Pad Thai

This restaurant-quality Pad Thai recipe is surprisingly easy to make at home and customize with whatever noodles, proteins, veggies, and spice level you prefer.  (Chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, tofu and veggie-only options included below.)

Pad Thai Recipe

In the latest edition of Things-We-Loved-Back-Home-But-Are-Missing-Majorly-Here-In-Barcelona, we turn today to some of the best noodles on earth.

Pad Thai, of course. 

I’m not sure why, but there are currently only a handful of Thai restaurants in all of Barcelona — none of which are anywhere near our place, and none of which come super-highly rated by our local friends.  Which has been a bit of a bummer, especially for a girl (hi!) who used to have a total Thai takeout obsession back home.  I miss my weekly Curry Monday, Pad Thai Tuesday, and Fried Rice Wednesday specials!

That said, after a year of lamenting our Thai takeout situation here, I finally decided to cut the complaining and just teach myself how to cook some of our faves en casa.  I wasn’t interested in those close-but-not-quite kind of copycat recipes, that so often happen with takeout classics.  I wanted recipes that tasted like the real deal.  Turns out, it’s surprisingly do-able!

My first triumph of the year was nailing our favorite Everyday Thai Curry recipe, aptly named because Barclay and I are obsessed and cook it all the time.  My second was a new Thai fried rice recipe, which will be hitting the blog sometime soon.  But perhaps best of all, I think I’ve now finally perfected a homemade Pad Thai recipe that legit tastes like the restaurant version.  Or arguably, even better.  This recipe is full of fresh and tangy flavors, it’s lightly sweetened with brown sugar (vs. the heaps of sugar that many American restaurants add nowadays), it can be made as pleasantly-mild or as knock-your-socks-off-spicy as you prefer, and it is ridiculously good.  Just as any Pad Thai should be.

I will note that there is one special ingredient that I’m going to strongly recommend you add to your grocery (or Amazon) list to make this dish happen.  But otherwise, the ingredients here are all pretty standard stir-fry fare.  And of course, when made at home, you have the flexibility to customize your Pad Thai recipe with whatever kinds of proteins, veggies, noodles and hot peppers that you prefer.

So if any of you also happen to live in a place where really good Pad Thai is hard to come by — or hey, if it’s one of your faves and you’re ready to finally learn how to make it from scratch too — grab a bag of noodles and let’s make a batch together!

Pad Thai Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Chicken Pad Thai Recipe

What Is Pad Thai?

So exactly what is Pad Thai?  In case you’re new to this one, I think it’s safe to say that it is probably the most famous Thai noodle dish.  It’s made with rice noodles, some type of protein (chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, tofu, etc.), a few light veggies and eggs.  Then everything is tossed together in a yummy Pad Thai sauce, made with an irresistible blend of sweet, savory, tangy and spicy (if you’d like) fresh ingredients.  And finally, sprinkled with the juice of a fresh lime and lots and lots of crushed peanuts.

It is delicious.

To be sure, authentic street food versions in Thailand can vary significantly from the Thai restaurant versions served around the world.  But the version below is one that will hopefully taste familiar, and made with ingredients that you can easily source at your usual grocery store.

Easy Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai Ingredients:

Alright, grocery list time.  To make this easy Pad Thai recipe, you will need:

  • Pad Thai Sauce: See below.
  • Pad Thai Noodles: Thin rice noodles are typically used, but any width will work.
  • Oil: Any kind of mild oil that you like will work — olive oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, etc.
  • Protein: You guys voted by a landslide for a Chicken Pad Thai recipe on Instagram, so that’s what I have photographed and written out below.  But I have also included instructions for how to make Pad Thai with shrimp, pork or beef.  Or a meatless Pad Thai (with or without crispy tofu).
  • Veggies: I went classic and included used fresh bean sprouts and shredded carrots in this recipe.  But feel free to add in any other stir-fry veggies that you love.
  • Garlic: For extra flavor.
  • Green onions: Actually, garlic chives are the authentic ingredient to use here.  But since they can be hard to find, I have written this recipe using green onions.
  • Eggs: Which we will whisk, scramble and add to the stir fry.
  • Toppings: I highly recommend topping your noodles with lots and lots of chopped peanuts.  And of course, a fresh lime wedge.  Plus some extra crushed red chili flakes if you would like some extra heat.

Tamarind Concentrate

How To Make Pad Thai Sauce:

To make this Pad Thai sauce, you will need:

  • Tamarind ConcentrateWhich is — ta da! — the secret ingredient I highly recommend getting your hands on.  Tamarind concentrate is one of the starring ingredients in authentic Pad Thai.  It has a sweet and tangy flavor, and in my opinion, totally makes this dish!  When shopping, be sure to look for tamarind concentrate (not paste) that is made with 100% tamarind and no added sugars or corn syrup.  You can find it at Asian groceries, or I just buy mine on Amazon.
    • I should note, though, that many American Thai restaurants have switched to using ketchup instead of tamarind concentrate, which yields a much more sweet and red-ish Pad Thai.  So if you can’t track down tamarind concentrate, you can try subbing in 3 tablespoons of ketchup and 1 tablespoon of lime juice instead of the tamarind concentrate.
  • Brown sugar: Actually, palm sugar is traditionally used in Pad Thai sauce.  But if you don’t have that in your pantry (like me), regular brown sugar will work just as well.
  • Fish sauceOne of my favorite pantry ingredients!  It’s going to smell a bit funky as you’re whisking up the sauce.  But trust me — fish sauce is a critical ingredient in making these noodles taste like the Pad Thai we all know and love.  That said, not all fish sauces are created equal.  I’m a big fan of Red Boat and Three Crabs fish sauce brands, both of which are a bit more expensive but have a richer flavor and don’t smell quite as “fishy.”  But really, any kind of fish sauce you can find will work.
  • Soy sauce: I prefer low-sodium.
  • Lime juice: Freshly-squeezed, of course.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: Or you can use sriracha or garlic chili sauce, or whatever your preferred hot sauce may be.

To make the Pad Thai sauce recipe, simply whisk all of these ingredients together until combined.  Or do what I do, and just combine them in a mason jar and shake-shake-shake until combined.

Easy Pad Thai Recipe

How To Make Pad Thai:

Heads up — once you begin cooking the actual stir-fry (step 3 and on), this recipe actually goes really fast.  So I highly recommend prepping all of your protein, veggies, eggs, sauce and toppings ahead of time so that you don’t get held up partway through.

To make this (chicken) Pad Thai recipe, simply…

  1. Make the sauce. (As mentioned above.)
  2. Cook the noodles. Meanwhile, cook your noodles al dente according to package instructions.  Then drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with oil to prevent them from sticking.
  3. Cook the chicken. Sauté the chicken on high heat until it’s cooked through.
  4. Cook the veggies. Sauté the bean sprouts, carrots, and garlic briefly.
  5. Cook the eggs. Push the veggies to one side of the pan, and add the eggs on the other side.  Then scramble the eggs, stirring occasionally.
  6. Put it all together. This is the fun part!  We’re going to add everything back into the pan — the cooked noodles, chicken, sauce and green onions.  Toss, toss, toss.  Then…
  7. Serve. Dish it up while it’s nice and hot, sprinkled with lots and lots of crushed peanuts, extra crushed red pepper flakes (if desired) and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Shrimp Pad Thai Recipe

Possible Variations:

As you can imagine, the possible variations for these Pad Thai noodles are pretty limitless.  Feel free to:

  • Use a different protein:  I have included directions in the recipe below for how to make beef, pork or shrimp Pad Thai.  Also, how to make meatless Pad Thai with or without tofu.
  • Use more veggies: We love adding extra veggies to this dish, such as chopped bell peppers, onions, snap peas, mushrooms, or whatever else might sound good.  (If making this dish meatless without tofu, I especially recommend adding in extra veggies.)
  • Use zoodles:  To add even more veggies to this dish, feel free to substitute zucchini noodles for 50% (or 100%) of the rice noodles.
  • Make it more peanut-y: If you love a good peanut sauce, feel free to stir 1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter into the sauce as well.
  • Make it spicier/milder: Just use more/less of the crushed red pepper flakes, or skip them entirely.
  • Make it sweeter: If the sauce isn’t as sweet as you would like, stir 1-2 additional tablespoons of brown sugar.

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Pad Thai Recipe
4.3 from 30 reviews

Pad Thai

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 -6 servings 1x

Description

This easy Pad Thai recipe tastes just as good (or better!) as anything I’ve had in a restaurant.  Plus it’s easy to make and customize with whatever ingredients and spice level you love!  Chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, tofu and veggie-only options included below.


Scale

Ingredients

Pad Thai Ingredients:

  • 1 batch Pad Thai Sauce (see below)
  • 10 ouncethin rice noodles
  • 3 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 3 green onions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • toppings: lots of chopped peanuts, extra crushed red pepper flakes, lime wedges

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more/less to taste)

Instructions

  1. Make the sauce. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl (or shake together in a mason jar) until completely combined.  Set aside.
  2. Cook the noodles. Meanwhile, cook your noodles al dente according to package instructions.  Drain the noodles in a strainer, then rinse with cold water briefly to halt their cooking.  Toss with one tablespoon oil briefly, to prevent the noodles from sticking.
  3. Cook the chicken (or see other options below*). Heat one tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan or wok over high heat.  Add the chicken and sauté for 3-5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the chicken is lightly golden on the edges and cooked through.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a clean plate.
  4. Cook the veggies. Add the remaining one tablespoon oil to the sauté pan, along with the bean sprouts, carrots, and garlic.  Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Cook the eggs. Push the veggies to one side of the pan, and add the eggs on the other side.  Cook the eggs until scrambled, stirring often.
  6. Put it all together. Then add everything back in — the cooked noodles, chicken, sauce and green onions.  Give the mixture a good toss until everything is evenly coated in the sauce.  Remove pan from the heat.
  7. Serve. Then serve the Pad Thai while it’s nice and hot, sprinkled with lots of crushed peanuts, extra crushed red pepper flakes (if desired) and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Notes

SHRIMP PAD THAI: Season 1 pound of large shrimp (peeled and de-veined) with salt and pepper.  Sauté in 1 tablespoon oil over high heat until the shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

BEEF PAD THAI: Thinly slice 1 pound of lean steak (against the grain), then cut into bite-sized pieces.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté in 1 tablespoon oil over heat until the steak is browned on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

PORK PAD THAI: Thinly slice 1 pound of lean boneless pork chops, then cut into bite-sized pieces.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté in 1 tablespoon oil over heat until the pork is browned on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

TOFU PAD THAI: Slice 1 (14-ounce) block of extra-firm tofu into 1/4-inch slices.  Sandwich the slices between paper towels, press and drain for 30 minutes.  Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook the tofu in 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan in a single layer for 2 minutes, undisturbed.  Then flip the tofu and cook on the second side for 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

The Best Pad Thai Recipe

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56 comments on “Pad Thai”

  1. This looks so delicious! But is there a way to make it truly vegetarian? The vegetarian version has the same Pad Thai Sauce, which has fish sauce in it, which contains fish . . . . so . . . .? Thanks!

    • I was just coming to ask the same thing! My daughter is vegetarian as well. I suppose there is a huge difference if we leave the fish sauce out?

    • Try using Worcestershire sauce instead of fish sauce!

    • I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve seen vegetarian fish sauce at Asian stores.

    • 5 stars
      Been a Thai food eater now for 20 years and I’ve worked up the courage to finally go ahead and do it myself. this was the best and most complete guide I’ve ever seen in my life.and apparently, first times a charm accept for the fact that I’ll be able to duplicate this for years to come.thank you, this was incredible and my family loves it.

  2. Looks great. I’ve been on a huge Thai kick recently. As an alternative to tamarind paste, I’ve found white vinegar, white sugar and fish sauce, in equal parts yields a super tasty sauce. Easy and yummy.

  3. Cannot wait to try this! Have really missed my favorite Thai dishes since moving away from KC, so this will have to make an appearance on our dinner table this week. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! for understanding that tamarind is the key ingredient in pad thai. I will have to try this recipe.

  5. If this tastes at all like Lulu’s … I will love you forever. :)
    We miss it SO much now that we don’t live in KC anymore!

  6. 5 stars
    Hi,
    It looks yummy and seriously can’t wait to get my hands on it, just a question, is there any alternative to fish sauce? Thanks

    • There are recipes online for fish sauce replacements! I’ve never tried any though, so I’m not sure how good they are

  7. YES TO TAMARIND SAUCE! Omg, I can’t stand it when I go to a restaurant and they do the ketchup version. Pad Thai shouldn’t be red!

  8. I love Pad Thai but prefer the shrimp version. I live down the road from the most fabulous Asian market ever! You could not want for anything in this place… so many veggies and spices. I actually have purchase Palm sugar for this dish but to be honest, how does one get this to melt down properly? I am about to go there now for my noodles and to see if they have the tamarind concentrate, Thanks for your suggestions.

  9. This is a dish created for the western palate. Being American I love Pad Thai, but in Thailand the dish is often referred to as Pad Farang. Farang = foreigner. 😊

  10. Recipe looks great, definitely plan to try it.
    I love that you provide guidance on how to vary the recipe – for variety and to accommodate different tastes!
    BUT what would you recommend as a good substitute for the fish oil – we have allergies.
    Many Thanks!!

  11. You mentioned zoodles as a suggestion. I just wanted to pop in and add papaya as an alternative. Our local Thai restaurant makes a papaya pad Thai where the noodles are actually long strands of pure papaya, and it is one of the best things ever! I can’t get enough of it! Definitely going to try the recipe as written and then try it with papaya! I’ve never had one of your recipes fail me, so I’m super excited to try this! Thanks!

  12. This recipe looks amazing. I have made Pad Thai before and I thought it was okay. I also had it at a Thai restaurant and it was much better. I am thinking your recipe is very close to what I had a the Thai restaurant. My question is: This recipe makes maybe 5 servings. Can I freeze the leftovers as I live alone?

    • Hey Steve! I don’t see freezing it being an issue, just thaw overnight and probably warm through in a saute pan. Or, you can always halve the recipe :)

  13. 5 stars
    Haha this is awesome. Last November I was in Thailand for a friends wedding and took a cooking class in Phuket. The recipe by our instructor was basically identical to what you’ve done here, with a few minor adjustments.

    Delicious and highly recommended! Better with some chilli though!

  14. 5 stars
    First time I made Pad Thai, believe it or not! Both my husband and I enjoyed the dish. I made it with a little less sugar which was my only adjustment. Thanks for sharing!

  15. 4 stars
    Thai food in Thailand.. Ecstatic! But what if one can’t travel all the way to Thailand? Friends of Pho is for those who want to relish Thai Food in a Thai atmosphere while still not having to travel.

  16. 5 stars
    Hi there! I’ll start by saying that I’ve probably cooked recipes from this site once a week since 2015, and I think you’re fantastic! But, I’ve never commented on anything… until now. I’ve been trying Pad Thai recipes for years that always missed some subtle flavor that my favorite restaurant version had. FINALLY this is it!! I’m soooo happy! Thank you!

  17. 5 stars
    OMG this recipe is amazing!! If you are craving a quick pad thai this is super awesome. I am plant-based so I replaced the fish sauce with some wakame seaweed and dried shitakes soaked in a little bit of water and a little bit of miso to replicate the flavor. The sauce was so bomb and I will definitely make this again.

  18. Any substitute for fish sauce? I have alllergy to it.

  19. 2 stars
    I just made this and it did not look anything like the picture. Followed the recipe exactly, including ordering same brands from amazon. My sauce was super dark. I am not an inexperienced cook so not sure what went wrong.

  20. Hi gorgeous! I didnt know you lived here in Barcelona. I’m a Pad Thai obsessed girl too, and searched A LOT for the perfect one here. You HAVE to go to a restaurant named Petit Bangkok. The owner is from Thailand and their pad Thai is amazing. I’m a fellow food blogger and live here, so if you want to meet up DM me on Instagram! @anaisalopez 🥰

  21. 4 stars
    Your recipe is nice but as I have lived in Thailand for 3 yrs so would suggest adding shiitake mushroom while sautéing the other ingredients as it’s gives a authentic Thai flavour and taste.. Rest all is 👌..
    thank you

  22. Is there anyway to make this without the sugar and peanuts?

  23. 5 stars
    This was SO good! Definitely a winning recipe and better than take out. I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and decreasing the lime juice to only half a lime. The tamarind concentrate was difficult to find, but thankfully our Asian grocery store had it and I don’t think recipe would have been the same without it.

  24. 5 stars
    This is delicious!!!! I think I added but too much lime juice. Next time I’ll try using half a lime. Still extremely tastey! Can’t wait to make it again!

  25. Making this tonight! Can you use tamarind paste to sub for concentrate? Thanks! :)

  26. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner earlier this week and it was so good! Unfortunately I couldn’t get any tamarind concentrate, so I went the ketchup route, but it was still super tasty. This is the best pad Thai recipe I’ve ever tried, and I’ll certainly be making it again. I think it would a great meal for entertaining as well. Thank you!

  27. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I used tamarind paste instead of concentrate and thought it worked well. This is definitely my new go-to pad thai recipe!

  28. 1 star
    Oh my gosh this came out so so terrible, and I am normally a really good cook :-( I have re-read the recipe a few times now trying to figure out if I did something wrong. Mine is a disgusting brown color and super sour!!!! And I bought the exact tamarind concentrate suggested, and the same noodles. So so disappointed, I just spent so much time making this and it will all have to be throw out. Blech. Awful.

  29. 5 stars
    This recipe is AMAZING. Came out perfect, my whole family was raving about how it’s just as good, if not better than any restaurant they’ve ever gotten paid Thai at. I’m a bit of a Thai food addict and spend far too much $ at restaurants and now my husband and I are soooo friggen pumped that we can make this at home and not feel like we’re missing out. Thank you for sharing this!!!

  30. 5 stars
    Amazing recipe! I changed it a bit for what I had on hand.
    Bell pepper melange, mushrooms, and broccoli instead of suggested vegetables.

  31. 2 stars
    We loved the components, but the sauce was way too fishy for our taste and was inedible – maybe it’s our brand of fish sauce? Next time I would cut the fish sauce in half and maybe add a scoop of PB

  32. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve tried pre-made pad thai sauces from the supermarket before but they were never what I wanted. This one is exactly how I like my pad thai and it’s absolutely delicious!

  33. 5 stars
    We loved this! It tasted way more like the pad thai we had in Thailand, and not like the sugary stuff we’re usually served in the States. Thank you for the great recipe! We already can’t wait to make it again.

  34. 5 stars
    Made as written….added 2 tbsp peanut butter as suggested.. and it was absolutely what I was looking for. Have been on the hunt for a pad Thai that will save us an hour plus round trip drive to the restaurant we enjoy… and this fits the bill. I found the tamarind at Lucky’s market… but think you’d be able to maybe find at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s if not near a well stocked Asian grocery.

  35. What about ginger? Is there any ginger in the recipe? I only see garlic. Thanks!

  36. First time I made Pad Thai, believe it or not! Both my husband and I enjoyed the dish. I made it with a little less sugar which was my only adjustment. Thanks for sharing!

  37. 5 stars
    this is refreshing. white people who dont horribly butcher ethnic food for once

  38. 5 stars
    I made the recipe but forgot to take a picture. Definitely a keeper. Next time I will get the tamarind concentrate and try it with shrimp. Made it with chicken this time. Even my fussy husband liked it. Thank you for the recipe.

  39. 1 star
    Okay, my sauce came out really bad! Followed the recipe exactly, yet somehow my sauce was REALLY dark and REALLY strong tasting. It didn’t look anything like the picture and I did not enjoy eating it.

  40. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness! I just made this for my vegetarian family, and it turned out AMAZING! The downside was that I was unaware of how strong the tamarind concentrate was, so I had to half the amount, and add a small spoon of peanut butter. I took out the fish sauce completely, and added just a little more soy sauce instead. Completely blew them and myself away with the dish! Thank you so much for the recipe, I will be using this again ms

  41. 4 stars
    Great recipe! I make it on a regular basis. The one big adjustment I make is doubling the sauce – the noodle brand that I use has you soak the noodles in lukewarm water for 30 minutes and then stir fry them. After some trial and error, I’ve found that to get the proper consistency for the noodle, it works best to double the sauce and let the noddles steam/boil in it until all the sauce has been absorbed – great flavor and texture when done this way.

    I’ve also found the tofu works better for me when baked! I press it for about 30 minutes, then cut it into bite sized pieces and bake on 400 for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through! It should be a light golden color when done.

  42. 2 stars
    I did not care for this dish, none of it worked for us.

  43. The key of a good pad Thai is the sauce

  44. 5 stars
    What a great recipe and article. Absolutely correct that good Pad Thai can be hard to find. While travelling the US, I’ve driven out of the way to find Pad Thai, and was often disappointed. I also decided to learn how to cook Pad Thai. This recipe nails it, with passion, the right ingredients, and proper technique in every step. Best find in a long time thank you.. :)

  45. 5 stars
    Holy crap, this was so good!!! My first time making pad Thai, and I’m SO glad I used this recipe. I couldn’t find the tamarind concentrate, so used the ketchup and lime juice method. I also added a full teaspoon of red pepper to the sauce. Other than that I followed this to the T. Only thing I might do different is make the sauce a day or two beforehand to let it soak in the red pepper longer (I like my pad thai so spicy it hurts..lol). So so so good. Thank you!

  46. 5 stars
    Made it with shrimp.. it was excellent. Going to make again tonight. Restaurant quality indeed! Thanks for sharing the recipe

  47. 5 stars
    I just made this for dinner and it was SO YUMMY! All my flatmates raved and no leftovers remained! I didn’t have any meat or proteins to put in, so just did extra carrots and bean sprouts. Didn’t miss the meat at all. Thank you so much for this recipe and all the information about this dish!