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Quick Beef Pho

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This savory, satisfying pho can be prepared in just 45 minutes, making it a convenient and healthy option for busy weeknights.

Quick Beef Pho

Pho is a popular Vietnamese soup that’s made with a savory broth, rice noodles, herbs, aromatics, and meat—usually beef or chicken—and it’s served with a plate of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, sliced chilies, and lime wedges on the side. The traditional recipe is a time-consuming process that involves simmering roasted beef bones, meat, and spices in broth for several hours to extract all the flavors and nutrients.

The good news is that there’s a simpler and quicker way to make delicious pho at at home. By using a combination of store-bought beef and chicken broth simmered with onions, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise, you can make a fragrant broth that’s reminiscent of traditional pho. This “quick pho” can be prepared in just 45 minutes, making it a convenient option for busy weeknights. The recipe is adapted from Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities by America’s Test Kitchen.

“Felt like I was at my favorite Pho restaurant…You really nailed the pho flavors!”

Mary

What You’ll Need To Make Quick Beef Pho

pho ingredients
  • Onion: Adds depth and sweetness to the broth, with a portion thinly sliced and reserved for serving.
  • Beef broth, Chicken broth, Water: The base of the soup. This blend creates a rich, savory and layered flavor profile that is characteristic of this traditional Vietnamese soup.
  • Fish sauce: Provides a salty, umami depth that is characteristic of Southeast Asian cuisine. A little goes a long way in enhancing the savory notes of the broth.
  • Fresh ginger, Cinnamon stick, Star anise pod, Whole cloves: These spices and aromatics are essential for the distinctive fragrance and flavor of pho. They’re simmered in the broth to impart warmth, sweetness, and complexity.
  • Flat rice noodles: A key component of the dish, rice noodles have a slightly chewy texture that absorbs the flavors of the broth. (These noodles are also used in dishes like pad thai or Thai chicken and rice noodle soup.)
  • Thinly sliced beef: The protein component of the dish, the thin slices cook quickly in the hot broth, remaining tender and flavorful.
  • Bean sprouts, Cilantro leaves, Lime wedges, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha: Served as garnishes and condiments.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-By-Step Instructions

Slice one of the onion quarters as thin as possible; set aside.

thinly sliced onion on cutting board

In a large pot, combine the remaining 3 onion quarters, beef broth, chicken broth, water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, star anise, and cloves.

broth, water, fish sauce, onion, ginger, star anise, cloves, sugar, and cinnamon in pot

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.


bringing broth to a boil

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Off the heat, add the noodles. Let sit, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, until the noodles are soft and pliable but still not tender, 5 to 10 minutes.

tender rice noodles in hot waterDrain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.

drain rice noodles

Over a large bowl, strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids and pour the clear broth back into the pot. (Alternatively, you can use a fine mesh spider to fish out the solids.)

straining broth

Bring the broth to a boil.

boiling broth

Add the noodles and cook until just tender, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

rice noodles in broth

Using tongs or a spider, lift the noodles from the pot and divide evenly into bowls.

removing noodles from broth

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the sliced beef to the broth; let simmer until no longer pink, about 1 minute.

beef in broth

Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the beef from the broth and divide between the bowls. Ladle the broth over the noodles and beef.

pho noodles, beef, and broth in bowl

Top each bowl with the reserved thinly sliced onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro. Pass lime wedges, hoisin, and sriracha at the table. The recipe yields two large dinner-size bowls or four smaller ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use chicken instead of beef?

Yes, you can definitely use chicken instead of beef in this recipe to make chicken pho, known as pho ga. I recommend using boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins and slicing them thinly to ensure they cook quickly and evenly. Before adding the chicken, bring the broth to a gentle boil; cook the chicken until opaque and cooked through. For an even richer chicken flavor, consider replacing the beef broth with additional chicken broth.

Can the pho broth be made ahead of time?

Yes, the broth can be made in advance and actually develops more flavor as it sits. Simply prepare the broth according to the recipe, allow it to cool, and then store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat the broth to a simmer, then proceed with assembling your pho bowls with noodles, meat, and toppings.

What are the best noodles to use for pho?

Traditional pho is made with thin rice noodles, sometimes referred to as banh pho or rice sticks, which are loved for their soft and slightly chewy texture. While available in various widths, the thinner noodles are favored in pho for their delicate texture, which complements the rich and flavorful broth. Typically found dried, these noodles require soaking in hot water until soft and pliable before they’re added to the soup.

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Quick Beef Pho

This savory, satisfying pho can be prepared in just 45 minutes, making it a convenient and healthy option for busy weeknights.

Servings: 2 dinner-size bowls or 4 small bowls
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered, divided
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can low-sodium beef broth (1¾ cups)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth (1¾ cups)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 7 oz flat rice noodles
  • 8 oz very thinly sliced beef, such as flat iron or flank steak
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • Hoisin sauce and sriracha, for serving

Instructions

  1. Slice one of the onion quarters as thin as possible; set aside. In a large pot, bring the remaining 3 onion quarters, beef broth, chicken broth, water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon stick, sugar, star anise, and cloves to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Off the heat, add the noodles. Let sit, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, until the noodles are soft and pliable but still not tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
  3. Over a large bowl, strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids and pour the clear broth back into the pot. (Alternatively, you can use a fine mesh spider to fish out the solids.)
  4. Bring the broth to a boil and add the noodles; cook until the noodles are just tender, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using tongs or a spider, lift the noodles from the pot and divide evenly into bowls. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the sliced beef to the broth; let simmer until no longer pink, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the beef from the broth and divide between the bowls. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Ladle the broth over the noodles and beef. Top each bowl with the reserved thinly sliced onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro (you may not need all of the onions). Pass the lime wedges, hoisin, and sriracha at the table.
  5. Make-Ahead/Freezing Instructions: The broth can be made in advance and actually develops more flavor as it sits. Simply prepare the broth according to the recipe, allow it to cool, and then store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat the broth to a simmer, then proceed with assembling your pho bowls with noodles, beef, and toppings.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 2
  • Calories: 657
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 99 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Sodium: 1,464 mg
  • Cholesterol: 77 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • Made this last night – one of the more impressively deeply flavorful dishes I’ve made recently and I didn’t change a thing. Super easy. Was able to stage everything (noodles were cooked and cooled, broth made and gently simmering – with a lid on after the cooking process, so that it didn’t evaporate too much – sliced beef ready to be quick-cooked, toppings prepped) I can imagine serving this for a dinner party. So delicious!

    • — Beth on March 3, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Thank you for this recipe. I have always wanted to make pho but it was way too much work to boil the broth for hours. This simplified recipe tastes just as good. So thank you! I have a question.

    If I want to make 4 servings instead of two, do I just double up on every ingredient?
    And if I want to make a seafood or chicken pho, do I need to change the broth?

    Please advise. Thank you.

    • — Lucy Sim Conway on November 29, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Lucy, so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, you would just double everything if you wanted to make four servings. And you don’t have to, but can change the broth up if you’d like to; just make sure you go with low-sodium.

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • Delicious! Better than the restaurants. I can’t believe how good it was. Thank you again!

    • — Richard E Peters on November 17, 2023
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  • I generally steer away from bean sprouts due to possibility of contamination- yes, it’s infrequent overall but my husband is very sensitive so not worth risk. Is there anything you might suggest as an alternative? Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes. I know I can depend on your recipes!

    • — Robin on November 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Robin, you can just omit them. Enjoy the pho!

      • — Jenn on November 14, 2023
      • Reply
  • Really good recipe! Felt like I was at my favorite Pho restaurant. Didn’t change a thing but the cilantro, instead topped with basil. You really nailed the pho flavors! Thanks for sharing!

    • — Mary on October 28, 2023
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  • Jenn, I spent a couple of months in Vietnam riding motorcycles, about 4000km in total. I’ve eaten lots of pho! I’ve been looking for an easy version as I’m a busy guy, but I still love me a good bowl of pho. I live on a small town so popping ‘round to the local Vietnamese restaurant is not an option.

    I actually made this in my Instant Pot (did I mention I’m a busy guy?), letting it cook, at pressure, for 15 minutes. Since I used OXO powdered bouillon (I know, a travesty) I had to estimate how much to add. In the end I added a little more sugar, fish sauce, and bouillon powder to get it dialled in. No fault of yours, I was just working with what I had.

    By now I should know to check your website first, when looking for recipes. I could have saved myself allot of work. The fact that you put so much time and effort into publishing tried and true recipes doesn’t go unnoticed by your fans. Thank-you!

    • — Gary Cote on October 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • Traditional pho is garnished with bean sprouts, fresh basil, sliced green chili’s, and a wedge of lime, not cilantro and in addition to thin slices of yellow onion add a little sliced green onion. Trying your recipe tomorrow with the above changes. Will use cilantro to flavor the broth, then will toss out with the other solids for flavoring. We always follow a pho meal with boba tea. For us it’s a several decades tradition. Thank you for your recipe, really looking forward to making this dish. <3

    • — DEBORAH on May 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • My daughter went to school in Seattle and learned to love Pho. When I made this for her, she absolutely LOVED it. The flavor is amazing. I’m definitely going to make the broth ahead so she can just heat & eat.

    • — Mary B. on May 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is the most amazing recipe! We love Pho, but I’m not a very good cook so I was always hesitant to try any Pho recipes at home – we always went out. We had a great time preparing this because it was easier than most. This recipe is just so aromatic & delicious!! We added a few fresh mint leaves along with the other ingredients in the broth & it was fantastic. Thank you, Jenn (Once Upon A Chef Owner)!!! ❤️

    • — Melanie McCune on April 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • I LOVE Pho! I’ve been looking for a “cheat” and of course I trust a Jen Segal recipe :). I just wanted to ask, can you double, triple, quadruple the recipe or will it lose the strength of flavor? I intend to get straight to the kitchen this weekend.

    • — Aminah Haneef on March 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Aminah, Feel free to increase the quantity (all the ingredients) as needed – it should still be delish.

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2023
      • Reply
      • Delicious! We all loved the Pho Jen. Simple, easy and our new fave soup. I just wanted to ask, if I freeze the broth, are there any special instructions to defrost so it doesn’t taste watered down?

        Thanks again for the recipe. It really was so good, soooo good!

        • — Aminah Haneef on April 4, 2023
        • Reply
        • So glad you liked it! I don’t think you’ll need to do anything other than thaw the broth if you freeze it. 🙂

          • — Jenn on April 4, 2023
          • Reply
  • This turned out great! If you want the broth to be clear for a more authentic pho, I’d cook the noodles separately and strain the broth through a cheesecloth, but I followed Jenn’s instructions to a T and it tasted great despite the shortcuts. I was dubious about the cinnamon but it made the house smell great and didn’t add a weird flavor to the broth.

    • — Val on March 15, 2023
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  • Adding this to our “OUAC” rotation! I took one commenter’s advice to freeze the meat to cut into thin strips, and it worked perfectly! So good!

    • — Kristie (Senoia, GA) on March 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe. Clear, concise instructions. I made this especially for my daughter-in-law and she loved it! The rest of the family did as well

    • — Hedy DECAMPO on March 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • My husband loves pho and used to order it often when he was single. He said this was the best pho he has ever had. We both cleaned our bowls. Amazing.

    • — Caterina on March 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • We don’t eat beef anymore. Do you have a similar tasty recipe for Vietnamese/Thai Chicken noodle soup.

    • — Norma Cowan on March 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Norma, thinly sliced chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins work really well here in case you’d like to make it with that tweak. While it’s definitely got a different flavor, this soup is also delicious.

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Could I replace the beef broth with another can of chicken broth and serve with thinly sliced chicken? Would that work with the same spices?

    • — Norma Cowan on March 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Norma, that will work. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! What an incredible recipe! So good we would like to double the broth…can you, as written or should we just make two batches…just wondering if two cinnamon sticks, extra cloves etc would be overkill…TIA Your recipes are always perfection!!! No leftovers unfortunately for my husband! 🙂

    • — Kim Botelho on March 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, Glad you enjoyed! It’s fine to double the broth – I’d use 1 cinnamon stick, 2 star anise, and 6 whole cloves.

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • I loved this recipe. I removed the spices, and ginger slices, but left in all the other solids. Used fresh limes from a neighbors tree, fresh cilantro, and the hot sauce as garnish. Wonderful! I am not very familiar with Asian noodles, I only saw rice threads at the store. Not sure if that was the same as noodles. I came home and checked my pantry and had Udon and Soba noodles. After reading a little about both of them I used the Soba noodles and they were great Oh, also have bean thread noodles and have no idea why I bought them.

    • — Karen Calanchini on March 6, 2023
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  • My family loved this recipe. It captured the essence with the easy instructions. A definite repeat.
    Thanks
    Ann from Canada

    • — Dowling, Ann on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • A couple of things will make this “quick pho” even more authentic. Mix the thinly sliced onions with a some white vinegar to make “vinegared onions” to add for serving (strain the onions from the vinegar and don’t add the leftover vinegar) and small meatballs (like the Trader Joe’s appetizer meatballs), are not authentic, but they are good in the soup.

    • — MEG MAYO LUCAS on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jenn – I have been looking for a Pho recipe for many months and haven’t found one yet that has had high enough reviews to be worth the effort. THANK YOU for this recipe. I would love to see more like it!

    This is probably a detour from traditional Pho, but how would I incorporate vegetables into this? Could I just add in steamed broccoli at the end? Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

    • — Elizabeth on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, that should work — please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Got around to making this tonight and it was very very good! It was just me and my 7y/o daughter, she’d never had pho and wasn’t pumped about the idea of beef and noodle soup, but I toasted the star anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves while charring the onion and ginger right in the (dry) soup pot I used to make the broth and as soon as the stock sent the aromatics up into the room in a vapor cloud of savory deliciousness she came running over and kept sniffing the broth with her eyes closed repeating her appreciation of the aroma. My daughter ate more than half of it saying over and over “Oh my gosh, mom! This is so delicious!” Thank you!!

    • — Shannon C on March 3, 2023
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  • Home cooks can “shave” the beef by freezing it. It is then very easy to take a SHARP knife and slice the beef very thin.

    • — KrisB on March 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Really delicious as usual! And I couldn’t find star anise today so just use Anise. This is just the kind of light but filling dinner that my husband and I both enjoy.

    • — Cindy on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Yes I made this per your recipe.! It was outstanding,but littl confession —no rice noodles,had to substitute other noodles(no egg)Still very flavorful!Thank you from this 90 yr old still learning!

    • — Rosemarie Considine on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • I love this! Just wanted to say you are inspiring. I hope when I’m in my 90s I’m still cooking and learning new recipes!

      • — Jules on March 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Jenn – It is so wonderful to see a Vietnamese recipe on your site! I’m Vietnamese and grew up making pho the traditional way. In recent decades, I often use this broth technique to speed up the process, particularly when making chicken pho. Let me offer 2 suggestions that may, dare I say, improve your recipe even more: (1) The unique aroma of pho comes from roasting the onion and ginger before adding them to the broth. You do this by taking the unpeeled onion and ginger and placing it directly on the gas stovetop and letting the flame blacken the onion and ginger on every side. Then, you wash and scrape off the charred parts and add the (mostly) clean onion and ginger directly to the broth. While a bit more work, this adds a subtle smoky aroma/flavor layer that is found in traditional pho broth. (2) Treat the noodles like you would pasta. Make the broth first and keep it hot on a simmering boil. When ready to eat, cook the noodles using a pasta strainer basket til al dente, and add the hot strained noodles directly to the empty soup bowl. Place the raw thinly sliced beef on top of the noodles, then the sliced onions/green onions/cilantro on top of the raw beef…. then pour the boiling hot broth into the bowl to finish. The broth will cook the beef w/o making it chewy. Cooking the noodles in the broth will muddy up the broth, and traditional Vietnamese cooks prize a clear beef broth for pho. Well done.

    • — Van on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Love these suggestions, Van – thank you for sharing! I actually considered adding the raw beef to the noodles since that’s the traditional way, but since most home cooks can’t “shave” the beef as thinly as restaurants do, I worried it wouldn’t cook through.

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn,
        I have an electric stove…how would I roast the ginger and onion? And, thank you Van!
        Elizabeth
        p.s. Jenn, your recipes are making my retirement dreamier than imagined! Thank you!

        • — elizabeth on March 2, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Elizabeth, You can roast them under the broiler. And so happy you’re enjoying the recipes! 🙂

          • — Jenn on March 3, 2023
          • Reply
      • Hi Jenn! Anything to sub for the wine? Would prefer no alcohol. Thanks!

        • — Zainab on March 4, 2023
        • Reply
        • This dish doesn’t have any alcohol. Are you confusing it with a different recipe?

          • — Jenn on March 6, 2023
          • Reply
  • Finally a pho recipe !! There are 5 of us – can this be doubled? All five Will want more than 1 serving. How to store if any leftovers?

    • — Mary on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Definitely! I would remove the beef and noodles from the broth as soon as they are cooked and store everything separately in the fridge before reheating.

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
    • It is traditional (standard practice) to always keep the separately cooked noodles from the broth. This makes storage much easier, as the broth could be kept frozen for several months. To make a fresh bowl of pho, all you have to do is reheat the broth, throw on fresh beef slices and vegetable aromatics (Vietnamese cardamom/basil, bean sprouts, etc.).

      • — Bad Kitty on March 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, can dry star anise spice be used instead of fresh pods? I can’t seem to find fresh in the grocery store.

    • — Michelle on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Michelle, are you referring to dried pods that you get in the spice aisle (which is what the recipe calls for) or ground star anise?

      • — Jenn on March 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • Your timing is perfect! How did you know I was visiting Vietnam and Cambodia this month? Besides eating these dishes in their original country, I will be duplicating them from your recipes once home.
    Thanks,
    Helene

    • — Helene on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jenn,
    May I substitute chicken for beef? Would I still use fish sauce with the chicken? Any other changes if chicken? Best, David K

    • — David Kushner on March 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi David, Yes thinly sliced chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins work really well here. You could replace the beef broth with more chicken broth for a lighter soup, if you like.

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn,

        Can you recommend a substitute for the star anise pods I am having trouble finding it at local supermarkets. I will order on line but would like to make it in the meantime. Thank you!

        Maria

        • — Maria Hahn on March 11, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Maria, there is no perfect substitute for the star anise pods. This version of the soup is already a short-cut version, so for the best results, I’d order them online.

          • — Jenn on March 15, 2023
          • Reply
    • Yes, most definitely still use the fish sauce.

      • — Lisa on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
    • Just made. Delicious. Thank you. Now I am PHO soup ready. Will not hesitate to impress and prepare this again. DK

      • — David Kushner on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • OMG- you have no idea how happy you just made me! I LOVE Pho but live in a cultural wasteland and would have to drive 40 minutes to a Vietnamese establishment. I sometimes look for recipes for things like Pho or Jambalaya, but had given up after being burned too many times (domestically I find nothing more frustrating than spending hours in the kitchen on a meal that turns out uninspired or boring). I can’t wait to make this as your recipes have been foolproof in my home.

    • — Shannon C on March 2, 2023
    • Reply

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