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The BEST Pad Thai Recipe

We are a family full of Thai food lovers and Cook’s Illustrated sublime and very flavorful Pad Thai recipe is the best pad thai recipe we’ve tasted yet 

In general, we are a family of very differing, yet specific tastes. At one extreme is my daughter who loves nothing more than a kale and quinoa salad. On the other extreme is my son, whose perfect meal is Buffalo Wild Wings and a soda. My husband and I fall somewhat in the middle with me leaning more towards the kale and my husband leaning more towards the wings. Having said that, for us to find a food that we all equally enjoy is not easy. Mexican is one, Asian, in general, is one. but Thai food is THE one.  

To that end, we seek out Thai restaurants wherever we go and indeed we have sought great Thai food recipes the world over.  If you are in the Nashville/Brentwood area of TN, you must go to Jasmine Thai.  It’s been several years since I’ve been there, but it remains the Thai restaurant that I compare all others to.  Beaufort, SC is home to Yes, Thai Indeed.  A little hole in the wall that serves outstanding Thai food.  Don’t judge the book by it’s cover is a good rule when pulling into the parking lot.  Whenever we get to Orlando, FL, we make sure to plan on dinner at Thai Thani.  In fact, after our 10-hour drive, we make that our first stop, before even checking into our hotel. Red Koi in Coral Gables, Fl serves outstanding Thai food, in addition to sushi.  If you are in Winston-Salem, NC, stop in at Thai Sawatdee – this restaurant also claims the most gregarious Thai server – and   Raleigh has Sawasdee Thai, another fun stop.  In Myrtle Beach, we enjoy Thai Season in North Myrtle and in Wilmington, NC, my family likes Big Thai. If you visit, tell them we said hello!  If you find yourself in Vienna, Austria, Patara Fine Thai Cuisine is just a block or two from the Stephensplatz.  Right outside of Old Town in Prague is Lemon Leaf Thai; full disclosure, not all of us loved our meal here.  It wasn’t bad, but we have high standards! ?

We seem to order the same things no matter where we go, but we always order MANY appetizers and someone always orders a Pad Thai.  We wouldn’t quite claim to be ‘Thai Food Experts’, but we know how a good Pad Thai recipe tastes when we eat one!  It seems like Thai food figures into our at home meal plan several times a month in various forms as well, so I have accumulated many Thai recipes.  

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If you like your Pad Thai real sweet, this is not the recipe for you.  If you like your Pad Thai heavy with sauce, this is not the recipe for you. However, if you like your Pad Thai sublimely complex, with just the right amount of unique and clear flavors vying for attention on your tongue, you need to give this recipe a whirl.  For my family, this is really The Best Pad Thai recipe.   It is one of the few recipes I use that I follow verbatim.  It’s a ‘why mess with success’ strategy that I employ for a select few recipes; this one, my carrot cake recipe and Martha Stewart’s Classic Apple Pie, to name a few.  This recipe was published in the July & August 2002 edition of Cooks Illustrated.

Pad Thai Recipe: Pad Thai serving on plate
The BEST Pad Thai Recipe

Table of Contents

 Don’t let the list of ingredients intimidate you.  They can all be found at your local Oriental market, on Amazon.com (Tamarind Paste, Preserved Radish and Dried Shrimp) or on ImportFood.com (Tamarind Paste, Preserved Radish and Dried Shrimp).  The recipe indicates that several items are optional, but I don’t think the dish would have the complex flavor without them. I keep the tamarind paste, the salted radish and the dried shrimp in a little basket in the back of my freezer.  They keep well for a long time…trust me.

As an accompaniment to the Pad Thai, slice some cucumbers and onions thinly.  Mix some rice wine vinegar, a little sugar, and some water and toss with your cucumbers and onions an hour before serving.  Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

The cooking time is quick, but the prep work is time-consuming.  Get all your ingredients measured out on your cooking space before you start and it’ll come together quickly.

Pad Thai

Cook's Illustrated, July & August 2002
Hands down, the best Pad Thai recipe out there. A little time intensive, but worth every minute.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 7 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4 servings


  • 2 TB tamarind paste
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3 TB fish sauce
  • 1 TB rice vinegar
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 T peanut or vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles 1/8 inch wide (width of linguine)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed through garlic press or minced (1 TB)
  • 1 medium shallot minced (about 3 TB)
  • 2 TB dried shrimp chopped fine (optional)
  • 2 TB chopped Thai salted preserved radish
  • 6 TB chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 3 cups 6 ounces bean sprouts
  • 5 medium scallions green parts only, sliced think on sharp bias
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves optional
  • Lime wedges for serving


  • Rehydrate tamarind paste in boiling water (Soak for 10 minutes, then push it through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible).
  • Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne and 2 TB oil into tamarind liquid and set aside.
  • Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl; soak until softened, pliable and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Drain noodles and set aside.
  • Beat eggs and 1/8 tsp salt in small bowl; set aside
  • Heat 1 TB oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes.
  • Add shrimp and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 tsp salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are opaque and browned around the edges, about 3 minutes.
  • Transfer shrimp to a plate and set aside
  • Off heat, add remaining TB oil to skillet and swirl to coat; add garlic and shallot, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes; add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds.
  • Add noodles, dried shrimp, and salted radish to eggs; toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine.
  • Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated.
  • Scatter 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions and cooked shrimp over noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly until noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes (if not yet tender add 2 TB water to skillet and continue to cook until tender).
  • Transfer noodles to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining scallions, 2 TB peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
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If your family loves Asian food as much as mine, you’re always on the look out for fun, tasty recipes. If that sounds familiar, you’ll want to check out this Shrimp Sushi Bowl and our take on Chicken Satay. Let us know how you like them. Enjoy…..

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  1. This looks like a great dinner to make! we’ve never cooked thai before so this will be something different to try out! thanks so much for linking up the first YumTum linky, hope to see you back with some more tasty recipes next week 🙂

    1. Hi Charlotte, first of all, congrats to you for kicking off your Yum Tum link party. I can only imagine that there is quite a bit of work entailed with it. Well done You! And I will be back next week.
      Do try the Pad Thai. Takes a bit of preparation but so very worth it.

      Hugs, Lynn


    1. Girlfriend…you need to hike right over to your closest Thai restaurant! You don’t know what you are missing. It truly is a sublime cuisine…I find the flavors much more subtle than Chinese. Truly my fav cuisine.
      Hugs Nikki!


5 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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