Chicken Pad Thai

My top Asian dish of all-time

This is the Holy Grail of Asian dishes for me. A little sweet, a little sour and the perfect amount of heat. The noodles are glossy and touched with just the right amount of sauce. The dish has tons of texture too – from the sprouts to the peanuts and the silky chicken. And don’t forget the nice touch of acidity by squeezing those limes before eating!

Can you tell I’m a bit in love with this one?

Partly because it’s so hard to find a really good version eating out. Even developing this recipe took many, many iterations to finally land on a version that has some of the funk and character of authentic Pad Thai, but easier to make and pleasing to American palates.

That said, this recipe has many pieces of “authentic” in it. To do it right and not resort to the ketchup or jarred sauce abomination that is so many restaurant versions – you’ll need to get a few special ingredients.

It’s so worth it and you’ll love the experience of checking out your local Asian market if you’ve never been. Here is a photo and some links for a few of the specialty ingredients that make this the best Pad Thai you will ever eat!

Key Ingredients

  • Palm Sugar: I got this at my local market. You can also substitute with light brown sugar. Palm sugar is a touch sweeter.
  • Sambal Oelek – this ground chili paste is a secret ingredient for adding spice and character to so many dishes.
  • Red Boat Fish sauce: this is to Asian cuisine what San Marzano tomatoes are to Italian cooking so use a quality brand.
  • Tamarind Concentrate: There are different styles and consistencies available from Thai to Indian. This one just hit the right notes.
  • Shrimp paste: Authentic Pad Thai uses dried shrimp that are cooked in the wok but I found shrimp paste to be easier to work with by putting that slight seafoody funk right into the sauce. Buy this at an Asian market, it’s way too expensive online.

Cooking Notes

One of the tricks to getting this dish right is the noodles. First, you need the right stick-style noodles. I used several types but landed on the Three Ladies Brand. Second you really do need to soak the noodles for at least one hour in warm tap water. I also add a tsp of salt to the water. You want them to be pliable, bouncy and barely al dente. They will soften fully when incorporated into the sauce.

The order of operation for this recipe is super important to get the noodles that glossy texture. If you add the sauce too early and before you’ve coated your noodles with oil, you’ll end up with sticky clumps of soggy noodles. No one likes a soggy noodle 😉

The good news about this dish is that despite it looking like a lot of steps and ingredients, it cooks really fast. I like to soak my noodles, make my sauce and set it aside, then prepare the rest of my ingredients. End-to-end you’re looking at a total time of 70 minutes including the soak time.

How spicy is this!?

Ok, let’s talk about heat. I’m not quite a chili-head but I love a nice kick of heat whenever I can get it! That said, the recipe as written makes what I consider a 5 out of 10 heat level. If you want to crank it up, add more Sambal Oelek to your sauce and/or diced Thai chilis to the stir fry.

Anything optional?

When I make a dish, it’s usually a 100% effort to make every aspect as good as it can be. I do believe the small details are what can really elevate a dish. That said, you can skip a few steps if you want. Don’t. But if you do… 😉

  • Velveting: this process is similar to what’s used in Asian restaurants on thinly sliced meats to give them a unique soft texture on the inside. Try it to see the difference for yourself. It doesn’t really add any time to the cook.
  • Soaking the noodles. You can cheat the noodle soak by boiling them for 10-15 min. But it’s very easy to overcook them into a broken mush this way.
  • I also make my own stir fry oil specifically for asian dishes. It’s basically avocado oil plus chili and sesame oils to give it that subtle asian vibe. Much better for you than the cottonseed “Stir Fry” oil sold in stores.

Now run off to the store and go make this thing! And I welcome your questions or feedback 🙂

One final note: it says 4 servings but 3 people could crush this entire serving!

Chicken Pad Thai

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Asian, noodles, padthai
Servings: 4 people


  • 8 oz Rice sticks - Medium size
  • 16-18 oz chicken breast - thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce - low sodium
  • 2 tsp Corn starch
  • 1 TBSP Avocado oil - or Vegetable


  • 3 TBSP Palm sugar (packed) - or light brown sugar
  • 3 TBSP Tamarind paste concentrate
  • 2 TBSP Black Thai soy sauce - or Dark Soy
  • 1 TBSP Fish sauce
  • 1 tsp Shrimp paste
  • 2 tsp chili paste - Sambal Oelek
  • pinch Salt

Stir fry

  • 3 TBSP Avocado oil - or Stir fry oil
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 3/4 cup shallots - or onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 small thai chilis (red) - sliced, or crushed red pepper
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 TBSP Hot chili oil - OPTIONAL!
  • 3/4 cup Chinese chives - or green onion, split lengthwise, 2" pieces
  • 1.5 cups mung bean sprouts


  • 1/4 cup Roasted peanuts - crushed fine
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro leaves
  • crushed red pepper

Stir-fry oil

  • 1 cup Avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Hot chili oil


Soak rice noodles

  • If noodles came in one large bunch, break in half so they're 6-8" long. Add dry noodles to large bowl submerged in warm tap water. Add 1/2 TBSP salt to water. Soak 1 hour to soften, moving noodles around by hand every 15 min or so to separate from each other. Drain and reserve in sieve. They will soften fully when they cook in the sauce!

Velvet Chicken

  • Slice chicken into thin 1/4" strips. (Note: Place chicken breast in freezer 15 min to firm up for easier slicing) Whisk soy, cornstarch, oil together. Pour over chicken slices, toss to coat, set aside 15 min. or refrigerate if longer.

Make sauce

  • In saucepot over LOW heat add all sauce ingredients above. Cook until sugar is dissolved and sauce becomes thick. Heat off, set aside.

Stir Fry

  • In large wok, on HIGH, add 2T oil. Pat chicken slices dry with paper towel. Fry chicken until done and slightly seared. Remove from pan, set aside in bowl.
  • Add eggs to pan, more oil if needed, scramble. Add to bowl with chicken.
  • Lower heat to MED, add more oil (along with the hot chili oil if you want to spice it up like me), briefly sautee shallot, chilis, adding garlic in final 30 seconds. Add noodles, combine well coating all noodles in oil. Add chicken and egg. Combine well. NOW add sauce. Toss and using tongs to combine, cook until sauce is absorbed by noodles. 1-2 min. Taste noodles as you cook, adding TBSPs of water at a time if noodles are not soft all the way through. But you don't want them mushy!
  • Heat off. Add green onion and 1 cup of sprouts (1/2C reserved for garnish). Mix well, using tongs to separate noodles into other ingredients.


  • Garnish each plate with crushed peanuts (or omit if allergic), cilantro and lime wedges. Add small pile of sprouts to the side with a squeeze of lime over the top of entire dish. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper for a little extra kick!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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