Pad Thai Your Way is a classic Thailand Street food that can be made easily at home with fresh vegetables, stir fried flat rice noodles, shrimp, tofu, fresh bean sprouts, aromatics and a delicious traditional sauce made just the way you like it. (Step by Step Instructions and Recipe Video Included below.)
One slurp of your Pad Thai Your Way and you will be teleported to a moment you sat on one of those little plastic stools after visiting your favorite street vendor in downtown Bangkok. You are going to love this recipe because the silky aldente noodles are completely addictive. Tamarind, palm sugar (or brown sugar) and fish sauce are the three magical ingredients in the sauce. We love the unique flavor blending of salty, sweet, sour and spicy in one little dynamic bite.
Pad Thai Your Way – Made just to order…
Pad Thai is a dish that is made to order, just the way you like it. Every person has their own standard of how sweet, salty, sour or spicy they like their pad Thai sauce and it can be adjusted to suite your personal preferences. In addition, some people like chicken, some like shrimp or some like tofu. Maybe some want extra vegetables or less vegetables. It does not stop there. Then you get to pick your garnishes. Some people like fresh limes, garlic chives, crushed peanuts, chilies, or extra raw bean sprouts or maybe nothing extra on top at all. Make it just the way YOU like it!
It’s NOODLE TIME!
Welcome to another fun episode of #NoodlesWithoutBorders! Every first Tuesday of the month, All That’s Jas and Healthy World Cuisine bring to you a delicious noodle dish from around the world. Be sure to check Jas's delicious Turkish Noodles with Garlic Yogurt Recipe. We want you to join in on the fun. Be sure to use the hash tag #NoodlesWithoutBorders when you make a noodle or pasta recipe and post to Instagram. Even better yet, if you tag @allthatsjas and @hwcmagazine on Instagram we will feature you in our Instagram stories. We love seeing what you are making in your kitchen. We have visited many countries from the comfort of our kitchen. If you missed any of the Noodles Without Borders recipes, we have them all right here for you…
Noodles Without Borders Recipes
Noodles with Cabbage and Bacon – Polish Haluski Recipe (Poland) - All That's Jas
Spaghetti with Veracruz Sauce – Espagueti en Salsa Veracruzana (Mexico) - All That's Jas
Thai Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Vegetables (Thailand) - All That's Jas
Irish Lobster Mac and Cheese Pie (Ireland) - All That's Jas
Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Fusilli Pasta Bake (America) - All That's Jas
5 Ingredient Mediterranean Feta Mac and Cheese (Mediterranean) - All That's Jas
Greek Pastitsio Pasta Casserole (Greece) - All That's Jas
Caramelized Cauliflower and Mushroom Spaghetti (America) - All That's Jas
Pasta alla Norcina with Easy Homemade Sausage and Mushrooms (Italy) - All That's Jas
Orecchiette and Chicken Sausage in a Garlic Wine Sauce (Italy) - Healthy World Cuisine
Sopa de Fideo (Mexican Noodle Soup) (Mexico) - Healthy World Cuisine
Better than Take Out Vegetable Lo Mein (China) - Healthy World Cuisine
Butternut Squash Vegetarian Lasagna (America) - Healthy World Cuisine
Golden Spiced Noodle Soup (Asian Fusion) - Healthy World Cuisine
Cinque de Terre's Ligurian Trofie al Pesto (Italy) - Healthy World Cuisine
Shrimp Tempura Udon Noodles (Japan) - Healthy World Cuisine
Camote Bihon (Sweet Potato Noodles) (Philippines) - Healthy World Cuisine
One Pot Creamy Kale Pesto Pasta (America – vegan, dairy-free) - Healthy World Cuisine
Traditional Pad Thai Magic Sauce
This traditional sauce is magical because it has the perfect balance of sweet from the palm or brown sugar, sour from the tamarind and savory from the fish sauce. Have you ever been to Thailand? Then you probably know that if you are getting served a Pad Thai anywhere else in the world and it has a red tinge, then it is not traditional Pad Thai.
Did you know that many restaurants (not in Thailand) add ketchup to the Pad Thai sauce? Yes, Really and that is what gives it this odd red tinge. Pad Thai should NOT be red as a matter of fact it is a light brown from the tamarind, fish sauce and palm sugar. These are the only 3 ingredients in traditional Pad Thai Sauce. There is no oyster sauce, no ketchup, no sriracha sauce. If you happen to be in Thailand and your Pad Thai is slightly red, that is because they probably added a little fermented bean paste with chili.
What the heck is Tamarind and what does it taste like?
Tamarind is actually a tree. The tamarind tree produces these legume pod fruits with pulp and seeds inside. This Tamarind pulp is the secret ingredient to a delicious Pad Thai Your Way. Tamarind pulp has an earthy sourness to it. You know that iron flavor that molasses has without the sweetness, it is kind of like that. It is difficult to describe other than we just love it. We love using tamarind in curries, chutneys and many different Asian recipes. You can even make a tamarind iced tea that is quite refreshing.
Tamarind comes in many different forms…
- Whole tamarind pod with seeds and pulps still inside freshly picked from the tree
- Dried tamarind pastes in a block– this is the kind we used. It looks like a brick of date paste and your brain thinks it will be sweet, but it is surprisingly sour.
- Tamarind paste in a jar that is conveniently is thin enough to stir and measure
- Tamarind juice comes in a jar and is in liquid form.
You can use any form of tamarind in this recipe. Dissecting a whole tamarind pod to remove the seeds and scrape away any of the paste is obviously the most challenging of the options from a time perspective. We prefer using a tamarind paste in a block or jar of tamarind paste.
What is a Good Substitute for Tamarind Paste?
We know that sometimes it may be difficult to obtain tamarind paste. Tamarind is mostly sour and has a deep iron taste and slightly sweet. Here are some exchanges and substitutes for tamarind paste...
- Pomegranate Molasses is reduced pomegranate juice and has that sour but slightly sweet undertones and is about the closest substitute for tamarind . It is much thinner than tamarind paste. If you use pomegranate molasses instead of tamarind in your Pad Thai sauce, reduce the amount of hot water added. Use only 1 tablespoon, just enough to melt the brown sugar or palm sugar.
- Pureed Prunes and rice vinegar seems like an odd combination but just trust us. It works. For every 4 dried prunes, add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar. Place both your prunes and vinegar in a food processor to blend. If you need to, you can add a little water to help blend into a thick paste. You can use pureed prunes and rice vinegar paste in the same ratio as tamarind paste.
How to Make Pad Thai Magic Sauce
You are going to need to dissolve the palm sugar or brown sugar along with a little hot water along with the tamarind paste. This creates the perfect coat the back of the spoon consistency you are going for the magical Pad Thai Your Way sauce. You can do this with just heating up a little water in a tea kettle or in the microwave. Then, add the heated water to the brown sugar and tamarind to dissolve. Stir and add in your fish sauce. It's that simple. If you use the tamarind thin juice you may need to actually cook your tamarind and palm sugar/brown sugar on the stove top to give it the thicker texture. Using a tamarind paste, is just easier.
Enjoying the “Funky” Taste of Pad Thai
Funky is a good thing. It is what makes Pad Thai Your Way, traditional and addictive. The Funky taste comes from the fish sauce, sweet pickled daikon radishes and sometimes dried baby shrimp. It’s that little funky taste that keeps you going back for that next unexpected delicious bite. Your taste buds just can’t quite figure it out, so the only cure is to just keep eating more. There is an explosion of flavor and texture going on in your mouth. You have the silky noodles, firm tofu, crunchy bean sprout and peanuts all going on. Pad Thai is a little sweet, sour, spicy, savory and little funky.
Most generally speaking, you can find fish sauce at your local grocery store or Asian markets. If you need your fish sauce to be gluten-free, be sure to try Red Boat and Thai Kitchen gluten-free fish sauces. There is really not a good substitute for fish sauce if you need this recipe to be vegan as then it would be missing that special Funky flavoring. If you are desperate, you can add a soya sauce or a tamari sauce but then just call it stir fried noodles. Fish sauce is not optional.
Sweet Preserved Pickles
Sweet preserved daikon radish pickles are completely optional, but they do give your Pad Thai Your Way that perfect delicious funky flavor throughout the noodles. Please note that these are “sweet” and not the “savory” preserved daikon radish pickles. Sometimes they are also called sweet preserved turnip pickles. Sweet preserved pickles are a more challenging item to locate and you will need to go to an Asian market or online to find them. We actually make our batch of sweet preserved daikon pickles homemade. If you chop them up finely, you can get that delicious flavor throughout the noodles.
Dried Baby Shrimp
Dried baby shrimp are an optional item for your Pad Thai Your Way. They give a little layer of salty, briny flavor to the recipe if you chop them up finely. You can find dried shrimp in Asian grocery stores or they can be purchased on line. Personally speaking, we would just skip these if you do not have them. We want not substitute bonito flakes in this recipe because that will give this recipe a different flavor profile. We did not include dried shrimp in our recipe, but it is often included in traditional Pad Thai.
It’s all about the Noodles…
Traditional Pad Thai rice noodles are flat and medium width and usually gluten-free. (If you are celiac, be sure to check to make sure your noodles were created in a gluten free environment) The most important part of this recipe is getting your noodles to the right consistency. Pad Thai rice noodles usually come dried.
You will need to soften your noodles slightly before stir frying them. Do not soften them all the way to aldente, because you are going to be cooking them again. No one likes mushy noodles. Your goal is for a pliable but still firm to the touch noodle. It is actually better for them to be under cooked at this prepping point. You can always add a little water to your wok to finish the cooking process when you add the rest of your ingredients. There are two different ways to soften your Pad Thai Rice Noodles…
Option 1: Place your dried Pad Thai Rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for just about 2 minutes or until just start to get pliable but still firm to the touch. Then drain and rinse with cold water. Caution: It takes just seconds for the noodles to go from just pliable to mush. Keep your eyes and hands on the noodles to keep checking on them. Every brand, thickness and type of Pad Thai rice noodle will vary on the time needed.
Option 2: Place your dried Pad Thai Rice noodles in a bowl and cover with luke warm water for about 30 minutes until the noodles are just pliable but still firm to the touch. Drain and rinse with cool water. DO NOT leave the noodles sitting in the luke warm water as they will continue to soften.
If you are a less attentive cook, we would encourage you to go with option 2. If you are short on time, go with option 1.
Additions to Pad Thai Your Way
The beauty of this recipe is you can add or not add, anything your little heart desires. Do not panic when you see the long list of ingredients. Many ingredients are optional and some are listed more than once to help you understand the process.
We are big shrimp fans. However, you can also use thinly sliced chicken, mushrooms, pork, beef, tofu or any other protein you desire. In order to get that lovely quick sear on your shrimp, we like to cook them first just until no longer translucent. We also cut up our firm tofu into thin match sticks and pan sear on all sides in a pan and have them ready to be added to the dish at the end. It is really important that you get your tofu dried well with paper towels before pan frying.
Fried Shallots and fresh garlic are key to a good Pad Thai. If you do not have shallots, exchange with an onion. An optional aromatic that we discussed above is the sweet preserved daikon radish pickles.
Toppings and Garnishes for Pad Thai
Traditionally, Pad Thai will have fresh bean sprouts (sprouted mung beans) and garlic chives tossed in the fried Pad Thai and extra for garnish. We were not able to get fresh garlic chives, so we exchanged with spring onions. A must have garnish that really brings this whole dish alive is fresh squeezed lime juice. A little crushed peanut, chili either fresh or ground and a little fresh cilantro to serve are always a nice touch. Check out our Step by Step Instructions below...
In Thailand, it is sometimes common to serve a little extra palm sugar/brown sugar on the side. This way you can make the Pad Thai YOUR Way and add extra sour, sweet or spice to your taste. Don’ forget about the egg. A fried egg is an optional item but we love the little extra protein and texture it adds to the dish.
Dietary adaptations for Pad Thai
If you are looking for ways to lower the carbohydrate count, exchange the brown sugar with a sugar alternative and try exchanging zucchini zoodles for the Pad Thai noodles, or exchange most of the noodles with mung beans. If you are watching your sodium intake, reduce the amount of fish sauce and increase the aromatics. We used gluten-free fish sauce and gluten-free noodles for this recipe.
Be sure to try our Thai Firecracker Shrimp Party Appetizers with our Prik Nam Pla dipping sauce or our Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup for a starter. How about a No-Churn Dairy Free Mango Swirl Ice Cream for dessert? Check out our Thai Recipe Category for more delicious recipes.
Pad Thai YOUR Way
- 12 oz Pad Thai Rice Noodles medium size
- Water for softening noodles
- 6 tbsp Brown sugar (can use palm sugar or light or dark brown sugar or sugar alternative)
- ½ cup Tamarind
paste or puree (check out our notes below for substitution ideas)
- 4 tbsp Fish sauce
- 6 tbsp Hot water
- 4 tbsp Oil for frying
- 6 oz Tofu
(dried well and cut into matchsticks) – optional
- 8 oz Shrimp
raw large peeled, deveined (or about 3-4 shrimp per person)
- 1 Shallots 1 peeled and sliced into half-moons (or about ½ cup)
- 4 cloves Garlic
peeled and minced
- ¼ cup Sweet preserved daikon radish pickles
- 4 Egg
- 2.5 cups Bean sprouts (mung Beans) (reserve some for garnishing)
- 6 Green onion cut into match stick sizes (reserve some for garnishing)
- ½ cup Peanuts chopped (reserve some for garnishing)- optional
- 4 wedges Limes
ground dried or fresh- optional
- Beans sprouts
(sprouted mung beans) optional
- Green onions
- Ground peanuts optional
- Prepare your noodles: Place your noodles in a large bowl and cover with luke warm water for about 30 minutes or until the noodles are pliable but firm to the touch. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain and set aside. (Alternatively, you can boil water and pour over noodles for about 2-5 minutes or just until pliable but still firm to the touch, drain, rinse with cold water and drain. Keep a very close eye and feel on noodles so they do not get too soft) Set aside. Do not over soakyour noodles until they are aldente. The noodles will be stir fried again so they need to be firmer than aldente.
- Prepare your sauce: In a medium bowl, add brown sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce and hot water. Stir to dissolve brown sugar and tamarind paste. The paste should be a little thick so that it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Place oil in pan and fry your tofu until crispy on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add your shrimp and pan sear on all sides until pink and no longer translucent. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Prepare all of your prepared ingredients in place (mise en place) so you are ready to do a quick stir fry. (extra oil for frying, shallots, garlic, Sweet preserved daikon radish pickles, Pad Thai softened noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, green onions and peanuts, fried tofu, cooked shrimp and Pad Thai prepared sauce) and set it next to your stove. Set aside and separate some bean sprouts, green onion and peanuts for garnish for 4 servings.
- If you have a super large wok and everyone wants the same ingredients, you can make it all in one batch. However, you can make your Pad Thai YOUR way with different additions for each person. Then you can make each portion separately. This recipe makes about 4 portions.
- Stir frying: We prefer to make each person’s serving separately as we have a smaller wok. Add a little oil in your wok and add the about ¼th of the shallots, ¼ th of the garlic , ¼th of the sweet preserved daikon radish pickles and stir fry until aromatic. Next add ¼ of the prepared Pad Thai rice noodles and ¼ th the Pad Thai sauce and stir fry until the noodles are well coated and almost aldente. (if your wok is dry and the noodles are still not aldente, you can add a tablespoon or two of water to your wok and fry until aldente.)
- Move your noodles to one side and up on the edge of your wok. Add an egg and break the yolk and cook until scrambled and then mix your noodles into eggs. Add ¼ th of the bean sprouts, ¼ of the green onions, fried tofu, shrimp and just a few ground peanuts and stir fry for a minute to incorporate all the ingredients. Repeat this process for the other 3 servings.
- Serve your Pad Thai YOUR way with lime wedges, extra ground peanuts, mung bean (bean sprouts), dried chili or fresh chili. Spritz with lime juice and enjoy.