Easy Pad Thai Sauce (without tamarind)

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A few pantry staples and a couple of minutes is all it takes to recreate the authentic flavors in Pad Thai Sauce without tamarind. Use this sauce to make this Easiest Pad Thai, but it can be also used with any Pad Thai recipe. 

sauce in a small white bowl with a 1 tablespoon wooden measuring spoon

The sweet and tangy flavors that you love in authentic Pad Thai sauce come from tamarind, a tropical fruit with a tart, slightly sweet taste. But even if you don’t have tamarind, there’s a good chance you already have everything you need in your kitchen to make a really great, and really quick Pad Thai!

This recipe recreates those mouthwatering flavors with a simple blend of fish sauce, tangy lime juice, soy sauce, honey, and spicy garlic-chili sauce. The sauce perfectly coats Pad Thai’s delicate rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, and tender green onions. 

This combination of easy sauce and easy Pad Thai is a great entry point to this dish that I first fell in love with during the five years I lived in Thailand.

And if you’re looking for the full, authentic version of this dish, check out Authentic Pad Thai, made with my Pad Thai Sauce (which includes tamarind). 

What is tamarind?

If you love authentic Pad Thai, you’ve likely heard of tamarind, which is a fruit that is the key ingredient in Pad Thai sauce. The tamarind tree produces little pods of sweet and sour fruit that can be made into a paste and used in dishes like noodles, curries, chutneys, and soups.

stirring sauce with a whisk in a clear glass bowl

How to Make Easy Pad Thai Sauce

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Taste the sauce and adjust as needed, add more honey if you like a sweeter sauce, more soy sauce or fish sauce if you prefer a saltier sauce.
  1. Store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Ingredients

  • Honey – Honey has two roles here. It adds both the sweetness and thickness to the sauce that would typically come from tamarind paste. A slightly thick sauce is perfect for coating Pad Thai noodles. 
  • Lime Juice – For tanginess. Limes can vary in the degree of sour flavor, depending on the variety and how ripe they are.
  • Soy Sauce and Fish Sauce – These combine to add savory, umami flavor to the dish. If you’re sensitive to gluten, use Tamari.
  • Chili-Garlic Sauce Traditional Pad Thai is typically not served spicy (though spicy ingredients are sometimes added at the table), but in this easier version, the sauce benefits from the added dimension of spice and garlic flavor from chili-garlic sauce. If you don’t want any spice in the dish, you can skip it. 
ingredients for pad thai sauce on a grey countertop

Tips

  • Make ahead – Save time on a busy weeknight by making this sauce a week or two ahead of time. Just pull the jar from the refrigerator, and start making your Pad Thai.
  • Taste and adjust – You may notice that I say this throughout the recipe, but it’s super important. The limes may throw off the sour level in the sauce, and you also might have personal flavor preferences that you should take into account. Don’t hesitate to adjust the sauce if you feel like it needs a bit more of something. 

FAQs

Can I use ketchup or Worcestershire sauce for Pad Thai?

Try to stay away from using ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in your Pad Thai. These two popular condiments will produce a sauce that may look a bit like Pad Thai, but will taste nowhere near the real thing.

Is Pad Thai supposed to be spicy?

How spicy, or not, you like your Pad Thai is all a matter of preference. In Thailand it is often completely mild, but you can add spice at the table. 

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pad thai sauce in a white bowl with a wooden measuring spoon

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4.07 from 15 votes

Easy Pad Thai Sauce (without tamarind)

A few pantry staples and a couple of minutes is all it takes to recreate the authentic flavors in Pad Thai Sauce without tamarind.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Equipment

  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients 

  • 3 Tablespoons honey (see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten-free)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (see note)

Instructions 

  • Stir together all ingredients for sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust, adding more honey if you'd like it more sweet, more soy sauce or fish sauce if you'd like it more salty. (Tasting and adjusting the sauce at this stage is important; some limes are more sour than others, so you may need to balance it out.)
  • Store sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Notes

Honey – Honey is really important here – it not only gives the sauce its signature sweetness, but it gives a thick substantial texture that really coats the noodles. For a vegan version, substitute brown sugar or maple syrup.
Fish Sauce – If you want the most authentic umami flavor, don’t skip the fish sauce. If needed, soy sauce, Tamari, or coconut aminos can be used as a substitute. 
Chili Garlic Sauce – I like to use either a Chinese-style chili garlic sauce or Sambal Oelek (some brands include garlic and others are just chilis, vinegar, and salt). Sriracha works well here too. Adjust the amount used according to your spice preference.

Nutrition

Calories: 121kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 0.03g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 2312mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 9IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $2.00
Calories: 121
Keyword: easy sauce, pad thai
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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