Easy Vegan Drunken Noodles Recipe (Pad Kee Mao)

By Alexandra Caspero on January 9, 2022
This simple vegan noodle recipe is a must-make if you like drunken noodles.
Serves 4

Inspired by the Thai favorite, Pad Kee Mao, this easy vegan drunken noodle recipe is made with rice noodles, veggies, tofu and a spicy sauce. Ready in 30 minutes!

Have you ever had drunken noodles, or Pad Kee Mao, before? These easy vegan drunken noodles are one of our favorite weeknight meals, inspired by the Thai take-out shop we used to live a few blocks from in Sacramento. 

I miss a lot of things about living in California, but our condo being steps away from some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had was definitely one of them. Here’s my vegan take on the dish, with extra veggies and crispy, crumpled tofu. A must make if you love spicy, saucy noodles. 

drunken noodles with tofu

What Are Drunken Noodles?

I’ve heard many different reasons on why these noodles are called drunken, when they don’t contain any alcohol. My favorite theory is that the noodles are so spicy, you’ll want a beer to wash them down! At least, that’s my preferred way to eat them.

I tend to wrestle with the authentic or not conversation a lot in my own head. Growing up on the east coast, with Danish and Italian parents, I wasn’t privy to many Thai meals. However, ever since moving westward, I’ve made up for those missing years by craving- and eating– spicy Thai (& Indian & Vietnamese) every chance I get.

My palate has been refined on restaurant meals, which I’m sure put their own Americanized spin on the dishes I love. I imagine it’s the similar feeling I get when dining at most Italian restaurants; the food is wonderful, but it’s not the cuisine I grew up on.

Therefore, this drunken noodle recipe is my take and while it may not be authentic, it’s delicious! 

Bowl of drunken noodles with tofu and chopsticks

Ingredients you’ll need:

It may look like a lot of ingredients, but most of these are pantry staples. While I’m fortunate to live near several Asian and International grocery stores, I know that’s not true for everyone. Therefore, I’ve created this recipe to include ingredients that you can find at most grocery stores. 

The only exception to this is the fresh Thai basil leaves, which you’ll likely only find at specialty shops or Asian grocery stores. Regular basil doesn’t have the same flavor and I don’t recommend substituting it. If you can’t find it, it’s OK to leave it out. 

For the noodle sauce:

  • Soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free version 
  • Lime juice. The generous amount of lime juice replaces some of the taste of fish sauce that is normally found in Thai drunken noodles. If you happen to have vegan fish sauce on hand, by all means you can use it here! 
  • Brown sugar
  • Sriracha. You can make this sauce as mild or as spicy as you’d like! 

Noodles, Veggies and Other Ingredients:

This is where my adaption of the traditional recipe comes in– in addition to rice noodles, I include several servings of vegetables like cabbage, bell peppers and onion. 

The vegetables here are a mere suggestion, I used peppers and cabbage to add bulk to the dish, creating a more nutrient dense approach to the noodle-fest. Like most things, it’s adaptable enough to use what you’ve got. I think baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms and/or shredded carrots would also be a nice, colorful touch.

  • Rice noodles or wide rice noodles if you can find them. I have a hard time finding wide rice noodles in my local grocery store and often substitute the brown rice noodles from Lotus Foods. 
  • Toasted sesame oil, for sautéing the tofu and vegetables 
  • Extra firm tofu, drained and pressed. For added protein and to mimic the chicken that’s often used in drunken noodles, you’ll crumble the extra-firm tofu and quickly pan fry it in toasted sesame oil to create crispy and chewy tofu nibbles. 
  • Onion, thinly sliced 
  • Shredded green cabbage 
  • Minced jalapeño. To make these noodles spicier, you can leave the seeds in. For a mild version, remove as many seeds as possible or omit all together. If you can find a thai chili, then I recommend using that instead. 
  • One yellow and one red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips 
  • Garlic cloves
  • Scallions or green onions
  • Thai basil, optional as discussed above. 

Rice Noodles

How to Make Vegan Drunken Noodles

My goal here was easy. That’s the premise behind this drunken noodle recipe: it needed to be simple enough to make on a weeknight and reminiscent enough of my favorite Thai takeout place in California. 

Easy in the title also refers to the ingredient list; you should be able to find all of the ingredients at your local, well-stocked grocery store. 

Vegan Drunken Noodles Recipe

Start by whisking together the ingredients for the sauce: soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and Sriracha in a small bowl and set aside. 

Prepare the noodles according to package directions; you’ll likely either soak them in hot water first or quickly cook them for a few minutes, then drain and rinse well. 

While the noodles are cooking, heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil in a large wok or pan over medium high heat and add in the crumbled tofu. Lightly fry until just cooked through, stirring often. Remove from pan and set aside. 

Next, add in the onion, cabbage, peppers, garlic and scallions to the pan with the rest of the toasted sesame oil and stir fry until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Toss in the prepared noodles, tofu and sauce and cook until hot, about 2 more minutes. 

Stir in the basil leaves if you have them and serve with extra lime wedges. 

Easy Vegan Drunken Noodle Recipe

How to store leftovers

These noodles are best hot from the pan, but if you have any leftovers then I recommend storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. 

As rice noodles can thicken and stick together as they cool, I recommend reheating in a skillet with a splash or two of vegetable broth, soy sauce or even a little more hot sauce as needed until the noodles are warmed through and saucy again.  

Other Vegan Noodle Recipes:

20 minute vegan pasta
Vegan curry noodles
Red curry cup’o noodles
Vegan stir-fry noodles
Easy spicy vegan pad Thai

Plant-Based Drunken Noodle Recipe

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking! 

Easy Vegan Drunken Noodles

Vegan Drunken Noodles Recipe

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: thai, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Vegan


Easy Vegan Drunken Noodles! This vegan noodle recipe is a must-make if you like drunken noodles. You’ve gotta try this delicious drunken noodles recipe. Inspired by the Thai favorite, Pad Kee Mao, ready in 30 minutes!

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: thai, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: thai, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 8 ounces rice noodles, I love the brown rice noodles from Lotus Foods
  • 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and finely diced or crumbled.
  • White or yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 small jalapeño, minced
  • Red bell pepper, sliced
  • Yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup roughly chopped Thai basil leaves, optional
  • Lime wedges, for serving


  1. Whisk together soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and sriracha in a bowl.
  2. Prepare the noodles according to package directions (usually soaking in hot water until al dente).
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large wok or pan and add the tofu. Lightly fry until just cooked through, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the tofu and add the remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Add the onion, cabbage, peppers, garlic and scallions to the pan; stir-fry 8-10 minutes, until soft.
  5. Stir in the prepared noodles, tofu and soy sauce mixture. Toss well and stir fry for another 2 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the noodles are hot.
  6. Stir in the basil leaves. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.


See blog post copy for substitutions and ingredient notes.

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Easy Vegan Drunken Noodles! Spicy sauce with rice noodles and vegetables. Easier and healthier than Thai takeout! | www.delishknowledge.com

Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Anita
      July 22, 2023 AT 12:04 pm

      Another winner ! My love for Asian food continues ! I subbed two things: chicken instead of tofu, only because I didn’t have any tofu on hand and liquid aminos for most of the soy sauce so I can watch my sodium intake but oh my, you have to try this dish !

    2. Danna
      February 15, 2022 AT 2:10 pm

      I’m the recipe it says crumbled tofu but in the pictures the tofu is in cubes. Which way do you typically make it? What would be best?

      1. Alex
        February 16, 2022 AT 12:23 pm

        Either works! It really depends on how you like your tofu– if you want it to have more of a ground pork texture, then I recommend crumbling it.

    3. Joy
      July 31, 2020 AT 8:31 am

      Is there any way I can substitute sriracha in the recipe? I noticed many recipes include sriracha or some chili sauce, but unfortunately I cannot eat this because it’s too spicy for my stomach 🙁
      Any ideas, or can I just omit? Thanks in advance!

      1. Alex
        August 2, 2020 AT 5:24 pm

        You can omit!

    4. lillian
      September 9, 2019 AT 7:38 pm

      I just made this and it was so good! For my taste, I will lessen the amount of sugar next time.

    5. Alexandra Colacito
      July 9, 2018 AT 3:44 pm

      Just made this tonight. So great. I used rice vermicelli (my favorite noodle) and only one quarter of the siracha. I love the crumbled tofu. I think that is going to be my new way to stir fry tofu. I have to ask though: What makes these noodles “drunken”?

      1. Renee Hoffinger
        August 21, 2018 AT 9:37 am

        I think the story is that the dish was created by a drunken chef. Whatever, definitely Inspired.

        1. Alex
          August 22, 2018 AT 12:06 pm

          I like that story. 🙂

    6. brit
      April 2, 2018 AT 12:06 pm

      is the nutritional info available for this recipe??

      1. Alex
        April 2, 2018 AT 1:06 pm

        Hi Brit- I’m working on adding all nutrition information for my site. I don’t have this one yet, but you can use a program like My Fitness Pal or similar to calculate it if you need it ASAP. Thanks!

        1. brit
          April 3, 2018 AT 4:35 pm

          thanks so much!

          1. brit
            April 3, 2018 AT 4:37 pm

            also, I just made these for my meal prep for the week. I’m a nurse so I try to make healthy meals that’ll last over the course of a few shifts and these were amazing! I love them and will definitely make them again!

            1. Alex
              April 4, 2018 AT 7:31 am

              Glad you liked it! Thanks!

    7. Alecia Ghilarducci
      March 2, 2017 AT 7:09 pm

      Delicious recipe! I’m looking forward to trying some of your other dishes.

    8. Melissa
      March 1, 2017 AT 6:27 pm

      I just made this tonight and it was delicious! This is the 3rd or 4th recipe of yours I’ve tried and all turned out amazing. I love and appreciate the complexity you add to each dish with the various ingredients/spices!
      Thank you!

      1. Alex
        March 2, 2017 AT 5:47 am

        Thanks Melissa! So glad you enjoyed this one as well.

    9. Stephanie
      March 8, 2016 AT 6:41 pm

      Thanks for the recipe. I made it and it tasted amazing!!! Really easy too which was a bonus!

    10. Badboy35
      February 2, 2016 AT 1:35 pm

      1/4th soy sauce – how much is that?

      1. Sacia
        April 2, 2017 AT 10:03 am

        A 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Or 1/8th cup of tamari sauce:)

        1. Alex
          April 3, 2017 AT 11:07 am

          Hi Sacia, you can substitute tamari for soy sauce.