Savory, spicy, and a little sweet, these Vegan Drunken Noodles are the ultimate Thai-inspired dish. These noodles are packed with so much flavor and yet they only take 20 minutes to make!
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Hey Internet, it’s gotta be no secret by now that I love food from different cultures. Curry might be one of my favorite meals.
I grew up in a home where food from other cultures was celebrated and often explored. But I’m not gonna tell you my life story. ;)
No, instead, let’s talk about drunken noodles. Otherwise known as pad kee mao, this spicy dish is popular in Thailand AND in Thai restaurants in the US, though I’m sure the flavors can differ based on different cooks, different recipes, and variety in ingredients.
I know this one is a little less than authentic, partially because it’s vegan so there’s no chicken or fish sauce or anything like that, but also partially because I just couldn’t find some of the ingredients.
In the case that you can, I’ve indicated what might be a more authentic choice, and, in the case that you can’t, which you could substitute if you are limited in grocery selection.
But before we get into those ingredients, I want to take a second and acknowledge that I was inspired by Thai cuisine and Thai dishes that I’ve had, but I don’t know anyone with Thai heritage nor have I been to Thailand, and I certainly don’t want to insinuate that my version is better. It’s simply different, and it’s vegan, so it suits those who don’t want to consume animal products.
That being said, my vegan drunken noodles are totally delicious, so if you want to make them, let’s find out what ingredients you should add to your grocery list.
What You’ll Need
- Wide rice noodles: While fresh rice noodles would probably be the most delicious, they can be difficult to find. I bought these wide “fettuccine style” rice noodles online and they were perfect. But if you can only find a thinner noodle that’s totally fine too.
- Soy curls: These soy curls are what I used as my “chicken” replacement because I find the texture very similar to chicken and they’re easy to cook with--just rehydrate and throw in a pan. Other substitutes include baked or pan-fried super firm tofu, tempeh, seitan chunks (like this vegan seitan chicken), chickpeas, or store-bought chicken alternatives.
- Vegan chicken broth, optional: Speaking of which, when using soy curls as “chicken,” I like to rehydrate them in vegan chicken broth for the best flavor. I love using Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, because it tastes just like chicken. I simply mix 2 teaspoons with 2 cups of hot water and whisk to combine. Carton vegan chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water will all also work instead.
- Thai chilies: Unlike pad see ew (a similar sounding yet different dish), pad kee mao or drunken noodles are often quite spicy. The best chili peppers for vegan pad kee mao are Thai red chilies, but I could only find green and orange by me. Perhaps they would have turned red had I been patient, but come on, I’m not a patient person! Red fresno peppers or jalapenos are a good substitute if you cannot find Thai chilies.
- Basil: Thai Holy Basil would normally be used in this dish. It is authentic and adds some heat, but can be pretty hard to find. I checked Asian stores around my location and couldn’t find it. The next best option apparently is Thai basil, which almost tastes like licorice or anise, but I also couldn’t find that. So, the best option in this case is regular sweet basil that you can find at the grocery store. To make up for it, I used more chilies in our dish.
- Green onions
- Onion or shallots: I like a bit of sweetness here from sweet Vidalia onions, so I used one of those, but a few shallots would also be nice (more pungent), and a bit more authentic.
- Reduced sodium soy sauce: It would be fine to use regular soy sauce here, but I typically always have a large container of reduced sodium soy sauce at home for stir-fries, sushi bowls, etc. If you’re worried about the salt content, use half of the amount I call for and substitute the rest with water.
- Dark soy sauce: This adds a lovely rich and slightly sweet flavor, but it’s OK if you can’t find it. Substitute a tablespoon or the regular (or reduced sodium soy sauce) and a teaspoon or two of molasses (preferred) or any other sweetener.
- Coconut sugar: I was missing a bit of sweetness in the sauce that I remembered from all the times I enjoyed this dish in the past, so I added a bit of coconut sugar. Any sweetener should work in its place.
How to Make Vegan Drunken Noodles
- First, cook your noodles according to package instructions. I boiled mine in a large pot of water until they were tender enough for my liking, then I strained them and rinsed them in a little cool water. It helps if someone can stir the noodles almost constantly while they cook (they only take about 5-7 minutes to cook), because they can stick together (especially the dried noodles, which are the ones I am using in this recipe). If you’re not going to use the noodles within a few minutes of rinsing, I suggest tossing them with a little bit of oil (a neutral oil like grapeseed OR use an appropriately flavored oil like sesame or peanut oil).
- While the noodles are cooking, if you can, start the rest of the dish. Add the soy curls to a medium bowl and cover with the vegan chicken broth (or use vegetable broth or water). When they have rehydrated (about 5-6 minutes), drain off the excess liquid and set aside.
- In a large nonstick pot over medium high heat, add the minced garlic and chilies. You may use oil if you prefer--use a high heat oil such as grapeseed, peanut, or soybean oil, or you may just use a bit of water, and add a splash (a tablespoon or two) whenever anything starts to stick. Cook the garlic and chilies for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a cooking spatula or wooden spoon.
- Add the sweet onion or shallot and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Drain off the rehydrated soy curls (if using vegan chicken broth, reserve the excess liquid in case you need it later in the cooking process (optional)) and add to the pan. Stir and allow them to cook for about 6 minutes. Flip at the 3 minute mark, but otherwise try not to disturb them so they get a little browned on each side (adds a nice texture).
- Now add the cooked noodles, then the sauce, then the green onion. Toss well with silicone tongs or a spoon and cook for a few minutes until the noodles have soaked up any extra sauce. If they soak up a LOT, then you can add a little more using leftover vegan chicken broth if you have it, or a little water (mixed with a touch more soy sauce if you like).
- Finally, add in the basil, stir well, and remove from heat. The basil will wilt slightly but not get too cooked (basil, especially sweet basil, can turn brown and lose flavor when cooked).
- Serve hot and enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
More Asian-Inspired Dishes
I actually hate saying “Asian-inspired” because it lumps so many varied cultures and countries into one term, but I don’t have so many Thai dishes (YET!).
I do, however, have a lot of Chinese-inspired and other countries from Asia-inspired (not sure how to say that, sorry) veganized dishes that you might like if you liked this vegan pad kee mao.
Here’s my absolute faves:
- Vegan General Tso’s Chicken
- Garlic Noodles
- Bang Bang Tofu
- Tofu Adobo
- Vegan Orange Chicken
- Tofu Poke Bowl
- Vegan Beef and Broccoli
- Vegan Kung Pao Chicken
- Veggie Lo Mein (only takes 15 minutes!)
- Vegan Teriyaki Chicken with optional Brussels sprouts
- Vegan Teriyaki Cauliflower Wings (more like Chinese takeout and American fusion)
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. We just LOVE Thai food and this is such a great substitute for when we feel like making our own takeout, especially when we’d like to include a vegan protein.
These Vegan Drunken Noodles are:
- And oh so delicious!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!