Perfectly balanced Pad Thai: savory, sweet, and tangy with shrimp and tofu in the most delicious homemade Pad Thai sauce. Chewy and soft noodles tossed with shallots, pickled radish, tofu, garlic chives, and beans sprouts. Topped with lime juice and roasted peanuts. Way better than any restaurant and ready in 30 minutes!
I never realized how hard it was to find good Pad Thai. After ordering it two weeks in a row and being super disappointed, I made it a mission to make the best Pad Thai at home.
This stir fried noodle dish involves several ingredients so I can see why it's easier to go out and buy it, even in Thailand from street vendors, instead of making it at home.
I promise all the effort in making this will be worth it because this Pad Thai is better than any restaurant you will go to.
Pad Thai is one of those dishes where the ingredients and measurements matter! Make an effort to get all the ingredients and try not to substitute if you want BEYOND GOOD Pad Thai!
The Key to a Balanced Sauce
The best Pad Thai has the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sour flavors. The ratios in this recipe achieve this, but feel free to adjust to your taste. The level of tartness in the tamarind paste can vary depending on the batch of fruit so you may need to add more sugar if it's on the sour side or start with less tamarind paste.
- Dark soy sauce- for color and flavor. Regular soy sauce will also work.
- Fish sauce- adds saltiness and savoriness and is a must in Pad Thai.
- Palm sugar- adds sweetness to balance the tanginess and saltiness in the rest of the dish. If you're in a pinch, substitute with brown sugar.
- Tamarind paste- check out my homemade tamarind paste recipe. Make a batch and keep it in the fridge for Pad Thai anytime! If you use tamarind concentrate, make sure you dilute it. In my opinion, store bought doesn't compare in this case. I highly recommend making your own!
Notes on Pad Thai Ingredients
- Rice noodles- look for product of Thailand rice noodles.
- Shrimp- I like using jumbo shrimp. Use sliced chicken, beef, pork, or add more tofu.
- Dried shrimp- for umami flavor and texture.
- Zha cai- zha cai is preserved salted radish. I used Chinese pickled radish since I couldn't find Thai radish. Japanese pickled daikon radish can also work.
- Baked tofu- I prefer baked tofu since it holds its shape better. Feel fee to use extra firm tofu.
- Garlic chives- make sure you get garlic chives which are different from regular chives. Garlic chives are wide and flat with a slight garlic flavor. If you can't find it, substitute for scallions.
- Shallots- red onion can be substituted.
- Bean sprouts- adds texture and lightens up the dish.
- Limes- tanginess to finish off the Pad Thai.
- Peanuts- add nuttiness and a crunchy texture.
I wanted to share the packaging of some of the specialty ingredients to help you find them at the grocery store.
You're only going to use a small amount of these ingredients in one recipe, so I highly recommend freezing the tamarind, dried shrimp, and zha cai so you can make Pad Thai anytime without a trip to the Asian grocery store.
The dried noodles and palm sugar are shelf stable, so when you want to whip up a delicious Pad Thai, just pick up the fresh ingredients (tofu, shrimp or chicken, garlic chives, bean sprouts, garlic, shallots, and lime) at your local store.
Step by Step Instructions
- Soak the noodles in hot water.
- In a large skillet on medium high heat, add oil and cook the shrimp. Set aside.
- Add more oil, then the dried shrimp, garlic, shallots, zha cai, and tofu. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
- Add the noodles and Pad Thai sauce and stir fry until the sauce is absorbed.
- Taste the noodles and if they are undercooked, add a splash of water and continue frying until they are cooked. The noodles should be soft and slightly firm.
- Move the noodles to one side of the pan and add a little bit of oil. Add the eggs and scramble. Cook for a few minutes then toss with the noodles.
- Add the bean sprouts and garlic chives. Toss for 1 minute.
- Add the shrimp and stir fry for another minute. Serve with peanuts, chili flakes, bean sprouts, and lime wedges.
- Soak the noodles. Soak the noodles in cold water for a couple of hours before cooking or soak in hot water for 20 minutes. The noodles will cook quickly in the stir fry after soaking. If you're using fresh rice noodles, no soaking is needed.
- Cook the noodles to al dente. We want soft and chewy noodles.
- Prep all the ingredients. Pad Thai is a quick stir fry noodle dish that cooks on high heat, so make sure you have all the ingredients measured and chopped before cooking.
- Follow the recipe! Pad Thai is a recipe where the measurements and ingredients matter. I usually eye ball stir fry dishes but this is not one of them. If you want an amazing Pad Thai, follow this recipe like I do every time!
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is a stir fried dish made with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken or tofu, eggs, garlic chives, and bean sprouts. It's a popular Thai street food that is made quickly on high heat and tossed in a tamarind-based sauce. Pad Thai is typically served with crushed peanuts, lime wedges, and extra bean sprouts on the side.
What does Pad Thai taste like?
Pad Thai is a savory dish with umami, sweet, tangy, and nutty flavors. So delicious!
How to store leftover Pad Thai?
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.
More Asian Recipes You'll Love
Shrimp Pad Thai
Pad Thai Sauce
- ¼ cup tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoon palm sugar grated
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- ½ cup water
- 4 oz dry pad thai rice noodles
- 3 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil divided
- 12 large shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoon dried shrimp finely minced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 shallot thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 tablespoon zha cai minced
- ½ cup baked or firm tofu sliced into small pieces
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ½ cup garlic chives 2 inch slices
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts chopped
- 1 lime
- dried chili flakes optional
- bean sprouts
- It's all about the prep: Soak the noodles in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. While the noodles are soaking, prep the rest of the ingredients and make the Pad Thai sauce.
- Let's get cooking: In a large skillet or wok on medium high heat, add 1 tb oil and cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside. Add 2 tb oil, then add dried shrimp, garlic, shallots, zha cai, and tofu and stir fry for 3 minutes.
- Noodle time: Add the noodles and pad thai sauce and stir fry for about 3 minutes or until the sauce is absorbed. The noodles should be soft and slightly firm. If they are undercooked, add 2 tb of water at a time until they are cooked.
- Let's get crackin': Move the noodles to one side of the pan. Add a little oil if needed and add the eggs. Scramble and let it cook for a minute then toss with the noodles.
- Toss toss toss: Add in the shrimp, bean sprouts, and garlic chives and toss for 1 minute or until the chives are just wilted.
- Plate it up: Serve immediately with peanuts, dried chili flakes, and some extra bean sprouts. Squeeze some lime on the noodles before eating.
- Instead of soaking the noodles in hot water, you can also soak them in cold water for a couple of hours before cooking.
- You can substitute 6 ounces of thinly sliced chicken instead of shrimp.
- Grate or chop the palm sugar into small pieces so it will dissolve in the sauce better.
- The level of tartness in the tamarind paste can vary depending on the batch of fruit so you may need to add more sugar if it's on the sour side. Or start with 3 tb of tamarind paste.
- Check out how to make homemade tamarind paste. It tastes so much better than store bought!