Pad Kee Mao, also known as drunken noodle, is a classic Thai noodle dish that is packed with flavor and spice. It only takes 15 minutes to put together, making for a quick protein-packed meal. While it is undeniably delicious, is Pad Kee Mao Healthy?
Pad Kee Mao can be a very healthy dish – one serving consists of about 439 calories, 33 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 54 grams of carbs. It's one of my go-to healthy thai food recipes.
💭 What is Pad Kee Mao?
Pad kee mao, also known as drunken noodles, is a classic Thai street food dish that consists of rice noodles stir-fried in a spicy soy-based sauce, and often comes with some sort of protein.
It's spicier and more soy-sauce based compared to the popular Pad Thai recipe.
Read more about why this dish is also called drunken noodles below in the FAQs.
✅ Why This Recipe Works
Quick to Put Together – This is one of my go-to meals for a reason. It takes very little prep and only about 15 minutes to put together.
Savory and Flavorful – The mixture of delicious savory condiments with the spicy Thai chilis makes this a mouthwatering dish. You'll especially love this if you enjoy spicy food!
Healthy and Protein-Packed – This recipe was developed by yours truly to be low-calorie and packed with protein, so that you can satisfy your Thai food cravings while staying on track on your fitness goals.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition – Is It Healthy
This chicken pad kee mao can fit easily into the diet of someone looking for a low calorie meal as long as ingredients are portioned correctly. By using my handy food scale, I was able to make this dish to be under 500 calories.
Here, I follow the same approach I use with modifying most carb-focused dishes -- use 1 serving of carbs and make the dish heavier in protein and vegetables to make it a low calorie but filling meal, as we know that protein is better at making our body feel more full compared to other macronutrients.
To keep the calorie content low and protein content high, I portioned the recipe as follows:
- Used exactly 1 serving of rice noodles at about 55 grams
- Used 4oz of chicken thigh and an egg for protein
- Portioned the sauce to be about 36 calories
- Substituted oil with cooking spray, which cuts down calories from oil immensely
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of the chicken pad kee mao recipe, refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make the chicken Pad Kee Mao recipe, you'll need the following key ingredients:
- Chicken Thigh – I used boneless skinless chicken thigh, as it is a great balance of being a great lean protein but still juicy and delicious
- Rice Noodles – You can buy either fresh rice noodles from your local Asian grocery store or dried rice stick noodles. Fresh rice noodles are great if you know you'll finish them within a few days. Otherwise, I prefer the dried ones for something that will last longer in the pantry.
- Thai Chilis – Signature chili of any Thai dish. You can buy fresh ones from most Asian grocery stores or some big chain grocery stores, or buy dried ones off Amazon.
- Thai Basil – Has a very distinct citrus flavor compared to traditional basil and is a keystone ingredient for this recipe. You can find this at most Asian grocery stores. You can also substitue with traditional basil if you can't find it.
- Fish Sauce – A classic condiment in Thai cooking. My favorite brand is the Three Crabs brand.
- Dark Soy Sauce – A sweeter and richer version of soy sauce. This gives the noodles it's darker color.
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Substitutes for Thai Chili – Can be really spicy. You can also use a lighter chili, like fresno chilis, if you'd prefer.
Substitutes for Thai Basil – You can easily substitute it with Holy basil or normal Basil, in that order of preference. Check out this article on the different types of substitutes for Thai basil for more info.
Switch up the protein – Shrimp, seafood, or lean cuts of beef would also be great options of protein to mix with the drunken noodles.
Chicken with Rice – This recipe is also used to make the popular Pad Kra Pao recipe, or Thai Basil chicken. It can be paired with a side of rice or eaten without carbs.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Make the stir fry sauce – Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing together ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Prepare the chicken – Start by cutting the chicken into bite size pieces and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cook the noodles – Cook the rice stick noodles according to package directions and set aside.
Mince aromatics – Mince garlic, Thai chilis, and onions.
Cook the chicken – Add the chicken pieces in a single layer in the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes each side. [Photo 1]
Add the aromatics – When the chicken is about done cooking on it's second side, add in the aromatics into the skillet. Saute for about 1-2 minutes, or until golden. Add in additional veggies, such as corn and mushroom, if using. [Photo 2]
Add sauce and noodles – Mix in the stir fry sauce and noodles and stir thoroughly. [Photo 3]
Mix in an egg – Move all the stir fry ingredients to the side, spray the open side of the skillet with cooking spray, and crack in the egg. Wait until the egg begins to solidify a little before scrambling and mixing in with the rest of the dish. [Photo 4]
Garnish and serve – Toss in the basil, remove from heat, and enjoy your delicious chicken pad kee mao!
💡Tips and Tricks
Thai chili to spice ratio – Thai chilis are no joke and should be used with caution if you are not used to traditional spicy Thai food.
I would use 1 for a milder kick, and 2-3 for a medium to high spice tolerance. You can order dried Thai chilis on Amazon if you can't find any fresh ones at your local grocery store or prefer to have a stash that can last in the pantry for longer periods of time.
Turn the heat off before adding the Thai basil – Thai basil is cooked with the residual heat, as opposed to strong direct heat. Just toss in the cooked noodles and it will begin to cook and wilt.
💭 Recipe FAQs
The difference mainly lies in the stir fry sauce and the spices. The drunken noodle's sauce is heavier on the soy sauce. It also is cooked with Thai chilis and basil which gives it a unique and spicy kick to it.
From a macros and calories point of view, drunken noodles and Pad Thai are pretty similar, so it's a matter of your personal preference of whether you prefer something sweeter and mild (Pad Thai) vs. something spicier (drunken noodles).
It is called drunken noodles because it's a common food that people traditionally like to eat in Thailand.
🍽 Related Thai Food Recipes
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Healthy Chicken Pad Kee Mao
Stir Fry Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon Fish sauce
- ½ teaspoon Dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 4 oz Chicken thigh (Boneless, skinless)
- Salt & Black Pepper (To taste)
- 1 serving Rice noodles (52g)
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1-2 Thai Chilis
- ¼ Onion
- 1 teaspoon Corn (Optional)
- 1-2 Mushrooms (Optional)
- 1 Egg
- Basil (For garnish)
- Make the stir fry sauce – Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing together ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Prepare the chicken – Start by cutting the chicken into bite size pieces and seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Cook the noodles – Cook the rice stick noodles according to package directions and set aside.
- Mince aromatics – Mince garlic, Thai chilis, and onions.
- Cook the chicken – Add the chicken pieces in a single layer in the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes each side.
- Add the aromatics – When the chicken is about done cooking on it's second side, add in the aromatics into the skillet. Saute for about 1-2 minutes, or until golden. Add in additional veggies, such as corn and mushroom, if using.
- Add sauce and noodles – Mix in the stir fry sauce and noodles and stir thoroughly.
- Mix in an egg – Move all the stir fry ingredients to the side, spray the open side of the skillet with cooking spray, and crack in the egg. Wait until the egg begins to solidify a little before scrambling and mixing in with the rest of the dish.
- Garnish and serve – Toss in the basil, remove from heat, and enjoy your delicious noodle dish!