This pad thai peanut sauce has the perfect creamy, lip-smacking umami flavor that you find in Thai takeout food, but without all the MSG and preservatives. Made from all natural ingredients, this is a peanut sauce you can feel good about!
Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes. The creamy, sauce-laden noods tossed with tender chicken and topped with green onions and bean sprouts for a bit of crunch...mmmm. Most of us love the flavor, but none of us love the way it leaves us feeling afterwards, amiright?
You know the flavor. The chemical laden, MSG flavor that comes with all oriental takeout food. My favorite thai restaurant is hit or miss - sometimes we order and I feel fine, other days we order and I feel terrible.
So I set out to create a Pad Thai peanut sauce recipe that uses simple ingredients and didn't leave me feeling terrible the next day. And friends - I have delivered.
(If you're not looking for a recipe and don't feel like making your own, here's a great peanut free option - Thai Almond Sauce from Thrive Market.
If you're ready to taste homemade peanut sauce perfection, read on!)
What pad means in Thai food
The word "pad," as it refers to Thai food, means stir fry. So, "Pad Thai" would refer to stir fry from Thailand.
More interestingly, Pad Thai isn't even really of Thai origin - it's more related to Chinese cuisine than anything else.
And in Thailand, they refer to it as a Chinese noodle dish. Leave it to America to make up their own narrative regarding another country's food and cuisine!
What goes in pad thai peanut sauce
Many pad thai peanut sauce recipes include something called tamarind paste. Tamarind is a sweet, tangy fruit, and the pulp of the fruit is used to make a paste.
You can purchase tamarind paste in the store or on Amazon - however, my recipe does not use it, and I promise you won't even miss it!
Here is your pad thai peanut sauce cast of characters:
Peanut butter or (other nut butter - more on that later), toasted sesame oil, fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, coconut milk, coconut sugar, and red chili pepper flakes.
I prefer to use fresh ingredients whenever possible. Most of these ingredients can be found in your local grocery store. That said, there are a couple I am pretty particular about:
Red Boat fish sauce is the only brand of fish sauce I use - it's the freshest you'll find. Its ingredients contain only black anchovy and sea salt and contains no added water, msg, or preservatives.
It's even Whole30 friendly! You can find it on Thrive Market here.
Toasted sesame oil
The toasted makes a difference in the flavor.
Most grocery stores carry this in the Asian or ethnic foods aisle. You will also see regular (sometimes labeled as "cold pressed") sesame oil, which is much lighter in color.
You are looking for the toasted version, which is much darker in color. You can see what this looks like or order it from Thrive Market here.
How to make Thai peanut sauce from scratch
To make this pad thai peanut sauce from scratch, you're going to put all your sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
I love making sauces in my smoothie cups that go on my Ninja blender. They're super easy to throw all the ingredients into and then pop onto the blender base.
It's especially good for things where you're not making a high volume of sauce - sometimes when you don't have enough volume in a blender, everything gets stuck to the sides and it can be tough to get it smooth.
With the smoothie cups, because the base is so much smaller, the sauce stays close to the blade and is easy to smooth out.
If you're using a full sized blender or food processor, just make sure you pause and scrape down the sides a couple of times to get everything incorporated until you have a creamy peanut sauce.
How to make peanut free "peanut" sauce
It's really easy to make this peanut sauce peanut free. Simply substitute an alternative nut or seed butter for the peanut butter, and it's peanut free!
Some variations I've made include sunflower seed butter, cashew butter, and almond butter, with the cashew butter being my favorite.
I buy my sunflower seed butter and cashew butter at Trader Joes, and my almond butter at Costco. Just read your ingredients list and make sure there are no added sugars.
Obviously none will taste exactly like peanut butter, but if you're avoiding for allergy or dietary reasons, this is an easy substitute.
How to make sugar free peanut sauce
If you're eliminating sugar or on a Whole30, you can still enjoy this pad thai peanut sauce. Simply replace the sugar with one small date.
If your dates are really large, use half of one, taste, and add more as necessary. The sauce isn't sweet; but the sweet flavor is necessary as a flavor balance to the other ingredients.
I wouldn't recommend honey or maple syrup as an alternative sweetener in this recipe, as they will alter the flavor too much. If you don't have coconut sugar, you can sub regular brown sugar, but remember neither one makes it sugar free and shouldn't be used on Whole30!
Other Asian sauces: hoisin, satay, oh my
Hoisin sauce is a sauce used commonly in Chinese cuisine. It's typically used as a glaze for meat, in stir fry, or as dipping sauce.
It's a sweet and salty sauce, and it's made from soybean paste, which makes it a no-go in the paleo world. But there's always an alternative! Here's a clean recipe for paleo hoisin sauce.
Hoisin sauce is more closely related to teriyaki sauce than peanut sauce. I have a great homemade recipe for teriyaki sauce here!
Spoiler alert - satay sauce is really just another name for peanut sauce. Oddly enough, the Dutch use it a lot in the Netherlands, and there was no shortage of chicken satay at every restaurant we went to when we were there.
That said, this peanut sauce could easily be called satay sauce if you like. Call it whatever you want - I call it delicious!
What to do with peanut sauce
The most common use for peanut sauce is for use in Pad Thai - I have a "better than takeout" Pad Thai recipe here using this sauce (I promise it really is!) It can also be used in chicken satay, as we learned above.
Some other creative uses for this peanut sauce would be:
- as a dipping sauce for spring rolls
- thinned out with a bit of coconut milk and used as a salad dressing
- mixed with shredded chicken to make a Thai chicken salad, over greens or as a sandwich
- as a dunking sauce for a unique twist on a veggie tray
Storing pad thai peanut sauce
This delicious peanut sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or so in an airtight container.
You can also freeze it to save for use later. If you freeze it, it may separate a bit when you defrost it. Give it a whir in the blender or a stiff whisk and it should come back together just fine.
- If you like a lot of sauce on your pad thai noodles, try doubling the recipe, then adding in small increments until your noods are sauced to your liking.
- Serve your pad thai with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and lime wedges to really enhance the flavor of the sauce.
- If you don't have coconut aminos, you can sub soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio. Soy sauce is not paleo or Whole30, but can be used in this recipe easily.
- ½ cup coconut aminos
- ⅓ cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
- 1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a high speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
If you have a peanut allergy or are avoiding legumes, you can substitute any nut butter for the peanut butter in a 1:1 ratio.
If you are on Whole30 and cannot have added sweeteners, skip the coconut sugar and use 1 date.
To blend, you can use a food processor, blender, or immersion/stick blender. If using a stick blender, start with all ingredients in a mason jar and put the stick blender all the way in the bottom, working through until smooth.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 897mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 4g
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