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pad Thai on black dish with lime garnish
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4.94 from 32 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 (change as needed): 3 (or 2 large portions)
Author: Cheryl

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 red bell pepper 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 heat and add 1/2 tablespoon 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, cooked noodles (I run them under hot tap water to warm them up), 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 breast or thighs. 
      • 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. 
Calories: 639kcal | Carbohydrates: 73g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 1815mg | Potassium: 690mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 11076IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 199mg | Iron: 4mg