Pad thai made from scratch isn't exactly a quick meal—there are a LOT of ingredients to prep. But how do restaurants get your freshly-made pad thai done in 5 minutes? Good news: they're not doing anything you can't do at home. But the most important thing they do is to have the sauce made in bulk, in advance.
Once you've got the sauce made, and if you want to be even MORE prepared, there are a few other simple things you can do in advance so that, comes cooking time, you can literally get pad thai on the table in minutes. Watch the video to see me cook pad thai in less than 5 minutes in real time!
Once you have the sauce, you can use it in my authentic pad thai recipe.
An authentic pad thai sauce is actually very simple. There are technically only 3 ingredients: the sweet, the salty and the sour. But because we want this to be a time-saver, I've also add the shallots and the garlic into the sauce so we don't have to chop and sauté them on the day.
- Tamarind paste (the sour, what is tamarind?)
- Fish sauce (the salty)
- Palm sugar (the sweet)
Important note about tamarind:
Whenever you cook Thai food, I recommend that you make tamarind paste from pulp for the best flavour. But if you are going to buy it instead, make sure it's a product of Thailand or Vietnam and not a product of India. Thai and Vietnamese tamarind paste is a loose brown liquid, whereas Indian "tamarind concentrate" is a thick black paste that is much more concentrated. It is a different product and should not be used when cooking Thai food.
What NOT to Put in the Sauce?
You might be tempted to add as many things as possible for max efficiency, but some things are better left out:
- Dried shrimp. If I let the dried shrimp sit and infuse their flavour into the sauce for a long time, I find that the final dish is permeated with too much shrimpiness. Yes, things can be too shrimpy, even for me!!
- The same goes for the sweet preserved radish if you're using it - it was too strong.
- Tofu would absorb too much flavour from the sauce, and will likely shorten the shelf life of the sauce as well.
- Peanuts lose their crunch in the liquid.
How to Make Pad Thai Sauce
Here's an overview of hot to make pad thai sauce in advance. It's relatively simple, but be sure to watch the video tutorial with it's extra tips to ensure success.
- Saute shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant.
- Remove from the pot.
- In the same pot melt the palm sugar.
- Keep cooking until the sugar darkens slightly in colour.
- Once the sugar reaches a caramel colour, add the tamarind paste to stop the cooking.
- Add the fish sauce and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the shallots and garlic back in and stir to mix.
- Keep it in a jar and it will last at least 3 months in the fridge.
Once you've got the pad thai sauce made, you can use it right away, and the rest needs to be kept in a sealed container in the fridge. It should last at least 3 months in the fridge.
If you need to, you can also freeze the sauce, and I would recommend dividing it into portions before freezing for easy usage. You can freeze them in ice cube trays and then leave a note for yourself how many cubes you will need per serving.
How to Make Pad Thai in 5 Minutes
In essence, pad thai is a noodle stir fry, and like most noodle stir fries, it is very quick to cook. What takes time is the prep. Making the sauce in advance is just "level 1 preparedness," but you can save even more time by prepping more of the ingredients. If you do enough prep and get to "level 4" you can literally make pad thai on a weeknight in 5 minutes!
To prove that I'm not exaggerating, watch the video tutorial below to see me cook pad thai in REAL TIME in less than 5 minutes! For more on the different levels of prep, read my post on my authentic pad thai recipe.
*One note: if your pre-cooked protein is fridge-cold, add it a bit earlier than I did in this video to give it time to heat up. I would toss it with the noodles once the sauce has been absorbed, and before you add the eggs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Trust me, you don't want to. I have seen many brands of bottled pad thai sauce on store shelves, and I have never come across one that comes close to the authentic flavour of real pad thai. Most of these sauces are overly sweet, and use cheap ingredients that compromise the flavour.
For example, instead of palm sugar they use granulated white sugar. Instead of fish sauce they add salt and maybe even soy sauce which is not the right flavour. And instead of using all tamarind they will mix in white vinegar or rice vinegar which is much cheaper. They also often add a lot of additives and colour that are totally not necessary.
Pad thai sauce uses only a few ingredients, and the store that sells the bottled sauce probably also sells all the ingredients you need to make a much better one yourself!
You should keep the pad thai sauce well-sealed in the fridge, and it should last you at least 3 months, and probably much longer. (I have just never had it any longer than that). There is a lot of sugar, acid, and salt in the sauce, all of which are ingredients that help preserve food.
You can, but there is probably no need to as it lasts quite a long time in the fridge.
You can substitute the fish sauce with either a good brand of vegetarian fish sauce or an equal amount of soy sauce (preferably Thai, but otherwise you should get good quality light soy sauce).
This recipe makes enough sauce for 8 servings of MY pad thai recipe. It's important to highlight "MY" here, because if you use another pad thai recipe it might have a different portion size, which will then need a different amount of sauce.
So, as I've indicated in the recipe, you'll need to measure the final volume of the sauce and divide it by 8 - which is how you'll know the volume of sauce needed per serving. I don't just give you the volume of sauce you need here because everyone will end up with a slightly different amount of garlic and shallots, (not to mention different amounts of evaporation), so the volume needed will differ from batch to batch.
In order to reduce bulk for storage, I've omitted the water from the sauce. So when you make your pad thai, you'll need to add 1 ½ tablespoon of water per serving (again, a serving of my pad thai recipe) in order for the noodles to have enough moisture to cook in. If space is not an issue, you can add the water to the sauce before storing.
Before you start, be sure to watch the video tutorial to ensure success! I always include little tips and tricks not mentioned in the blog post. The video is in the recipe card below, but you can also watch it on YouTube!
Homemade Pad Thai Sauce
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1.75 oz chopped garlic, about 1 head
- 4 oz chopped shallot, about 1 cup
- 4.9 oz palm sugar, roughly chopped
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ¾ - 1 cup tamarind paste, see note
- chili flakes, to taste (optional)
FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video to ensure success. If you enjoy them, consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel to not miss an episode. Thank you!Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
- In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and shallots, and saute until soft and translucent - about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pot.2 tablespoon oil, 1.75 oz chopped garlic, 4 oz chopped shallot
- Return the pot to the stove over medium heat, then add the palm sugar and let it cook until it melts; pressing on any hard chunks to help them dissolve more quickly. After it melts, let it cook a little further until it caramelizes into a slightly darker brown for a richer flavour, being careful not to let it get too dark.4.9 oz palm sugar
- Turn off the heat then add the tamarind paste; it will bubble aggressively and the sugar will harden initially. Turn the heat back on to low to help the sugar dissolve and add the fish sauce. Turn off the heat after the sugar is mostly dissolved; don't worry about a few chunks left over, they will dissolve eventually.¾ - 1 cup tamarind paste, ½ cup fish sauce
- Stir the garlic and shallots back in and let cool. You can also add the chili flakes at this stage if you wish to make it spicy.chili flakes
- Measure the volume of the sauce by pouring it into a liquid measuring cup. Divide the volume by 8 to get the amount of sauce you need per serving (if using my pad thai recipe). Write this number down and tape it to the container of the sauce, also note on the label that you need to add 1 ½ tablespoon of water per serving when you cook.
If I wanted to make this sugar free, can I use brown stevia sugar?
I don't see why not, worth trying!
Cost in case anyone is wondering works out to $0.78 per serving. Very reasonable considering most jarred sauces are $6-$10 for 4 servings. This ends up being all real ingredients for half the cost.
Item Item cost Per 8 servings
Palm sugar 24 oz $ 7.07 $ 1.41
Fish sauce 24oz $ 9.50 $ 1.58
Tamarind brick 14oz $ 8.00 $ 1.00
2 shallots $ 1.50 $ 1.50
1 garlic head $ 0.75 $ 0.75
Total sauce cost 8 servings $ 6.25
Per serving $ 0.78
I used half what the recipe called for bc I added more water
Thank you Pailin for this recipe (along with your full, long-form Pad Thai recipe). I've been a huge fan of Thai food for a while but have mostly eaten it in restaurants since I wasn't sure I could make it at home.
I've actually made Pad Thai before but following a recipe that was adjusted to "western" tastes, using green onions, no radish and substituting oyster sauce for the dried shrimp to make it less "intense" in the fish flavours.
Now for the first time I actually went all out, tracked out all the ingredients (the radish and garlic chives weren't easy to find here :D) and followed your recipe completelt; Best Pad Thai that I've ever eaten, including restaurant made ones and almost everyone shared that sentiment.
The only person who wasn't that happy with it was my wife who doesn't like too much fishy taste so the dried shrimp in this were just too much for her. Is there something I could use when making her portion that would give a similar umami taste without being so strong in the fish taste?
In any case I'm going to watch your other videos and I know I'm gonna be doing a lot more Thai cooking in the future! Thank you again!
which kind of oil do you use? sesame?
Please tell us a bit more about palm sugar. Right now I am using molasses instead. My Columbian wife uses panella in her recipes. Would this be good for Thai cooking?
I am very happy that I discovered your channel. We very recently returned from a month’s stay in Thailand. We did our first cooking course in Chiang Mai and then another course in Bangkok.
We returned home to Israel with some basic cooking utensils purchased in the market.
Some of the brand ingredients that you show I have happily found near to our home.
Looking forward to your reply.
Hi Mark, I have a whole post all about palm sugar on the website you can check out, but panela or light brown sugar would be a fine substitute. Molasses is not a good sub the flavour is too strong. https://hot-thai-kitchen.com/guide-to-palm-sugar/
I just made pad thai with this, and it's absolutely fantastic! lots of bean sprouts are KEY to the recipe, for sure. I also like serving it with finely shredded cabbage along with peanuts and lime wedges. so delicious; thank you as always!
Sometimes i add a little of peanut butter
Excellent recipe. The sauce was just perfect. I made four servings and made it in two batches and it came out great. All the tips and tricks really help to make sure that it comes out perfect.
Lovely recipe! So good. I was on a mission in search of the best Pad Thai. I never thought it would come out of my own kitchen. Thank you❤️
This is really good. Question, when using this sauce with your pad Thai recipe, do we omit the garlic and shallots since it’s already in this sauce?
That is correct! And thank you!
Wow, this sauce is so good! I made pad thai for dinner and my family loved it. I made it vegan by using vegan fish sauce. Thank you!!
I want to make this sauce, but I wanted to store it in a squeezy tube without solids inside. If I remove the garlic and shallots from the sauce, should I add something else? Do I put the proportional 180ml of water for 8 servings like when you put 45ml in the sauce for 2 servings? Or do I just leave it out and add the necessary water while cooking? Does it make much of a difference to add the water to the sauce vs while cooking? I don't want to mess up 2 cups of goodness.
I discovered this channel/blog 2 months ago and It's already my favorite because it not only teaches recipes, but how to cook and understand ingredients and the process of cooking. I've learned so much already. Thank you
Can the Pad Thai Sauce be “canned “ safely to make it shelf stable? Would water bath or pressure canning need to be used?
I’ve made your Pad Thai many times. I live alone so I don’t use it up when refrigerated fast enough. Absolutely delicious by the way, as all your recipes are.
Hi Kelly, and thanks for your kind words! I don't see why you couldn't can this. It's a high sugar, high acid product so it should do just fine using whatever method you use to can jams. But if you keep it refrigerated it should still last quite a long time uncanned. I've had it in my fridge for probably 3 months and it was still good at that time.
Thank you for the great recipe 🙂 I had a huge cravings for a good authentic Pad Thai for weeks and finally made one today by using your recipes(the Pad Thai, Easy Pad Thai Sauce, and Tamarind Paste recipes), and I loved it <3 I made 2 servings thinking of saving one for later. I ate the whole portion by myself at once 😀 You don't know how much I was excited when I laid out my newly bought palm sugar, tamarind and rice noodles on the table after shopping. :3
Because it was my first time dealing with a block of tamarind, it was a surprise that it was very sticky, as you mentioned. Also, the amount of fish sauce you used in the recipe is a lot more than the amount I use in my cooking usually and made me scare a little bit. but yeah, it was superb! I am glad that I followed your recipe to details. and I will keep using the recipe <3 <3 gotta impress my partner 😀
Hi! Just wanted to say your pad Thai is soo good! I made it a few weeks ago with this sauce prep and oh my goodness, absolutely delicious. Thank you for this fantastic recipe!
I love Pad Thai and all other Thai dishes but unfortunately I cannot eat garlic or onions any more. I still can have a very small amount of garlic and the green tops of spring onions and use garlic infused oils in my cooking. Is there a way I still can do a nice Pad Thai without it? I would very much appreciate if you could give me any tips. Thank you do much.
Hi Evie, what I would do here, is I would stir fry the garlic and shallots in the oil, and then remove the pieces so you would get the flavour infused into the oil, and then proceed with the recipe. I think it will still be fine!
Hi! I noticed your tamarind paste is more liquid and less paste. Did you dilute it with something? I have a jar of tamarind paste which looks like very thick and a jar of tamarind concentrate which is more liquid. Thanks.
I've made your Pad Thai before and LOVED IT!!
Now I'm excited to try making the sauce in bulk. Do you suppose the sauce can be frozen and thawed before using?
Absolutely! Don't see why it wouldn't work!
Thank you for sharing this recipe. Saves me so much time. I modified mine to make it vegan and used soy sauce instead of fish sauce since half of my family is vegan. It tastes so much better than the ones i've tried in the restaurants. thanks again for taking the time to explain everything.
My pad thai sauce got too sour 🙁 i think my tamarind paste that i made is too concentrated. How to do i fix it? 🙁
Starting again should not be too expensive (I am making assumptions here) but if you do not want to waste what you have, then I can see these options.
(1) Add sugar to counteract the acidity. This may not be ideal because you could end up with a real think syrup and end up being cloying in the final dish
(2) Dilute the sauce that you have but you do risk reducing the garlic/onion element (3) if the garlic element in (2) drops too much, fry some garlic when making your pad Thai then add some of the diluted sauce. You may need to add a touch of sugar as well to make sure you have that sweet-sour-salty balance that Pad Thai should have.
Hi Pau, you can add all other ingredients proportionally to dilute the concentration of the sourness. In other words, you make another small batch of sauce without any tamarind, and then add this new sauce to the old sauce until it tastes right to you. To make it easier you can also just add more sugar and dish sauce and don't bother with the garlic/shallots.
(Comment removed in accordance with self-entitlement policy guidelines - Adam)
Wow judgmental much? If you took the time to watch her videos and actually read her blog, you would know that this recipe is a follow-up to her original posting; https://hot-thai-kitchen.com/best-pad-thai/. In that blog post she details all the ingredients, tips and measurements.
To jump to the conclusion that she is solely doing this for monetary reasons is condescending, and mean. Yes, she does give readers and viewers the option to support her by clicking on a link, but if you choose not to, that's fine. It is unnecessary to be a cyber-bully while doing so.
Burn that butter, Steph.
Adam from HTK
Hi Steph, Adam here, and thanks for the support! (I'm going to remove this thread now so Butter doesn't become further embarrassed :))
I had to purchase Tamarind form Amazon (it wasn't in any local stores). I looked (it's from India). I know you do not like this product, but it's all I've got. How can I use it in your recipe?
I don't know for sure because I've never used it. If it's that black sticky paste, my best guess is you've got to use a small amount and dilute it in water. How much to dilute it is something you'll have to try, but I'd start with a quarter of what my recipe calls for and hope that works.
It is clear that this is a recipe for the make-ahead sauce for the '5-minute version' and not the full recipe. I don't see what was so difficult.
OMG! you had to click on a link!!
Perhaps Pailin believes her viewers are mature enough to figure out the amount of noodles needed for a dish on their own?
btw, listening to her pocketbook?
did it cost you something to watch her video?
I used sugar sigh, and it stayed too long. Anyway to get the burnt taste out of the sauce. Like a bitter taste
what type of oil are you using?
Adam from HTK
Hi Adam here and any neutral vegetable oil will do - which in this case is Canola. Cheers!
Thank you! I love your style in the video. Makes you seem so authentic and real. Just made the Pad Thai sauce!
Brand new to your subscribers. I love how you explain things
And substitution’s if we need
I had watched a few of your videos- one with a Salad dressing that you mentioned the brand name… what a surprise when I looked in my fridge and saw I had it! Bought at Costco weeks ago!
Making a few of your dishes tonight! Thanks
Love this concept! We (mostly) meal prep on the weekends so this is super helpful. More like this please!!!
Hi Pailin, I just subscribed to your YouTube channel and I’m so excited to try your recipes!! Can you please tell me what kind of dried shrimp you use? We have a huge Asian market in town and it can be a little confusing when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Thanks so much.
Hi! So with dried shrimp, the only thing you need to worry about is size. And even then,...it's not THAT important. I like to go with something in the medium-size range which is the all-purpose size, and with no shells if that's an option. Thank you!
Great content as always. Just me or is everyone getting really sick of the Guy Fieri Network (AKA Food Network)? One more episode of Guys Grocery Games and I'm hoping for Flavortown to go up in flames.
Adam from HTK
Can I use Coconut sugar or Brown sugar if I can't find Palm sugar? Where do you get Palm sugar in Vancouver? Really want to try this, thanks
Adam from HTK
Hi Adam here - and yep you can use equal parts brown sugar as a substitute. 🙂 Re where to shop check out https://hot-thai-kitchen.com/locate-a-thai-grocer/ - we usually start with T&T and if we can't find what we need we go to Sungiven, the two locations you see there on Kingsway, or sometimes 88 Supermarket. Cheers!
Thank you so much for this! I am excited to make this sauce in bulk. How long will this jar of sauce last in the refrigerator?
It lasts up to a month. I have made this version and also Siri ‘s from spoon fork heart kitchen. They’re both wonderful. I store mine in a quart jar bottle.
Hello to the most beautiful chef in YouTube. Can you give us the exact grams of noodles for each person? or for 8 persons? , you didn’t mention how many grams of noodles …. Thank you very much ….
Hi Liane, the amounts for noodles and all other ingredients are in the "Authentic pad thai recipe" post which is linked in the post above in various places. (this is just for the sauce). Thank you!
Adam from HTK
It should last a few months at least, I've yet to see it go bad!
Adam from HTK
Hi Helen! If you only add what is indicted above (ie don't add anything extra) then a month at least 🙂 Cheers! Adam