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Best Pad Thai Recipe

Think of the best pad Thai recipe as perfect Asian comfort food. The flavors and textures in this sweet, salty, umami noodle stir fry are simply delicious. Way better than take out. Make it vegetarian or not.

I combined four highly rated recipes to create this one. My goal for every recipe is to simplify to the greatest extent possible while still achieving maximum deliciousness. This one is a winner. Definitely worth a try.

Is this an authentic pad Thai recipe?

Partly. I wanted to make this recipe accessible to the busy home cook. And I figured most of you don’t have ground dried shrimp or preserved salted radishes in your cupboard 🙂 I also wanted to make the pad Thai sauce recipe without tamarind since tamarind is also not a common ingredient in most kitchens. 

The recipe is a blend of authentic and western style. It includes the 5 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory/umami – but replaces a few of the ingredients you would typically use to make an authentic version.

In the comparative lists below, you can see that most of the core ingredients are the same. Unless you’re a purist, I’m pretty confident you will love this pad Thai recipe.

Authentic Pad Thai

  • Rice noodles
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy sauce (Thai)
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Bean sprouts
  • Egg
  • Tofu, chicken and/or shrimp
  • Other ingredients
    • Tamarind
    • Garlic chives
    • Chilis
    • Ground dried shrimp
    • Preserved salted radishes

Best Pad Thai Recipe

  • Rice noodles
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy sauce (low sodium)
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Bean sprouts
  • Egg
  • Tofu, chicken and/or shrimp
  • Other ingredients
    • Rice vinegar
    • Scallions & garlic
    • Sriracha
    • Carrots and/or peppers
    • Peanut butter and cilantro (optional)

So skip the takeout and make the best pad Thai recipe (in our humble opinion). It really delivers. And it’s not difficult. Once you’ve made it once, you’ll be asking why you didn’t try it sooner.

Although this Thai noodle recipe is a complete meal on its own, you can round it out with one of these simple side dishes: a cucumber salad with everyone’s favorite Japanese salad dressing (carrot ginger) or a Thai mango salad.

Tailor To Your Taste

Protein:

  • Traditional pad Thai recipes include tofu. Nowadays, chicken or shrimp are often added. Vegetarians will stick to the tofu of course. Otherwise, include whatever you prefer. Even beef.

Noodles:

  • If at all possible, buy rice noodles – fairly thin, less than 1/4 inch (2-3cm).
  • Wheat noodles like spaghetti just aren’t the same in this dish, but use them in a pinch.

Fish sauce:

  • Fish sauce is made of fermented fish and shellfish mixed with salt. When added to dishes, it does not taste like fish and it’s a staple in Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
  • I know that fish sauce freaks some people out. I was one of those, but I’m now a convert. If you can’t eat it or don’t want to, we have listed several substitutes in the recipe notes, including for vegans and vegetarians.

Substitutes:

  • No bean sprouts? Leave them out or use shredded nappa cabbage
  • No peanuts? Use crushed roasted almonds in a pinch. Peanuts are better though.
  • No peanut butter? leave it out, but it does add a nice richness and flavor
  • Need a vegetarian version: Use tofu as the protein and one of the substitutes for fish sauce.
  • We use rice vinegar, but if you have tamarind, use it – about half the amount – as it’s a key ingredient in authentic pad Thai.
  • No red pepper or carrots? leave them out or just use more of what you have.

Shortcuts

  • A really great shortcut is using cooked rotisserie or leftover chicken – instead of pan frying fresh chicken. I do this all the time.
  • You can also buy cooked shrimp.

Make Ahead options

  1. Hour ahead: The finished Pad Thai dish is best fresh off the stove, but if necessary, you can make it up to an hour ahead then warm it up. I find the best way to reheat it is in the microwave for a minute or two. Alternatively, heat it in the skillet or wok on the stove, adding a tablespoon or two of water.
  2. Day ahead: The pad Thai sauce and any proteins you are going to use can be made a day or two ahead.
  3. Freezer option: Freeze pad Thai in a sealed container after it’s cooled. Reheat in the microwave with a splash of water.

Other Thai recipes you might like

How to make pad Thai

Ingredients: Rice noodles, eggs, lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, julienne carrots and/or peppers, sriracha, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, peanuts, peanut butter, oil, green onion. [add chicken, tofu, shrimp as you like]
all pad thai ingredients in pan with sauce on top
Add noodles, chopped cooked chicken (or tofu or shrimp), half the bean sprouts and cilantro. Pour over sauce and toss all together.
close up of pad Thai on dish
assembled pad thai in pan p1
Garnish with remaining bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts and lime wedges.
pad Thai on black dish with lime garnish
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Rate this recipe here

4.91 from 21 votes

Best Pad Thai Recipe

Think of the best pad Thai recipe as perfect Asian comfort food. The flavors and textures in this sweet, salty, umami noodle stir fry are simply delicious. Way better than take out. Make it vegetarian or not.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Servings: 3 (or 2 large portions)
Author: Cheryl, Two Kooks In The Kitchen

Equipment

  • non stick skillet or wok

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (125g) flat rice noodles less than 1/4 inch (2-3 mm) wide
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided (or 1/2 tbsp if using tofu or cooked shrimp, chicken)
  • 8 ounces (225g or 1.5 cups) tofu, shrimp or chicken, Note 1 Shortcut: use cubed leftover or rotisserie chicken or plain uncooked tofu.
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (3 tsp)
  • 3 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup julienned carrots or peppers or combination about 1/2 pepper, 1 medium carrot
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts

Pad Thai Sauce

  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce Note 2
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar (or 1 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste)
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha for mild-medium spicy
  • 2 tablespoon smooth peanut butter

Garnish

  • lime wedges
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)

Instructions

  • SOFTEN NOODLES: Make noodles according to package instructions. Typically, place in bowl with warm-hot water for 5-7 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse under cold water if not using right away to keep them from sticking.
  • MAKE PAD THAI SAUCE: While the noodles are soaking, whisk all sauce ingredients together is a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.
  • COOK SHRIMP, TOFU OR CHICKEN (if needed): If using fresh chicken or shrimp and/or tofu, see Note 1 for cooking instructions. Tofu doesn't need to be cooked (up to you). You can use leftover, rotisserie or precooked chicken or shrimp. Just cut into small pieces – and skip this step.
  • SAUTE VEGGIES: Heat pan to medium high and add 1/2 tbsp oil. Add green onions, carrots and peppers. Saute 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
  • COOK EGGS: Move veggies to one side of pan. Crack eggs into pan. As they cook, break them up and scramble them with a spatula or wooden spoon into little pieces, about 1 minute.
  • ASSEMBLE PAD THAI: Add protein (chicken, shrimp or tofu), half of bean sprouts, noodles, half of cilantro and sauce. Toss with tongs to coat everything with sauce and heat through. If too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water. Transfer to platter and garnish with remaining bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. To cook protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken).
    • You can add one, two or all 3 proteins. If adding more than one, use less than 8 ounces (225g) of each to ensure adequate sauciness of pad Thai. 
    • Tofu – traditional and vegetarian option
      • Squeeze water out of tofu, cut into small rectangles. Set aside if using uncooked which is fine. To pan fry, dust with salt and cornstarch, pan fry for a few minutes to crisp up. Set aside. 
    • Chicken
      • Easiest way: chop up a rotisserie or leftover chicken. 
      • For fresh chicken, slice into thin slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper, heat oil in pan to medium high and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Set aside. 
    • Shrimp
      • For shortcut, buy cooked shrimp and cut into pieces
      • For fresh shrimp, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, heat oil in pan to medium high, and stir fry for 2-3 minutes just until they turn opaque. Set aside. 
  2. Fish Sauce substitutes
    • If you can’t eat it or don’t want to use fish sauce, here are some substitutes you can use:
      • Soy sauce or tamari (but it won’t have the same depth of taste).
      • Worcestershire (note this has anchovies in it). Use half the amount.
      • Recipe for Vegan Fish Sauce from Food52.
      • Recipe for Vegetarian Fish Sauce using mushrooms by Cook’s Illustrated.
  3. Other substitutes
    • No bean sprouts? Leave them out or use shredded nappa cabbage
    • No peanuts? Use crushed roasted almonds in a pinch. Peanuts are better though.
    • Need a vegetarian version? Use tofu and eggs for protein and one of the fish sauce substitutes. 
    • No peanut butter? leave it out, but it does add a nice richness and flavor
    • No red pepper or carrots? leave them out or just use more of what you have.
  4. Make Ahead options
    1. Day ahead: The pad Thai sauce and any proteins you are going to use can be made a day or two ahead.
    2. Hour ahead: The finished Pad Thai dish is best fresh off the stove, but if necessary, you can make it up to an hour ahead then warm it up. I find the best way to reheat it is in the microwave for a minute or two. Alternatively, heat it in the skillet or wok on the stove, adding a tablespoon or two of water.
    3. Freezer option: Freeze pad Thai in a sealed container after it’s cooled. Reheat in the microwave with a splash of water.
 
Nutrition values are estimates and will depend on type of proteins used, vegetables, how much garnish, etc. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Best Pad Thai Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 639 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30g46%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 109mg36%
Sodium 1815mg79%
Potassium 690mg20%
Carbohydrates 73g24%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 26g29%
Protein 24g48%
Vitamin A 11076IU222%
Vitamin C 15mg18%
Calcium 199mg20%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This recipe was inspired by 4 others  – My Modern Cookery, Tastes Better from Scratch, Feasting at Home and Cooking Classy. 

 

5 Comments

    1. Absolutely. As you probably know, they get rubbery when over cooked so perhaps undercook them a touch then add them at the end to warm through and finish cooking. Alternatively, cook them separately and serve them on top of the pad Thai with a squeeze of lime or lemon. Good luck!

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