Thai Foods Ep.4

Pad Thai Sauce Recipe - Make Pad Thai in 5 Mins!

by Thomas M. Tillman


An authentic pad thai sauce is actually very simple. There are technically only 3 ingredients: the sweet, the salty and the sour. But because we want this to be a time-saver, I've also add the shallots and the garlic into the sauce so we don't have to chop and sauté them on the day.
A tray of pad thai sauce ingredients
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Tamarind paste
  • Fish sauce
  • Palm sugar


Whenever you cook Thai food, I recommend that you make tamarind paste from pulp for the best flavour. But if you are going to buy it instead, make sure it's a product of Thailand or Vietnam and not a product of India. Thai and Vietnamese tamarind paste is a loose brown liquid, whereas Indian "tamarind concentrate" is a thick black paste that is much more concentrated. It is a different product and should not be used when cooking Thai food.


You might be tempted to add as many things as possible for max efficiency, but some things are better left out:
  • Dried shrimp. If I let the dried shrimp sit and infuse their flavour into the sauce for a long time, I find that the final dish is permeated with too much shrimpiness. Yes, things can be too shrimpy, even for me!!
  • The same goes for the sweet preserved radish if you're using it - it was too strong.
  • Tofu would absorb too much flavour from the sauce, and will likely shorten the shelf life of the sauce as well.
  • Peanuts lose their crunch in the liquid.
A mason jar of pad thai sauce with masking tape on it labelled "¼ c/p + 1.5 T H2O"
Pre-made pad thai sauce is better than any store-bought version, and it lasts a long time in the fridge! Don't forget to label the jar with the amount needed per serving (in this case ¼ cup/person) and how much water to add.

How to Make Pad Thai Sauce

Here's an overview of hot to make pad thai sauce in advance. It's relatively simple, but be sure to watch the video tutorial with it's extra tips to ensure success.
Process for making pad thai sauce steps 1-4
  1. Saute shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant.
  2. Remove from the pot.
  3. In the same pot melt the palm sugar.
  4. Keep cooking until the sugar darkens slightly in colour.
Process for making pad thai sauce steps 5-8
  1. Once the sugar reaches a caramel colour, add the tamarind paste to stop the cooking.
  2. Add the fish sauce and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the shallots and garlic back in and stir to mix.
  4. Keep it in a jar and it will last at least 3 months in the fridge.

Storing Leftovers

Once you've got the pad thai sauce made, you can use it right away, and the rest needs to be kept in a sealed container in the fridge. It should last at least 3 months in the fridge. If you need to, you can also freeze the sauce, and I would recommend dividing it into portions before freezing for easy usage. You can freeze them in ice cube trays and then leave a note for yourself how many cubes you will need per serving.

How to Make Pad Thai in 5 Minutes

In essence, pad thai is a noodle stir fry, and like most noodle stir fries, it is very quick to cook. What takes time is the prep. Making the sauce in advance is just "level 1 preparedness," but you can save even more time by prepping more of the ingredients. If you do enough prep and get to "level 4" you can literally make pad thai on a weeknight in 5 minutes! *One note: if your pre-cooked protein is fridge-cold, add it a bit earlier than I did in this video to give it time to heat up. I would toss it with the noodles once the sauce has been absorbed, and before you add the eggs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I just buy pre-made pad thai sauce from the store?

Trust me, you don't want to. I have seen many brands of bottled pad thai sauce on store shelves, and I have never come across one that comes close to the authentic flavour of real pad thai. Most of these sauces are overly sweet, and use cheap ingredients that compromise the flavour.

For example, instead of palm sugar they use granulated white sugar. Instead of fish sauce they add salt and maybe even soy sauce which is not the right flavour. And instead of using all tamarind they will mix in white vinegar or rice vinegar which is much cheaper. They also often add a lot of additives and colour that are totally not necessary. Pad thai sauce uses only a few ingredients, and the store that sells the bottled sauce probably also sells all the ingredients you need to make a much better one yourself!
How do I store pad thai sauce and how long does it last?

You should keep the pad thai sauce well-sealed in the fridge, and it should last you at least 3 months, and probably much longer. (I have just never had it any longer than that). There is a lot of sugar, acid, and salt in the sauce, all of which are ingredients that help preserve food.

Can I freeze pad thai sauce?

You can, but there is probably no need to as it lasts quite a long time in the fridge.

How can I make a vegetarian pad thai sauce?

You can substitute the fish sauce with either a good brand of vegetarian fish sauce or an equal amount of soy sauce (preferably Thai, but otherwise you should get good quality light soy sauce).

How much of the sauce do I need to use when making pad thai?

This recipe makes enough sauce for 8 servings. It's important to highlight "MY" here, because if you use another pad thai recipe it might have a different portion size, which will then need a different amount of sauce.

So, as I've indicated in the recipe, you'll need to measure the final volume of the sauce and divide it by 8 - which is how you'll know the volume of sauce needed per serving. I don't just give you the volume of sauce you need here because everyone will end up with a slightly different amount of garlic and shallots, (not to mention different amounts of evaporation), so the volume needed will differ from batch to batch.
Why do I need to add water to the sauce when I cook pad thai?

In order to reduce bulk for storage, I've omitted the water from the sauce. So when you make your pad thai, you'll need to add 1 ½ Tbsp of water per serving , in order for the noodles to have enough moisture to cook in. If space is not an issue, you can add the water to the sauce before storing.


  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1.75 oz chopped garlicabout 1 head
  • 4 oz chopped shallotabout 1 cup
  • 4.9 oz palm sugarroughly chopped
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ¾ - 1 cup tamarind pastesee note
  • chili flakesto taste (optional)


The sourness of tamarind paste varies significantly from brand to brand; and if you  make it yourself it tends to be more sour. So I would taste the paste, and if it makes you pucker, use ¾ cup. If not, add 1 cup.  If it turns out not to be sour enough in the finished dish, you can make it up with more lime juice.


  • In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and shallots, and saute until soft and translucent - about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pot.
    2 Tbsp oil,1.75 oz chopped garlic,4 oz chopped shallot
  • Return the pot to the stove over medium heat, then add the palm sugar and let it cook until it melts; pressing on any hard chunks to help them dissolve more quickly. After it melts, let it cook a little further until it caramelizes into a slightly darker brown for a richer flavour, being careful not to let it get too dark.
    4.9 oz palm sugar
  • Turn off the heat then add the tamarind paste; it will bubble aggressively and the sugar will harden initially. Turn the heat back on to low to help the sugar dissolve and add the fish sauce. Turn off the heat after the sugar is mostly dissolved; don't worry about a few chunks left over, they will dissolve eventually.
    ¾ - 1 cup tamarind paste,½ cup fish sauce
  • Stir the garlic and shallots back in and let cool. You can also add the chili flakes at this stage if you wish to make it spicy.
    chili flakes
  • Measure the volume of the sauce by pouring it into a liquid measuring cup. Divide the volume by 8 to get the amount of sauce you need per serving (if using my pad thai recipe). Write this number down and tape it to the container of the sauce, also note on the label that you need to add 1 ½ Tbsp of water per serving when you cook.