Pad Thai or Phad Thai, meaning "fried Thai," is a popular stir-fried noodle dish in Thai cuisine. When you think of dining at a Thai Restaurant, chances are you're most likely to think of this iconic food, as it is one of the most familiar items featured on the menu. This classic street food has many variances, but it traditionally consists of rice noodles, egg, tofu, shrimp, bean sprouts, tamarind and an assortment of vegetables sprinkled with crushed peanuts.

History Of Pad Thai

drying rice noodles

Pad thai wasn't always Thailand's national dish. During World War II the country experienced a rice shortage due to flooding in the rice fields. To help protect dwindling resources, Prime Minister Plaek Phinbunsongkhram encouraged citizens of Thailand to eat rice noodles as they were just as filling as rice, however more plentiful and inexpensive to produce. At the same time, to reduce rice consumption due to the shortage, the prime minister wanted to create a new identity for his country and break away from the similarities of China.

To help promote the use of rice noodles, he also held a public contest to promote and discover a new national noodle dish. The winner's dish had qualities that still keep to the beloved dish of today.

Different Types Of Pad Thai

bowl of pad thai

Pad thai is a phenomenal dish due to its unbelievable ability to score all five basic flavor profiles:

  • sweet
  • sour
  • bitter
  • salty
  • savory

Even in its ability to achieve these complex flavors, the food can come in different types. Every type of pad thai consists of rice noodles, typically Banh Pho. Banh Pho is essentially a flat Vietnamese rice noodle, resembling something similar to fettuccine. However, unlike fettuccine, Banh Pho is made from rice flour and water. These rice noodles are gelatinous, vary in width, and provide no actual taste. Banh Pho is ideal for pad thai because they will soak up the varied flavors of the dish. The noodles hold prominent flavors such as sweet and sour.

Meats And Seafood


Traditionally, rice noodles are served as the base of pad thai and stir-fried with egg, tofu, tamarind juice, palm or coconut sugar, fish sauce, shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chilies, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts. Pad thai proteins are interchangeable, and the dishes can contain one or more of the following:

  • Tofu
  • Shrimp
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef


bean sprouts

Pad thai traditionally includes a pile of fresh bean sprouts, however, over the years recipes have deviated from just using bean sprouts to using an array of vegetables and herbs to make a more robust and flavorful meal. You can find some of the following vegetables and herbs in pad thai, but it's certainly not limited to this list as the dish can be altered to your personal tastes. Adding a variety of vegetables and herbs make the meal more colorful, hearty, unique, and a good source of nutrition.

  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Young bean pods
  • Broccoli
  • Radishes
  • Edamame
  • Scallions
  • Cilantro
  • Basil


peanut thai sauce

Most commonly the rice noodles in pad thai are mixed in a sauce that includes fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar or coconut sugar, garlic or shallot. The most prevalent difference you'll see in regards to a sauce is the use of creamy peanut butter. When tamarind is not on hand, sauces can contain replacements that consist of ketchup, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar.

5 Amazing Pad Thai Recipes

1. Authentic Pad Thai

pad thai

By now almost everyone has tried some variation of pad thai. However, was it authentic? This recipe doesn't cut any corners. It includes all the traditional ingredients that will help you prepare this astonishingly flavorful homemade meal. One taste of this dish will have you feeling like you've been transported to the bustling streets of Thailand.

2. Pad Thai With Peanut Butter Sauce

pad thai with peanut butter sauce

Although not an authentic version of pad thai, the use of a creamy peanut butter sauce is a favorite. The noodles are combined with sweet and savory flavors and a creamy texture. This recipe is relativity simple to prepare and has ingredients that are easily accessible at your local food co-op or grocer. This type of pad thai is also relatively common, and more familiar to American culture as some restaurants serve it this way.

3. Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai

vegetarian pad thai

This pad thai recipe is perfect for vegetable lovers or those looking to add more vegetables to their diet. Pad thai typically is stir-fried with a pile of fresh bean sprouts. However, this recipe draws more color into the dish by including a rainbow of veggies to the recipe. Not only does this make the meal more plentiful, but it also makes it more healthy. This recipe also uses an alternative to tamarind which many may find more convenient when preparing their ingredients.

4. Easy Pad Thai

pad thai

This simple pad thai recipe is easily prepared in less than 10 minutes, as long as you have everything prepared and ready to go beforehand. This dish offers authentic flavors without getting too complicated. The ingredients of this recipe can be found in most Asian food sections of your local grocery store.

5. Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai

instant pot pad thai

5. If you own an Instant Pot, you're going to love this recipe! It literally takes no time to whip up an authentic tasting pad thai. This quick one-pot meal is versatile, you can go with the vegetables listed in the recipe or choose those you favor. This recipe is also a great alternative to those who don't want to make their own Thai sauce. It uses Thai Kitchen Thai Sauce to make things move along much quicker without compromising on taste.

Pad thai is a favorite food around the globe; its exotic flavorings, make it a true stand out in the culinary world. Pad thai can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, either by switching up the proteins, vegetables or sauce. Don't be nervous to make it your own. If you slightly sway away from the classic rendition, you'll still be in for a flavorful treat.

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