Pad Thai is Thailand’s most famous Thai noodle dish outside of Thailand. Its savory, salty, and silky rice noodles mixed with umami and sweet and tangy sauce makes it hard not to love! Today, I'm sharing the best and easy authentic shrimp Pad Thai recipe from my kitchen with you!
For more tasty Thai noodle dishes, try these recipes as well. Pad Mee Korat is a spicy noodles dish from the Isaan region, the Northeastern region of Thailand. Or a simple but adaptable light Pad Mee noodles dish using simple ingredients. Both are extremely flavorful recipes.
Why This Recipe Works
- Pad Thai is delicious and has all the savory, salty, tangy, and umami tastes. All in one satisfying and highly addictive bite!
- It's mild with the option of added heat using red pepper flakes.
- You can adapt the recipe for a vegetarian version by making vegetable Pad Thai! It's super easy to do! Just omit shrimp and eggs.
- You can make the sauce separately or beforehand to save time and use the sauce for other stir-frying recipes!
- Tons of great options for added vegetables! Use broccoli, carrots, green or red bell peppers, pea pods, baby corn, jalapenos, or green beans.
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is an incredibly tasty stir fry rice noodle with pleasantly addictive flavors that are hard to forget. And super addicting. It's a sweet, salty, and tangy dish filled with silky, savory rice noodles seasoned with palm sugar, tamarind concentrate, and fish sauce. Authentic Pad Thai is typically mild but can be spicy by adding chili peppers for heat.
Pad Thai as an International Dish
Pad Thai is an extremely popular rice noodles dish in Thai cuisine. It has become so popular that I'd be shocked to walk into a Thai restaurant in the United States and not see Pad Thai on its menu.
You can even find it in other non-Thai restaurants. That's how popular it has gotten! Though I question the authenticity of some of those restaurant-style pad Thai recipes if I'm being honest here! (;
In Thailand, Pad Thai is being served all over Thailand by street vendors and sit-down restaurants. The shrimp version is what's most common and popular with the locals.
The ingredient list for making the best Pad Thai
Below are the dry and fresh ingredients for making a great Pad Thai recipe.
Some ingredients may seem intimidating, but your best bet is to find an Asian Market near you or order online. I know it can be disorienting walking into a new store you don’t know.
Think of it this way; pretend you are in a new country and exploring a new grocery store! More often than not, the store owners are eager to help you find the items you need. (:
- Rice noodles. Find fresh noodles sold in the refrigerator section labeled "Pad Thai Noodles," or find dry flat rice noodles in a packet. Cook according to package directions for the dry noodles.
- Tofu. Use pressed firm tofu sold at the Asian market in the refrigerator packed in a plastic container. Make your crispy tofu by deep frying, baking, or using an air fryer baked. Cook until firm and golden brown. Use the firmest tofu you can find for this.
- Raw shrimp. Sub any protein like chicken, beef, or pork. Those will need a longer time to cook.
- Eggs. Chichen or duck eggs are great for this. Skip the eggs if you have egg allergies.
- Fresh bean sprouts. Or find Mung bean sprouts if those are available to you. They add crunchy fresh textures to the soft and sweet chewy rice noodles.
- Shallots. Shallots offer more authentic and fragrant flavors than onions. But if you need to, use purple/red onion.
- Green onions. Or use garlic chives like they do in Thailand and some restaurants.
- Crushed peanuts. Do not use peanut butter. It's not for this recipe. (; Save it for satay instead!
- Oil. Use high smoking point oil that can tolerate high heat in cooking, like vegetable, canola, avocado, coconut, or peanut oil.
Unique Ingredients for Authentic Pad Thai
The items pictured below are the 3 important ingredients in making authentic Pad Thai. They are worth mentioning and will add flavor explosion to your Pad Thai!
- Dried shrimp. These are found in the Asian market in the refrigerator section. For authentic umami flavors, don't skip these.
- Pickled radish. (Huah Chai Bpoh). They are salted, preserved, and dried radish or daikon. Picked radish is fine as a substitute. These can be found at your local Asian grocery stores packed in a bag. Some are refrigerated, and some aren't, but after opening a bag, always refrigerate it. It will keep for months or until the next time you make your Pad Thai again.
- Tamarind concentrate. Also called tamarind paste. Essential in making authentic Pad Thai sauce. Learn how to make your own tamarind paste here.
The 3 Ingredients for Making Authentic Pad Thai Sauce
- Palm sugar. Palm sugar is available at most Asian grocery stores. Brown sugar is fine as a substitute.
- Fish sauce. Fish sauce is one of the main sauce ingredients for this stir-fry dish.
- Tamarind concentrate. Also called tamarind sauce or pulp. Do not skip out on this ingredient if you want the authentic pad Thai recipe. It makes a nice tangy sauce to the dish.
How to Make Authentic Pad Thai?
Step 1. Prepare the noodles. Soak the noodles in a large bowl with water until soft. Drain, dab the noodles with paper towels to dry off excess water, then let sit until ready to use. If using packaged noodles, follow the instructions on the bag.
Step 2. Make the Pad Thai sauce in a small bowl using fish sauce, tamarind juice, and sugar. Zap in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, stir well, and set aside.
Step 3. Heat a wok or large skill on medium-high heat, and add the oil. Once hot, add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes or until the shrimp is lightly pink. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Step 4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the same wok, and reserve the rest for later. Wait a few seconds, add garlic, shallots, dried shrimp, and pickled radish, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden brown. This is where we're extracting ALOT of flavors from these ingredients! Plus, once lightly crispy, these ingredients elevate the flavors and texture of authentic Pad Thai even more.
Step 5. Add the sliced tofu and stir fry for just a minute to slightly crisp the pieces in the wok. I like to add my tofu separately here because I like my tofu slightly crispy for the texture. You can add during step 4 above if preferred.
Step 6. Add the noodles and the Pad Thai sauce, stir well and cook for 1 minute until the noodles soften. Spread the noodles on the pan as much as possible to prevent them from getting too soggy.
Step 7. Push the noodles to the side of the wok, add the rest of the oil, then add the lightly whisked eggs and scramble lightly. 1 minute or so. If it's easier, you can also use the middle of the pan like you're making a volcano crater for the eggs. If possible, stir in the noodles, and leave the eggs in chunky pieces for extra meatiness.
Step 8. Add the shrimp back in and the green onions. Stir well.
Step 9. Add most of the bean sprouts (save a handful for garnishing)and half of the crushed peanuts into the pan. Stir in very lightly. Turn the heat off and move the pan from the stovetop. Taste your freshly homemade Pad Thai and adjust the flavors using fish sauce, sugar, and fresh lime juice. Add some chili powder for spiciness.
That's it! Plate your glorious creation, and garnish it with chili flakes, crushed peanuts, and sprouts. Share if you can, and ENJOY your best shrimp pad Thai recipe! (;
Helpful Kitchen Notes
- For the fresh Pad Thai noodles. If using fresh rice noodles, you still need to soak them in water for a little bit until the noodles are soft but still al dente. If possible, always pick fresh noodles. They are easier to work with, taste better, and cook quicker than dried rice sticks.
- If using dried noodles, prepare according to the package instructions for the best result. They will always need to be soaked in hot water until soft. Do not let the noodles get too soft, or your Pad Thai will stick together too mushy.
- For the tamarind sauce, you can make tamarind pulp or buy a pre-made jar at your local Asian market. This sour sauce is a common ingredient used in Thai cooking.
- The best way to make an authentic Pad Thai is to not skip out on fish sauce, preserved radish, dried shrimp, and tamarind pulp. The palm sugar can be substituted with brown sugar, but I don't recommend substituting the others Unless you want an easier and quicker version like this Easy beef Pad Thai.
- I sliced my preserved radish long rather than chop it small. Preserved radish is an acquired taste. The flavor can be strong if you are not used to it. Chop them small to start, and then play with larger pieces as you are used to them.
- Another easy way to make the sauce, especially if using chunky palm sugar, is to combine the sauces in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let cool while prepping other ingredients.
No. There are many versions and adaptations of Pad Thai, but authentic Pad Thai should not have cilantro in it.
Authentic Pad Thai sauce is made with palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind concentrate. Never soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce, or any other sauces.
Sugar is used in Pad Thai sauce. Typically, palm sugar is used, but other types of sugar like brown, white, or monk fruit sugar for the sweet taste in Pad Thai.
Shrimp is a common protein used in Pad Thai recipes because it cooks faster, and the meat doesn't take away from the unique flavors. However, the recipe is adaptable, and other meat and vegetables can also be used.
More Thai Recipes You'll Love
- Pad Mee, A super simple version of rice noodles stir fry
- Easy Drunken Noodles, Pad Kee Mao
- Spicy Pad Mee Korat, my personal favorite
- Easy Authentic Shrimp Pad Thai Recipe
- Easy Beef pad Thai without tamarind
- Pad Mee, Vermicelli Thai Rice Noodles
- Pad woon Sen Noodle Stir Fry Recipe, ผัดวุ้นเส้น
- Thai Drunken Noodles,(Pad Kee Mao)
- Kaffir lime leave and substitute