Making a delicious Pad Thai at home was never so easy! Once you have the right ingredients and see how good delicious a homemade Pad Thai can taste, you won't be getting more takeaways. This recipe is our vegan version of the traditional Pad Thai, made with tofu, fresh veggies and a yummy Pad Thai sauce.
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is a street food-style dish served everywhere in Thailand and around the world. This stir-fried noodle dish is simple yet packed full of umami flavour. Stir-fried rice noodles combined with finely chopped sauteed vegetables, a flavorful sauce, and pan-fried protein, and finally served with a handful of crunchy peanuts and fresh cilantro.
An authentic Pad Thai should have the right balance of flavours: sweet, tangy, salty and sour. Traditionally, Pad Thai sauce is made with fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar, fresh lime and soy sauce. For our Vegan Pad Thai, we use a homemade vegan fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, soy sauce, fresh lime and panela sugar. With these five ingredients, you will have the perfect vegan Pad Thai sauce.
Our Tofu Pad Thai recipe is:
- A noodle dish
- Can be made gluten-free if using tamari instead of soy sauce
- Quick meal
- Thai-inspired dish
- Mildly spicy
How to "veganize" Pad Thai
All you need in order to make a Pad Thai recipe vegetarian or vegan is to substitute the fish sauce and add your favourite plant-based protein. To make our Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu we substitute two main ingredients:
Vegan Fish Sauce
We developed a Vegan Fish Sauce recipe so you can cook at home your favourite Asian recipes. This sauce is really easy to make using just four ingredients and it can last in the fridge for a few weeks, so you can use it for other dishes if you have some leftovers such as this Vegan Drunken Noodles.
If you want to make this recipe quick and skip this step, simply use soy sauce and if you have Kombu at home, while soaking your rice noodles add a Kombu sheet to create that "fishy" flavour.
Another option is to buy already-made Vegan Fish Sauce. This is the fish sauce we can recommend getting.
If you order a vegan or vegetarian Pad Thai in Thailand or from local Thai restaurants, they will normally serve it with fried tofu. Tofu is the perfect plant-based protein to use when making Pad Thai.
Tofu is such an easy ingredient to cook with. We have tried cooking this protein in different ways and our favourite way is still frying the tofu in a pan with a little bit of vegetable or sesame oil. Pan-frying the tofu at a medium-low temperature while you keep turning the tofu pieces to cook each side is a perfect way, in our opinion, to cook it.
It gets golden and crispy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside. It may take a bit longer than baking or deep frying it, but it's definitely worth it.
Another lovely option is to add Vegan Shrimp. This recipe is simple and you can enjoy a seafood pad thai without the real shrimp.
If you want to make your Pad Thai vegetarian, you could add egg, as the traditional Pad Thai recipe calls for.
How to make Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu
Plant-based Pad Thai Sauce
To make an umami-packed Pad Thai sauce, you will need to combine the following ingredients:
Tamarind concentrate. This may be the only ingredient that you won't be able to find in your local supermarket (depending on where you live of course). We find our tamarind paste in a local Asian market or online. We have tried cooking Pad Thai without tamarind, changing it for rice vinegar. It's good but it doesn't have the authentic taste, tamarind paste is a key ingredient when making Pad Thai noodles. You can as well find Tamarind as a block, but it needs a bit of prepping. You can learn how to do it by watching this helpful video from Yeung Man Cooking.
Vegan fish sauce. Make your own vegan fish sauce following our simple four-ingredient recipe: soy sauce, dried shiitake, miso paste and kombu. If you want to skip this part, you can substitute the amount of fish sauce for soy sauce or buy an already-made fish sauce.
Soy sauce. We use light soy sauce to bring together the sauce. You can use tamari to keep the recipe gluten free. Adding a little bit of dark soy sauce will give your Pad Thai a more intense colour and flavour.
Sweetener. The perfect Pad Thai is lightly sweet. Restaurants in Europe tend to add too much sugar when making this dish as it adds flavour but our recipe calls for just a little amount of panela sugar and it tastes delicious. You can alternatively use brown sugar, coconut aminos, or maple syrup.
Lime juice. This last ingredient will give the sauce a zingy flavour. You can use lemon juice as well, but to make a proper pad Thai, you better get limes!
Pad Thai Stir-fry Ingredients
Veggies. Add your favourite veggies to your Pad Thai. We love adding shallots, carrots, broccoli and green onion. Chinese chives are one of the main ingredients for Pad Thai but they are not always easy to find, this is why we cook our dish with green onions. You can as well add bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, bok choy, etc.
Bean sprouts. You can add them while cooking or before serving. If you add them raw they add extra crunchiness to the dish.
Tofu. Firm tofu is the one we use when making Pad Thai. You can buy fresh tofu or fried tofu.
Crushed Peanuts. Your Pad Thai won't be completed without the crushed peanuts! If you don't have peanuts, you can add some peanut sauce while making the pad thai sauce.
Fresh Cilantro. Totally optional but we like adding fresh chopped cilantro before serving our dish.
Pad Thai Sauce. You will have a delicious Pad Thai sauce combining the ingredients listed above or in the recipe card.
1. Prepare your ingredients in advanced
When making this pad thai recipe, we like preparing all the ingredients before starting the cooking part as once the pan or wok is hot, things will happen fast!
- Cook your tofu. We use firm tofu when making Pad Thai. Pan-fry the tofu at a medium-low temperature while you keep turning the tofu pieces to cook each side until golden. It may take a bit longer than baking or deep frying it, but it's definitely worth it. Take the tofu out of the pan and reserve it for later.
- Soak the rice noodles following the packet instructions. You can use white or brown rice noodles. We recommend keeping stirring the noodles while they are soaking so they don't stick. Drain the noodles when ready and keep them aside.
- Make the Pad Thai Sauce by combining the tamarind paste, vegan fish sauce, soy sauce, panela sugar, and lime juice in a small bowl.
- Prepare all the ingredients for the stir-fry: Cut the carrot into thin slices, cut the broccoli into florets, finely slice the shallot and green onions or Chinese chives, chop the cilantro, and crush the peanuts.
2. Cooking method
- Turn the heat to medium-high heat and add the shallots finely sliced. Sautee for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the carrots, broccoli and green onions. Sautee for a few minutes. If you are using Chinese chives you can add these a bit later.
- Add the noodles, pad thai sauce, bean sprouts and tofu. Stir fry until all the ingredients are combined and noodles have softened and the sauce has reduced.
- The final step, serve and add fresh chopped cilantro and crushed peanuts. You can add at this point chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime.
We enjoy our Pad Thai by adding some chilli flakes or chili sauce, crushed peanuts, a squeeze of lime or lime wedges, and fresh chopped cilantro right before serving. You can add other fresh herbs such as Thai basil.
Pad Thai is normally served as a main dish, as it is quite filling.
You can keep any leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days. It may become a bit dry, so you can keep a little bit of the pad thai sauce in a small jar for your leftovers.
FAQ and Tips
- Are rice noodles vegan? Yes, rice noodles are made with rice flour which does not contain any non-plant-based ingredients.
- What can I use instead of vegan fish sauce? You can use soy sauce and if you have Kombu at home while soaking your rice noodles add a Kombu sheet to create that "fishy" flavour.
- How can I prevent the noodles from sticking? We recommend to keep stirring the noodles while they are soaking so they don't stick.
Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu
Pad Thai Sauce Ingredients
- 1 ½ tablespoon tamarind paste store-bought
- 2 tablespoon vegan fish sauce store-bought or homemade
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon panela sugar
- 2 teaspoon lime juice
Pad Thai Ingredients
- 1 block firm tofu
- 180 g rice noodles
- 2 shallots finely sliced
- 1 ½ carrots shredded
- ¼ broccoli cut into florets
- 1 green onion
- 2 handful bean sprouts
- 50 g roasted peanuts crushed
- A handful fresh cilantro chopped
- Chillie flakes to taste
- Make the Pad Thai Sauce combining the tamarind paste, vegan fish sauce, soy sauce, panela sugar and lime juice.
- Pan-fry the tofu at a medium-low temperature while you keep turning the tofu pieces to cook each side until golden. It may take a bit longer than baking or deep frying it, but it's definitely worth it. Take the tofu out of the pan and reserve for later.
- Soak the rice noodles following the packet instructions. Keep stirring the noodles while they are soaking so they don't stick.
- Prepare all the ingredients for the stir-fry: Cut the carrot into thin slices, cut the broccoli into florets, finely slice the shallot and green onions or chinese chives, chop the cilantro, and crush the peanuts.
- Turn the heat to medium-high heat and add the shallots finely sliced. Sautee for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the carrots, broccoli and green onions. Sautee for a few minutes. If you are using chinese chives you can add these a bit later.
- Add the noodles, pad thai sauce, bean sprouts, and tofu. Stir until all the ingredients are combined and noodles have softened d the sauce has reduced.
- Serve and add fresh chopped cilantro and crushed peanuts. You can add at this point chili flakes and a squeeze of lime.
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