This drunken noodles recipe (pad kee mao) is a popular Thai dish. Stir fried noodles are tossed in a savory sauce with hot peppers for wonderful heat. Super easy to make and ready in 10 minutes!
We're cooking up a quick and easy spicy noodle dish tonight, my friends! Everyone loves a good simple recipe that's easy to put together, something we can get on the table fast. Bonus points for making it spicy, as I know you love. Busy times call for recipes like these, and besides, great flavor doesn't have to mean a lot of time in the kitchen.
This particular dish is called drunken noodles. It's a Thai recipe comparable to the well-known dish pad Thai, though Thai drunken noodles are typically spicier and not as nutty in flavor. You'll often find drunken noodles in Thai restaurants, though it is so easy to make at home, and you can customize the flavors and particularly the spicy elements to your own preferences.
You'll never want to order out for Thai food again.
What are Drunken Noodles?
Drunken noodles, aka "pad kee mao", is a popular Thai dish of rice noodles tossed in a savory, spicy sauce along with stir fried vegetables. Despite the name, there is no alcohol in the recipe. The origin of the name is ambiguous, though it seems to be associated with late night drinking because of the dish's pleasurable spiciness.
The recipe is typically made with wide rice noodles along with both light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce, chili peppers for their characteristic heat and holy basil, though many use Thai basil.
Of course you'll find many variations from cook to cook. Drunken noodles can be easily customized with different meats and vegetables. You'll most often find it with either chicken or shrimp, and the vegetables can vary wildly.
It is best to make it to your own flavor preferences. Below is how I enjoy making it, though I often vary it up based on what I have in the refrigerator at the time. It's great for certain leftovers that I want to use up.
Nothing goes to waste!
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) Ingredients
For the sauce:
- Oyster Sauce
- Light Soy Sauce
- Dark Soy Sauce
- Sriracha - Or other hot sauce to your personal tastes.
- Sugar - Brown sugar is fine here.
- Fresh Garlic
For the drunken noodles:
- Peanut Oil - Or other neutral oil.
- Bird’s Eye Chilies - Or use serrano peppers or other hotter peppers to your preference, or use bell peppers for a mild version.
- White Onion
- Chicken Breasts or Thighs - Thinly sliced chicken or cubed chicken.
- Fish Sauce
- Dried Rice Noodles
- Green Onion
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Fresh Thai Basil Leaves - Or use Holy Basil if you can find it. Italian Basil is good to use as well, though offers different flavors.
- Spicy Peppers and Red Chili Flakes
How to Make Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) - the Recipe Method
Make the sauce. Whisk together the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sriracha, sugar and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
Onion and Peppers. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large skillet to high heat. Add the chilies and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften. You can use other peppers at this point to your flavor and heat preference.
Garlic and chicken. Add the chicken, garlic, and fish sauce. Stir to coat and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is mostly cooked through.
The noodles. Add the noodles to boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes until softened, or cook noodles according to packaging directions. Drain, then stir into the wok or pan.
The sauce. Add the reserved sauce and stir to coat, along with the chopped green onion and cherry tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes to thicken up.
Thai basil. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.
Garnish and serve. Garnish with extra spicy peppers, red chili flakes and serve.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Heat Factor. Hot! You’ll get some very nice heat from the bird’s eye chilies. If you’d like a milder version, dial back on the peppers or use peppers that aren't quite as hot. Skip the chili flakes. Feel free to add in more for more pronounced heat. If you're looking for spicier versions, try hot Thai peppers, or go with something even hotter like ghost peppers.
- The Noodles. Wide rice noodles are more traditionally used to make drunken noodle, though you can use others. If you can't find rice noodles in your grocery store or Asian market, consider spaghetti noodles or fettuccini, or even egg noodles. Most noodles will work in a pinch.
- The Meats. I am using chopped boneless chicken for this dish, though you can easily sub in other proteins, like pork, beef, fish or shellfish. I love it with chopped steak, like flank steak or ribeye, and also shrimp. Try it with firm tofu for a vegetarian version.
- The Basil. I've seen many arguments about which basil is best for making drunken noodles. Holy basil is more commonly used, though many others use Thai basil. There is a flavor difference between them, with holy basil offering more hints of licorice and Thai basil offering more cinnamon-like flavors. Really, the choice is yours. Both can be difficult to find in the U.S. More common Italian basil is an acceptable substitute, though it does offer a unique flavor of its own. For me, it is better than having no basil at all.
- Other Vegetables. You can very easily toss in many different vegetables to your preference for this recipe to make it more enjoyable. Try it with baby corn, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, spinach, you name it. Veggies are absolutely delicious here
Once it totally cools to room temp, you can store leftover pad kee mao in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave, stirring each time it stops, until warmed all the way through. Or, toss it back in a pan over medium-low heat and stir until warmed through.
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Drunken Noodles Recipe (Pad Kee Mao)
FOR THE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1-1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons sriracha to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
FOR THE DRUNKEN NOODLES
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other neutral oil
- 2-3 bird’s eye chilies chopped (or use serrano peppers or other hotter peppers to your preference)
- 1 small white onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic mince
- 8 ounces chicken breast chopped (or use chicken thighs)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 8 ounces dried rice noodles
- 1 cup chopped green onion
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- Fresh Thai basil leaves use a good handful
- Extra spicy peppers and red chili flakes for garnish
- FOR THE SAUCE. Whisk together the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sriracha, sugar and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
- FOR THE DRUNKEN NOODLES. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large pan to high heat. Add the chilies and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic, chicken and fish sauce. Stir to coat and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is mostly cooked through.
- Set the rice noodles into boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes until softened, or to the packaging directions. Drain, then stir into the wok or pan.
- Add the reserved sauce and stir to coat, along with the chopped green onion and cherry tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes to thicken up.
- Remove from heat and stir in the basil.
- Garnish with extra spicy peppers, red chili flakes and serve.