Have you ever thought about what really makes Pad Thai so flavorful? Yes, friends, the actual secret lies within its sauce! Thus, let’s learn everything about the delicious Pad Thai sauce and its ingredients.

Pad Thai sauce is about balancing three primary flavors: sweet, salty, and sour. Therefore, it typically includes a sweetener, a souring agent, and a salty ingredient. Accordingly, an authentic Pad Thai sauce typically has the following:

In addition to these key elements, we can also find vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, hot sauce (sriracha), paprika, etc., in some variants. 

So, read along to learn what makes this Pad Thai sauce so special.

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Pad Thai Sauce And Its Ingredients

Like many other Thai foods, Pad Thai, too, has its own secret tastemaker- Pad Thai sauce. The authentic Pad Thai sauce is usually made with a few simple ingredients. But, sometimes, a few more additional components can be found and changed upon the cook.

While most prefer making the Pad Thai sauce as one of the initial and primary stages when making Pad Thai, some go for store-bought options when they need a quick prep. However,  in any Pad Thai sauce, the flavor balance of sweet, salty, and sour elements is the most crucial factor. And every option would contain at least one ingredient that represents each flavor.

So, let’s have a look at the authentic ingredients used in this sauce.

01- Palm sugar 

This is the sweetener of this sauce. Palm sugar is one of the most widely used sweeteners in Thai cooking. It tends to contain a lesser glucose level; therefore, it is also considered healthier than regular sugar. 

But, once we come towards Western cuisine, we see that many recipes include regular white sugar or brown sugar in place of palm sugar.

02- Tamarind

Being the next essential ingredient, tamarind delivers the sourness of this sauce. Traditionally, tamarind pulp is mixed with a bit of water, and then the concentrate is added to the sauce. 

But still, we can come across recipes that use tamarind paste or premade concentrate. However, the basic requirement here is to get the unique tartness of this fruit.

03- Fish Sauce 

A sauce within a sauce! Yes, that’s what is exciting about Pad Thai sauce. This ingredient offers the ultimate salty, umami punch that the Pad Thai sauce requires, perfectly balancing out the sweetness and tartness of the sugar and tamarind. 

It is fishy, but all in a good way, proving the uniqueness of this dish it calls for. And those who prefer vegan Pad Thai tend to substitute fish sauce with soy sauce.

Other Pad Thai Sauce Ingredients

In addition to these three ingredients that often show up in an authentic Pad Thai sauce, there are a few more ingredients that are commonly used. And they are:

Moreover, premade Pad Thai sauce options may include:

  • Pure cane sugar
  • Soy sauce
  • Corn oil/ soybean oil
  • Salt
  • Corn starch/ Tapioca starch
  • Yeast extract
  • Tomato paste
  • Preserved radish
  • Citric acid
  • Xanthan gum
  • Chives
  • Other artificial flavorings, color additives, and preservatives

Need more insights into Pad Thai and its ingredients? Click on this link and refer to this detailed post to learn everything about this flavorful dish.

Simple Homemade Pad Thai Sauce Recipe

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Recipe by SpiceRally


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If your family loves Pad Thai, you may have to prepare this dish quite often in your kitchen. The Pad Thai sauce could be made during the process of making Pad Thai. But still, it will save you a ton of money and time if you make a bigger batch of this sauce and store it to be used each time you make Pad Thai.

So, here’s a simple yet flavorful recipe that you can make from scratch and store to make up to eight batches of Pad That. Let’s get started!

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  • Spices:
  • 1 head 1 Garlic (finely chopped)

  • 1/8 tsp 1/8 White pepper (ground, optional)

  • Other ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp 2 Vegetable oil

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 Tamarind paste

  • 4.9 oz 4.9 Palm sugar (roughly chopped)

  • 1 cup 1 Shallots (finely chopped)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 Fish sauce

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 Sriracha sauce (optional)

  • Equipment:
  • 1 1 Saucepan

  • 1 1 Wooden spoon

  • 1 1 Tight-fitting Jar


  • Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat and saute the chopped garlic and onion until soft and translucent for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan and set it aside.
  • Then, set the same saucepan over medium heat and add the chopped sugar. Cook the sugar, stirring until it melts and dissolves. You may cook it and let it caramelize a little further until the sugar turns slightly dark brown. Keep a close look not to let it turn to dark brown.
  • Turn off the heat and add the tamarind paste. At this point, your pan will sizzle vigorously, and the sugar will instantly harden.
  • Next, turn the flame back to low flame and add the fish sauce. Sugar will start to dissolve again, and do not worry if you feel a few chunks of sugar at this point; they will dissolve eventually.
  • Turn off the heat once you feel the sugar is almost dissolved. Stir in the garlic, shallots, white pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well until everything comes together nicely.
  • Let the sauce cool down for a while, and pour it into a well-fitting glass jar.
  • Mix 1 ½ tablespoons of water into each portion when you use it when making Pad Thai.
  • Store this sauce in a well-fitting glass jar in the refrigerator, and it will stay flavorful for up to 3 months.


  • The primary ingredients of this sauce are palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. So, remember that you should NOT skip them, even if you skip white pepper and sriracha sauce.
  • Since you have already included garlic and shallots in the sauce, you can use less or no garlic and shallots when making the main Pad Thai dish. It is totally up to your preference!
  • You can use brown sugar in place of palm sugar and red chili flakes as a substitute for sriracha sauce.
  • Use a good quality light soy sauce in place of fish sauce if you need to make the vegetarian version of this sauce.

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Is Pad Thai Sauce Vegan-Friendly?

Authentic Pad Thai sauce is not considered vegan-friendly since it contains fish sauce as a primary ingredient. But, still, you can find vegan options for this sauce that have replaced soy sauce with fish sauce.

Is Pad Thai Sauce Gluten-Free?

Traditional Pad Thai sauce does not use any gluten-related ingredients. But you might sometimes find gluten traces in store-bought options. The best thing is to read the list of ingredients on the label if you are concerned or sensitive to gluten.

Does Pad Thai Sauce Contain MSG?

Homemade Pad Thai sauce recipes do not typically include MSG in them. But sometimes, you might find this ingredient in pre-made options, and the restaurant would use MSG to enhance the flavor. So, inquire from the relevant parties if you are concerned before purchasing.

Is Pad Thai Sauce Keto-Friendly?

Since the sauce contains a lot of sugar, this would not be a favorable option for those who follow a ketogenic diet.

A Good Pad Thai Sauce Will Always Rock Your Whole Pad Thai Meal!

The best Pad Thai sauce options always balance the three flavors- sweet, sour, and salty- in a way that no other sauce could do! An authentic Pad Thai sauce often includes tamarind paste, palm sugar, and fish sauce to meet this flavor parameter. You can buy this sauce from the store, but making your own batch at home will allow you to control everything that goes in your sauce.

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