How to Make Pad Thai Sauce So Good You'll Skip the Takeout

how to make pad thai sauce

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Oh, pad Thai, how I love you so. You’re always there for me on those nights where I just can’t bring myself to cook, when even picking up my phone to order delivery seems like a feat of strength. Your saucy, tangy noodles fill me with delight, invigorating my soul after a day of nonstop “can’t even” scenarios.

Even bad pad Thai is better than no pad Thai, and a world with no pad Thai is a world I never ever wanted to imagine. I didn’t think I’d ever have to, until I found myself in a place where I could not find a single Thai restaurant that would deliver to me. Sure, in this scenario it was 1 a.m. and nothing was open, but I can’t control when my pad Thai needs will make themselves known. Sometimes necessity dictates that you must take things into your own hands.

Since that tragic night, I’ve always made sure to keep my pantry stocked for emergency pad Thai. Turns out, my pad Thai tastes better than my local takeout joint, which I suppose shouldn’t have been surprising as, well, I cook and write about food for a living. Plus, pad Thai is quick, and comes together faster than any delivery person could drive to my house.

But neither of these things matter as so much of my love of pad Thai isn’t just about the about the taste; it’s about the fact that I didn’t need to cook for myself at all. This is why I make my own pad Thai sauce and keep it in a jar in the fridge. When the craving strikes, I can send my husband into the kitchen and tell him to make it for me. Here's everything you need to know to make your own pad Thai sauce whenever the craving strikes.

What is Pad Thai Sauce?

Pad Thai sauce is the sauce used with Pad Thai noodles. It's traditionally made with fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and tamarind paste, and then stir-fried with the noodles and choice of protein.

The Ingredients

Here's what you need to make your own pad Thai sauce.

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ⅓ cup tamarind concentrate
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • juice of 2 fresh limes
  • 2-6 bird's eye chilis, depending on how spicy you like things

Step 1

Use kitchen scissors to snip the dried chilis into ¼” pieces. 

Step 2

Add the chilis and their seeds to a medium dry saucepan over medium-low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until they give off an earthy, vaguely sweet smell and turn a rich crimson.

Step 3

Add a tablespoon of canola oil and garlic to the pan and turn up the heat to high. Cook just until the garlic begins to brown, then add the water, soy sauce, fish sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add sugar, and whisk until dissolved.

Step 4

Use a standard or immersion blender to blend the sauce well, then transfer to a glass jar.

You can store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.

Step 5

When ready to use, sauté any protein and vegetables you’d like with a bit of garlic and scallions, add cooked pad Thai noodles, then stir fry together with as much sauce as you’d like.

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