Vegetarian Pad Thai (Gluten-free, Vegan-friendly)

Vegetarian Pad Thai
Quynh Anh Nguyen/Getty Images
    25 mins
Ratings (22)

Authentic Pad Thai for vegetarian and vegan Thai food lovers, or those who want a lighter noodle dish without the meat. This Pad Thai recipe offers lots of protein in the form of eggs (or soft tofu for vegans), and ground nuts. And because it's made with rice noodles, Pad Thai can also be made gluten-free. Although vegetables are not strictly part of traditional Pad Thai, I've added some bok choy which tastes yummy with the noodles and makes this dish even more nutritious. Try it - you'll love it!

What You'll Need

  • 8 oz. dried pad Thai rice noodles, or enough for 2 people (linguini-width)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. diced onion
  • 3-4 "heads" of baby bok choy
  • 1-2 eggs (vegans can substitute 1/2 cup soft tofu - see instructions below*)
  • 2-3 c. bean sprouts
  • 2 sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c. chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts or cashews
  • 1/3 c. fresh coriander / cilantro
  • 3-4 tbsp. oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp. vegetable stock or white wine
  • Lime wedges
  • Pad Thai Sauce:
  • 3/4 tbsp. tamarind paste, to taste (available at Asian or East Indian food stores, or online - see link)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable or faux chicken stock
  • 3+1/2 tbsp. soy sauce or wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. chili sauce (to taste), OR 1/8 to 3/4 tsp. chili flakes
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar, or more to attend sweet-sour balance

How to Make It

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Dunk in rice noodles and stir with a fork to separate. Cook 4-6 minutes, just until noodles are limp but still too firm to eat (a little firmer than al dente). Drain and rinse with cold water. Tip: Noodles should be undercooked at this stage in order to come out right when they are stir-fried.
  2. Combine 'pad Thai sauce' ingredients in a cup, stirring well to dissolve sugar and tamarind. Note that this sauce should have a very STRONG-tasting flavor: sour-sweet first, followed by salty and spicy. Add more sugar if too sour.  Set aside.
  1. Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 tbsp. oil plus garlic and onion. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
  2. Add bok choy plus enough stock or white wine to keep ingredients frying nicely. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until bok choy is bright green and slightly softened.
  3. Push ingredients aside and add 1/2 tbsp. more oil to the center of the wok/pan. Add the egg (if using) and stir-fry briefly to scramble.
  4. If the pan is dry, push ingredients aside and add a little more oil to the middle. Add the drained noodles and 1/3 of the sauce. Stir-fry everything together 1-2 minutes using 2 utensils and a gently tossing motion (like tossing a salad). Keep heat between medium-high and high, reducing if noodles begin to stick or burn. Keep adding sauce and continue stir-frying 3-6 more minutes, or until all sauce is added and noodles are soft but still chewy and deliciously sticky.
  5. Switch off heat and add bean sprouts, green onion, and 3/4 of the nuts. Toss and taste-test, adding more soy sauce for more salt/flavor. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a good squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, add a little more sugar.
  6. To serve, scoop noodles onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining ground nuts and fresh coriander. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side to be squeezed over just before eating. 

*If using soft tofu instead of egg: Add this along with the last of the pad Thai sauce. It will break up into small bits and be distributed throughout the dish, just as egg would.