Pad Thai Sauce

A small bowl of pad thai sauce ready for a noodle dish

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Yield: 2/3 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
62 Calories
0g Fat
14g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 62
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1323mg 58%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 110mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Pad thai is a beloved dish from Thailand that is popular around the world. It typically consists of flat rice noodles, meat or tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, egg, and a flavorful sauce. The finished dish is usually garnished with peanuts for a nutty flavor and some crunch.

The salty sweet-and-sour sauce can easily be made at home with a few ingredients. Some versions use peanut butter, but this recipe does not. Although many versions of a sauce exist—some with many ingredients—in the pad thai sauce realm, less is more, as each one of the ingredients in the sauce is bold and really comes through.

The key to good pad thai sauce is tamarind, a pod-shaped fruit with a signature tangy flavor, widely used in Asian and Latin American cuisine. Buy tamarind as a prepared paste, available by the jar or bottle at specialized supermarkets, online, or sometimes in the international aisle in upscale grocery stores.

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"A delicious pad thai sauce! I used brown sugar for the palm sugar, and sambal for the chili sauce. Sweet, sour, salty, and savory flavors make this a perfectly balanced sauce. I followed the recipe exactly and didn't have to alter anything—it was perfect. I tossed it with some rice noodles, peanuts, and vegetables." —Diana Rattray

Pad Thai Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile sauce, or to taste

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste, or to taste

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pad thai sauce
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place all ingredients in a cup or small bowl, starting with the lower measurement of chile sauce and sugar. Stir well until both the tamarind paste and sugar are totally dissolved.

    All ingredients are added to a cup and stirred with a spoon
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. When taste-testing, keep in mind that your pad thai sauce should taste sweet first, followed by spicy and salty, then sour last. If needed, adjust the amount of sugar and chile sauce. Note that the sauce will taste almost too strong at this point, but once distributed throughout the noodles, the flavor will mellow.

    Adding more brown sugar to the sauce using a spoon
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Your pad thai sauce is now ready to be used, or store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Enjoy.

    Pad thai sauce in a bowl with a spoon, ready to use
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Is There a Substitute for Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is readily available in most markets, but if you have a shellfish allergy or dietary restrictions, you might need an alternative:

  • Replace the fish sauce with soy sauce or tamari—a gluten-free soy sauce option. Specialized stores might carry vegan "fish" sauce, also a soy-based sauce ready for use.
  • Combine equal amounts of soy sauce and vinegar and add a pinch of salt for a homemade "fish" sauce.
  • Replace fish sauce with liquid aminos or coconut aminos and a pinch of salt.
  • Make an umami mushroom broth with 3 cups of water, about 1/4-ounce of dried mushrooms, and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Simmer until reduced by half. Let it steep for an additional 10 minutes and then strain it into a jar or bowl.

Recipe Variations

  • Use 1/3 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper instead of the chile sauce.
  • Palm sugar is a good substitute for brown sugar in this recipe.

How to Store and Freeze Pad Thai Sauce

  • Refrigerate homemade pad thai sauce in an airtight jar or container for up to two weeks.
  • Freeze pad thai sauce in small containers or silicone ice cube trays for up to three months.

Make the Perfect Pad Thai With Pad Thai Sauce

Pad thai sauce is most commonly used to make, you guessed it, pad thai. The sauce can be made up to a few days ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Here is how to use it:

  • Cook or soak rice noodles until slightly firm. They will finish cooking in the pan.
  • Stir-fry other ingredients: Chicken, shrimp, and tofu are the most common protein choices; however, pork and beef can also be used.
  • Add the sauce and noodles and stir-fry until the noodles are tender and the meat is cooked through.
  • Garnish the pad thai with bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and/or fresh cilantro. Serve with extra chile sauce for more heat.

Vegan Pad Thai Sauce

Vegetarians and vegans can enjoy a vegan-style pad thai. To make our easy recipe vegan friendly, you need to:

  • Substitute the chicken with vegetable stock.
  • Use a fish sauce replacement.
  • Choose a wheat-free variety of soy sauce, like tamari, or use liquid aminos if there are gluten allergies.