Quick and delicious Chicken Pad Thai recipe that’s ready in 30 minutes! Imagine perfectly stir-fried rice noodles mingling with succulent pieces of chicken and tossed in a flavorful, sweet, and savory sauce.
Table of Contents
- Recipe ingredients
- Prepare the chicken
- Gently cook the rice noodles
- Make the pad thai sauce
- Stir-fry the chicken
- Add the garlic and egg
- Stir-fry the noodles
- Add sauce and paprika
- Garnish and serve
- Flavor variations
- Serve this with
- Frequently asked questions
- Soak instead of boiling the rice noodles
- Chicken Pad Thai Recipe
An order of shrimp, pork, or chicken pad Thai noodles is a must-have in Thai restaurants. However, this dish is surprisingly simple to make at home! In this recipe, I break the process into three steps: soak the noodles, cook protein, and toss the sauce.
To make the dish, you’ll need to gather a few unique ingredients for the sauce, but don’t worry. I provide plenty of substitutions if needed. These wok-fired noodles are perfect for a family dinner and pair nicely with my pineapple fried rice.
- Chicken: Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for quick cooking and lean protein. If you prefer dark meat, use trimmed chicken thighs, but cut them into strips, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inches long. Season with salt and pepper to start, but it will get further seasoned with the sauce later.
- Noodles: You will need 14 ounces of dried rice noodles. Depending on the brand, they are labeled stir-fry rice noodles, rice sticks, or pad Thai rice noodles. The flat rice noodles come in different widths, about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. It’s up to you on the size preference. I typically see the wider ones served most often in Thai restaurants.
- Sauce: A combination of fish sauce, tamarind paste, lime juice, rice vinegar, and palm sugar yields a savory, sweet, and tangy flavor.
- Vegetables: Large pieces of green onions and bean sprouts add a crunch to the dish.
- Egg: For extra protein and richness from the egg yolks.
- Seasoning: Freshly minced garlic adds lovely aromatics. A small amount of paprika adds earthiness and a pop of red color, but it’s optional.
- Nuts: Chopped peanuts add a nice texture contrast to the noodle stir-fry.
See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).
Prepare the chicken
Step 1: Cut the chicken into strips for tender meat that cooks quickly. They should be about 2-inches long and ¼ inch wide. Season the pieces with salt and pepper, then set aside so it’s ready to add to the stir-fry.
Gently cook the rice noodles
Step 2: For this recipe, I selected fettuccini-sized rice noodles. Heat a pot of water to lukewarm, about 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C). Add the rice noodles and let them soak. It will take about 10 minutes to soften and become pliable yet firm. If needed, you can increase the heat slightly, but not to an aggressive boil.
The noodles can become very sticky due to the release of the rice starches after cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water. You want the texture after soaking to be al dente. The noodles will cook more when stir-fried.
Make the pad thai sauce
Step 3: Pad Thai sauce is made from just five ingredients: fish sauce, tamarind paste, lime juice, rice vinegar, and palm sugar. The combination gives the characteristic spicy and savory taste. Fish sauce adds an intense umami taste and shouldn’t be skipped. Tamarind paste (also labeled as concentrate) is a deep reddish-brown, thick, and citrusy puree made from dried pods of the tamarind tree.
Palm sugar is made from palm trees. It’s not as sweet as granulated sugar but has a more caramel-like flavor, similar to golden brown sugar (a great substitute). They are sold in pressed discs, so you’ll need to chop them down with a chef’s knife to make them easier to dissolve. If you can’t find some of these exotic items at the grocery store, I’ve had great luck purchasing them online.
Stir-fry the chicken
Step 4: I prefer a wok, but a large nonstick pan or cast iron skillet works well. Cook the chicken in a single layer with the hot oil over medium-high heat. I like to let it sit for about 30 seconds to develop a flavorful crust on the surface. Then, stir-fry it for another minute until it is no longer pink. Don’t overcook the pieces, as they will continue to cook while adding the other ingredients.
Add the garlic and egg
Add minced garlic
Scramble the egg
Step 5: Like my chicken fried rice, a whole egg adds extra protein to the dish. I like to fry it in garlic-infused oil. Work quickly to break the yolk, mixing with the whites. The goal is to get little pieces of scrambled eggs. You can alternatively whisk the egg beforehand if you prefer a more consistent texture.
Stir-fry the noodles
Step 6: Add the soaked noodles back to the pan to warm and soften them further. You will notice their volume reduces in just a few minutes.
Add sauce and paprika
Step 7: Pour the pad Thai sauce on top and toss it to combine. Some of my readers say they love to double the sauce for an extra coating of the noodles. Pad Thai noodles have a reddish hue, traditionally from the tamarind, and some recipes will add Thai chili paste for heat.
My version is not spicy, so I sprinkle a little sweet paprika. The deep red hue and earthy taste are an excellent addition to the dish. However, it can be skipped. Sliced green onions are stirred into the hot noodles to wilt them slightly. They add a nice pop of color and gentle allium flavor.
Garnish and serve
Step 8: Bean sprouts add refreshing crispiness to the dish. I like to serve them on the side and mix them in before serving so they stay snappy. Roasted and chopped peanuts are sprinkled on top for extra crunch. I usually have extra lime wedges left over for guests to squeeze on top. The mild acidity and citrus taste add a pleasing tanginess to the savory noodles.
Meal Prep Tip: This meal stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. It’s an excellent meal prep lunch option.
Now that you know how to make chicken pad Thai like a pro, switch up the flavor with these tasty options!
- Chicken: Use leftover roasted chicken as a quick substitute. This works well with turkey as well.
- Sweetener: If you can’t find palm sugar, use brown sugar, granulated sugar, coconut sugar, honey, or pure maple syrup.
- Tamarind Substitutes: Use a fruit jam, preserves, or marmalades like guava, strawberry, or orange. Balance the flavor with lime juice and rice vinegar as needed.
- Vegetables: For extra crunch and color, add sliced bell peppers, green beans, or sugar snap peas. Add slices of cucumber for garnish as a refreshing addition.
- Spice: Add slivers of Thai chili for a kick of heat! Add red chili flakes, sambal oelek, or Thai chili paste to the sauce.
- Nuts: Replace the peanuts with cashews or almonds.
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
A popular Thai street food. The word “pad” translates to “fried,” using white rice noodles as the base. The stir-fry dish is paired with a bold, savory, tangy, and subtly sweet sauce. You can make this dish with proteins like scrambled eggs, tofu, pork, shrimp, chicken, or a combination. It’s commonly served with bean sprouts, green onions, and crunchy peanuts for extra flavor and texture.
All of the ingredients in this Chicken Pad Thai are gluten-free. However, check the label for the fish sauce. Some products may use wheat extracts. Brands like Thai Kitchen, A Taste of Thai, and Red Boat sell gluten-free fish sauce.
No, unlike traditional Thai cuisine, pad Thai is not spicy. The sauce is made from fish sauce, tamarind paste, and palm sugar. Chili products like red chili flakes, hot paprika, sambal oelek, or Thai chili paste can be added or served on the side for guests to adjust the heat to their liking.
They are both Asian stir-fried noodles. However, low mein and chow mein use egg noodles with a soy sauce and oyster sauce mixture thickened with cornstarch. Pad Thai consists of flat rice noodles coated in a sweet, tangy sauce made from lime juice, rice vinegar, tamarind, palm sugar, and fish sauce.
Soak instead of boiling the rice noodles
Typically, wheat-based noodles are boiled to absorb water and tenderize. However, rice noodles don’t contain gluten. Therefore, they are more fragile and may break apart when stir-fried. It’s best to soak them in lukewarm water until they are pliable and have a slight chew but not a sticky mass. They become very mushy in texture when overcooked and will absorb too much of the sauce.
Chicken Pad Thai
- ½ pound boneless skinless chicken breast, or thigh
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 14 ounces dried rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 ½ teaspoons tamarind paste, or concentrate
- 1 ½ teaspoon lime juice
- 1 ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large egg
- ¼ teaspoon paprika, optional
- ⅓ cup green onions, 2" long
- 2 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Prepare the Chicken – Cut the meat against the grain into strips, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inches long. Combine with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Cook the Noodles – Heat a large pot of water until it becomes lukewarm, about 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C), then turn off the heat. Soak the rice noodles until flexible but not thoroughly cooked, al dente, about 5 to 10 minutes. If needed, slightly increase the heat to speed up the softening. Use a colander to drain and rinse with cold water.
- Make the Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, lime juice, and rice vinegar. Set aside.
- Sear the Chicken – Heat a large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, carefully add the chicken in a single layer. Sear without moving until browned, about 30 seconds. Stir-fry until no longer pink, about 1 to 2 minutes, do not overcook! Push meat to the side of the pan.
- Add the Garlic and Egg – Add the garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the egg and quickly stir the yolk. Mix to scramble and break into smaller pieces.
- Add the Noodles – Add in the soaked noodles and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes to soften and warm.
- Add the Sauce and Seasonings – Add the sauce and stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Add the paprika (if using), and toss until the noodles turn slightly red. Add the green onions and allow them to wilt slightly.
- To Serve – Transfer to a plate, garnish with bean sprouts and chopped peanuts, and serve with lime wedges.
- Recipe Yield: 8 cups
- Serving Size: About 1 cup
- Sauce Yield: ¼ cup
- Palm Sugar Substitute: Brown sugar, granulated sugar, coconut sugar, honey, or pure maple syrup.
- Tamarind Paste Substitutes: Fruit jam, preserves, or marmalades like guava, strawberry, or orange. Tangy pomegranate molasses syrup. Dried fruit like apricots, dates, raisins, pineapples, and prunes soaked in warm water, drained and pureed into a paste. Balance the taste with lime juice and rice vinegar as needed.
- For Saucier Noodles: Double the sauce for more of a coating on the noodles.
- For a Spicier Sauce: Use hot paprika (reducing the amount of sweet paprika), sambal oelek, or Thai chili paste. Start with ¼ teaspoon and increase to the desired spice level.
- More Protein: Use 16 ounces of chicken for a heartier dish.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Cover and cook inside the microwave on the high setting in 15 to 30-second increments until hot. Reheat in a pan on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring until hot. If needed, add water, one tablespoon at a time to soften the noodles.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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