The Best Vegan Tofu Pad Thai Recipe is delicious, simple, and better than take-out. An authentic taste made with Pantry Staples in under 30-minutes!
A little backstory first. Those of you who follow us on Instagram have been with us on our journey to Thailand this time last year. It was our first holiday to an Asian country and we fell in love with it immediately. We loved the nature, the people, the culture, and most of all, the food.
We ate so much Pad Thai, we almost turned into noodles ourselves.
All jokes aside, Pad Thai is the best thing ever, and when we returned home, we just couldn’t find a take-out that would hit the spot on taste and what we call, satisfaction level.
So I went on a recipe test craze. First, I went with the most original recipe I could find. Although the taste was spot on, just making the sauce gave me a headache what with finding the exotic ingredients and then cooking them down into a smelly sauce (thanks fish sauce).
Next, I tried the store-bought pad thai sauces, but they still felt wrong.
More research and recipe tests later, and I finally hit jackpot. This recipe has been tried and tried again in the past year and never fails.
This Vegan Tofu Pad Thai recipe:
- is really easy and quick to make
- has the most authentic taste using mostly pantry staples
- no weird ingredients or easy substitutions
- better than take-out!
- our favorite recipe, ever 🙂
First thing’s first, what is pad thai?
Pad Thai is simply a stir-fried rice noodle dish, typically found in Thailand. The ingredients make for a balanced combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. The pad thai we ate in Thailand was rarely spicy at all, but you can make it spicy if you like.
Let’s talk vegan pad thai ingredients. I like to separate them by the sauce, and the main ingredients.
Main Pad Thai ingredients:
- Rice noodles. You can use instant rice noodles in a pinch, but I fully recommend going with the classic rice noodles that come packaged like spaghetti. You’ll need to soak them in cold water for about an hour before cooking (no need to soak instant noodles), but they will give the most beautiful texture to your pad thai. And, pad thai literally means, Thai rice noodles, so don’t skimp on it!
- Tofu. Choose extra-firm neutral tofu, that will pan-fry well. If your tofu is too watery, press it while your rice noodles soak.
- Bean sprouts. These will add a fresh crunch. If you can’t find fresh bean sprouts, you can absolutely substitute them with chopped cabbage – in fact, I recommend using fresh cabbage if your only other option is canned bean sprouts. Don’t use canned bean sprouts in this dish, please.
- Shallots. These are like tender, mild onions and cook really fast. They’re heavily used in Thai cuisine. In a pinch, red onion sliced really thin will work as well, just cook it down a bit longer.
- Garlic. It will add a nice flavor to the whole dish
- Limes. These are really important in Thai cuisine, and we do recommend using limes, not lemons or other substitutions. You will need them for the sauce and also drizzled on top before serving and they will add a nice acidity to the dish.
- Unsalted Roasted Peanuts. Use a generous amount in the dish and also served on the side. Chop them up roughly before serving (or in a food processor). Use unsalted, as the dish is salty enough, and unsalted is the authentic way.
- Garlic Chives. These are a bit of a luxury, and I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I just planted my own in the garden and waited an eternity for them to grow. If you too have trouble finding garlic chives, substitute for a mix of spring onion and chives (or just spring onion).
Vegan Pad Thai Sauce ingredients:
- Coconut sugar. This will be the base of the sweet flavor. It ads a specific earthy note and adds sweetness to the dish. Don’t skimp on the sugar, pad thai needs the sweetness!
- Brown sugar. Yes, please, use both sugars as specified, unless you want to deal with the original palm sugar.
- Light Soy Sauce. Will add the salty flavor. Choose gluten-free to keep this dish gluten-free.
- Lime juice. Will add acidity to the sauce and dish overall.
- Water. To reduce the sauce and add volume.
- and the secret ingredient: Ketchup. Yup, you read that right. Ketchup is the ingredient that will give the right color to your sauce, as well as that hint of the original tamarind paste (which, let’s be honest, no one has the time to look for, but ketchup is oh so easily available).
How to make the Pad Thai Sauce?
The sauce is the base to the pad thai flavors, but it’s super simple to make. Just combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk until the sugars dissolve.
If you want it even quicker, add the ingredients to a small saucepan and heat on low while whisking, just until the sugars dissolve, then remove from the heat and set aside.
We promise, you will never buy another bottle of ready-made pad thai sauce once you try this recipe and see how easy it is, and how authentic it tastes to the real pad thai.
How to make Vegan Tofu Pad Thai?
We recommend doing it in 4 easy steps:
- first, soak the noodles. They will need about an hour or two to soak and you know they are ready when they turn white, plump and soften.
- next, make the sauce and set is aside
- prepare all your ingredients and get everything ready, as cooking takes just minutes and it’s better to have everything ready to go
- stir-fry & serve
To prepare your ingredients, just peel and dice garlic cloves and shallots, then place in a bowl along with diced extra-firm tofu and mix to combine. Let it sit while you get your other ingredients ready.
Roughly chop garlic chives (or spring onion or chives, depending on what you’re using) and chop unsalted roasted peanuts. I like to just toss them in a mini food processor and give them a few turns.
Once your ingredients are ready to go, heat your wok or a large pan, add a drizzle of oil and toss in garlic, shallots, and tofu. Stir-fry until the shallots soften and the tofu turns a golden-brown color.
Then, add another tablespoon of oil, and add soaked and drained rice noodles and the pad thai sauce. Stir-fry on high heat, stirring the noodles into the sauce until they soak up all the sauce and soften (see picture above).
You’re almost done. Turn off the heat and to the noodles, add some bean sprouts, garlic chives, and unsalted roasted chopped peanuts and stir to combine.
That’s it, you’re now ready to serve.
How to serve Pad Thai
Serve immediately and hot, with a generous serving of chopped unsalted peanuts, some bean sprouts and garlic chives (or spring onions) on the side, and half a lime. Squeeze the lime over the pad thai for best taste.
Pad thai is best served immediately and fresh. The rice noodles tend to stick together when cold, but you can absolutely make it ahead and eat as is, or reheat (we’ve been known to intentionally make more when cooking as to have leftovers).
If you are making it ahead, keep portioned out in airtight containers, and only add peanuts and limes before serving.
Substitutions and Additions
- substitute bean sprouts for fresh cabbage
- instead of garlic chives use spring onion and chives
- Add more vegetables to the dish, such as carrots, cabbage, or broccoli, but the ingredients listed are the most authentic, as you can find them on the street carts in Bangkok.
- To make this dish spicy, add fresh chilis to the stir-fry.
- If you are not vegan, you can add more protein to the dish, like chicken, shrimp, and/or eggs. The dishes we ate in Thailand typically had all, tofu, meat, and eggs.
Pad Thai Sauce:
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 3 tbsp lime juice (about 1 juice lime)
- 2 tbsp water
- 200 grams of rice noodles
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 shallots
- 200 grams extra-firm tofu
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 cups bean sprouts, fresh
- 1/2 cup garlic chives
- 1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1/2 cup garlic chives
- 1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- 2 lime
- Soak 200 grams rice noodles in water for 1-2 hours before cooking. They will turn a white color and soften.
- Prepare the Pad Thai Sauce: in a bowl, add 2 tbsp coconut sugar, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp ketchup, 3 tbsp lime juice, and 2 tbsp water. Stir until well combined and the sugars dissolve. You can heat it on low to quicken the process.
- Prepare the ingredients (once you get cooking it will be fast): Peel and dice 3 cloves garlic and 2 shallots. Place in a bowl along with 200 grams diced extra-firm tofu and mix to combine. Roughly chop garlic chives (or spring onion or chives) and chop unsalted roasted peanuts.
- Start cooking: In a wok or large pan with a wide bottom, heat 1 tbsp of oil and toss in garlic, shallots, and tofu. Stir-fry until the shallots soften and the tofu turns a golden-brown color. Add another 1 tbsp of oil, then add in soaked and drained rice noodles and the pad thai sauce. Continue to stir-fry on high heat, stirring the noodles into the sauce until they soak up all the sauce and turn soft. If at this point your noodles still have a bite, add a tablespoon more water and continue stir-frying. If your noodles stick together, add a drizzle more oil. Turn off the heat.
- To the noodles now add about 1-2 cups fresh bean sprouts, 1/2 cup garlic chives, and 1/4 cup unsalted roasted chopped peanuts and stir to combine.
- Divide the noodles into 4 plates and serve each with a serving of bean sprouts, garlic chives, and more chopped unsalted roasted peanuts on the side.
- Cut 2 limes in half and add to the noodles before serving.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 411Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 888mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 6gSugar: 16gProtein: 16g
Nutrition data is automatically calculated using Nutritionix and may not be accurate.
If you like this recipe, you can let us know in the comments below or on social media using #vibrantplate and tag us @vibrantplate. We’re always happy to read your feedback and LOVE seeing your take on our recipes.
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