Meatball “Pho” (Paleo, AIP, GAPS)

For those of you that don’t know, pho is a traditional vietnamese soup consisting of broth, noodles, meat, and vegetables. In the last 6 years or so pho has become increasingly popular in the US and Australia and most of my friends rave about it. For the longest time I would complain anytime my friends wanted to get pho because I considered it glorified soup then that all changed once I had a bowl of pho when I was coming down with a cold…

Which brings me to this recipe! I have currently come down with a cold (in the middle of Australian summer) and woke up craving this recipe. I came up with this early on in my GAPS diet and it was a savior! It’s a simple recipe that can be easily adapted to suit your tastes and it’s also easy to whip up, which is a huge plus when you’re sick (or just feeling lazy). You can also adapt this to be suitable for the GAPS intro diet, just use veggies that are suitable for the stage of the diet you are in.

This doesn’t taste identical to pho, and it is certainly missing the noodles, but the flavors really hit the spot for me and remind me  of a nice bowl of pho. I also recently learned that traditional pho is made with bone broth– which may explain why I felt better after eating it when I was sick!

You can use any veggies in this recipe, but be sure that they all have similar cooking times if you want to put them in at the same time (or use veggies with different cooking times, but stagger their addition to the soup as necessary). You can also jazz this recipe up depending on your food tolerances- black pepper, chili flakes, whole chilis, and lime juice are all really tasty additions

Meatball "Pho" (Paleo, AIP, GAPS)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 4-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 4 cups beef bone broth
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 big handful of green beans (approx. 20 beans, see AIP note below)
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, separated (or more, to taste)
  • bean sprouts (for garnish, optional)


  1. Heat coconut oil in a large and wide pot on medium heat. Chop 1 half of the onion, add to the pot, and stir frequently for about 5 minutes as onion softens.
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add bone broth, cover tightly with lid, and let simmer for about 30 minutes (this really allows the flavors of the ginger and garlic to infuse with the broth, but if you're in a big rush you can always reduce this time, or lengthen the time if you want a deeply flavored broth).
  3. While the broth is simmering, prepare your veggies- chop carrot, celery, and green beans into bite-size pieces and set aside. Grate the other half of the onion in a bowl (to be used for mixing the meat) and set aside.
  4. Once 30 minutes has passed, add veggies and 1 teaspoon sea salt (or more, to taste) to the broth, cover, and simmer another 20 minutes.
  5. While the veggies are simmering in the broth, prepare the meatballs. Add the ground beef to the grated onion and add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and mix very well. Form medium sized meatballs and set aside (I made 14 meatballs with my 1 pound of ground beef).
  6. Once 20 minutes has passed add the meatballs to the broth and veggies, cover, and let simmer about 10 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Don't worry if some meatballs are out of the broth due to the size of your pot, just give the soup a gentle stir about 5 minutes after the meatballs go in to shake them up a bit.
  7. Serve and garnish with some bean sprouts (or any other pho-like items you want!)


For auto-immune paleo followers, be sure to use AIP-friendly veggies such as carrots, zucchini, and cabbage.


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