Cook the Perfect Pad Thai with These Easy Steps

If you’re craving for some authentic Thai food, look no further than Pad Thai. This mouthwatering stir-fry is a popular dish in Thailand and now enjoyed worldwide for its perfect blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors. Unlike other Thai dishes, Pad Thai is relatively easy to cook at home. All you need are a few ingredients, and we’ll show you how to cook the perfect Pad Thai with these easy steps. So, put on your apron and get ready to satisfy your cravings for this delicious and healthy dish.

Cook the Perfect Pad Thai with These Easy Steps | Eat Urban Garden
Cook the Perfect Pad Thai with These Easy Steps

What is Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish commonly served as street food and found on restaurant menus all over Thailand. It is considered the national dish of Thailand and has gained international popularity for its delicious flavor and ability to be customized to individual tastes.

History and Origins

The origins of Pad Thai are debated, but it is widely believed that the dish was created in the 1930s or 1940s in response to a government campaign to promote the consumption of rice noodles as the country’s main source of carbohydrates. At that time, the availability of wheat was limited due to the high cost of imports.

The name “Pad Thai” translates to “Thai-style stir-fried noodles”. The dish was originally made with shrimp, tofu, eggs, bean sprouts, and rice noodles, all stir-fried together in a wok. It was typically served with a side of chili powder, sugar, roasted peanuts, and lime wedges to allow diners to adjust the flavor to their liking.

Over the years, the dish has evolved and become more versatile. Variations can be made with chicken, beef, pork, or just vegetables. Regional variations include the addition of tamarind paste, palm sugar, or fish sauce for a sweet and sour flavor, or the use of different types of noodles.

Key Ingredients

The key ingredients in Pad Thai are rice noodles, protein (such as shrimp or tofu), eggs, bean sprouts, and a sauce made from tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Other common ingredients include garlic, shallots, chili flakes, and peanuts for garnish.

The rice noodles used in Pad Thai are typically soaked in water before being stir-fried. They are thin and flat, resembling linguine or fettuccine noodles. Tofu is often used as a vegetarian protein, but shrimp is the traditional protein used in Pad Thai.

  • Rice noodles: Traditional Pad Thai uses thin, flat rice noodles that are soaked in water before cooking.
  • Protein: Shrimp is the traditional Pad Thai protein, but chicken, beef, pork, or tofu can also be used.
  • Eggs: Two eggs are typically added to Pad Thai for flavor and texture.
  • Bean sprouts: Fresh bean sprouts are added to Pad Thai for a crunchy texture.
  • Pad Thai sauce: A sauce made from tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar is the key flavor component of Pad Thai.
  • Garlic and shallots: These aromatic vegetables are often added to Pad Thai for flavor.
  • Chili flakes: A little bit of chili flakes can be added to Pad Thai for heat.
  • Peanuts: Crushed peanuts are often used as a garnish for Pad Thai.

What Cooking Equipment Do You Need

Before starting to prepare Pad Thai, make sure you have all the necessary cooking equipment to make your dish perfect. Aside from a wok or a large pan, you will need the following:

A Sharp Knife and Cutting Board

Make sure your vegetables are sliced or julienned evenly and are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Cut your proteins into bite-sized pieces and set aside. A sharp knife and cutting board are essential tools for achieving this.

A Spatula or Tongs

When stir-frying, you want to keep your ingredients moving around the wok or pan to ensure even cooking. A spatula or tongs can help you do this quickly and easily.

A Strainer or Colander

You will need a strainer or colander to drain excess water from your rice noodles after they soften. This helps keep the Pad Thai from being too wet or soggy.

A Mini Whisk or Fork

A mini whisk or fork can help you beat eggs, whisk together ingredients for the sauce, and distribute sauces evenly throughout the dish.

Small Bowls or Ramekins

Have your ingredients prepared and ready to go. Having small bowls or ramekins can help keep everything organized and make it easier to add ingredients to the wok or pan quickly.

Thinly Sliced Lime and Fresh Herbs

Having some thinly sliced lime and fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil can enhance the flavor of your Pad Thai as a finishing touch.

How to Prepare the Ingredients

If you want to make a perfect Pad Thai, it’s essential to prepare all the ingredients that you need before cooking. Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to properly slice and dice vegetables, meat, and seafood, and how to soak rice noodles.

1. Preparing the Vegetables

Firstly, you need to slice 1 cup of carrots into thin strips. Then, slice 1/2 onion into small pieces and set aside. After that, chop 1/2 cup of green onions. Be sure to keep the white parts separate from the green parts; you will use them at different times during cooking. Lastly, slice 1 cup of cabbage thinly. You can also add bean sprouts and bell peppers if you like. Rinse the vegetables and set them aside.

2. Preparing the Protein

For the protein, you can use any meat and seafood that you like. Traditionally, Pad Thai is made with shrimp, but you can use chicken, beef or tofu too. Clean and devein 1/2 lb of shrimp. If you are using meat, slice it thinly into small pieces. If you are using tofu, cut into small cubes.

3. Soaking the Rice Noodles

To cook Pad Thai, you need rice noodles. Soak 8 oz of rice noodles in a big bowl filled with warm water. Make sure the noodles are fully submerged. Leave them to soak for at least 30 minutes or until they are soft. Drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water to prevent them from sticking together. You can also add a tablespoon of oil to the noodles to keep them from sticking and to add some flavor.

How to Stir Fry Pad Thai

If you want to cook delicious Pad Thai at home, stir-frying is the key technique to master. Here are the essential steps and techniques for stir-frying Pad Thai, including how to achieve optimal heat, how to control the wok, and how to toss the noodles and other ingredients to evenly distribute the flavors and aromas.


Before you start stir-frying your Pad Thai, it’s important to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go. This includes slicing your proteins, vegetables, and aromatics, soaking and draining your rice noodles, and mixing your sauce ingredients.

  • Soaking Rice Noodles: Soak the rice noodles in room temperature water for at least 30 minutes, or until they are soft and pliable. Drain the noodles before stir-frying.
  • Slicing Proteins: Slice your proteins, such as chicken, shrimp, or tofu, into thin, bite-sized pieces. Marinate your proteins with salt, pepper, and cornstarch for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.
  • Slicing Vegetables and Aromatics: Cut your vegetables, such as bean sprouts, scallions, and carrots, into thin pieces. Finely chop your aromatics, such as garlic and shallots.
  • Mixing Sauce: Mix together the sauce ingredients, such as tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar, and chili flakes, in a small bowl. Adjust the seasoning to your preference.


Now that your ingredients are prepped, it’s time to start cooking!

Step 1: Heat the Wok

Place your wok on the stove over high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the wok. Wait until the oil is shimmering before you start cooking.

Step 2: Add Proteins

Add your sliced proteins to the wok and stir-fry until they are cooked through. Remove the proteins from the wok and set aside.

Step 3: Add Vegetables and Aromatics

Add your vegetables and aromatics to the wok. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are slightly softened and fragrant.

Step 4: Add Noodles and Sauce

Add your soaked and drained rice noodles to the wok. Pour the sauce over the noodles and use tongs to toss everything together.

Step 5: Toss and Combine

Keep tossing the noodles and other ingredients using tongs until the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce and the flavors and aromas are well distributed.

Step 6: Add Proteins (Again)

Add the cooked proteins back into the wok and toss everything together again. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until everything is heated through.


Once your Pad Thai is cooked and hot, divide it between bowls and garnish with chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and additional chili flakes if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!

How to Plate and Serve Pad Thai

After cooking your Pad Thai to perfection, it’s time to make it look just as amazing as it tastes. A few simple tips on garnishing and plating will transform your dish into a true showstopper.

1. Use the Right Plate

First things first: the plate. Choosing the right plate for your Pad Thai is essential for creating a visually appealing presentation. A flat, wide plate works best for this dish, as it allows the noodles and toppings to be spread out in a single layer, making them more visible to the eye. A brightly colored plate can also add an extra pop of color to the dish.

2. Garnish with Fresh Herbs

Once you have your plate sorted, it’s time to add some personality to your Pad Thai with fresh herbs. Use scissors to cut a few sprigs of fresh cilantro or Thai basil into small pieces and sprinkle them over the top of your dish. Not only do fresh herbs add a burst of flavor to the dish, but they also create a beautiful contrasting color to the orange sauce.

3. Add Some Crunch

Create a textural contrast to the soft, chewy noodles and tender meat or vegetables by adding a bit of crunch. Crushed peanuts or sesame seeds are perfect for this. Simply sprinkle a tablespoon or two over the top of your Pad Thai.

4. Create Height

Don’t be afraid to add a bit of height to your dish to make it look more impressive. Pile the noodles and toppings up in the center of the plate, and use a pair of chopsticks or tongs to lift some of the ingredients up and create a more visually dynamic presentation.

5. Use a Sauce Drizzle

To really take your Pad Thai to the next level, try using a sauce drizzle to add an extra pop of flavor and color. Simply combine some extra sauce with water until it becomes runny, and use a spoon to drizzle it over the top of the dish in a zigzag pattern. Be careful not to overdo it- you want the drizzle to be subtle rather than overpowering.

How to Store Leftover Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a popular dish that is easy to make and often has leftovers. However, if not stored properly, it can quickly turn mushy and lose flavor. Here are some tips on how to properly store leftover Pad Thai to ensure it stays fresh and delicious.

Refrigerator Storage

The first step to properly storing leftover Pad Thai is to place it in an airtight container. This will help prevent the noodles from drying out and absorbing other flavors in your fridge. Store the container in the refrigerator and it should last for up to 3-4 days.

  • If you’re storing Pad Thai with vegetables, remove them from the noodles before storage, as the acid in some vegetables can make the noodles soggy.
  • If you’re planning on eating leftover Pad Thai cold, stop cooking the noodles slightly earlier than usual to prevent them from turning mushy when cold.

Freezer Storage

If you’re not planning on eating the leftover Pad Thai soon, you can also store it in the freezer. The best way to do this is to portion out the Pad Thai into smaller airtight containers and freeze them individually. This will make it easier to defrost and reheat only what you need, and prevent the noodles from becoming a clump.

Pad Thai can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, but be aware that the noodles may lose some texture and flavor after being frozen.

Reheating Pad Thai

When reheating Pad Thai, it’s important to heat it through to avoid any cold spots which can cause food poisoning.

  • If reheating from the refrigerator, simply heat the Pad Thai in a microwave safe dish for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • If reheating from the freezer, defrost the Pad Thai in the fridge overnight, then heat as above.

Note that overcooking or overheating Pad Thai can cause the noodles to turn mushy.

Pro Tip: For an extra burst of flavor, add a squeeze of lime and sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the top of reheated Pad Thai.

Enjoy Your Homemade Pad Thai!

Thank you for following these easy steps to cook your perfect pad Thai. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we do! Don’t forget to put your own spin on it and make it your own unique recipe. Remember, practice makes perfect, and the more you cook it, the better it will get!

Cook the Perfect Pad Thai with These Easy Steps

Learn how to cook the perfect Pad Thai at home with this easy and customizable recipe. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cook, follow these steps to create a mouth-watering dish that will impress your friends and family.

  • 8 oz. Pad Thai noodles
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 2 chicken breasts (sliced)
  • ½ lb. shrimp
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. chopped scallions
  • 2 tbsp. chopped peanuts
  1. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 30 minutes until pliable but not mushy.
  2. Heat oil in a wok on high heat, then add garlic and onion. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add the sliced chicken and shrimp to the wok. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Drain the rice noodles and add them to the wok along with fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice. Stir-fry for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add bean sprouts and scallions to the wok and stir-fry for an additional 30 seconds.
  6. Transfer to a plate and top with chopped peanuts. Serve hot and enjoy!
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