Thai food is such a treat, thanks to its tantalizing balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. If you understand those flavor profiles, it’s actually super straightforward to make some of your favorite takeout items from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Jaime Shelbert, recipe developer and holistic dietitian of Wholly Nourished, loves to create delicious and wholesome recipes inspired by her favorite meals. Her healthy pad Thai recipe is a prime example; it captures the essence of delicious Thai food while putting an emphasis on nutritious ingredients. Shelbert shares: "I love how flavorful and veggie-packed this dish is. You get in a range of plant diversity in one dish, which is great for your gut microbiome."
And if you’re dealing with picky eaters in your home, Shelbert also has some promising words: "My kids actually love this one!" We have a feeling you will, too.
Gather the ingredients for this vegetarian pad Thai
For this healthy pad Thai recipe, start with brown rice noodles, which Shelbert prefers "over their more refined, less nutritious white rice counterpart." She specifies that flat or ramen-style noodles work well here. For the sauce, you’ll need soy sauce (or tamari), maple syrup, rice vinegar, and the juice from one lime. A lot of Thai food uses palm sugar to incorporate sweetness, but often this is replaced with heavily processed brown sugar. Shelbert’s use of maple syrup keeps the focus on minimally processed ingredients and is a great substitute if palm sugar proves hard to find. As Shelbert keeps her recipe vegetarian, this version is also fish sauce-free.
Additional ingredients include olive oil, extra firm tofu (you’ll want to drain and press it), a red bell pepper, two small carrots, some garlic, and mung bean sprouts. Finally, for garnish, you’ll want some green onions, fresh cilantro, and peanuts. Shelbert also recommends keeping extra limes on hand to squeeze over top at service.
Cook the noodles
Start off by cooking the noodles so that they are ready to toss in with the other ingredients at the end. The cooking method and time will vary depending on the type of noodles you choose, so follow the package directions for the best results. Once you’ve cooked and drained the noodles, rinse them with cold water to prevent them from sticking together, then set them aside.
Make the sauce and stir-fry the tofu
Pad Thai seasoning is simple yet delicious. Pour the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, and lime juice into a small bowl. Use a whisk to mix everything together until it is combined, then set the sauce aside.
Next, place a large skillet or a wok on the stove over medium-high heat. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the cubed tofu to the pan. Cook it on one side for around 4 minutes, until the surface becomes golden and crisp. Then, flip the tofu pieces and cook the other side for another 4 minutes until it is also golden and crisp. Once the tofu is done, transfer it to a plate and set it aside.
Stir-fry the vegetables
Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil into the wok and lower the heat to medium. Toss in the bell pepper, carrots, and minced garlic. Stir-fry the vegetables for around 4 minutes, until they are slightly tender yet still crisp.
Combine the noodles, tofu, vegetables, and sauce
Now that all the components are ready, it’s time to combine them. Add the cooked noodles, seared tofu, and bean sprouts back to the wok with the vegetables. Pour the sauce in next and thoroughly stir the ingredients so that they are all coated with the flavorful seasoning.
Add the garnishes, then serve
Finally, it’s time to garnish this tasty pad Thai. Throw on the chopped green onions and fresh cilantro and give the noodles a quick toss to mix everything together. Finish it off with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts and serve it up with some slices of lime for extra tang.
You can store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge and eat them within 4 days.
- 7 ½ ounces brown rice noodles, flat or ramen-style
- ¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 7 ½ ounces extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 small carrots, peeled into thin ribbons
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 2 green onions, chopped
- ¾ cup chopped cilantro
- ⅓ cup crushed peanuts
- lime wedges, for serving
- Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, then set them aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, and lime juice. Set the sauce aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
- Add the cubed tofu and cook it on one side for about 4 minutes until golden crisp.
- Flip the pieces and cook them for another 4 minutes until the other side is golden crisp. Remove the tofu from the pan and set it aside.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the wok over medium heat.
- Add the peppers, carrots, and garlic. Stir-fry them for about 4 minutes until everything is tender-crisp.
- Add the cooked noodles, seared tofu, and bean sprouts to the vegetables in the wok.
- Pour the sauce over the ingredients and stir until everything is coated.
- Add the green onions and cilantro, tossing everything to incorporate.
- Top the dish with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.
- Serve with lime slices.