One night last week I had tacos on the menu but the boys were craving take out from a local Thai spot so we compromised and got take out. 😂 They didn’t have to twist my arm too hard – a night off from the kitchen? Here for it!
Despite my better judgment I ordered Chicken Pad Thai. Now, I know from experience that Pad Thai doesn’t travel well. It’s a dish that’s best served when the distance between A and B – with A being a sizzling wok and B being my bowl – is about 10 feet apart. Not 7 miles in a flimsy take out container. Yet I continue to order it as take out hoping this time will be different. That’s how much I love Pad Thai! That said, last week I dug in, unsurprisingly, to a container of dry, bland, colorless noodles, wishing for the real thing served up hot and saucy at a restaurant.
Guys, we’re doing the dang thing and turning our homes into restaurants by making homemade, gluten free Chicken Pad Thai that’s silky, saucy, and PACKED with flavor. This 30 minute meal will be served up hot and peanut topped in less time than it takes to order take out!
What is Chicken Pad Thai
My Chicken Pad Thai is a stir fry of flat rice noodles, vegetables, eggs, boneless skinless chicken breast, and an easy sauce recipe that’s equal parts savory, sour, and sweet. The hot noodles are topped with finely minced peanuts (my favorite part) plus lots of fresh cilantro, green onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
It is INSANELY delicious.
What is Pad Thai Sauce Made Of?
I’ve attempted to make Pad Thai for myself and Ben, a fellow PT connoisseur, more times than I can count over the years and it always comes back to the sauce not being quite right. Here’s where I’ve finally landed (much to Ben’s relief! 😂):
- Brown sugar: brown sugar lends sweetness to the sauce and balances the savory, tart, and spicy flavors.
- Rice vinegar: rice vinegar provides the sour element to the sauce. It’s definitely not a mouth-puckering sourness, but again it balances out the other ingredients.
- Tamari: gluten free Tamari (or soy sauce if you don’t need to eat GF) adds saltiness and savoriness to the sauce.
- Fish sauce: Pad Thai will not taste like Pad Thai unless it contains fish sauce. It’s a defining ingredient. That said, I’m personally a little light handed with fish sauce as too much can overpower the dish, imo.
- Siracha hot sauce: siracha hot sauce brings the heat! 🔥 Add as much or as little as you like, or none at all. If you like spicy Chicken Pad Thai I’d start with 1 Tablespoon in this recipe.
What This Sauce Doesn’t Include
- Tamarind: Tamarind pulp/paste is a sticky, sour product that’s called for in authentic Pad Thai recipes. For our family though, it’d be a single use ingredient and we wouldn’t have a need for it outside of this recipe. Furthermore it seems the product can vary taste-wise depending on the brand/source. I use rice vinegar in its place.
- Ketchup: I can see why some use ketchup in place of Tamarind – it’s sour and slightly sweet – but, nuh-uh. Not needed!
- Peanut butter: I blame peanut butter for the reason why my Pad Thai noodles have been thick and gloppy in the past. JUST SAY NO. The finely minced peanuts on top take care of imparting that wonderful, roasted umami flavor without ruining the texture of the whole dish.
Pad Thai Noodles
Pad Thai is made with flat rice noodles which can be found at your regular grocery store. Rice noodles differ from wheat and rice/corn-based pastas in that they don’t need to be boiled. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil then take it off the heat, add the noodles, and let them soak, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 10-20 minutes depending on the brand.
How to Make Chicken Pad Thai
Step 1: Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. For this brand I dropped the noodles into a pot of boiling water I’d just taken off the heat then let them sit, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 10-12 minutes.
Tip: If cooking two things simultaneously stresses you out, feel free to soak the rice noodles first then drain and run under cold water until cool. Place the colander inside a bowl of cool water so the noodles are submerged until ready to use.
Step 2: Heat vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat then add thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I like to slice the chicken breasts in half width-wise to create cutlets, then thinly slice the cutlets. Season with salt and white pepper.
Step 2: Once the chicken is golden brown on the bottom, add grated carrot, chopped green onions, and minced garlic then stir fry until the chicken is just cooked through.
Step 3: Push the chicken mixture to the sides of the skillet then, to the center, add a mixture of eggs whisked with sesame oil and scramble.
Step 4: Add the drained noodles plus finely minced peanuts (I send them through my food processor to get them super fine!) and the sauce then stir fry until the noodles are hot and tender.
Pad Thai Sauce Recipe:
- Brown sugar
- Rice vinegar
- Gluten free Tamari (or soy sauce if you don’t need to eat GF)
- Fish sauce
- Siracha hot sauce
Pile the noodles into bowls then top with more finely minced peanuts (the more the merrier!) plus lots of chopped fresh cilantro, green onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. This exact combination – noodles, cilantro, peanuts, green onions, and like, 5 drops of lime juice – makes for the BEST Chicken Pad Thai! I hope you love this recipe as much as we do – enjoy!
Pad Thai Variations
- Use shrimp, extra firm cubed tofu, or steak instead of chicken.
- Use whatever vegetables you like! I like grated carrot and green onion, though you could use thinly sliced red pepper, bean sprouts, broccoli, snow peas, and/or bagged coleslaw mix.
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Chicken Pad Thai (No Tamarind)
Easily make Chicken Pad Thai using ingredients you already have on hand! This delicious Pad Thai recipe doesn't use Tamarind (or ketchup!)
- 7oz thin flat rice noodles
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- salt and white pepper
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2lb chicken, cut into thin strips
- 3/4 cup shredded carrots
- 3 green onions, chopped and divided
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely minced and divided
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- chopped fresh cilantro
- For the Pad Thai Sauce:
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 - 3 Tablespoons gluten free fish sauce (I like 2-1/2 T)
- 2 Tablespoons low-sodium gluten free Tamari OR soy sauce (dish will not be GF if using traditional soy sauce)
- 1 - 2 teaspoons sriracha hot sauce, optional
- Prepare noodles according to package directions then set aside. For the Thai Kitchen brand shown in these photos I soak them in a large pot of boiled water that's been pulled off the heat until they're al dente, 10 minutes, then run under cold running water and let soak in cool water until ready to use.
- Combine eggs and sesame oil plus salt and a dash of white pepper in a small dish then whisk and set aside. Combine ingredients for Pad Thai Sauce in a bowl then set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add chicken then season with salt and white pepper. When the chicken is golden brown on the bottom add carrots, half the green onions, and garlic to the wok then stir fry until chicken is barely cooked through.
- Push mixture to the sides of the wok to create an opening in the center then add the whisked eggs, scramble, and then toss all the ingredients together. Drain then add prepared noodles, 1/4 cup minced peanuts, and the Pad Thai sauce then stir fry until noodles are tender, turning the heat down slightly if needed. Serve immediately with reserved green onions, reserved minced peanuts, lime wedges, and chopped cilantro.
Adapted from Tastes Better From Scratch
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.