We’ve been fans of pad Thai for a long time around here. Before I tried my hand at any homemade versions, we got some form of pad Thai for takeout most weeks when we were newlyweds.
One particular evening when John was still the manager at our apartment building in downtown Portland, we got spicy tofu pad Thai and veggie spring rolls and ate it out of brown boxes with chopsticks on the floor of a vacant suite on the top floor of our building. With sniffling noses and full bellies we looked out over downtown through the 20-foot windows and felt terribly blessed by the way our lives were turning out, even if just for shelter, marriage, and Thai takeout.
Thankfully I started experimenting with pad Thai about a year into our marriage mostly to save money and customize to our preferences. Since then I’ve mastered our favorite version – chicken or tofu, lots of fresh carrots for garnish, tons of peanut sauce and a ridiculous amount of sriracha.
John loves how filling and flavorful it is, and how it involves boatloads of peanut sauce on every bite. I like that it has lots of veggies, a sweet, savory, spicy marriage of flavors, and that it’s fairly healthy despite tasting completely indulgent.
One thing we don’t like about pad Thai, however, is that it requires a million dishes and always makes our kitchen look like a complete disaster by the time I’m finished cooking. This version is an attempt to remedy that problem be requiring fewer dishes, and incorporate even more veggies into the mix, completely nixing the need for noodles altogether.
And with that, I present you with noodle-free pad Thai. It’s a highly modified version (not traditional) but is inspired by the flavors and concept of Pad Thai.
Origin of Pad Thai
Pad Thai is believed to have originated in Thailand during World War II. It was born out of a combination of a rice shortage and Thailand’s prime minister wanting to create a national dish.
It’s traditionally made with rice noodles (which were borrowed from Chinese cuisine), egg, tofu, dried shrimp, and a salty-sweet-sour sauce. The sauce is usually made simply with palm sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce or soy sauce. You can find an authentic preparation here from Hot Thai Kitchen!
About This Noodle-Free Pad Thai
This pad Thai uses thinly grated carrots and zucchini in place of traditional rice noodles, dressed in a simple savory-sweet marinade reminiscent of the traditional pad Thai sauce. Then I add fresh tofu, peanut sauce, sriracha, cilantro, and fresh peanuts.
The result is a fresher, less messy version that takes about 20 minutes to prepare and doesn’t require any heat, making it summertime approved.
If you’re not a tofu fan, sub chicken or just add more peanuts. If you’re peanut adverse, sub toasted almonds and almond butter for the peanut butter and crushed peanuts. And to make this super quick, omit the dressing altogether and simply slather with peanut sauce. You can never go wrong with more peanut sauce.
Noodle-Free Tofu Pad Thai
- 1 Tbsp tamarind sauce
- 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce (gluten-free as needed)
- 1 medium lime, juiced
- 1 tsp Asian chili garlic sauce
- 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger*
- 1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
- 5 medium carrots (washed and ribboned with vegetable peeler)
- 1 medium zucchini (washed and ribboned with vegetable peeler)
- 1/4 cup firm tofu (drained, pressed and cubed)
- Toppings: peanut sauce, sriracha, crushed peanuts, cilantro
- Whisk dressing ingredients together and taste to adjust seasonings.
- Add carrots and zucchini and toss to combine. Let marinade for 5 minutes. Then add tofu and toss again.
- Divide between two serving plates (as original recipe is written) and top with peanut sauce, fresh cilantro, sriracha, and crushed peanuts.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1/2 the recipe with 1/4 cup peanut sauce.