Easy Homemade Chicken Pad Thai

Chicken pad thai
Jonelle Weaver/Photolibrary/Getty Images
  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 3 - 4 Servings
Ratings (83)

If you're one of the many people who has trouble finding special Asian ingredients like tamarind paste, not to worry - you can still create delicious pad Thai without it. In fact, the original pad Thai didn't contain tamarind at all (the makings of pad Thai being brought to Thailand via the Chinese), and the following recipe is based on this earlier version of the dish. When I was last in Thailand, I went back to the same pad Thai street seller every day because of her amazing pad Thai, and it wasn't until just before I left that she told me how she makes it (without tamarind). If you're living in a place where Asian ingredients are difficult to find, then this [tamarind-free] recipe might just make your day. Enjoy!

What You'll Need

  • 9 oz./250 g. pad Thai rice noodles (click on the link to see what these look like)
  • 3/4 lbs./.34 kg. boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut into small pieces or strips
  • 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce*
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh red or green chili, sliced
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, grated
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews, ground or roughly chopped with a knife
  • 1 fresh lime, sliced into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Pad Thai Sauce (without tamarind*)
  • 1/3 cup good-tasting chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce*
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

How to Make It

  1. Place prepared chicken in a bowl and toss with 1.5 Tbsp. soy sauce. Set aside.
  2. Combine 'pad Thai sauce' ingredients together in a cup, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Note that this sauce needs to taste sweet first, followed by sour and then salty to create good pad Thai. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dunk in rice noodles and switch off heat. Allow noodles to soak approximately 6 minutes, OR until soft enough to bend easily, but still firm and 'undercooked' by regular standards (this is the key to good pad Thai, so be sure not to over-soak or boil the noodles. They will finish cooking later). Drain and rinse noodles briefly with cold water to keep from sticking. Set aside.
  1. Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the oil and swirl around, then add the garlic, chili, galangal/ginger, and half of green onion (or just the white parts), reserving remaining for later. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
  2. Add chicken and stir-fry 3-4 minutes, or until cooked. If pan becomes dry, add 1-2 Tbsp. of the pad Thai sauce, just enough to keep ingredients frying nicely.
  3. Push ingredients aside and crack an egg into the center of the pan. Stir quickly to scramble, then combine with other ingredients.
  4. Add prepared noodles plus 3-4 Tbsp. of the pad Thai sauce. Using two utensils, lift and turn noodles to stir-fry and combine with other ingredients. Continue frying in this way, adding more of the sauce every minute or two, until all sauce has been added and the noodles are chewy-delicious and a little bit sticky (8-10 minutes). When sauce has been absorbed and noodles are cooked, fold in the bean sprouts (you want them to stay crispy).
  5. Remove from heat and taste-test, adding more fish sauce until desired taste is achieved (I usually end up adding 1-2 Tbsp. fish sauce, but I like mine on the salty side). Portion out onto individual plates and add a lime wedge on the side. Before eating, top with remaining green onion and squeeze over the lime wedge, then finish with a generous sprinkling of chopped/ground nuts. For those whole like it extra spicy, serve with Thai chili sauce on the side, and ENJOY!

*Note: Although today we associate pad Thai sauce with tamarind, in this authentic southern-Thai recipe, the sourness comes from a combination of rice vinegar and lime juice instead.

Traditionally (several hundred years ago), pad Thai was made in just this way - without tamarind - and versions of this original formula can still be found in various regions of Thailand. This particular recipe was taught to me by a local Thai chef in south-western Phuket, Thailand.

*Use wheat-free soy sauce for gluten-free diets.