This Pad Thai recipe is hands-down one of the easiest, tastiest recipes on the blog. It’s a Thai noodle dish made with simple ingredients and can be made with chicken, shrimp or tofu! Vegan-adaptable and Gluten-Free adaptable. VIDEO!
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Here’s a simple easy recipe for the best Pad Thai that contains very accessible ingredients and only takes about 15 minutes of actual cooking time, once the ingredients are prepped. The Pad Thai Sauce is so flavorful and balanced- it is as close as comes to the real deal without having to take a trip to the Asian market.
Believe me, when I tell you, I’ve had a lot of Pad Thai in my life. Here and all across Thailand! It’s one of my favorite things to eat, and so I’ve made a practice of learning how to perfect this dish. It’s all about the flavor balance of the sauce, and the texture of the noodles.
So yes, I may be biased but I think this tastes pretty darn amazing! Seriously! But don’t take my word for it….give it a try yourself and see what you think. What I love about this Pad Thai recipe is how adaptable and customizable it is. Make this with chicken, or shrimp or tofu. YES, you can even make vegan Pad Thai !!! Here’s my recipe for vegan fish sauce that will come in handy. 😉
how to make pad thai! | 30-second video
Simple and easy!
How to Make Pad Thai (in a nutshell):
- Whisk together Pad Thai Sauce
- Prep the protein and vegetables
- Whisk the eggs
- Cook the noodles
- Stir fry it all together!
I have paired this Pad Thai recipe down to its simplest components. I also make a more authentic version here, emulating what we learned in Thailand- using tamarind and such, but here I’ve wanted to create it with ingredients most everyone has on hand.
It really doesn’t need to be complicated to taste amazing. It is ALL about balance!
Give it a try. Once you have the ingredients prepped, see if you can cook it in 15 minutes! It’s a fun challenge. It took me 20 minutes the first time, then finally down to 15!
- Read the whole recipe through first and then give it a go.
- Practice! The more you make this the faster and easier it will be!
- Use a wok! A skillet will work in a pinch but a wok gives the best results!
- Pad Thai works best made in smaller batches, so the noodles can fry! If doubling, fry in batches!
- Prep everything ahead, and place it near the stove. Cooking goes very fast here!
Pad Thai Variations:
Make the Pad Thai with tofu (like you see above) or chicken or shrimp — take your pick. If going for chicken, make sure to read the notes at the bottom of the recipe, especially if looking to reduce fat.
We’ve been poaching the thinly sliced chicken in a bit of water instead of frying it, and this is the way it was done at the restaurant. In fact, they actually poached the chicken in water ahead to save even more time, which is always an option.
Cut the chicken very thinly to cut down on cooking time. Remember to cut across the grain. So here I’ve cut it into ⅛ -¼ thin strips about two inches long.
To save a few calories, poach the chicken in a little salted water, until cooked through which just takes a couple of minutes. Then set it aside.
Another secret to this flavorful pad thai recipe is the shallot. And of course garlic. But shallot more than anything adds so much flavor to this dish, way more than substituting onions. So try to seek out shallots at your grocery store, it will make a big difference -trust me!
Sometimes I’ll add ginger, but it’s not imperative- and to save time, I’ll use store-bought, already peeled garlic.
Ginger paste, which comes in a tube is also another time-saving product I’ll buy at the grocery store.
Saute the garlic and shallot and prep the remaining ingredients.
Pad Thai Sauce Ingredients!
The secret to the best Pad Thai is the sauce! It must be balanced. Salty, sweet, and sour!
- Fish sauce ( or vegan fish sauce) and soy sauce add the salty component.
- Brown Sugar or honey add sweetness. (In Thailand it is traditional to use palm sugar.)
- Rice Vinegar or tamarind paste and lime juice, add the sour component.
There is a delicate balance between salty, tart and sweet, and when you find it, totally elevates the dish! This sauce to my palate is perfectly balanced.
Try it and see for yourself. You may adjust to your personal taste.
AND please do not leave the sugar component out. You will end up with fishy, sour pad thai that tastes terrible. TRUST ME.
Noodles to use in Pad Thai:
- Pad Thai is typically made with Rice Noodles, about 1/4 inch in width.
- They are also called Rice Stick!
- Always follow the directions on the rice noodle package. Some require soaking, some boiling like pasta. Cook until al dente.
How to cook Rice Noodles:
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Each package is different.
- If going for a vegan pad thai, make the vegan fish sauce recipe ahead, it’s actually quite good, and keeps for months.
- Make crispy tofu as the protein.
- Leave the egg out!
How to Garnish Pad Thai:
Pad Thai is typically garnished with fresh lime juice- so serve it up with lime wedges, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts (or try this amazing Peanut Chili Crunch!) scallions or Thai basil. Serve with sriracha or chili paste for extra heat.
I hope you after you make this, you’ll think this is the best Pad Thai recipe you’ve ever made too! 😉 Haha! Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
PS. It is my hope that through cooking, we not only learn new ingredients and techniques but also learn more about the culture and people from which the food we make originates. Cooking can be a way of celebrating all our unique and beautiful differences. I’d like to believe expanding our repertoire in the kitchen can also expand our hearts if we let it.
Rising violence and hate crimes towards Asians hurts all of us. We are not separate, though our minds often tell us so. Our hearts know…If you feel compelled to support or help, I found this article Where to donate to Asian Communities useful and informative.
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An easy recipe for Pad Thai with simple accessible ingredients with the most amazing flavor! The best part … once you have your ingredients prepped it only takes 15 minutes of actual cooking time! See recipe notes for tips and tricks! Read the directions all the way through before starting. Watch the video above!
- 4 ounces dry pad thai noodles (rice noodles)
- Boiling water to cover noodles
- 1 large shallot, finely diced ( much better than onion here)
- 4 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon chopped ginger (optional)
- 2 eggs, whisked with a fork with a generous 3-finger pinch salt ( if vegan, leave it out)
- 6–8 ounces tofu, chicken breast or peeled prawns
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil, wok oil or coconut oil
- 1 lime
Pad Thai Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (see notes- or use vegan fish sauce)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or coconut sugar, palm sugar or regular sugar) see notes
- 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar (or tamarind water– see notes)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (or GF liquid aminos like Braggs)
- lime wedges, fresh bean sprouts, chili flakes, chopped scallions, roasted peanuts.
- COOK NOODLES: Cook noodles according to package instructions (or place rice noodles in a shallow bowl or baking dish and boil enough water to cover them. Cover with boiling water for 7- 8 minutes, until tender, then drain. They don’t have to be totally soft, just bendy and pliable)
- Chop shallot, garlic and ginger and set aside.
- Whisk the two eggs in a bowl with a fork and add a generous, 3-finger pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Make the Pad Thai Sauce Whisk fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce. (see notes) in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prep and Cook the protein: Chicken: slice chicken into very thin strips and season with salt and pepper. Crispy Tofu: Blot tofu with paper towels pressing down firmly. Cut tofu into ¾ inch cubes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and for extra crispy, dredge in a little corn starch. Shrimp: Peel and season with salt and pepper. COOK: Sear the seasoned chicken, shrimp or tofu in a wok with hot oil until cooked through over medium-high heat. Set aside, on top of a paper towel, wipe out the pan. Turn heat off.
- STIR FRY the PAD THAI: Gather your chopped shallots, whisked eggs, cooked noodles, cooked protein and Pad Thai sauce around the stove. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in the wok over medium heat, add shallot-garlic-ginger and stir, cooking just a few minutes until golden and fragrant.
- Make a well in the center of the wok, scooting the shallot mixture to the side of the pan, add the whisked eggs. With a metal spatula, scramble them and break them apart into little bits, letting them brown just a little, and incorporate them into the shallots continuing to break them into small bits.
- Add the drained, semi-soft noodles and toss with the egg mixture, stirring, flipping, frying constantly for 3-4 minutes until noodles become soft and pliable.
- Add the Pad Thai Sauce and cook 1 minute. It will smell quite fishy at first – turn your fan on – but it will mellow out perfectly. Add the cooked chicken, tofu or shrimp and turn and toss the noodles for a few more minutes. Cook until the noodles are soft (but still a little chewy) adding just a little water if it seems too dry.
- Toss in the bean sprouts and roasted peanuts (or serve on the side) and sprinkle with chili flakes and scallions. Squeeze with a little lime juice. Taste. Adjust salt, lime and sweetness to your liking adding a pinch of salt, more lime or more a pinch more sugar to taste. Give one more toss and serve immediately. Divide among two plates.
- Garnish with more bean sprouts, fresh scallions, cilantro or basil, chili flakes, lime wedges and roasted crushed peanuts. Or make this Peanut Chili Crunch!
DO NOT BE tempted to cut out the sugar – understand that Pad Thai Sauce is a very delicate balance between sweet (sugar), salt (fish sauce) and acid (vinegar or tamarind) . I’ve already lowered the sugar as much as I could while preserving the balance. That being said, if you are intent on cutting the sugar back, cut back the on the vinegar and fish sauce as well. 🙂 *Leaving the sugar or honey out will result in terrible Pad THAI! Also the same with leaving out the fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce) or leaving out the acid.
Fish sauce: If you are not accustomed to fish sauce, or are using a brand you haven’t tried before (some are fishier than others) feel free to go a little lighter on the fish sauce- like 2 tablespoons. It is an acquired taste. If going less, you will need to may add a little more salt to taste.
DOUBLING: Doubling the recipe will double the time and be much harder to manage all at once, in one wok. If doubling, I highly recommend cooking in two batches in the wok.
Use time-saving ingredients like store-bought peeled garlic (or minced garlic) and ginger paste in a tube. Using pre-cooked chicken is fastest -leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect. Also you could make the Pad Thai sauce ahead!
Tips for health: An easy way to cut back on the oil in the recipe is to poach the thinly sliced chicken in a little salted water (just enough to barely cover) and poach in the pan or wok for just a few minutes. Drain and set aside. The thinner you slice the chicken the faster it will cook.
TIPS for flavor:
- Peanut Oil and chili flakes really really elevate this dish!
- Tamarind: If using tamarind (instead of rice vinegar) make tamarind “water” by mixing 1 -2 teaspoons tamarind paste with 2 tablespoons water. Or use 1-2 teaspoons tamarind “concentrate” with 2 tablespoons water. Use this in place of the vinegar. This is more traditional but I realize not everyone has access to tamarind. Tamarind is extremely sour so if unfamiliar, go light. You can always add more.
- TEXTURE IS KEY! Everything from frying the noodles to adding the bean sprouts and roasted peanuts elevates this.
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