Better than takeout, and on the table in 30 minutes! This vegan pad Thai is packed with flavor, easy enough for a weeknight, but also perfect for special dinners.

Sad but true story: back during my early days as a vegetarian, I ate tons and tons of fish sauce, and had no idea I was doing it! I fell in love with Vietnamese food and poured fish sauce over everything for years before figuring out what it was.

I know, you’re asking why I didn’t inquire as to what it was, but really, so many people don’t think about this stuff early on! I never thought about it before giving up meat, and it took a while to make a habit of it afterwards.

I probably ate a lot more fish sauce though, because I ordered countless Thai curries and stir-fries that had that funky flavor and it never occurred to me to ask about ingredients. It had tofu and veggies, so of course it was vegetarian, right? Not!

Pad Thai is one of those dishes. It’s usually made with fish sauce, but you know what? There are other ingredients that can totally supply that sour, salty flavor that’s characteristic of fish sauce, and they’re already in pad Thai.

Soy sauce supplies saltiness and umami, while tamarind adds some acidity.

Tamarind is Essential

So many western recipes for pad Thai leave out the tamarind, using substitutes like ketchup instead. Since we’re making this vegan and therefore already deviating from traditional recipes, I chose not to do that. Also, tamarind is one of the distinct flavors you’ll find in pad Thai, and honestly, I think I’d really miss it if I used ketchup instead.

This recipe uses tamarind paste, which may also be labeled as tamarind concentrate. But be careful! Not all products labeled “tamarind concentrate” are the same. You’re looking for a product sold in jars that’s a rich brown color and about the consistency of ketchup. You don’t want anything that’s pulpy or sold in blocks. Check out the brand I’ve linked to in my recipe if you’re not sure what to use.

You can find tamarind paste (sometimes a.k.a. concentrate) in the international foods sections of most supermarkets, or at just about any Indian market.

How to Make Vegan Pad Thai

You’ll be soaking the noodles for this dish instead of boiling them. It’s really easy! Just submerge your noodles in just-boiled water and let them soak until they’re almost fully softened up — we’ll be stir-frying them, so you don’t want them fully cooked.

Mix up your sauce before you start cooking. You’ll be doing some stir-frying and you want the sauce to be ready to go when you need it.

Next pan-fry your tofu. Press it, dice it, and cook it in an oil coated skillet for about 10 minutes, flipping it once or twice. For tips on how to get your tofu perfectly golden and crispy, see this post.

Tofu Sizzling in a Skillet - Vegan Pad Thai

Now it’s time for stir-frying. Take the tofu out of the skillet and transfer it to a plate. Add a little more oil to the skillet, crank up the heat, and add your veggies. I used snap peas and bell pepper, but you could use any of your favorite stir-fry veggies.

Once the veggies become tender-crisp and deepen in color, push them aside and pour the sauce into the hot skillet. Give it a minute to bubble up, then add your noodles, followed by the tofu and then some scallions. Toss everything well to coat your ingredients in the sauce.

Top your pad thai with some crushed peanuts and bean sprouts before serving.

FAQ & Tips for Making Awesome Vegan Pad Thai

  • Feel free to switch up the veggies with your favorites! Broccoli, baby bok choy, carrots and baby corn are all great in this. Just keep in mind that harder veggies require a bit more stir-fry time, while softer ones need less.
  • Want to make this dish gluten-free? Just use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Don’t like tofu? Use tempeh, seitan, or some extra veggies instead.
  • The pan needs to be really hot when you add the sauce — hot enough for it to start bubbling and reducing right away. I recommend letting the pan heat up for a few minutes before you even add your veggies. I also recommend using a cast iron skillet if you’ve got one.
  • Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. The noodles will start to stick together, but it’ll still taste delicious.

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Vegan Pad Thai

Vegan Pad Thai

Better than takeout, and on the table in 30 minutes! This vegan pad Thai is packed with flavor, easy enough for a weeknight, but also perfect for special dinners.

  • 8 ounces pad Thai rice noodles

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek, (or to taste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, (minced)

For the Stir-Fry

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, (or high-heat oil of choice, divided)
  • 1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu, (drained, pressed and cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 cups snap peas
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, (cut into strips)
  • 1 medium shallot, (sliced into strips)
  • 3 medium scallions, (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Remove it from the heat and submerge the noodles.

  2. Allow the noodles to soak until almost fully softened but still a tiny bit firm at their centers. This should take about 10 minutes, but refer to the package directions.

  3. Drain the noodles in a colander then rinse them well with cold water. Drain them well then return them to the pot.

  4. While the noodles soak, stir the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste-test the sauce and adjust any seasonings to your liking.

  5. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in an even layer.

  6. Allow the tofu to cook for about 10 minutes, flipping once or twice to brown the pieces on multiple sides.

  7. Remove the tofu from the skillet and transfer it to a plate.

  8. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and raise the heat to high.

  9. Add the snap peas, bell pepper and shallot to the skillet. Stir-fry the veggies until they become tender-crisp and intensify in color, about 2 minutes.

  10. Push the veggies to the side of the skillet and carefully pour the sauce onto the hot cooking surface. 

  11. Let the sauce bubble up for a minute, then add the noodles and scallions. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the sauce thickens up just a bit, flipping the noodles quickly with a spatula to coat them with the sauce.

  12. Add the tofu to the skillet, flip everything a few times to distribute the tofu, and remove the skillet from the heat.

  13. Top the pad Thai with bean sprouts and peanuts. Divide onto plates and serve.

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Vegan Pad Thai

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