Vegan Pad Thai with Rainbow Vegetables and a Homemade Sauce
A delicious vegan Pad Thai recipe classic with a knockout sauce you’ll fall in love with, thrown together in 20 minutes without a trip to an Asian supermarket.
Pad thai has been one of my favorite dishes ever since my first visit many, many years ago to Thailand.
Yes, the colorful rainbow of vegetables and welcoming, crunchy greens make you want to dive right in, but for me the wow factor was the pad thai sauce.
The distinctive mixture of sweet, sour and umami among the crunchy and soft textures had me hooked from the first bite. I’m clearly not the only one, as pad thai is the most common go-to Thai dish outside Thailand and certainly the easiest and most versatile to cook at home.
But is pad thai vegan? The good news is that almost everything in a pad thai can be recreated in a vegan pad thai as you can see by the ingredients above. The only tricky item to veganize is the fish sauce.
Ah yes, the fish sauce.
This ingredient is used in practically every dish in Thailand to add a depth of flavor to the cooking and is unmistakable in authentic Thai food. There are a number of fish sauce products you can get in the supermarket but I just haven’t found any I can really recommend as worth buying, plus there is MSG and artificial coloring in most I’ve seen.
I suggest you either make your own with this vegan fish sauce recipe or use soy or miso paste as a substitute, which really is not a bad substitute at all as soy has similar fermented and salty notes. This is literally the only item that needs substituting and won’t stop you loving this dish!
Tamarind is the other key ingredient which you should be able to find at any Latin or Asian supermarket, but you can substitute this with the juice of one lime if needed.
I eat some variation of this vegan pad thai every week, if only because it is so easy to put together. Once you make your sauce and have it in the fridge, all you are doing is getting that balance of crunchy and soft between the veggies and tofu like a regular stir fry. The lime, peanuts and a fragrant herb like Thai basil or cilantro complete the dish.
- 8 oz wide rice noodles
- 8 oz extra firm tofu
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 Thai or hot red chili finely sliced (optional)
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper finely sliced
- 1/2 cup bean sprouts
- 2 green onions sliced
- 1/2 cup of crunchy greens i.e. snow peas, green beans, or washed and cut strips of broccoli stems
- Sesame oil for tossing with the noodles
- Avocado other cooking oil
- Zest of 1/2 lime if not using tamarind sauce
- The flavor of the fish sauce and the tamarind paste is what gives a pad thai it's unique flavor. Either of these can be substituted: see suggestions in brackets below.
- 1 tbsp Tamarind Paste or 3 tbsp Tamarind Sauce or substitute with juice of 1 lime
- 2 tsp Vegan fish sauce or substitute with 3 tbsp white miso paste or 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp tamari or soy
- Fresh cilantro chopped
- 1/2 cup raw or roasted unsalted peanuts ground or crumbled
- Squeeze of fresh lime
Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions, taking them out a minute before the end as they will finish cooking later in the pan. Rinse straight away in cold water. I find rice noodles don't tend to clump after rinsing, but you can always toss in a tablespoon of sesame oil if you wish.
While cooking the rice noodles, prepare the pad thai sauce by whisking all the ingredients together thoroughly.
Next, cook the tofu. You want this to be crispy, so please use pressed extra firm tofu. Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a skillet or pan until hot. Cut the tofu into bite sized rectangles and add to the pan. Flip over for 3 minutes then reverse for another 2 minute, turning once or until brown and crispy on both sides. Remove and set aside.
Now cook the vegetables. Add another 2 tablespoon of cooking oil and turn the heat up. Wait until it just starts smoking and add green onion, garlic and chili and lime zest if using, stir-frying quickly for 20 seconds.
Add bell peppers and greens while continuously stirring for 2 - 3 minutes, adding the sprouts for the final 20 seconds so they don't lose their crunch.
Turn off the heat and add the sauce and noodles to the pan. Mix well and let the noodles warm up for a minute or two.
Divide into bowls or plates and add your peanut and cilantro toppings with a squeeze of lime! And don't forget the bean sprouts like I did!