This Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai is a simple rendition of a very classic, traditional recipe, swapping rice noodles out for fresh zucchini noodles. Choose whatever protein you’d like, shrimp, chicken or tofu and definitely don’t skip on the tamarind – if you want the full experience.
I have, for as long as I can remember, always loved Pad Thai. Many years ago I discovered it’s beyond easy to whip up at home. Similar to many classic stir-fry dishes, it’s ready in just mere moments and oftentimes, you will spend more time chopping and prepping than the cooking itself. For such a unique, bold dish, it’s ready in under 30 minutes and this version is loaded with veggies, so you get everything you could want in need, in one dish.
Please Don’t Skip Out on the Tamarind
Here’s the thing, I know that the internet is loaded with Pad Thai recipes that leave out the tamarind paste in favor of an “easier” to find ingredient, like ketchup! PLEASE DON’T ADD KETCHUP TO YOUR PAD THAI. It’s not Pad Thai and it’s not even close to being as good. Pad Thai gets it’s classic flavor from the complex taste of tamarind. It’s not to be missed and it cannot be replicated.
Slightly sour, but a little pungent and pleasant, tamarind is easier to find than you might think. It’s commonly found in the Asian section at larger supermarkets, definitely at Asian markets but you you can also just buy it online and a decent sized jar will make you several batches of homemade Pad Thai. From what I read, tamarind can vary wildly, so I take Mark Bittman’s advice and go light with 1 tablespoon and increase as needed, to get the taste I am seeking. It differs nearly every time.
When I make this dish, I opt for lightly salting and sweating the zucchini noodles ahead of time and giving them a good squeeze to remove as much of the water as possible. These steps keep the water they release in the dish to a minimum and since zucchini noodles heat through in just a minute or two, they get added right at the end and they retain just a right amount of crunch so you don’t end up with soggy noodles. The small amount of water they release will appropriately thin the very thick Pad Thai sauce and you won’t end up with a water logged final dish.
I really enjoy this meal with gorgeous wild caught shrimp, but you can also add chicken and of course if you dig it, tofu, which is also traditional to this dish.
- 2 to 3 medium zucchini
- 1 to 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce*
- 3 tablespoon honey or other sweetener (more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pasture-raised eggs
- 4 cups shredded Napa cabbage (regular cabbage will also work)
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- ½ pound peeled and deveined wild caught shrimp*
- ½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- 2 limes, quartered (optional)
- red pepper flakes or thinly sliced hot peppers (optional)
- Using your spiralizer, mandoline slicer, julienne peeler or other veggie noodle maker, cut your zucchini into noodles. Place into a colander or strainer and sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to sit, sweat and drain while you make your sauce and start the cooking.
- Make the Pad Thai Sauce: in a small saucepan, add 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to barely a simmer. Taste and add more tamarind paste, as needed, if desired. It should have a sharp, pungent flavor, but not unpleasantly sour. You can also adjust the sweetness level, as desired. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
- Remove the zucchini noodles from the colander or strainer and with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, gently squeeze as much of the moisture from the noodles, as you can. Set aside.
- Place the ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add the scallions and garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt, then add shrimp.
- When shrimp begin to turn pink add the zucchini noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, just about 1-3 minutes remove from the heat and serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges and additional red pepper flakes.
Leave out the eggs and shrimp, opt for tofu, if you are looking for vegetarian/vegan.
Swap tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos for the fish sauce to be vegetarian/vegan.