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This easy, less-than-30-minute recipe for Beef Pad Thai with Crunchy Peanuts is a beautiful bowl of tender beef and silky rice noodles with dry-roasted peanuts in a delicious creamy sauce.
Beef Pad Thai is a stir fry dish with savory, sweet flavor made with rice noodles and thin slices of steak. The sauce can be mild or spicy, depending on your preference.
Tamarind paste, a basic ingredient in traditional Pad Thai, is not always readily available at mainstream grocery stores.
Instead, to avoid a trip to the Asian market, my easy Beef Pad Thai recipe uses a tablespoon of ketchup, extra rice wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to mimic the sweet, tangy tamarind paste flavor.
Not only that, these Beef Pad Thai noodles gets added umami (savory) flavor from a healthy splash of fish sauce, a staple in stir fry cooking.
Looking for more delicious 30-minute stir fry meals? My Sriracha Chicken Stir Fry with tender chicken and caramelized Brussels sprouts in a spicy sweet honey sriracha sauce is popular among my friends. Or, my Easy Orange Chicken Stir Fry cooks in a to-die-for homemade soy-honey sauce.
Why you’re going to love it!
- Easy to make. Prep and cook, all in 30 minutes.
- Salty and sweet. Irresistible flavor combination from the sweet sauce and salty peanuts.
- Family friendly. Kids love these saucy noodles!
Beef Pad Thai: behind the recipe
Pad Thai is probably the most popular stir fry noodle dish served by street food vendors and restaurants across Thailand. Cooked quickly in a salty and sweet sauce, Pad Thai beef dishes have gained popularity here in the U.S. as well.
Today’s recipe will show you how to make easy beef pad Thai at home with ingredients you can easily find at your local grocery.
Key ingredients & substitutions
- Dried Pad Thai rice noodles (or linguine) — Made with rice and water, Pad Thai rice noodles are soft and silky. They are not cooked like pasta, but instead are softened by pouring boiling water over them in a bowl to soak for about 10 minutes.
- Sirloin steak, thinly sliced — or a flat iron steak will work
- Rice wine vinegar — or use an equal amount of white wine vinegar, adding 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to replace the sweetness in the rice wine vinegar
- Fish sauce — A bit pungent (it is made from FISH after all), fish sauce adds earthy, savory flavor. Red Boat Fish Sauce is the one I prefer.
- Worcestershire sauce — added to the sauce (along with ketchup) instead tamarind paste to add tangy flavor
- Ketchup — added to the sauce (along with Worcestershire sauce) instead tamarind paste to add sweet, tomato flavor
- Peanut butter — to enhance the peanut flavor in the sauce
- Carrots — julienned (or buy matchstick/shredded carrots in the produce aisle to save on prep time)
- Bean sprouts — optional, but if you like them, add 1 can, drained
- Dry roasted peanuts — for crunch
- Fresh cilantro — or sliced green onions, for garnish
How to make Beef Pad Thai with peanut sauce
STEP 1 | Soak the rice noodles
- Pour boiling water over the noodles in a large bowl and let stand 8 to 10 minutes, until soft, but still firm. Drain well.
- Don’t be tempted to cook the rice noodles as you would regular pasta or they’ll become mushy.
- If Pad Thai noodles are not available at your grocery, you may substitute cooked linguine noodles.
STEP 2 |Prep the ingredients
- Practice mise en place. The dish comes together so quickly that you’ll want to practice mise en place—measuring and gathering all the ingredients needed ahead of time—so that you’re ready to go once you heat up the wok.
- Whisk. In a small bowl combine sherry vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, peanut butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes for the sauce.
- Slice. Cutting the steak across the grain is the secret to getting tender pieces of meat.
- Chop. Julienne carrots slice scallions, and cut a lime into wedges.
- How do cut across the grain in meat? First, look for long parallel lines or muscle fiber, in the meat. Hold your knife perpendicular to those lines — the grain — and slice.
STEP 3 | Stir fry
- Heat up the wok. Specifically designed for fast cooking at a high temperature, a wok cooks on the bottom and even up the sides. Use canola oil, peanut oil, or avocado oil with a high smoke point.
- Sear the meat. Add the steak and stir until it is cooked through.
- Toss in the rest. All at once, add the carrots, bean sprouts, drained noodles, and sauce. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
STEP 4 | Garnish
- Ladle into bowls and top with dry-roasted peanuts, green onions or scallions, and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.
- Serve with a lime wedge — a squeeze of lime juice brightens up all the flavors.
Frequently asked questions
Many Thai dishes are prepared with a variety of spicy hot chili peppers, but this Beef Pad Thai recipe is mild with a pleasant sweet and tangy flavor.
Obviously, for today’s recipe we’re using beef, specifically a sirloin steak. That being said, you could easily substitute slices of chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or even shrimp.
Although stir-frying is best done in the wok, a deep 12-inch skillet may also be used for cooking this recipe.
Beef Pad Thai with Crunchy Peanuts
- 8 ounces thick rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound sirloin steak thinly sliced
- ½ cup matchstick carrots
- 1 14-oz. can bean sprouts, drained
- ½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
- 3 scallions thinly sliced, white and green parts
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro optional
- 1 lime cut into wedges, for serving
- Place the noodles in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover and let stand 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The noodles should be soft, but firm. Drain well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, peanut butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes until smooth.
- In a large skillet or a wok over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the sliced steak and cook, stirring, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the bean sprouts, the drained noodles, and the sauce mixture, cooking and stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the dry-roasted peanuts and scallions. Top with the cilantro, if desired.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.