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Healthy Pad Thai (Chicken and Shrimp)

This Homemade Healthy Pad Thai (Chicken and Shrimp) is the cure for your takeout cravings.  You can use rice noodles, brown rice noodles, zucchini, or spaghetti squash. This recipe is gluten-free and has fewer calories, fat, and sugar than most versions. Feel free to load it up with your favorite veggies!

healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime on a white plate

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FOR THE FULL LIST OF INGREDIENTS AND COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE SEE THE RECIPE CARD AT THE END OF THIS POST. BEFORE YOU SCROLL, THERE’S IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THIS BLOG POST.

This recipe is actually really easy to make, but it does require a nice amount of ingredients. This isn’t a dish you want to shortcut and substitute (to death!). Not if you want something that tastes close to an authentic version.

raw chicken, raw shrimp, chopped green onions, bean sprouts, chopped onions, and raw eggs in separate glass bowls

What Makes the Dish Healthy

Pad Thai isn’t really an unhealthy dish. There are some versions that may use ingredients that aren’t optimal, but I will go on record with saying I never use the words “unhealthy Pad Thai.”

Here are some things that you may find in recipes that are prepared by others that you won’t find in this version.

  • MSG: It’s a flavor enhancer short for monosodium glutamate. It’s popular in Asian cooking and processed foods found in the West. Chemically, MSG is a white crystalline powder that resembles table salt or sugar. It combines sodium and glutamic acid, known as a sodium salt. According to Healthline, evidence indicates that MSG is safe in moderate amounts. However, megadoses may cause harm.
  • Increased Sodium: The Chicken Pad Thai from PF Changs has over 2,500 mg of sodium. This recipe has 1/4 of that per serving.
  • Excess Sugar: That same version of the recipe has 43 grams of sugar. This dish has 2 grams of sugar. Most of the carbs come from the rice noodles. If you’re trying to cut the carbs, use veggie noodles.

When you make this dish at home, you are in control of the ingredients. It’s also sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

chopped peanuts, garlic, and a lime on a flat surface

Key Ingredients for Pad Thai Sauce

This is the most important part of the dish. It honestly can make or break how good a recipe is! I’ve frequented plenty of Thai restaurants and only come back to 1 or 2. That’s because their sauce is on point! Many places will add ketchup to their sauce or make it entirely too sweet. It really needs the right elements.

The sauce has elements of sweet, salty, and sour.

For the sweet element, I like to use golden monkfruit. This keeps the recipe sugar-free. You can also use organic maple syrup, honey, or regular sugar if you aren’t concerned about lightening up the recipe.

For the salty component, I use fish sauce and soy sauce (you can substitute liquid aminos or coconut aminos). I use fish sauce in pretty much all of my Asian inspired recipes, including this Salmon Fried Rice. It does have a distinct smell, but tastes amazing in food. If you have ever dined in authentic Asian restaurants, then you have smelled fish sauce and you know they use it!

For the sour component, I use tamarind paste. Tamarind is a sour fruit. The paste combines the pulp of the fruit with water. You can find it in Asian markets or here on Amazon.

brown sweetener, water, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and tamarind
container of tamarind paste
tamarind paste in a spoon

What Type of Sweetener to Use

The dish is traditionally made using palm sugar. Palm sugar is similar to coconut sugar, but they are different. Both come from Southeast Asia and are natural sweeteners that come from trees. You can use either of these in the recipe. You can use the same amount noted in the recipe.

I use golden monkfruit to eliminate the calories and carbs associated with the sweet element of the recipe.

You can used refined table sugar if you wish. You will use the same amount noted in the recipe.

If you use something like stevia, you will have to convert the serving using the standard conversion you follow for converting refined sugar.

You can use 1/4 cup of organic maple syrup.

You can use 1/4 cup of honey.

What Type of Noodles to Use

I use rice noodles and I look for noodles that don’t have added sugar! Many do, so pay attention to that. I find my favorites at a local Asian market. I go for thin rice noodles (sometimes called rice sticks) and in size Medium if the size is noted.

You can also use brown rice noodles. These typically have similar macros to standard rice noodles, but our body processes brown rice differently than white rice.

See below for low carb noodle substitutions.

rice noodles in a glass bowl

How to Make Healthy Pad Thai

  1. Add all of the ingredients for the sauce to a pan. Cook until the sweetener melts.
  2. Cook the noodles in accordance with package instructions.
  3. Cook the shrimp and chicken in a skillet with oil. Remove.
  4. Saute onions and garlic. Add in the cooked noodles, Pad Thai sauce, bean sprouts, green onions, and crushed peanuts. Stir.
  5. Scramble eggs to the side in the pan and combine the mixture.
  6. Add in the cooked chicken and shrimp.
collage photo of 4 photos showing how to cook rice noodles and pad Thai sauce
collage photo of 4 photos showing garlic and onions sauteed in a pan and pad Thai

What is Fish Sauce? Can You Substitute?

Fish sauce is made from fermented fish, krill, or anchovies and is fermented for months up to 2 years. It has a salty, slightly sweet taste, and it does smell funky. It is widely used in Asian cuisine. If you dined in an Asian restaurant, you’ve likely consumed it. If you’ve visited one that is really authentic, I am sure you have smelled it.

What does fish sauce taste like? You only need a little bit of it when you use it. It’s salty. Do not taste it straight. It’s meant to be used in conjunction with food and other ingredients as an enhancement.

If you omit it in the recipe, the dish will have less flavor.

Once opened, I store it in the fridge.

a collage photo showing how to cook raw chicken and shrimp in a pan

What is Tamarind? Can You Substitute?

Tamarind comes from a tree grown in Africa and parts of Asia. The pulp produces a sour fruit. While cooking, it provides a sweet and spicy element and a little tartness. If you don’t want to use it, you can use fresh squeezed lime and adjust to taste. The recipe doesn’t taste as good! I’ve tried it.

It doesn’t have any added sugar and just a small amount of natural sugar as it’s a fruit.

Once opened, I store it in the fridge.

healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime in a pan with raw eggs

How to Make it Spicy

If you’ve ever dined out in a Thai restaurant you are familiar with the different levels of spice. Sometimes there’s a zero to 5 scale. I love this guide from Connect2Local.

  • 0-1 Mild: This is definitely for the people who like little to no spice. It’s usually a comfortable level. You should start with 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper and build from there. Or omit completely if you aren’t a fan.
  • 2-3 Medium: This is actually where I fall (and I feel like I can handle a good amount of heat). A 2 is typically moderately spicy and 3 is what many may find “uncomfortable.” To me, there is a big difference in even a 2 vs 3, and both are still considered medium. Start with 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Build from there to suit your tastes.
  • 4-5 Hot and Thai Hot: This is very hot and often too spicy for even most adults. Add more crushed red pepper to taste and you can even add in spicy chilies or use to cayenne to create the flavor you are looking for.
healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime in a pan

How to Make it Healthier and Low Carb

You can easily swap out the rice noodles for veggie noodles. Here are my favorites

  • Hearts of Palm: You can find brands here on Amazon and Trader Joe’s carries them as well. This is my FAVORITE pasta substitute. It’s a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees. And it tastes darn good when made into pasta!
  • Zucchini Noodles – Use a spiralizer to create these.
  • Spaghetti Squash – Check out my post, How to Make Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash.
  • Miracle Noodles – These are shirataki noodles. I have tried them once and they are ok. I’m not a huge fan. People swear by them!
healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime in a pan

What Type of Shrimp to Use

Shrimp can be found at the grocery store in a few different ways. There is raw, pre-cooked, raw and frozen, deveined, tails on, tails off, etc.

I never use pre-cooked shrimp. There is an obvious difference in taste due to the lack of quality. The shrimp is cooked and then frozen and you have to cook it/warm it up again. This usually overcooks the shrimp. Raw shrimp only takes minutes to make, just buy it raw.

Always look for deveined, that’s my preference. The black vein that runs along the back of the shrimp is the digestive intestinal tract. Is this shrimp poop, yes.

You can buy it with the vein and remove it using a sharp paring knife to make a slit along the back and lift out the vein with the tip of the knife.

Buy large shrimp. No one likes those baby shrimp and they are harder to cook with.

healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime on a white plate

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

Place the frozen shrimp in a large bowl of cold water. The shrimp will thaw within minutes and will be ready to peel.

What Type of Chicken to Use

I use chicken breasts in this recipe, but you can use whatever you want, such as chicken thighs or chicken tenders. It won’t require much an adjustment to the cook time. Just ensure the chicken is fully cooked through.

You can test the internal temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer. Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Additional Vegetables to Substitute and Add-in

  • Tofu (Traditional recipes are made with tofu!)
  • Dried Shrimp (Also found in traditional recipes)
  • Snap Peas
  • Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Green Onions
  • Bell Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choy
  • Carrots

How to Reheat It/How Does it Taste The Next Day

I reheat using the microwave or air fryer and I get similar results using both methods. It takes like leftover take-out, which isn’t a bad thing. Rice noodles absorb liquid and the sauce so it won’t be saucy. If you are into saucy pad Thai, you will definitely need to make additional sauce and keep it on hand to add to leftovers.

I always refresh my leftovers with bean sprouts, more crushed pepper, more crushed peanuts, and lime. These will add that crunch I feel I need.

Can You Freeze It?

You can! I actually like the taste of the dish reheated after freezing MORE vs reheating from the fridge. Freezing the meal flashes the current texture and state of the dish. I freeze my leftovers immediately, instead of letting them sit in the fridge for a couple of days (which dries out the dish).

Freezing it immediately will allow it to taste more like it does the first day you make it. I recommend freezing it using these freezer molds from Amazon. I defrost at room temperature for 30 minutes and then reheat.

healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime on a white plate

Pair This Dish With

Shrimp Egg Rolls
Air Fryer Crab Rangoon
Air Fryer Southwestern Egg Rolls

More Take Out Recipes

Keto Low Carb Orange Chicken
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Keto Beef and Broccoli
Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich
Red Lobster CopyCat Shrimp Scampi
Instant Pot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup
Keto Low Carb Zuppa Toscana Soup
Panera Autumn Squash Soup
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
Tuna Poke Bowls
Grilled Cedar Plank Shrimp

healthy pad thai with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and lime on a white plate
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4.89 from 9 votes

Healthy Pad Thai (Chicken and Shrimp)

This Homemade Healthy Pad Thai (Chicken and Shrimp) is the cure for your takeout cravings.  You can use rice noodles, brown rice noodles, zucchini, or spaghetti squash. This recipe is gluten-free and has fewer calories, fat, and sugar than most versions. Feel free to load it up with your favorite veggies!
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Thai
Keyword healthy pad thai, homemade pad Thai, sugar free pad Thai
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 443kcal

Ingredients

Pad Thai Sauce

Pad Thai

Garnish

Instructions

Rice Noodles

  • Cook the rice noodles in accordance with the instructions on the package. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water to stop the noodles from cooking, and set aside. Mine cooked for 3 minutes.

Pad Thai Sauce

  • Place a skillet or saucepan on medium heat. Add all of the ingredients for the sauce. Stir for several minutes until the sweetener melts. The sauce won't become super thick. It will bubble some while the sweetener melts.
  • If you want to make this recipe using one pan, you can by using a skillet. But if you are using monkfruit sweetener, the sweetener will cause the sauce to harden and crystallize as it stands (when removed from heat and set aside). I like to cook the sauce in a small saucepan and leave it heating on the stove on low while I perform the remaining steps of the recipe. You don't have to do this. You can set it aside and microwave it, when you're ready to add it to the pad Thai. Your choice.

Pad Thai

  • Season the shrimp and chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place a large skillet or wok on medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon of peanut oil. Add in the shrimp. Cook for 3-4 minutes, flipping to cook both sides. When the shrimp has turned bright pink and fully cooked, remove it and set aside.
  • Add the chicken cubes to the pan. If you need additional oil here, add it. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes, flipping to cook both sides and until completely cooked through. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of peanut oil to the pan (if needed) and add in the onions and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the cooked noodles, Pad Thai Sauce, bean sprouts, green onions, and 1/2 of the chopped roasted peanuts to the pan. Stir to fully coat the noodles.
  • Move the noodle mixture to the side to create room to scramble the eggs. Add the beaten eggs and scramble them to the side of the noodles. Once cooked, stir to incorporate the mixture.
  • Add the chicken and shrimp back to the pan. Stir.
  • Top with the additional peanuts and other garnish like bean sprouts and lime.

Video

Notes

  • I love to serve my pad thai with extra crushed red pepper on top so I go a little easier during the recipe and start with 1 teaspoon.
  • The sauce is the most important element of this recipe. Adjust to your taste. Make it sweeter, less sweet, spicier, etc by tasting as you go. You can always start with a small dose of the recommended ingredients and build from there if you wish. 
  • Peanut oil is used because it enhances the flavor of the dish. Feel free to substitute.
  • You can use a large skillet or wok for this recipe. If using a wok, move quickly as food will cook much faster.
  • I’m not a fan of super saucy pad Thai. If you like a lot of sauce, double the sauce ingredients. (This impacts the macros, recalculate as necessary).
  • I usually can only find bean sprouts at my local Asian market. Kudos if your grocer carries them!
  • You can substitute monkfruit for palm sugar, coconut sugar, or regular refined table sugar and use the same amount noted in the recipe.
  • You can sub monkfruit for 1/4 cup of organic maple syrup.
  • You can sub monkfruit for 1/4 cup of honey.
  • What does fish sauce taste like? It’s salty. Do not taste it straight. It’s meant to be used in conjunction with food and other ingredients as an enhancement. Some substitute Worcestershire sauce, but it’s not the same in my opinion. If you omit the fish sauce the dish will lack flavor.
  • You can substitute tamarind paste for lime juice. Use enough to suit your taste.
  • Omit the eggs if you wish.
  • Substitute the protein for whatever you wish. You can even use tofu.
  • I like a lot of shrimp, feel free to use however much you want. Blame years of being upset for only receiving 2 shrimp while picking up take out lol.
  • Chicken thighs can be subbed for chicken breasts.
  • You can also use brown rice noodles. These typically have similar macros to standard rice noodles, but our body processes brown rice differently than white rice.
  • You can easily swap out the rice noodles for veggie noodles. Here are my favorites
    • Hearts of Palm: You can find brands here on Amazon and Trader Joe’s carries them as well. This is my FAVORITE pasta substitute. It’s a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees. And it tastes darn good when made into pasta!
    • Zucchini Noodles – Use a spiralizer to create these.
    • Spaghetti Squash 
    • Miracle Noodles – These are shirataki noodles. I have tried them once and they are ok. I’m not a huge fan. People swear by them!
  • Here are the macros if you use Hearts of Palm Linguine (feel free to calculate your own macros using what you use in the recipe): Cals: 293  Fat: 10G Net Carbs: 12G Protein: 26G
Recipe Tools Used in this RecipeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 11g | Sugar: 2g
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Recipe Rating




Lauren

Monday 24th of May 2021

I made a modified version of this - reduced the peanut oil, didn't use shrimp, and subbed lime juice for tamarind paste. (Made a few other minor changes as well to fit it with my macros.) It was still good, but I think it would have been better if I'd made it as instructed. I also didn't cut the chicken into small enough pieces. That said, all the errors were mine, not the recipe's. Definitely worth a try!

staysnatched

Friday 28th of May 2021

Wonderful! Yes, as written, the recipe is fantastic!

Jessica

Sunday 4th of April 2021

YUM! This does not disappoint. I love that Brandi added so much shrimp. There is no fighting over the 2 shrimp that come in the takeout container!! Major note: read the blog post and the WHOLE recipe before you begin. I always make a recipe the first time exactly how the author wrote it. I want to know how it is before I mess with it! I discovered after making this that I DO NOT like bean sprouts, so next time I’ll substitute with something Brandi suggested. Also, make sure you rinse your noodles after cooking! I got distracted and skipped this step... DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKE ... it’s in the recipe for a reason. Also freezes so well!!! Thanks for another great, better than take-out, recipe!

staysnatched

Monday 5th of April 2021

Glad to hear it!

Ashley

Saturday 27th of March 2021

I made this for dinner and it was fantastic!!! I was craving it so bad but didn’t want to go out and buy some, so I remember Brandi had this recipe and I am so glad I tried it and made it!! Definitely going to make this every time I crave pad Thai! SO DELICIOUS

staysnatched

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Great for those cravings.

Erika

Sunday 7th of March 2021

This was by far the best homemade pad thai I've ever made. I have tried several other recipes in the past but they were either too sweet or felt like they were missing "something". As you've outlined, Tamarind and fish sauce make all the difference!

A couple of changes I made: -I ended up doubling the sauce because I added a large red bell pepper (sliced into thin strips) and 2 carrots because my store does not sell bean sprouts. It was a little less traditional, but still delicious.

-One tip I will give if you make double the sauce: don't pour it all in right away because it makes scrambling the eggs difficult. The sauce kept spilling into the raw eggs and it was a mess. I ended up scooping out the raw egg/sauce mess, removing some of the extra sauce out, cracking two new eggs, and adding back in the extra sauce after I mixed the cooked eggs into the noodle mixture. This was totally on me and nothing to do with how Brandi formulated the recipe!

-I used brown sugar instead of the monkfruit sweetener because that is what I had and it turned out well

-I used brown rice noodles and did not taste much of any difference from the white rice noodles

This recipe is for sure going to be added to our go-to recipe list. Thank you, Brandi!

staysnatched

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

Yay! Thank you for sharing all of this!

Ana

Thursday 4th of March 2021

The queen is at it again! When I saw Brandi post this recipe I couldn't wait to try it, and I am now 3 bites in and don't know what took me to long! I was worried I would mess this dish up, since every time I have tried to make pad Thai in the past has been a complete failure, but I shouldn't have been worried because Brandi's recipes & tips always set me up for success. Another hit! Thanks Brandi :)

staysnatched

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

I'm so glad to hear that!