Easy Instant Pot Oxtail Pho: Time-Saving Weeknight Dinner Recipe

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Imagine savoring a bowl of oxtail pho that boasts layers of rich, aromatic flavors, all made in the comfort of your home with the modern twist of an Instant Pot. This Vietnamese classic, traditionally simmered for hours to coax out the deep, meaty essence of oxtail and the subtle spices, can now be yours in a fraction of the time.

The Instant Pot transforms this once labor-intensive dish into a feasible weeknight dinner, melding star anise, cinnamon, and ginger with the robust oxtail to create a broth that’s both nourishing and soul-warming. Whether you’re a pho aficionado or new to this delightful soup, the journey to a perfect bowl of Instant Pot oxtail pho is sure to excite your taste buds and leave you craving more.

Ingredients

Embark on your culinary journey by gathering all the essential ingredients for your Instant Pot oxtail pho. Here’s what you’ll need to create this savory and aromatic dish.

Oxtail and Other Meats

  • 3 pounds oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound beef shank or chuck, sliced thickly
  • 1 small beef bone (optional, for extra richness)

Spices for Broth

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 black cardamom pods (optional, for a smokier flavor)
  • 1 large piece of ginger, about 3 inches, sliced and lightly smashed
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

Fresh Ingredients for Serving

  • Fresh rice noodles, about 400 grams, prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • A handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • A handful of Thai basil leaves
  • Bean sprouts, to taste
  • Lime wedges, for garnish
  • Fresh jalapeño slices, for garnish
  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Hoisin sauce (optional, for serving)
  • Chili sauce or Sriracha (optional, for a spicy kick)

Necessary Equipment

To ensure your Instant Pot oxtail pho is as delightful as possible, having the right tools at hand is essential. Here’s what you’ll need to make this dish a breeze.

Instant Pot

An Instant Pot is indispensable for cooking oxtail pho at home, dramatically reducing the cooking time while also allowing for rich flavor infusion. Opt for a model that has a sauté function, as you’ll need this to lightly char the onions and ginger, adding depth to your broth.

Fine Mesh Strainer

A fine mesh strainer is crucial for achieving the clear and inviting broth that pho is known for. After simmering the spices and oxtail, you’ll use it to strain out solids, ensuring your broth is smooth without any gritty bits. Ensure the mesh is fine enough to catch small spices like cloves and star anise fragments.

Instructions

Follow these step-by-step instructions to create your delicious Instant Pot oxtail pho. Begin with preparation and then proceed to cooking this flavorsome dish.

Prep

  1. Start by patting dry 3 pounds of oxtails with paper towels to ensure they sear properly.
  2. Roughly chop 1 large onion and 4 inches of ginger. These do not need to be finely chopped as they are primarily for flavoring the broth and will be removed later.
  3. Rinse 1 beef shank under cold water and set it aside with the oxtails.
  4. Gather your spices: 4 star anise, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 3 whole cloves. Place them in a small bowl to keep handy for sautéing.
  5. Prepare your fresh garnishes by thinly slicing additional onions, chopping cilantro, and tearing basil leaves. Set these aside for serving.
  6. Soak 400 grams of rice noodles in cold water for about 20 minutes to soften them slightly before cooking. This step ensures they do not overcook when added to the hot broth later.

Instant Pot Sauté

  1. Turn your Instant Pot to the sauté setting and heat 2 tablespoons of neutral oil.
  2. Add the oxtails and beef shank to the pot. Sear them for about 3-4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. This browning is crucial as it adds a deep, rich flavor to the broth.
  3. Remove the oxtails and beef shank and set them aside. In the same pot, add the chopped onions and ginger. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until they start to become fragrant and golden.
  4. Stir in the spices (star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves) with the onions and ginger. Sauté for another minute to release their flavors.

Deglaze

  1. Pour in 1 cup of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. These bits add a ton of flavor to your pho broth.
  2. Return the oxtails and beef shank to the pot and add enough water to cover the meats completely, typically about 6-8 cups.
  1. Secure the lid of the Instant Pot and set the valve to the sealing position.
  2. Set the pot on high pressure for 45 minutes. This cooking

Cook

Now that your ingredients and Instant Pot are prepped, let’s start cooking. Follow these steps closely to ensure your pho broth is flavorful and your oxtail perfectly tender.

Broth Preparation

  1. Begin by setting your Instant Pot to the “Sauté” mode. Once it’s hot, add a tablespoon of neutral oil.
  2. Place the halved onion and ginger slices directly onto the bottom of the pot. Sauté them for about 5 minutes, or until they start to char slightly. This charring is crucial as it deepens the flavor profile of your broth.
  3. To the pot, add the star anise, whole cinnamon stick, and cloves. Stir continuously for about a minute to release their fragrant oils.
  4. Carefully place the oxtail and beef shank into the pot. Sauté with the spices for 2-3 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally to ensure all sides are browned slightly. This process not only adds a rich flavor but also helps to seal in the juices.
  5. Pour in enough water to cover the oxtail and beef shank. The amount of water will vary depending on your Instant Pot size, but typically, 8 cups of water will suffice.
  6. Add salt to taste and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce for an authentic flavor twist. Fish sauce adds a depth of umami that’s essential in pho.
  7. Seal your Instant Pot and set it to “Pressure Cook” on high for 45 minutes. Make sure the valve is in the sealing position for proper pressure buildup.
  1. While the broth is cooking under pressure, prepare your serving bowls and condiments. This is a great time to slice additional garnishes like green onions and cilantro.
  2. Once the Instant Pot completes the cooking cycle, let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes before switching to manual release. This slow release helps the meat become extra tender.
  3. Carefully open the lid once all the steam has escaped. Using tongs, remove the oxtail and beef shank pieces and set them aside.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot to remove the solid spices and any impurities. Be cautious as the broth will be hot.
  5. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. It should be rich and aromatic.

Proceed to assemble your bowls while the meat and broth are still hot, ensuring an authentic and satisfying Instant Pot oxtail pho experience.

Assemble

Now that your richly flavored broth is ready, it’s time to put together the ultimate Instant Pot oxtail pho. Let’s dive into the fun part—preparing the noodles and toppings before assembling your delightful bowls.

Preparing Noodles and Toppings

  1. Cook the Pho Noodles: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the dried pho (rice noodles), stirring to prevent them from sticking together. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  2. Prepare Toppings: While the noodles cook, prepare your pho toppings. Thinly slice green onions and jalapeños. Wash and pick fresh cilantro and basil leaves from their stems. Cut limes into wedges and gather bean sprouts. If desired, thinly slice additional beef or other meats that were reserved for serving.
  1. Arrange Noodles: Divide the cooked noodles among deep serving bowls.
  2. Add Oxtail and Meats: Place oxtail pieces and any additional sliced meats into the bowls over the noodles.
  3. Pour Broth: Ladle the hot broth over the meats and noodles in each bowl, ensuring to submerge the meats and warm the noodles.
  4. Add Toppings: Top each bowl with green onions, jalapeños, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, and a few lime wedges.
  5. Season to Taste: Offer additional seasonings like fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha so each diner can adjust their bowl to their liking.

Make-Ahead Tips

To enhance the convenience of your Instant Pot oxtail pho, consider these make-ahead strategies that promise a seamless cooking experience.

Prepping Spices and Meats

Prep work can dramatically streamline your pho cooking process. Begin by toasting your spices—star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom pods—in a dry skillet until they’re fragrant. Once cooled, store them in an airtight container to preserve their robust flavors. Next, tackle the meats. Trim any excess fat from the oxtails and beef shank, and if time allows, marinate them with a splash of soy sauce, minced garlic, and a touch of fish sauce. Wrapped tightly, the prepped meat can be refrigerated overnight, intensifying the flavors and readying it for quicker cooking the next day.

Storing Broth

The soul of any pho is its broth, and preparing it ahead can save a lot of time. After cooking your oxtails and beef shank in the Instant Pot, strain the broth to remove solids. Let it cool completely before skimming off the fat that rises to the top—this step ensures a clearer and more appealing broth. Pour the cleaned broth into containers and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. Not only does this allow the flavors to meld and deepen, but it also means you’re just a quick reheating away from serving delicious pho any night of the week.

Serving Suggestions

Transform your instant pot oxtail pho into an unforgettable meal with these serving suggestions to enhance both flavor and presentation.

Accompaniments

Pair your oxtail pho with traditional sides to elevate the dining experience. Offer a platter of fresh herbs like Thai basil, cilantro, and mint for guests to add according to their preference. Include sliced jalapeños for a touch of heat, lime wedges for a burst of acidity, and crunchy bean sprouts for texture. Providing these accompaniments allows everyone to customize their bowl of pho, making the meal interactive and personalized.

Presentation Tips

Serve your pho in large, deep bowls to highlight its rich broth and hearty ingredients. Place the cooked noodles first, then ladle the hot broth and oxtails over them, ensuring the noodles soften and separate. Neatly arrange the slices of cooked beef shank atop the noodles. For a visually appealing touch, garnish with finely chopped green onions and a few cilantro leaves. Offer the sides in separate, small dishes around the main bowl, encouraging guests to sprinkle their desired toppings as they go. This approach not only makes the dish aesthetically pleasing but also keeps the flavors and textures distinct and enjoyable with each bite.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve got the scoop on whipping up a delicious oxtail pho in your Instant Pot you’re all set to impress at your next dinner. Remember it’s all about the balance of spices and the richness of the broth that makes this dish a standout. So don’t shy away from experimenting with the garnishes to find your perfect bowl. Whether it’s a quiet weeknight dinner or a festive gathering your new skills are sure to shine. Enjoy the warmth and depth of flavors that only a well-made pho can offer. Happy cooking!

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