An easy alternative to takeout, our simplified Pad Thai recipe is designed to satisfy noodle cravings fast. Ubiquitous in Thai cuisine in the United States, our simplified formula stacks closer to the American-Thai renditions of this dish than the versions you would find in Thailand. Any beginner cook can accomplish this recipe. But it’s important to note that we skipped some traditional ingredients (such as dried shrimp, tamarind, pressed tofu, and bean sprouts), opting for elements you can pick up at your local grocery store. Necessary for our recipe: fish sauce. It’s easy to find at nearly every grocery store and adds an unbeatable punch of umami goodness.
Prep is the most important step
With any stir fry, preparing and measuring all the ingredients before you start cooking is essential. We recommend whisking the sauce and eggs, chopping the vegetables and protein, then setting everything up in the order you will use it, right next to the stovetop. Once you start cooking, this dish is completed in under 10 minutes, so you need everything ready to go, or you’ll miss a beat.
The second most important step: a hot skillet
A hot skillet ensures that the ingredients cook quickly and brown, adding another layer of flavor – that distinctive caramelized note that’s one hallmark of Pad Thai. In restaurants and on the streets, Pad Thai is traditionally cooked in hot woks. If you have a wok or a large cast iron skillet that can get hot and retain heat nicely, try preparing this dish in these.
Amp it up with ketchup
Yes, ketchup. While our recipe doesn’t call for it, add a tablespoon or two of ketchup to the sauce to up the sweet-savory flavor. While tamarind and ketchup are very different, ketchup is often a substitute in Americanized versions of this recipe. Many restaurants in the US add a touch of ketchup to appease customers that feel Pad Thai looks tastier with a redder sauce. And let’s face it; we love our ketchup here.
Cooking rice noodles 101
Cooking rice noodles can be confusing; every package has different instructions. Some call for boiling, others for soaking the noodles in hot or room-temperature water. Both are right, but here we chose to boil the noodles, which gives more control over when they are perfectly toothsome – not too soft or hard. Another noodle tip: Rinse the cooked noodles under cold water to remove excess starch, and coat them in a little neutral cooking oil if you are not using them immediately. If the noodles clump, rinse them under cool water and drain them before using; they should come apart.
Customize your Pad Thai, just like a takeout order
Shrimp isn’t the only protein Pad Thai loves. This versatile dish works with most proteins, such as boneless skinless chicken strips, steak slices, or diced tofu. Ensure to cook the meat thoroughly before pushing the protein to the side and adding the egg. Another option is to keep it veg-friendly and mix in stir-fried or steamed vegetables like broccoli or carrot (note: omit the fish sauce if you want a genuinely vegetarian dish).
How to cook the egg
Scrambling eggs takes a matter of seconds over high heat. Here we use the same method we love for our fried rice recipes. Rather than cook the egg separately, push the sauteed shrimp and veggies to the side of the pan, add the beaten egg to the other side, and scramble. Then toss everything together and proceed.
- Kosher salt
- 8 oz. wide rice noodles
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 eggs, lightly whisked
- 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 c. roasted peanuts, chopped
- Step 1
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook noodles until al dente. Drain.
- Step 2
In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
- Step 3
In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add bell pepper and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side.
- Step 4
Push the shrimp and vegetables to one side of the pan and pour in the egg. Scramble until just set, then mix with the shrimp mixture. Add the cooked noodles and toss until combined. Pour in the lime juice mixture and toss until the noodles are coated.
- Step 5
Garnish with green onions and roasted peanuts before serving.
Learn more: The Fattiest Foods in the States