Noodle-Free Tofu Pad Thai

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Plate of our Noodle-Free Pad Thai with Tofu recipe

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.

Fresh carrots and zucchini for making vegetable noodles

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!

Mixing homemade Pad Thai Sauce in a bowl
Bowl of Carrot and Zucchini Noodles made with a vegetable peeler

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.

Plate of Noodle-Free Pad Thai with Tofu and a bowl of Pad Thai Sauce

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.

Using a fork to pick up a bite of Noodle-Free Pad Thai

Noodle-Free Tofu Pad Thai

Noodle-free pad thai made with shaved carrots and zucchini, a tamarind-based dressing, peanut sauce, and raw tofu.
Author Minimalist Baker
Plate of Noodle-Free Tofu Pad Thai topped with peanut sauce, cilantro, and sriracha
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2
Course Entrée
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? Best when fresh



  • 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.


*You can sub 1/4 tsp ginger powder for the 1/2 tsp fresh.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1/2 the recipe with 1/4 cup peanut sauce.

Nutrition (1 of 2 servings)

Serving: 1 g Calories: 291 Carbohydrates: 45 g Protein: 9 g Fat: 9 g Saturated Fat: 1 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 1023 mg Fiber: 7 g Sugar: 30 g

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  1. Jackie says

    Hi Dana, this was an amazing — flavorful, fun and very filling. We made it two nights in a row! Yum. One of the nights, we sauteed the carrots/zucchini noodles slightly to warm and it turned out great as well. Thanks for another winner.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi nat, tamarind, lime, agave or maple, and carrots all contribute to the sugar content. Hope that helps!

  2. Heidi says

    when I click the link to the peanut sauce it takes me to a roasted cauliflower page, can you post the peanut sauce recipe again. Great recipe by the way, super simple and super tasty!


  3. Alison Harding-Shogilev says

    Hi! I love pad Thai but the series of intricate steps seems daunting. Have you tried this with spiralized carrots? Would it work?


  4. PeggyJean says

    What can be substituted for the soy sauce? I can’t eat soy, I will substitute chicken, shrimp, fish, or extra veggies for the tofu. But I don’t know what to substitute for the soy sauce?

  5. Shield says

    Yum!!!!!!!!!! This recipe was great. Excellent version of pad Thai. I prepare it next to a ratatouille recipe with celery seed, wonderful combination of flavors, I´m going to add a pinch of saffron next time, I want to know the outcome.

  6. Mars says

    Hi! Just want to ask where u bought the tamarind sauce. The Thai grocery is quite far from my place. Hmmm, I hope sprouts or tj’s have it. Thanks! Really looks scrumptious!

  7. Nicole says

    I’ve used zucchini in place of noodles many times…I think I actually like it better now. Just discovered this site and love all of your recipes, but would really love if there was a way to easily sort them by category (like appetizer, meal, drinks, etc). Keep up the good work!

  8. Nicole says

    I cannot eat soy. What do you recommend as a substitute for the tofu? We plan to make the yummy looking recipe tonight!

  9. Sherry in Chicago says

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was perfect for a summer evening, colorful tasty and not too heavy. It is sate

  10. Alissa says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was phenomenal! Absolutely delicious, and even more awesome given the fact that my air conditioner is broken and it is HOT in my house. This was the perfect summer dinner. Thanks so much!

  11. Victoria says

    Love this recipe! It was over the top fantastic! Beautiful photography and really enjoy your blog.

  12. Abby says

    How refreshing and peanuty and delightful!

    One question — do you use a sweet chili sauce for the dressing, or another asian chili sauce?

  13. Jess says

    Absolutely love this, Dana! What a brilliant idea to make this into a raw summer salad. I’ve often had a no-noodle version here in Bangkok that’s made with green papaya, but it’s still tossed in the wok the same way as the traditional version. I like yours so much better!

  14. Meghan says

    Practically every time I go to make zucchini noodles, I find myself wishing , “Man, I wish Dana would post a recipe that uses these.” You’re usually my go-to for salady type things, and this one does not disappoint. I’m so psyched for this recipe.

  15. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious says

    What a cute story. And this pad thai? Yes please! I’m always looking for new ways to use tofu in my cooking and this here is just so innovative! I can’t wait to try it for myself!

  16. Eileen says

    I’ve never thought of making pad thai without the noodles! Such a good idea for hot summer days when you just want to cram your mouth full of raw vegetables. Also, PEANUT SAUCE. Definitely can’t get enough of that!

  17. Ruta says

    I love this! I’m a major fan of Pad Thai but somehow always forget to make it. That changes now! Love the noodle-free spin.

  18. Christina @ Scaredy Cat Kitchen says

    I’m so glad you included advice on a peanut free version, I was just about to ask about subbing in almond butter. This looks so fresh and tasty, I just have to try it! Better go on the search for tamarind sauce…

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      sure! almond butter makes a great alternative in peanut sauce. And tamarind sauce shouldn’t be too hard to find at your local asian mart. Make sure it’s the liquid form, not the dried one or the paste. Mine’s consistency is like yogurt : )

      • Christina @ Scaredy Cat Kitchen says

        Thanks for the advice! A lovely asian store has just opened down the road from my boyfriend’s place, it’s a veritable treasure trove so I’m sure they’ll have the right stuff. :)

  19. Tieghan says

    I loved your story that went with this amazing dish. I think it is fun to know were some of the dishes inspiration came from. This looks incredible. I love the spiciness and the fact that is has no noodle means I can eat a boat load of it. YAY!