thai alternative to the pho. It is primarily cooked using beef or pho for broth with other solid ingredients like meat, noodles, vegetables, dark sauces, and garnishes. Visually the main difference is very obvious – Pho is a clear light brown broth, whereas boat noodle soup is very dark brown broth.

The taste is also very different – pho is lighter and more aromatic with spices and aromatics of ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and coriander. Boat noodle soup is pork-based broth and has pork blood mixed in (which explains it dark color).

Are boat Noodles Soup and Pho the Same?

Boat noodle soup and pho are two distinctively different recipes hence why the debate of Boat noodle soup vs pho. The main difference between these two dishes lies in their broth. Pho broth is usually clearer and lighter than the boat noodle soup, which has an opaque and dark broth.

Moreover, boat noodle soup is a Thai-style recipe, unlike pho, which is primarily Vietnamese. Boat noodle soup is also spicy when served, whereas Pho is not spicy unless you add in sriracha (on Amazon) (which is common).

Differences in origin, broth, noodle, and garnishings

Boat noodle soup vs pho

Pho and Boat Noodle Soup are two different rice noodle recipes with meat as prime ingredients. Pho is a Vietnamese dish, while Boat Noodle is a Thai-style dish. There are distinctive and quite noticeable differences between these two dishes. The main differences between pho and boat noodle soup are given below: 

Pho vs Boat Noodle Soup

Pho vs Boat Noodle Soup

Aspect Pho Boat Noodle Soup
Origin Originated in Northern Vietnam Originated in Thailand, particularly around Bangkok
Broth Clear and light, made with beef bones and aromatic spices Dark and rich, often flavored with soy sauce and spices
Noodles Flat, wide rice noodles Thin rice noodles
Garnishments Bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, lime wedges, chili peppers Bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, cilantro, green onions, fried garlic


The origin of pho and boat noodles is entirely different. The key differences between their origins are as follows:


Pho is considered a Vietnamese dish that has prior popularity in Vietnam. The dish has a blend of French, and it is also considered that the French originated this dish for the first time. Most historians agree that Pho was invented in the late 19th and early 20th century in northern Vietnam during the French colonial times.

The origin is a bit murky – although some historians believe that it was an adaptation of pot-au-feu, which is a French stew consisting of beef and vegetables. “Pot-au-feu” has a similiar phonetic to “pho”.

Boat Noodle Soup

Boat noodle soup is a Thai-style dish recognized for its strong flavor. Thailand vendors originally founded it. This dish was sold by these food vendors across the boats from where this dish was given its name based on the site of its discovery.

Broth Composition

Pho broth and soup vary in their composition. The main ingredients of pho broth and boat noodle soup are meat, while others may vary in every recipe. Pho is beef-based and boat noodle soup is pork-based.


Bowl of healthy pho noodle soup with rare eye round steak chopsticks and a soup spoon

Pho broth is made from beef bones and meat and has a smoother texture. The other main ingredients of pho broth include:

  • Soy Sauce.
  • Onions.
  • Coriander.
  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Pepper.
  • Star Anise.
  • Cinnamon.

To learn more about the distinctive spices of pho, see our dedicated article on pho spices, or if you’re curious about pho meats instead, our ultimate guide to pho meat would be a fun read!

Boat Noodle Soup

boat noodle soup top view, shows a dark color rich dark broth

Boat noodle soup is different from pho broth based on its ingredients. It is mainly made up of beef and pork. Other ingredients include:

  • Dark Soy Sauce.
  • Onions.
  • Pickled Bean Curd.
  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Pepper.
  • Cilantro roots.

Type of Noodles

Both pho and boat noodle soup are prepared using rice noodles. However, there is a difference in the type of noodles. They are very similiar, but Pho is more of a flat noodle whereas Boat noodle soup is smaller and more rounded. Although, you might see them used interchangeably. Typically any rice noodle around this size can be used as a substitute.


chopsticks pulling noodles out of a bowl of chicken pho

Pho noodles are flat rice noodles, unlike boat noodles. These are served in clear, aromatic, and smoother broth, which enhances their taste. The light and delicate broth of pho highlights the taste of the flat rice noodles in pho.

Boat Noodle Soup

noodle used on boat noodle soup

Boat noodle soup is prepared using thin rice noodles, which are easy to chew. These noodles make an amazing combo with rich and flavorful boat noodle soup. Thin rice noodles in boat noodle soup served with dark broth will give you a robust flavor.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of pho and boat noodle soup is different. Both of the dishes have different essences. The overall flavor profile of these dishes is as follows:


Pho has an amazing flavor profile with aromatic and savory ingredients. The main element of this dish is broth, which gives the dish its overall flavor. You will experience the essence of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise in the pho. In addition to this, every other ingredient of pho, including flat rice noodles, beef, veggies, and spices, adds another level of flavor to the pho, making it a super-delicious dish.

Boat Noodle Soup

Boat noodle soup is recognized for its unique and bold flavor profile. Its broth is rich, savory, and dark. The star ingredient of the boat noodle soup broth is beef and pork. They give richness to the broth. In addition to these, other vegetables, dark sauces, and spices give it a balanced smoothness. The thin noodles are edible, making them chewier and more flavorful.

Meat served

For Pho, a unique characteristic is the fact that it is served with both common beef cuts (thinly sliced round eye steak, brisket, and flank) as well as some uncommon beef organ meats such as tripe and tendon. In boat noodle soup, however, you will find simply pork slices.

For a more comprehensive look on common meats used in Pho, see Pho Meat Guide.

Both might also have meatball, although the composition for Pho meatballs are more beef and boat noodle soup is more pork based. This is a picture of meaball in boat noodle soup, it looks very similiar in pho.

pork meatball in thai noodle boat soup


Pho: Common garnishes for Pho include bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, lime wedges, and thinly sliced chili peppers. Hoisin sauce (on Amazon) and Sriracha (on Amazon) are also often provided as condiments.

Boat Noodle Soup: garnishments for boat noodle soup can vary but often include bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli (kale), cilantro, green onions, and sometimes fried garlic or crispy pork rinds. Additionally, condiments like chili flakes, vinegar with chili, and sugar may be served on the side for added flavor.

chinese broccoli in boat noodle soup

Final Remarks

For the topic of Boat noodle soup vs pho, Pho and boat noodle soups are widely liked recipes among people. As the main ingredients of both of the recipes are the same, they are often confused to be the same. However, these two are quite different in terms of origin, taste, flavor profile, and somehow their composition. Both pho and boat noodle soup are delicious, but boat noodle soup is more likely to be bold, unlike pho, which is much lighter.

You can experience a slight difference in the taste of these two dishes from place to place. Pho and boat noodle soup are nutritious because of the presence of a balanced amount of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. You can add your favorite garnishes to them along with your desired spices. This article has clearly narrated the difference between pho and boat noodle soup with detailed highlights.

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