If you love Thai food, especially authentic Pad Thai, you need this Pad Thai sauce recipe in your life! Made with tamarind paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, and garlic, learning how to make Pad Thai sauce is simple with this homemade, easy Pad Thai sauce recipe.
Did you know Pad Thai is one of the world’s most popular foods? A global phenomenon, Pad Thai is comforting street-food made of rice noodles stir-fried in a sour, sweet, savory Pad Thai sauce. It also happens to be one of the most ordered take-out dishes in America.
In less time than having to order Thai food and having it delivered, you could easily make this dish at home and it be as good if not better than your local Thai restaurant. I’m serious.
To make authentic Pad Thai, you have to understand what this dish essentially is. Pad Thai is a noodle stir-fry. And with most types of stir-fry, each dish is uniquely seasoned depending on the sauce. With so many variations of Pad Thai sauces on the internet, the most authentic Pad Thai sauce recipe has tamarind, palm, sugar, and fish sauce – sometimes pickled radish.
Some Pad Thai sauces call for none of these ingredients, which would make it not authentic. If you go through all the trouble to make homemade Pad Thai, shouldn’t your hard work go towards enjoying authentic version? If you see a Pad Thai sauce recipe calling for ketchup, DO NOT MAKE. I beg you. You can call it a noodle stir-fry but you won’t in good conscious be able to call it Pad Thai.
I’m going to walk you through how to make the most amazing restaurant quality Pad Thai by teaching you how to make Pad Thai Sauce – remember, every stir-fry dish depends on how it’s seasoned. Best of all, this sauce is easy. Like, 4-ingredients to heavenly Pad Thai sauce easy. Seriously, if you love Pad Thai, there is no good reason not to make homemade Pad Thai sauce. This recipe is so easy, you’ll be so happy to make this dish at home.
Imagine, you, glass of wine, Netflix, and homemade Pad Thai that you made. That is my definition of the perfect night.
Here is everything you need to know about making a kick-ass Pad Thai sauce
List of ingredients you need to make Pad Thai sauce:
- Tamarind Concentrate diluted with some water
- Palm Sugar
- Fish Sauce
- Fresh Cloves
The Pad Thai sauce flavor is a balance of the recipe ingredients of sour, sweet, and salty – umami.
Tamarind is acidic pulp from inside a tree pod (from the pea family) and is a common ingredient in Asian cooking. It adds a pleasant sour flavor to dishes and beverages.
Palm Sugar is derived from the sap of various types of palm trees including sugar and coconut. The sap is collected and boiled until all that’s left is a sticky sugar solid and is often spun into disks. The flavor of palm sugar is very different than refined white and brown sugar. It is noticeably less sweet, deeper and richer in flavor, and is naturally brown in color.
Fish Sauce is an intensely flavored sauce made from anchovies, salt and water which has gone through a fermenting process. Its strong, salty, fishy smell adds a layer of umami flavor that enhances Thai food. Without it, Thai dishes are not the same, including Pad Thai.
Garlic – Fresh garlic in combination with the other ingredients ties the sour, sweet, salty sauce ingredients together in a way only garlic can and does so well.
How to make the Pad Thai:
To make Pad Thai sauce, you cook all the ingredients in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Once your sauce is ready, you can use it to make Pad Thai by stir-frying rice noodles and fresh ingredients such as tofu, chicken, shrimp, egg, and vegetables.
The Pad Thai sauce is added in slowly added in a little bit at a time to give the noodles a chance to absorb the flavor. You should always add the sauce in small amounts until you reach the flavor you’re looking for. To finish off the dish, roasted chopped peanuts are added to the top.
Over ten years ago before food blogs were a real thing, I discovered a mother-daughter duo who posted their Thai food family recipes on a site called Joys Thai Food. The site appears to be offline now you can find her authentic Thai Food recipes still on Youtube. Inspired by their authentic Pad Thai sauce recipe, I made an adapted version rivaling the best restaurant versions I had grown to love and were accustomed to.
The easiest and best way to make pad Thai is to make the sauce in advance and use as little or much as you need. The recipe makes just over a half a cup of sauce. You can refrigerate it up to a month.
If you do refrigerate the sauce and find it hardened, just microwave it for 30 seconds to soften it up. It will be perfectly warm and usable.
I hope you enjoy making this Pad Thai Sauce recipe – it is the gift that will keep on giving, satisfying all your Thai food cravings!
Other Thai Food Recipes You Might Enjoy:
Chicken Coconut Curry Soup
Acorn Squash Coconut Curry Soup
Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce
- Pad Thai Sauce
- 3 tablespoons tamarind juice (paste) concentrate
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup palm sugar
- 2 Tbl fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pad Thai Stir-Fry Ingredients
- 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ½ smallish-medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb protein (thinly sliced chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or cubed tofu)
- 1 egg
- 1½ cups mung bean sprouts, divided in half
- 1 cup carrots, julienned (match sticks), divided in half
- 4 green onions (scallions) cut diagonal in ½ inch segments
- ¼ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup toasted peanuts, chopped
- Lime wedges
- To make pad Thai sauce, heat a small pan on medium low and add the tamarind concentrate, water, palm sugar, fish sauce, and garlic. Cook the sauce until the palm sugar has completely dissolved. At this point, you will want to carefully taste the sauce and tweak the sweetness or tangyness by adding a tiny bit more palm sugar or tamarind. Be careful, the sauce will be hot.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes before storing it in a jar or plastic container.
- Boil the rice noodles on high heat for 2 minutes then drain immediately, rinsing the noodles with cold water for just a few seconds. Noodles should be slightly firmer than al dente. Don’t worry, they will continue to soften and cook later when stir frying.
- Using kitchen shears, cut the noodle clump in half. This will make it a lot easier to stir-fry and eat.
- In a wok of large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat. Add to the pan the protein and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the protein and transfer to a plate or bowl.
- Return the pan to heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Allow the oil to heat up and add the onions and stir-fry (stir + fry) for one minute then add the garlic and cook for another minute, making sure to stir often enough so the garlic does not burn.
- Add the noodles to the pan and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the noodles for two minutes. This will help the noodles soften a tiny bit more but more importantly will provide enough surface texture for the sauce to adhere to.
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of the pad Thai sauce continually stirring the noodles until they are coasted with sauce - about a minute.
- Add the protein back in and fry for an additional 2-3 minutes, adding more sauce if necessary. You don't want to noodles to be "wet." Instead you want to add a little bit at a time allowing the noodles and the other ingredients to soak in the sauce.
- Move the pad Thai over to one side of the pan. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the bare side then crack an egg over it. Scramble the egg with a wooden spoon and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add half the sprouts and half the carrots along with the scallions. Mix and stir-fry everything for 1 more minute, frying everything together.
- Test the firmness of the noodle. If the noodle is too firm, continue to stir-fry for an additional minute adding a spoonful of sauce if necessary.
- Remove pad Thai from heat and serve and garnish with remaining julienned carrots, spouts, cilantro, toasted peanuts, and a wedge of lime. Enjoy!
Updated May 3, 2018
This is the perfect recipe for Pad Thai! Thanks so much. I have always made it with tamarind concentrate but will definitely be trying the palm sugar now. Yum! My autistic son who has been increasingly picky loved it too. He yells out “more brown pasta please!” Lol, thanks again!
This was the best homemade pad Thai recipe I have made. My only feedback was mine was dry, but I think I failed to add the extra water. Thank you for sharing!
Lan-Phuong Vu-Yu says
Fish sauce can be overwhelmingly pungent but it’s smell is transformed to delicious after it has been added to food and cooked. Adding it to food that’s already cooking is comfortable experience. But if you have to hot stir fry it first with oil, the way it was mentioned here, I blast on the vent hood and open the door so fresh air can come in before starting.
It was delicious, has a ton of flavor, and ended up being a big hit. My only recommendations are to (1) go easy on the tamarind paste and (2) chop up some Thai chili peppers (Bird’s eye chili) for garnish.
Delicious variation, I added asparagus which was a good idea! Delicious!
This tastes as good as I’ve had at any restaurant.
HOWEVER, there are a couple of spots that seem to fall down:
For the sauce, it says to add the tamarind sauce, fish sauce, sugar and garlic. Then further down when it’s all stirred/fried, it says to add garlic.
How much garlic?? List of ingredients says 4 cloves. When? How much?
Tten it says to add the slivered carrots to the stir fry. But then it says to top the finishe product (on the plate) with reserved carrot. sprouts, cilantro and p’nuts.
How much carrot and sprouts are “reserved”? And the cilantro: holy cow, there is sooooo much cilantro. Way too much. And the p’nuts? Way too much.
Could you update your directions in this area? I guessed at some of it and it turned out ok but wow. No way do you need a cup of cilantro nor p’nuts. Half would be more than enough.
Tastes fantastic though 🙂
Cincinnati Local says
Hi. My boyfriend and I made this last night. We went to the huge amazing international amusement parky supermarket here called Jungle Jims to get ingredients.
First, when we opened the fish sauce…well, ours wasn’t translucent…it was thick and muddy and smelled so absolutely putrid we debated trashing the recipe. But we didn’t. I think that fish sauce was just too much for us…the smell has traumatized my boyfriend. What a dingis. He went to a close by store for Thai Kitchen fish sauce because we thought it would be milder…but false. Incorrect. Same stench but more stomachable color and texture.
Don’t care much for red onion so took it out. Loaded up on the green onion and added chili paste.
The final product…. and im SUPER PICKY with pad thai….was EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR. TANGY. SPICY. chewy noodles….unffff I’ve been waiting to come across a recipe like this for ever. LOVED IT. if i could I would put a ring on it. Birth little pad thai babies. With noodle hair, cilantro hands and peanut eyes. 11/10 rating. Tastes almost exactly like my favor items restaurant’serves rendition of the dish.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, couldn’t stomach it because he knew there was fish sauce. He couldn’t get over it. And then complained while I was in pad thai heaven. Said it was terrible and disgusting. I took it personally because I love this recipe. Then I cried. But he let me have all of the pad thai so I can’t complain…just won’t be making that one together anymore. And will most likely be wiping fish sauce on him while he sleeps.
nate burns says
Restaurants tend to ketchup and soy sauce in their recipes.
I have never seen orange or red Pad Thai, ever. You can find palm sugar in most grocery stores in the organic section. You can also sub out evaluation cane juice ie cane sugar. If the fish sauce is too salty or strong, dilute it 50/50 with water.
Microwave it for 30 seconds
Cherie: you can sub brown sugar for the palm sugar.
There is a comfort to in-home sessions that’s good for the soul.
cherie randazzo says
how do you soften the palm sugar…mine is hard as a rock, I end up chiseling crumbs out
I love this! I’ve made it several times and it keeps getting better as I learn how to taste the sauce. I’m cooking it tomorrow for friends who asked me to please give them more! I have been successful cooking four servings at a time when the noodles are al dente enough at the start.
I live in a small town and couldn’t find tamarind juice concentrate. I actually used jarritos tamarind flavored soda! It turned out really well! Possibly that makes it more sweet than some would like though.
Boiling has always worked for me too. I’m asian and my family has always done it that way.
Thanks for the recipe!
Rick Asam says
I made this for the first time this evening as a test before serving it to guests. I noticed the recipe called for tamarind juice and I had paste. I found a sort of conversion in an asian cook book: 1 T paste to 1/2 C water. I used 4 cloves of garlic in the sauce and another 4 cloves in the meal. It worked out very well but I think I’ll add some pepper flakes to the sauce next time.
I found the instructions difficult to follow while cooking so I’ve transcribed the recipe to a format I prefer. I think I’ll use the recipe often.
This recipe a keeper! The debate of soaking vs. boiling the noodles reminds me of the Italians arguing about putting oil in the water or not! (Definitely not is you want sauce to coat noodles!) I would love a good recipe for Pad Kee Mao and Pad see Ew. Care to share?!
I made this delicious dish and wanted to know how to make the color of the dish a little darker. Right now my pad Thai comes out a light color and was wondering what tips you had to make the sauce darker. Thanks!