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Veggie Pad Thai

Veggie Pad Thai

Veggie Pad ThaiPhotos by Lindsey Johnson

If there were ever one quintessential Thai dish, it would have to be Pad Thai. I mean, the name even says “Thai.”

Pad Thai was the first Thai dish I ever tried while dining out. For years after that I gobbled the stuff, eventually expanding my horizons to curries, stir-fries and all sorts of other Thai delights. It was a new vegetarian’s dream. I was in bliss, until one dark day when a helpful server noted that I had requested tofu Pad Thai (as opposed to the other option, which was probably shrimp), “…because I’m a vegetarian.” That was when I learned that Pad Thai is typically not vegetarian. Nor, sadly, were many of the curries and stir-fries I’d also been enjoying. The culprit: fish sauce.

Veggie Pad Thai Ingredients
Oh what a sad, sad day that was. Can there be anything worse than going home from a Thai restaurant hungry? It hurts to think about it.

I still go out for Thai. I’ve learned that lots of places will leave the fish sauce out if you request it, for a truly vegetarian Pad Thai. I’ve also learned that making your own Thai food at home isn’t that difficult. Happy day!

While I see lots of vegetarian Pad Thai recipes online and in cookbooks, I don’t see many that replicate classic Pad Thai. Peanut sauce over noodles is a popular vegetarian dish you’ll often see, and it’s usually delicious. However, my goal for this post was to replicate the dish I was painfully denied while dining out, all those years ago. That dish would be made with stir fried rice noodles in a tangy tamarind sauce, which is what you’d probably get in Thailand if you ordered this from a street vendor. (Yes, they sell this stuff to you right on the street in Thailand. Can you imagine?!)

Veggie Pad Thai
You have the option of including tofu and eggs in my version. Tofu replaces the shrimp and adds some protein. The eggs add a touch of authenticity but are certainly not required, and leaving them out makes the dish totally vegan, for those who prefer to roll that way.

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Veggie Pad Thai

Veggie Pad Thai

Rice noodles, bok choy and scallions — plus tofu and eggs if you like — tossed in an an authentic-tasting tamarind sauce and topped with sprouts and crunchy peanuts. This truly vegetarian Pad Thai quells our taste for take-out.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Ingredients

For the Pad Thai Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Asian chili paste (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable broth

For the Pad Thai:

  • 1 (15-ounce) package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least 15 minutes and cut into 1/2 inch strips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil, plus a little extra (see note)
  • 8 oz. Pad Thai (flat) rice noodles
  • 4 heads baby bok choy
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 4 scallions, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup bean sprouts

Instructions

  1. Add the sauce ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together to combine. Set aside.
  2. If using tofu, heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tofu strips into the skillet and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
  3. Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the noodles and allow them to soak until just a little firm — think one step ahead of al dente. This normally takes about 8-10 minutes, but since different brands may vary, refer to your noodle package instructions. Once the noodles are done soaking, drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water.
  4. Separate the baby bok choy into individual leaves and slice each one lengthwise into 2 or 3 strips.
  5. Place oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and baby bok choy. Stir fry until the bok choy just starts to wilt and turns deep green, about a minute.
  6. Add the noodles and sauce to the wok. Stir fry until the sauce thickens and the noodles are tender, about 3 minutes.
  7. If you’re using eggs, push the noodles to the side of the wok to create a little space. If the wok looks a bit dry at this point you can add another splash of oil. Add the eggs into the space you’ve created and break them up with a spatula; scramble for about a minute. Do your best to keep the eggs separated from the noodles until they’re cooked.
  8. Add the scallions and tofu to the wok. Stir fry everything for another 30 seconds or so, just to get everything hot and the flavors blended. Remove from heat.
  9. Divide the noodles onto plates. Top with peanuts and bean sprouts.

Notes

If you’re not into baby bok choy, or it just isn’t available, feel free to sub other veggies. Snow peas, carrots, baby corn and broccoli all work great. You’ll need about 3 cups of whatever vegetables you use.

Any neutral-flavored cooking oil that you have on hand can be used for this recipe.

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Liz @ The Lemon Bowl
    June 25, 2014 at 8:50 am

    This looks so amazing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Thank you, Liz!

  • Reply
    Ali | Gimme Some Oven
    June 25, 2014 at 8:57 am

    LOVE pad thai! This looks so pretty! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

      I love it too! Thank you!!!

  • Reply
    Tina Muir
    June 25, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Yum! I was actually thinking last night on my flight home that i need to make something with tofu….well I may have just found my dish, especially as it is healthy after lots of eating out! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

      This will definitely satisfy your tofu cravings! I hope you enjoy it!!

  • Reply
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh
    June 25, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Looks delicious!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Thanks so much, Anele!

  • Reply
    janet @ the taste space
    June 25, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Tamarind is definitely key to the best pad thai. Glad to see it included. 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

      I totally agree with you on that. The tamarind definitely gives it that distinctive Pad Thai flavor 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    June 25, 2014 at 10:30 am

    This Pad Thai looks great! That fish sauce (and oyster sauce) is so sneaky! I really struggled while traveling in Thailand and ended up just not asking if there was fish sauce in something because there was fish sauce in EVERYTHING! This version looks awesome, and I just happen to have some tamarind paste kicking around. Yum!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Thank you, Katie! I was so bummed when I found out that this dish usually includes fish sauce. Traveling through Thailand with all that amazing food having fish sauce sounds like it would be torture!!

  • Reply
    Martina @ snapshotsandwhatnots
    June 25, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Yes! I’ve been looking for recipe for Pad Thai Sauce (without the fish sauce) for ages!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Awesome! You found it 🙂

  • Reply
    dishing up the dirt
    June 25, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I’m drooling over this beautiful dish. Lovely!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      Thank you so much!!

  • Reply
    Jessica @ Jessiker Bakes
    June 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    This veggie pad thai is rocking my world! You seriously make me not afraid to try tofu!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      If you’re afraid to try tofu, this recipe is a great one to start with! Pan-frying gives it a nice crispy texture and the Pad Thai sauce coats in in deliciousness 🙂

  • Reply
    Emma
    June 26, 2014 at 4:05 am

    Looks great! You’re right that a lot of peanut noodle recipes out there claim to be pad thai- delicious in their own right but no, not pad thai!
    Love tamarind and have half a jar in the fridge to use so this is perfect.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks Emma! Yeah, as much of a peanut sauce addict as I am, sometimes I just want some authentic Pad Thai.

  • Reply
    Olivia - Primavera Kitchen
    June 26, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Love pad Thai so much. This looks great and healthy!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks so much Olivia!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    June 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I LOVE the vegan/vegetarian Thai recipes, however, can I challenge you to make a vegetarian or vegan Thai Drunken Noodle dish? I have tried many times at home to make it without the fish sauce and gluten free by substituting Bragg liquid Aminos for soy sauce, but it just doesn’t taste the same.

    Please and Thank you!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      I love a challenge! I also love drunken noodles, though I’ve never actually had the dish with fish sauce, but I have plenty of taste testers who have. I’ll certainly give it a shot!

  • Reply
    Lori @ RecipeGirl
    June 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    This is my kind of dinner!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Lori! This was definitely my kind of dinner too 🙂

  • Reply
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner
    June 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Yum! Already pinned for next week

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Yay! Thank you for the pin – enjoy!!

  • Reply
    celesta
    June 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Dear Alissa,
    Just a thank you for the best late breakfast on the planet. Your recipe is so clear that it makes it easy to improvise with whatever’s in the larder. I’ve been keeping some ground rice around (a la Andrea Nguyen) for coating the tofu so did that. No tamarind so a little sauce with light soy, mirin, and that delicious umeboshi plum paste, diluted with water. Oh, and I soaked a piece of Kombu in the sauce to give it that ocean flavor. All-in-all, not really pad Thai, but something completely delicious that will serve me well all day.
    Again, big thanks,
    celesta

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 26, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Haha! When I started reading this I was all “breakfast?” thinking you’d commented on the wrong post. That’s fantastic though, and yeah, this recipe is totally customizable. Now that I’ve got the technique down I’ll probably be messing with all kinds of variations. Glad yours worked out – thank you for sharing it 🙂

  • Reply
    Joanne
    July 2, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Oh happy day is right!! I have tried many a time to recreate pad thai at home and just haven’t been able to do it. Which is just sad. So happy to have this recipe in my life!!

  • Reply
    Erin Goss
    August 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    This did not turn out well for me at all. Overpowered by tamarind…sauce was way to thick. I didn’t use the eggs, which may have been part of it.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

      I’m sorry to hear this didn’t work out for you. The eggs are an optional ingredient and we tested the recipe with and without them, so that shouldn’t be the problem. The tamarind paste I used was Laxmi brand. I know there are some other products like tamarind pulp – I haven’t used this, but I’m thinking it could result in a stronger flavor if you used it. Otherwise, it might just be an matter of personal preference, in which case you could decrease the amount of tamarind paste or cut back on the sauce to get something a bit milder. I hope that helps! If not, feel free to throw some questions my way or let me know if there’s anything I can do to help pin down the issue!

    • Reply
      Kate @ Short & Sweets
      September 29, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      I agree with Erin. If we try it again, I’ll cut the tamarind by a lot- at least half.

      • Reply
        Alissa
        September 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm

        I appreciate the feedback. I’m sure I’ll be making this again, so I’ll take your suggestion and see how it works out with less tamarind. I may try a different brand as well, to see if the strength is different. Thanks Kate!

        • Reply
          Addison
          April 14, 2015 at 8:28 pm

          I was really excited to try your recipe tonight and immediately knew once i mixed the sauce with the noodles the tamarind was WAY too much, I’m curious to try again with maybe 1/3 of what you posted, it’s definitely not preference, maybe brand changes the concentration or something. I will look for what brand I used later.

          • Addison
            April 14, 2015 at 8:31 pm

            Neera’s brand, bought from Whole Foods in Austin, TX.

          • Alissa
            April 15, 2015 at 9:28 pm

            Thanks for your input! I haven’t tried that particular brand, but it does sound like there’s some variation, so I’ll have to try some others.

  • Reply
    Nina at focusedonfit.com
    February 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Once again, you’ve provided a delicious vegetarian option for a takeout favorite! I’m always crazing Thai food! Thanks for this recipe….always healthier to make your own takeout!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      February 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks Nina! Thai take out dishes are some of my favorites to recreate at home. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Becca
    May 27, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Hi there! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I made this dish tonight, with a couple of variations. I used honey instead of sugar and chili powder rather than paste. It seemed to turn out well, but it didn’t thicken once added to the noodles and veggies. I ended up cranking up the temperature to cook off the excess liquid, and then of course the noodles overcooked and became too soft. The amount of tamarind was also way too much for my taste. I would probably cut it in half. This was my first time making pad thai, so I expected it to be a learning process. But I’m grateful for that first push I needed to give it a try. (Btw, the tofu was incredible. I used coconut oil.)

    • Reply
      Alissa
      May 28, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks Becca! Glad this recipe got you to give pad Thai a try. It’s definitely customizable, though I’m not sure why it didn’t thicken for you, other than maybe the fact that the honey adds some extra liquid. I love the pan fried tofu and use it in all kinds of recipes – happy to hear you liked it too. 🙂

  • Reply
    Arshia Narkar
    October 7, 2015 at 6:04 am

    This was a great recipe !
    I’m 15 and it was my first time cooking this helped me a lot 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      October 8, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Awesome! Glad it helped! Thanks so much Arshia!

  • Reply
    Hannah Walsh
    April 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Had a pad thai craving and found this recipe. I made it tonight – really delicious! I added the tamarind bit by bit and tasted it to check it was to my taste. Also added in a small teaspoon of peanut butter to the sauce, and a squeeze of lime at the end. For those that had trouble with the sauce thickening – you probably need your wok/pan hotter. I put it in the wok and got it bubbling before chucking the noodles in. I’ll definitely make this again!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 21, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Hi Hannah! So glad you enjoyed it!! I love the idea of adding some peanut butter. Thank you so much for the tip on the sauce too! I didn’t even think of that. 🙂

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