Pad Thai Sauce

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Want to easily make authentic Pad Thai at home? The key thing you need is a jar of this homemade Pad Thai Sauce in your fridge and you can have fresh, amazing, Authentic Pad Thai any night for dinner at a fraction of the cost of takeout.

a spoon dipped in a jar of pad thai tamarind sauce

It’s been quite saucy around here. First it was this sweet and sour goodness, then Thai peanut sauce (yum), and then tamarind paste which….well….isn’t technically a sauce. But it IS the foundation of the sauce we’re making today.

We can’t resist going heavy on the sauces when it comes to Thai home cooking. All of these sauces are building blocks for so many other delicious meals. We’ve currently got a refrigerator stocked with sauces and I’m giddy about all the possibilities. Even just opening the door reminds me of the five years we lived in Thailand and all of the incredible food we ate while there.

If you really want to start making your favorite Thai food at home, Pad Thai Sauce is a great place to start. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this: if you are short on time but craving delicious homemade Pad Thai, check out my Easy Pad Thai recipe, which includes this Pad Thai Sauce without Tamarind.

Now, on to how to make your own Pad Thai Sauce!

overhead image of pad thai noodles with simp and Chinese chives

Ingredients for Pad Thai Sauce

  • Tamarind Paste – The key ingredient in Classic Pad Thai is tamarind paste. It is sweet, tart, and nothing else tastes quite like it. Read everything you need to know about how to make tamarind paste here.
  • Fish Sauce and Soy Sauce – The savory, rich flavors of fish sauce and soy sauce balance the sweetness in the sauce.
  • Palm Sugar – This is the original sweetener used in Thailand. It has a sweet, caramel flavor that is more nuanced than white sugar. If you don’t have palm sugar, you can use alternative sweeteners like light brown sugar or honey, but you may need to adjust the sauce a bit as these may taste more sweet than palm. See below for more details.
a glass bowl with a whisk and a dark red tamarind-based pad thai sauce

What is Palm Sugar?

Palm sugar is sugar extracted from any type of palm tree. This includes coconut palm trees as well as many other palm trees. It is a rich golden color and can be purchased in firm hard disks or softened into a paste.

Most Asian grocery stores carry a variety of palm sugars. For the best Pad Thai Sauce look for palm sugar with no added ingredients. It should say 100% palm sugar.

How to Measure Palm Sugar

If your palm sugar is in firm disks, you’ll want to soften it in order to measure it. Use a sharp knife to slice off slivers of the disk. Add 1 Tablespoon water and microwave until the sugar melts or heat in a small saucepan until softened. Light brown sugar or honey have a more one-dimensional sweet flavor but can be used as a substitute.

How to Store Pad Thai Sauce

Pad Thai Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.

glass jar full of pad thai sauce with lime wedges and rice noodles in the background

Ways to Use Pad Thai Sauce

Of course, the go-to way to use Pad Thai Sauce is in homemade Pad Thai! But if you have leftover sauce or want to use these great flavors in other ways, try one of these:

  • Add it to a stir-fry with chicken and vegetables
  • Toss it with seared tofu
  • Whisk it into olive oil for a great salad dressing (try it on this Thai chopped salad)
  • Make lettuce wraps with it

Endless possibilities, I tell ya!

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weck jar of dark red sauce with a spoon
4 from 27 votes

Pad Thai Sauce Recipe

An authentic Pad Thai sauce for making your favorite Pad Thai recipe.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes

Equipment

  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup tamarind paste (see note)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated palm sugar or light brown sugar (see note)

Instructions 

  • Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the sauce starts to simmer and the palm sugar is completely dissolved, move the pan off the heat.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust it to fit your taste. Some people like their sauce a bit more sweet, so if that's you, add a bit more sugar and simmer for another minute. If you prefer a bit more salty/umami flavor, add a bit more soy or fish sauce. You can also add a bit of lime zest if you like a more pronounced citrus flavor.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or freeze for 6 months.

Notes

Tamarind paste – You can purchase store-bought tamarind paste or prepare it yourself (preferred for the best flavor) using these instructions
Sugar – For truly authentic flavor, use palm sugar. Palm sugar is available at specialty Asian / Thai markets and is often sold in rounded disks. (Look for palm sugar with no added ingredients, it should say 100% palm sugar.) To measure the palm sugar, place it in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 Tablespoon water and microwave until the sugar melts or heat in a small saucepan until softened. Light brown sugar or honey have a more one-dimensional sweet flavor but can be used as a substitute. Due to the differences in sweetness and flavor of these ingredients, it is critical that you taste your pad thai sauce and adjust to fit your preferences. 

Nutrition

Serving: 3g | Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 857mg | Potassium: 174mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 7IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 30mg | 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: 99
Keyword: DIY Thai, homemade sauce, homemade 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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18 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have a question. I started to make this recipe, and before I could put it on the stove to simmer, I got a phone call and had to rush out of the house. I put the sauce mixture in a plastic container and placed it in the fridge hoping I could get back to it …. that was almost 3 weeks ago. Assuming that all of the ingredients in the sauce have a very long shelf life in the fridge can I still use the sauce and finish the recipe on the stove top? I used the Paleo instructions. I bought all the ingredients new, and don’t want to waste them. Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    This PAD THAI SAUCE is so flavorful! I used a Coconut Aminos Soy-Free Seasoning Sauce that I bought from Karman Foods, as an alternative, and the taste was absolutely delicious!

        1. Correct – thanks Nikki. I only recommend Tamari for a gluten-free option. Those with a soy allergy will need to use another substitution like those you mention.

  3. I ran out of tamarind paste, but had some tamarind chutney on hand. It’s strong so I just used a tbsp. and a smidge. Also, I like to put a little peanut butter in my pad Thai sauce. Creamy goodness!

  4. It would be beneficial to differentiate the difference in amount of tamarind paste vs. concentrate in your notes before the recipe, or perhaps to list it right in the recipe (tamarind paste 1 cup, tamarind concentrate 1/3 cup) so that people don’t make the mistake of unknowingly using 1 cup of concentrate and making a very overpowering not so good sauce.

  5. I clearly did somthing wrong because this is so sour there is no way it is right. Are you sure i need 1 cup of paste because it is over powering!

    1. Hi Ben. I’m sure you didn’t do anything wrong! Taste preferences vary enormously, as does the sourness of the tamarind. Did you make the tamarind paste yourself or use a store-bought version? The tamarind you use can dramatically affect the flavor, which is why the most important step is to taste the sauce and adjust to your taste preferences. If you get a sauce that’s much too sour for your preference, definitely add sugar until it reaches the balance you’d like.

  6. What would the measurements be using the Tamarind concentrate for this recipe? I didn’t think I would use a cup of that! Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Kate. You’re exactly right – you need to use less if using tamarind concentrate. Generally speaking, I use a 1:3 ratio, so I’d use 1/3 a cup tamarind concentrate mixed with 2/3 cup water. Definitely taste and adjust the sauce as you go. I find tamarind concentrate to vary widely in flavor / concentration, so just be flexible with the measurements as you make the sauce.

      1. Kate – one other thing I wanted to mention is that the texture of tamarind concentrate and tamarind paste are quite different. As you can see in the photos, the paste is quite thick, though I find the flavor to be more sweet and less sour than most commercially available tamarind concentrates. I do find tamarind concentrate to be quite tart and often very strong in taste, BUT the concentrate is often a liquid. The result is that Pad Thai Sauce made with concentrate will usually be very thin compared to that made with paste. Either way though, just taste and adjust as you go!