Vegetarian Pad Thai (Gluten Free, Vegan Friendly)

Vegetarian Pad Thai Recipe
The Spruce
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 2 servings

This authentic pad thai for vegetarian and vegan Thai food lovers is perfect for those who want a lighter noodle dish without the meat. Although a number of ingredients, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make. A combination of sweet, sour, and a tad of spice, the flavor will delight your mouth with each bite.

This pad thai recipe offers lots of protein in the form of eggs (or soft tofu for vegans) ​and ground nuts. And because it's made with rice noodles, pad thai can also be made gluten free. Although vegetables are not strictly part of traditional pad thai, this recipe adds some bok choy, which tastes yummy with the noodles and makes this dish even more nutritious. You will love this dish.

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Ingredients

  • 8-ounces dried rice noodles (pad thai noodles, linguini-width, or enough for 2 people)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tablespoons onion (diced)
  • 3 to 4 heads baby bok choy
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable stock (or white wine)
  • 1 to 2 eggs (vegans can substitute 1/2 cup soft tofu—see instructions below*)
  • 2 to 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup peanuts (or cashews; chopped unsalted, dry-roasted; divided)
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 wedges lime (plus more to taste)
  • For the Pad Thai Sauce:
  • 3/4 tablespoon tamarind paste (to taste, available at Asian or East Indian food stores, or online)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or faux chicken stock)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (or wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile sauce (to taste, or 1/8 to 3/4 teaspoon chile flakes)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or more to attain sweet-sour balance)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Vegetarian pad thai ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Dunk in rice noodles and stir with a fork to separate.

    Cook rice noodles
     The Spruce
  3. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, just until noodles are limp but still too firm to eat (a little firmer than al dente). Then drain and rinse with cold water.

  4. Combine pad thai sauce ingredients in a cup, stirring well to dissolve sugar and tamarind. Note that this sauce should have a very strong-tasting flavor: sour-sweet first, followed by salty and spicy. Add more sugar if too sour. Set aside.

    Combine pad thai sauce ingredients in a measuring cup
     The Spruce
  5. Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil plus garlic and onion. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.

    saute onion and garlic
     The Spruce
  6. Add bok choy, plus enough stock or white wine to keep ingredients frying nicely. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until bok choy is bright green and slightly softened.

  7. Push the ingredients aside and add 1/2 tablespoon more of the oil to the center of the wok/pan. Add the egg (if using) and stir-fry briefly to scramble.

  8. If the pan is dry, push the ingredients aside and add a little more of the oil to the middle. Add the drained noodles and 1/3 of the pad thai sauce. Stir-fry everything together 1 to 2 minutes using 2 utensils and a gently tossing motion (like tossing a salad).

    add noodles
     The Spruce
  9. Keep heat between medium-high and high, reducing if noodles begin to stick or burn.

  10. Keep adding sauce and continue stir-frying 3 to 6 more minutes, or until all sauce is added and noodles are soft but still chewy and deliciously sticky.

    combine and cook ingredients
     The Spruce
  11. Switch off heat and add bean sprouts, green onions, and 3/4 of the nuts. Toss and taste test, adding more soy sauce for more salt/flavor. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a good squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, add a little more sugar.

    add sprouts
     The Spruce
  12. To serve, scoop noodles onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts and fresh cilantro. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side to be squeezed over just before eating. 

Tips

  • When you drain the noodles, you should notice that they are undercooked. That is what we are going for in order to come out right when they are stir-fried.
  • If using soft tofu instead of egg, add this along with the last of the pad thai sauce. It will break up into small bits and be distributed throughout the dish, just as the egg would.