Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

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My favorite recipe for Thai drunken noodles (pad kee mao), made with your choice of protein and veggies and the most irresistible Thai basil sauce.

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with pretty much all kinds of stir-fried noodles.  But I have to say, I think that Thailand’s famous drunken noodles — pad kee mao (ผัดขี้เมา) — will forever be my favorites.

I absolutely adore these noodles. ♡

By contrast to what their name may imply, drunken noodles aren’t typically made with any alcohol at all.  Rather, they are traditionally made with rice noodles, fresh veggies, and your choice of protein (I used chicken here).  But the magic of this recipe lies fully in that “drunken” sauce.  It’s made with a blend of savory, slightly-sweet, and however-spicy-you-prefer base sauce that’s already delicious on its own.  But once it’s tossed with lots and lots of anise-flavored Thai holy basil, get ready, because this sauce transforms into something extra-special and tastes downright irresistible.

If you want to give this recipe a try, I’m really going to insist here that you make the trip to your local southeast Asian grocery to pick up some fresh Thai basil, which is slightly different than Italian basil and provides the je ne sais quoi flavor that I consider key to this dish.  And while I can’t guarantee here that this recipe is 100% authentic, it is the closest I’ve come to recreating the Thai-American restaurant version that I fell in love with years ago and tastes ridiculously good.

The good news for all of us is that this dish is quite easy to make and also makes for fantastic leftovers too.  So go round up some Thai basil and let’s make homemade pad kee mao together!

Thai Basil

Pad Kee Mao Ingredients:

Here are a few notes on the ingredients that you will need to make this pad kee mao recipe (amounts included in the recipe below):

  • Rice noodles: Whichever size of rice noodles you prefer for this recipe.
  • Chicken: I added bite-sized thin slices of chicken to my stir-fry.  But feel free to use beef, pork, shrimp, tofu or whatever protein you prefer here.
  • Veggies: I used a mix of broccoli, red bell pepper, scallions and garlic.  But again, feel free to use whatever stir-fry-friendly veggies you love best.  (Chinese broccoli is often traditionally used in this recipe, which I love but couldn’t find here in Barcelona when I re-photographed this recipe.  If you can track some down, I’ve included instructions for how to cook it in the recipe notes.)
  • Thai basil: I absolutely adore the flavor of Thai basil (which has a more anise-like flavor than Italian basil and is typically available in southeast Asian grocery stores) in pad kee mao, and recommend adding a very generous amount to this stir-fry.  That said, if you cannot find Thai basil, you could sub in Italian basil which which will lend a different but still delicious flavor.
  • Stir-fry sauce: Made from a delicious blend of low-sodium soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sweet dark soy sauce and chili garlic sauce.  (See variation notes below for some gluten-free alternatives with the sauce.)
  • Toppings: I always serve drunken noodles with a few fresh lime wedges and sliced Thai bird chiles sprinkled on top, for those would like some extra heat.  But chopped peanuts and/or fried garlic would also add some delicious crunch and flavor.

Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) in Saute Pan

How To Make Drunken Noodles:

Here is a brief overview of the steps to make this Thai drunken noodles recipe (full instructions in the recipe below):

  1. Prep the sauce: First, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.
  2. Prep the noodles: Next, go ahead and cook the noodles al dente.  Then rinse them briefly with water to cool (so they will stop cooking) and toss with a drizzle of oil so that they do not stick together.
  3. Sauté the chicken: Then once your veggies and chicken are all prepped and ready to go, it’s time to sauté.  I recommend cooking your chicken (or whatever protein you choose) first, in a bit of oil.
  4. Cook the veggies. Next, sauté the veggies until they reach your desired level of doneness.  (I like mine to be on the crisper side.)
  5. Combine everything.  Then add the cooked noodles, sauce, chicken, Thai basil, and scallions to the pan and toss until thoroughly combined.
  6. Serve warm.  And serve immediately, while the noodles are still nice and hot, topped with whatever garnishes you love best.

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) Closeup with Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

Possible Variations:

As with any stir-fry, this recipe is quite flexible when it comes to substitutions and variations, so please feel free to get creative with whatever ingredients you have on hand!  For example, you could…

  • Use a different protein: Beef, pork, shrimp or tofu would all be delicious substitutions for chicken in this stir-fry, if you would like!
  • Use different veggies: Just about any stir-fry-friendly veggies would work here in place of (or combined with) the broccoli and red bell pepper.
  • Make it spicier: Increase the amount of chili garlic sauce and/or add some sliced Thai bird chiles to the sauce (or sprinkle them on top).
  • Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free tamari (in place of the soy sauce), gluten-free oyster sauce (in place of traditional oyster sauce), and some extra tamari plus a drizzle of sweetener (molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar or honey, in place of the dark soy sauce).

Drunken Noodles in Serving Bowl with Chopsticks

More Favorite Noodle Recipes:

Looking for more delicious noodle recipes?  Here are a few of my faves:

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Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x

Description

My favorite recipe for Thai drunken noodles (pad kee mao), made with your choice of protein and veggies and the most irresistible Thai basil sauce.


Scale

Ingredients

Stir-Fry Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked rice noodles
  • 2 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts*, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 scallions, chopped with white and dark green parts divided
  • 2 cups broccoli florets (or other veggies*)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups tightly-packed fresh Thai basil leaves
  • optional toppings: fresh lime wedges, sliced Thai bird chiles, chopped peanuts, and/or fried garlic

Stir-Fry Sauce:


Instructions

  1. Prep the sauce: Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup until combined.
  2. Prep the noodles: Cook the noodles according to package instructions until they are al dente.  Drain and rinse with cool water until the noodles are no longer hot, and set aside until ready to use.  (I would also recommend tossing the noodles with a drizzle of oil if it will be a few minutes until you add them to the stir-fry, to prevent them from sticking together.)
  3. Sauté the chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Then add the chicken to the oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until it is cooked through.  Transfer the cooked chicken to a separate (clean) plate, and return the pan to the heat.
  4. Cook the veggies.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.  Add the white parts of the green onions and the bell pepper to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the broccoli and garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies reach your desired level of tenderness.
  5. Combine everything.  Immediately add the cooked noodles, sauce, chicken, Thai basil, and the green parts of the scallions to the pan.  Give everything a good toss for 1-2 minutes until all ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce.
  6. Serve warm.  Remove pan from the heat and serve immediately, garnished with any of your desired toppings.


Notes

Protein alternatives: Feel free to substitute a pound of beef, pork, shrimp or tofu in place of the chicken if you would like, or you can just omit the added protein from this recipe entirely.

Veggie options: Feel free to substitute whatever stir-fry-friendly veggies you prefer in place of the broccoli and bell pepper, if you would like.  Chinese broccoli is often traditionally used in this recipe, which should have its stems chopped and sautéed first and then the leafy green parts tossed in near the end.

Dark soy sauce alternative: If you can’t find dark soy sauce, you can sub in a teaspoon of soy sauce plus a teaspoon or two of sweetener (molasses is closest in flavor, but honey, maple syrup or sugar would work) in its place.

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70 comments on “Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)”

  1. YUM I cannot wait to try this. I love making Asian food at home especially because I can control the grease factor haha.

  2. Yum, this looks just like a dish that my mom used to love at a Pho Restaurant in Boston.  Thanks!  Maybe I can recreate it for her!

  3. You had me at the mention of Thai food! :)

  4. This looks amazing – can’t wait to try it. Love all those bright colors from the fresh veggies.  Yum!

  5. Okay….that just looks and sounds like the perfect dinner waiting to happen! I will be pinning this one for later, but I wish I had a bowl right now.

    Jackie

  6. This looks absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try making it myself. Pinned and ready to go :)

  7. OMG. You just possibly made my LIFE. Drunken noodles are my favorite Thai dish. And- please don’t hate me for saying this- it’s really hard to find a good pad ki mao in Thailand! I LIVE in Bangkok, and the best pad ki mao I’ve had here was at the embassy chow hall. I’ve yet to find a recipe that looked like it could live up to my nose-in-the-air standards. I’ll let you know how it goes once I’ve tried it!

    P.S. If you get a hankering for tom ka gai, I’ve got a superb recipe and knock your socks off insider tips for the preparation.

    • Thank you Bethany! We hope you’ll get a chance to try this soon, and that you like it! And I bet Ali would be interested in your tom ka gai, if you want to share. :)

  8. I tried making this dish before, and it didn’t work out. But I love drunken noodles and would be willing to give it a second try! Thanks for sharing.

  9. YUM! Love me some Pad Thai, but I almost always order Pad Kee Mao when I’m at my favorite Thai restaurant in Louisville. Definitely gotta try this one at home. 

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

  10. Looks great! If you’re ever in LA, make sure to stop by my parent’s restaurant, Siam Sunset, and order a plate!

  11. Hi Ali – 

    Long time follower, first time poster.  :)  
    I am completely and totally obsessed with Lulu’s and we probably eat it way more than is appropriate to mention.  
    Curious to know what Asian market you go to in KC to find these special ingredients.  It’s so rare that I read a blog and they are in my city so I thought I would reach out and see if you would spill a local secret.  
    Thanks so much … literally going on the grocery list for Sunday night dinner.  
    Now if I could only learn how to make their spring rolls and that fantastic peanut sauce … then I’d be all set! 

    Many thanks in advance! 
    Kristen 

  12. Why are they called “Drunken” when there is no alcohol? Just curious. And since we are on the subject of Asian dishes, would love to know if anyone has a good recipe for Tom Yum soup!

    • Hi Amy! We’ve heard they’re called “drunken noodles” because the dish is supposed to be so spicy that it makes you feel like you’re drunk. (We don’t find this version too crazy spice-wise.) Another reason is that it’s a favorite late night food from Thailand’s food stalls — popular with folks who’ve been out drinking. ;) We hope you enjoy!

  13. Pad Kee Mow is my absolutely FAVORITE Thai dish.  I need to try this recipe!

  14. First time I cook Asian recipe with alcohol. It already smells delicious!

  15. I’m so glad you shared this recipe with us, it looks amazing and will be making this soon!  thank you 

  16. I am so tired of same food day after day. I live alone
    and need something new I have never tried. 
    This is my choice.
    Thank you. 

  17. I just made this for lunch and it was so yummy! Thank you for another great recipe :) 

  18. Just made this, and it was quite tasty the day of and the day after! Definitely squirt some lime juice on at the end for an extra punch of flavor.

  19. As soon as I saw these noodles a knew they were a remake of LuLu’s. We just moved away from KC and I have been craving that place like crazy so needless to say I will be making these this weekend! Yuuuuummmm

  20. Delicious! This got hubby’s tick of approval too. He said “make more recipes from her blog”. I’ll definite do that. Thanks for posting this!! 

  21. This looks spectacular – thanks for sharing! I, too, love drunken noodles and can’t wait to recreate them at home.

  22. I know spiciness is a key to drunken noodles. Is there a way to take this recipe and mod it into a similar Thai dish without spiciness, such as Pad See-Ew which has a sweet sauce? I’d love to make this for my family but my toddler starts screaming intensely when confronted with this much heat.

    • Hi Katie! You can just leave out the Thai garlic chili sauce (that’s the only ingredient packing any heat in this). We hope you and your little one enjoy! :)

  23. Drunken Noodles are my absolute favorite and I cannot wait to try this recipe!  I am also in KC…which Asian market did you to go? And also where did you find the organic slaw mix for your Moo Shu pork?  Thanks!!

    • Hi Kelli, that’s awesome you’re from KC! Ali loves Chinatown in the River Market, and she thinks she found the slaw at Whole Foods. :)

  24. I was so excited to see this recipe because I love drunken noodles and love making Asian food. This was amazing!! I bet the leftovers will be even better. I also got the opportunity to discover an awesome Thai Market in my neighborhood to pick up some of the ingredients. I think I’ll be  making Thai food regularly now. Thanks! :) 

  25. This was SO good and easy! I used tofu instead of shrimp – baked for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees – and it was so delicious. I didn’t use the Chinese broccoli this time, but I will definitely try it next time if I can find it; if not, I may use snow peas. The only change I would make next time is to *triple* the sauce – I wound up making a second batch of it after I added the Thai basil and thought that it still could’ve used a bit more to flavor the noodles. But all in all, this was a WINNER!! 

  26. OMG, you are so my hero! This is my absolute FAVORITE Thai dish and I have been dying to try and make it at home! I’ve had a couple OK attempts but I love the salty-sweetness of the sauce at my local place and haven’t quite gotten that down yet. Maybe mine is missing the sweet dark soy sauce–is there a certain brand you use?

    • Thank you Genie — we hope you enjoy this recipe! As for the soy sauce, Kikkoman is fine, but we also like picking some up at the Asian market!

  27. This was the most amazing recipe! We have tried so many Thai recipes at home that have just been a flop, but no this one. It was quick and delicious! Thank you. We will be making this over and over again.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Kat! We’re happy to hear you’re a fan of this recipe! :)

  28. I have read this several times and do not see where the broccoli leaves are added. I assume when you add the shrimp and bas?  The recipes says to separate the stems and leaves and step 3 says to add the stems, but I don’t see when to add the leaves. I’m probably missing it but would please let me know?  Would love to make this soon. Thank you!

    • Eek, sorry somehow that was left out in the instructions! Just added it back in. My apologies about that! Hope you enjoy the recipe! :)

  29. Soo delicious!! Love this recipe, thanks!! We agree this is one our family will want again and again!! Yum

  30. This is my favorite recipe! Thank you so much. My whole family loves this meal. 

  31. Wow. Just WOW.

    Amazing dish. Relatively easy prep and so fresh, healthy, and delicious!!! A true keeper.

  32. Could you make the stir fry without the noodles and freeze? Then cook the noodles and warm up when ready to eat?

  33. this is eyegasmic! I can have it off the screen!!! Wonderful photos and a wonderful recipe

  34. Broccoli rabe will work just fine for this, we hope you enjoy!

  35. Looks absolutely fabulous. I am going to have to try this! I am slightly love, love, love Thai food.

  36. Delicious! I didn’t have Chinese broccoli or Thai basil, so I used kale, beet greens, and sweet basil. I’m sure it’s even better with your original ingredients.

  37. Amazing. I doubled up the recipe- 1# shrimp and 1# chicken. For veg, I used broccoli, carrots, red bell, onion, and snow peas, in addition to the green onion and garlic.
    Flavors are spot on! My recs would be to make extra sauce so you don’t fall short, and good for reheating, and don’t overcrowd the pan.

    Reheating- I use a covered double boiler system on the stove (shallow pan, a 1/2” water, and a bowl restating atop a mason jar ring) — reheated without drying things out or the mushy opposite.

  38. Yum! I used baby bok choy instead of Chinese broccoli. Added a jalapeño, some button mushrooms, and A little ginger and lemongrass to the sauce. We also did chicken instead of shrimp. It was AMAZING! I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow!

  39. My favorite recipes are ones that I can sub just about anything that I happen to have on hand in. I’m looking forward to all the fun variations I can make with this!

  40. We tried this dish. It had good flavor. But how did you get the noodles so dark. That was half of the appeal of the picture.

  41. loved the appeal of the picture, was hoping to get the noodles as dark . Flavor was good.

  42. Thank you, I have recently found your website and I am so pleased as every single recipe I have made has been fantastic.
    We loved the drunken noodles recipe, I made more sauce that you suggested as the family loved lots of sauce, the whole family loved this recipe!
    The green curry salmon, creamy Cajun prawns, are also amazing, Totally delicious!

    Thank you so much and congratulations on your news about your baby x

  43. Absolutely delicious recipe! Lots of great flavor! Thanks for sharing!

  44. Is this a recipe repost? I get confused when comments are from years back but it’s posted like it’s new. Just made this and it was worth 4 grocery stores and the 90min it took to make! I added water chestnuts, baby corn and 1/2 head of purple cabbage. Next time I would add mushrooms. I used lo mein instead of rice noodles.

    Yum.

  45. We loved this!! I bought the rice noodles and really liked then. Thanks for a great recipe.