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Drunken Noodles: the fast, easy recipe for delicious pad kee mao

Total time: 30 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 4 people
By Cookist
wide rice noodles
8 oz
Sesame oil
2 tbsp
shallots, chopped
carrots, thinly sliced
large chicken breast, chopped (or shrimp or tofu)
Garlic, minced
3 large cloves
fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp
zucchini, thinly sliced
green bell pepper, thinly sliced
green onions, chopped
roma tomatoes, sliced
fresh thai holy basil leaves
1 cup
for the sauce
Oyster sauce
3 tbsp
Soy sauce
1/3 cup
Fish sauce
2 tsp
Brown sugar
2 tsp
2 tbsp
thai red chili paste
1 tsp

Savory, spicy drunken noodles rank among the most popular Thai recipes out there. Drunken noodles or pad kee mao is an easy, fast dish to make and is perfect if you're a fan of spicy food.

No one is quite sure where the name came from since there's not actually any alcohol in drunken noodles. Some believe it's because the dish is so spicy, people get drunk trying to tame the heat. That said, it's easy to customize the level of spice you add to your pad kee mao.

There are several variations of this delicious dish, and it takes less than half an hour to put together. An easy, ultra-flavorful restaurant-quality dish that takes no time at all to make? Sign us up!

What is the Difference Between Drunken Noodles and Pad Thai?

While both drunken noodles and pad thai are made with rice noodles, there are a few key differences between these two popular Thai dishes.

Pad thai has an overall sweeter flavor. It's made from tamarind, fish sauce, palm, sugar, and it also has peanuts in it. Drunken noodles are spicier and more savory than pad thai.

What are the Best Noodles for Drunken Noodles?

Extra-wide rice noodles are the go-to choice for drunken noodles. If you can't find extra wide noodles, thinner ones, like those used for pad thai, will do the trick.

Should I Use Thai Basil for Drunken Noodles?

If you can find Thai holy basil, definitely use it over regular basil. It may seem like an insignificant ingredient, but Thai holy basil really helps make this dish, thanks to its unique sweet, peppery, clove-like taste.

If you can't find any holy basil, regular Thai basil will work. It has purple stems and a flavor that's similar to anise or licorice. As a last resort, regular sweet basil is a passable substitute.


How to Make Drunken Noodles

To make drunken noodles at home, start by making the noodles according to the directions on the packet, then drain them in a colander and set them aside. Now it's time to make the sauce. Whisk the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, water, and red chili paste in a bowl. With the sauce done, it's time to get cooking!

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Saute the shallots and carrots, then fry the chicken. Add in the garlic and ginger and cook until the raw smell disappears and the garlic is fragrant. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes more. Pour the noodles and sauce into the wok. Toss the noodles well to coat them, then cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until warmed through. Turn off the heat. Add the basil and garnish with green onions, and additional chili sauce, if you love your spicy foods.

Tips for Making the Best Drunken Noodles

If you can find fresh rice noodles, they'll give your drunken noodles a better flavor and texture.

To get that authentic flavor, char your noodles a little bit while you're stir-frying them.

A non-stick wok or skillet is ideal for cooking drunken noodles. Rice noodles tend to stick, so non-stick cookware is essential!

Drunken Noodle Variations to Try

You can use prawns, beef, tofu, or pork instead of chicken breasts.

For a gluten-free version of drunken noodles, use gluten-free soy sauce, gluten-free oyster sauce, and gluten-free fish sauce. Rice noodles are naturally free from gluten!

For vegan or vegetarian drunken noodles, use tofu as the main protein and use vegetarian fish sauce and vegetarian oyster sauce as substitutes.

How to Store Drunken Noodles 

Keep your drunken noodles in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the packet. Drain and set aside.

Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce. Whisk well, then set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Saute the shallots and carrots for 2 minutes. Add a little more oil then fry the chicken. Season with pepper, then add in the garlic and ginger. Cook until the raw smell disappears.

Stir in the bell peppers, zucchini, tomato, and the white part of the spring onions. Cook for 2 minutes.

Place the noodles into the wok, followed by the sauce. Toss to coat, and cook until the noodles are warmed through. Turn off the heat. Add the basil.

Garnish with green onions, and additional chili sauce, if desired.


For a spicier version, add extra red chili paste, red chili flakes, or even fresh chopped chilies.

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