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4 January 2021

This drunken noodles recipe (pad kee mao) is a popular Thai dish of stir fried noodles tossed in a savory sauce and hot peppers for wonderful heat. Super easy to make. Ready in 10 minutes!

We’re cooking up a quick and easy spicy noodle dish tonight, my friends, and I believe you’re going to love this one. Everyone loves a good simple recipe that is easy to put together, something we can get on the table fast.

I know I do. 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.

Spicy Drunken Noodles in a pan with chili flakes and green onion

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 booze 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!

Let’s talk about how we make Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao), shall we?

Drunken Noodles in a bowl

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
  • Garlic
  • Chicken breast (or use chicken thighs)
  • Fish sauce
  • Dried rice noodles
  • EXTRAS
  • Green onion
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 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 for garnish

Drunken Noodles in a bowl with chopsticks

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.

Mixing the sauce for making Drunken Noodles

FOR THE DRUNKEN NOODLES.

Onion and Peppers. 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. You can use other peppers at this point to your flavor and heat preference.

Cooking onion and peppers in the pan to make drunken noodles

Garlic and Chicken. Add the garlic, chicken and fish sauce. Stir to coat and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is mostly cooked through.

Cooking chicken in the pan to make drunken noodles

The Noodles. 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.

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.

Stirring Drunken Noodles into the hot pan

Thai Basil. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.

Garnish and Serve. Garnish with extra spicy peppers, red chili flakes and serve.

Spicy Drunken Noodles in a pan

Boom! Done! Your drunken noodles are ready to serve. Looks wonderful, doesn’t it? I believe I can eat this whole pan. I just love this recipe. So quick and easy. And wonderfully spicy the way I make it!

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 noodles, 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 on 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.

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your drunkard noodles. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!

Mike taking drunken noodles from the bowl

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

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)
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5 from 4 votes

Drunken Noodles Recipe (Pad Kee Mao)

This drunken noodles recipe (pad kee mao) is a popular Thai dish of stir fried noodles tossed in a savory sauce and hot peppers for wonderful heat. Super easy to make. Ready in 10 minutes!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Thai
Keyword: bird's eye peppers, noodles, spicy, thai, thai peppers
Servings: 4
Calories: 355kcal

Ingredients

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

EXTRAS

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

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 with less heat. Skip the chili flakes. Feel free to add in more for more pronounced heat.

Nutrition

Calories: 355kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 1181mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 663IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2mg
Drunken Noodles Recipe (Pad Kee Mao)

8 comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this a few nights ago, and it was fantastic. Today for lunch I had the leftovers, and it was even better. Thanks for the great recipe.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Nice! Definitely love this one. Glad you enjoyed it, Mike!

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Mike – haven’t commented in awhile. I receive your newsletters (and actually read them) so thanks for all of the great recipes.
    This said, there is a phenomenal Thai restaurant near where I live and my favorite dish is their Drunken Noodles. I’ve tried to replicate their recipe prob 15 – 20 times over the years and have never come close. I made your recipe last night — followed the recipe to a T (I used Thai Chili’s) and this is EXACTLY like theirs — it is truly amazing! Thank you SO SO SO much for posting this. We had leftovers tonight and will probably make this again in a few days – it’s that good! Happy and a very healthy New Year!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thank you, Maura. This is very nice to hear. I’m super happy you enjoy it. All the best!!

  3. 5 stars
    had this, this evening – instead of sriracha i used a homemade sauce (by a friend from Singapore) that she calls ‘chicken rice sauce’ – minced habanero, ginger and garlic – loved your sauce recipe, really made it better than noodles from the takeaway

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent, Gary! Glad you enjoyed it. We both love this recipe. Super tasty!

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