Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)

Pad Kee Mao, also known as Drunken Noodles, is a traditional Thai dish with ground pork, wide rice noodles and plenty of fresh basil. Doused in a sauce typical of Thai cuisine which is perfectly balanced with heat, tanginess and sweetness – coming from Thai chiles, rice wine vinegar and sweet soy sauce.

Why is Pad Kee Mao called Drunken Noodles?

Also known as Thai drunken noodles, Pad Kee Mao doesn’t actually have any alcohol in it. No one actually knows the true origin of the name. However, in the thai language, khi mao means drunkard.

It’s believed that after a full day of drinking, thai men would come home and enjoy this dish, believing that the noodles would draw some of the alcohol out of their systems and help with hangovers in the morning.

Another theory is that you would need to be drunk to enjoy this dish, as it is so spicy, the only way that you can handle the heat is to be numbed a bit from the alcohol.

Wherever the name drunken noodles comes from, I’m just here to tell you that they are super yummy.

Pad Kee Mao ingredients:

  • Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • Fish sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Serrano peppers (or thai chiles)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Onion 
  • Ground pork
  • Red bell pepper 
  • Wide rice noodles
  • Thai basil (or regular basil) 
  • Lime

You may need to make a stop at the Asian market to find the wide rice noodles, sweet soy sauce and Thai basil. But, if you don’t have an Asian market near you, feel free to do some improvising by using the following substitutions:

Pad Kee Mao Sauce:

To make the sauce, simply stir together 1/4 cup sweet soy sauce, 1/4 cup fish sauce and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar.

If you can’t find the sweet soy sauce (or kecap manis), you can make your own by using this homemade kecap manis recipe.

Pad Kee Mao Noodles:

I’m using traditional wide rice noodles in this recipe. You can often find them in the Asian foods aisle. However, if you’re unable to find them, you can also substitute Pad Thai noodles or even make a spaghetti pad kee mao.

Cook your noodles to just short of al dente and add it in the same manner provided in the recipe.

Thai Basil substitution:

If you’re unable to find Thai basil at your grocery store, you can substitute regular basil. Thai basil has a bit more of a licorice flavor, but you won’t notice a huge difference.

How to make Pad Kee Mao:

  • Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Stir together the fish sauce, sweet soy sauce and vinegar.
  • Chop the garlic and 3 of the chiles together. Chop the other chile, and set aside.
  • Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the oil, the garlic/chile mixture and the onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the pork and a splash of the sauce. Cook 5 minutes.
  • Add noodles and bell peppers. Increase heat to high, and add the sauce.
  • Cook until all noodles are coated with sauce and it thickens, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add basil, lime juice and the additional chile.
  • Enjoy!
Pad kee mao in wok.

Tips:

  • Use a potato masher to break up the pork as it cooks.
  • To keep your basil fresh at home trim the ends and place them in a glass of water. Place a plastic bag over the top and keep it on your counter (not the refrigerator). It should last for nearly a week this way.

How to store it:

  • Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet, adding a splash of water, if needed.

FAQ

Pad Kee Mao pronunciation:

It is pronounced much like it looks – here’s a handy audible demo.

What does Pad Kee Mao taste like?

This dish features rice noodles, ground pork, and fresh basil. The sauce is perfectly balanced with heat, tanginess and sweetness – coming from thai chiles, rice wine vinegar and sweet soy sauce.

Is Pad Kee Mao spicy?

This drunken noodles recipe is VERY SPICY. To cut back on the heat a bit, use only the two chiles that are chopped with the garlic. You can skip the additional chile which is sprinkled on top of after cooking.

Why are Drunken Noodles so good?

The tangy, lightly sweet sauce, paired with the ground pork and chewy rice noodles is what makes this dish so good. They’re also very spicy, so are definitely for spicy food lovers!

Pad Kee Mao vs. Pad Thai

Pad Thai is not nearly as spicy as Kee Mao. Pad Thai is made with a sweet tamarind-based sauce, served with scrambled egg and is sprinkled with chopped peanuts at the end.

Pad Kee Mao vs. Pad See Ew

Kee Mao is much spicier than Pad See Ew. Pad See Ew is a bit sweeter and much more mild.

Prepared pad kee mao in brown bowl with chopsticks.

To pair with this delightfully spicy, tangy, salty dish, I chose a bottle of dry Rosé. With a mouthwatering acidity and hint of grapefruit, it was the perfect pairing with the lime juice that’s squeezed over the finished noodles and it balanced out the saltiness perfectly.

Wine Pairings for Pad Kee Mao:

More Thai food recipes:

Prepared pad kee mao in brown bowl with chopsticks next to basil leaves and limes.

If you loved this recipe I would appreciate it so much if you would give it a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.

More flavorful noodle dishes to try

What to serve with it:

Pad kee mao in skillet.

Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)

Pad Kee Mao is a traditional Thai dish with ground pork, wide rice noodles and plenty of fresh basil. Doused in a sauce typical of thai cuisine which is perfectly balanced with heat, tanginess and sweetness – Coming from thai chiles, rice wine vinegar and sweet soy sauce.
4.18 from 63 votes
Print Pin
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 serrano peppers (or thai chiles)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ large onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
  • 12 ounces wide rice noodles
  • 2 handfuls Thai basil (or regular basil) (roughly torn)
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

Instructions

  • Soak the rice noodles in warm tap water for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce and vinegar, and set aside.
  • Roughly chop the garlic and 3 of the chilies together. Chop the other chilie, and set aside.
  • Preheat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat; when hot, add the oil, the garlic/chile mixture and the onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds. Add the pork and a splash of the sauce. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or potato masher, until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain the noodles and add them with the bell peppers to the pan. Increase the heat to high, and add the sauce. Cook, tossing everything together and separating the noodles, until all ingredients are coated with the sauce and it thickens slightly, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Toss in the basil, lime juice and the additional chile. Serve immediately with lime wedges on the side.

Notes

 

Storage:

  • Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet, adding a splash of water, if needed.

Tips: 

  • Use a potato masher to break up the pork as it cooks.
  • To keep your basil fresh at home trim the ends and place them in a glass of water. Place a plastic bag over the top and keep it on your counter (not the refrigerator). It should last for nearly a week this way.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

Nutrition

Calories: 787kcal | Carbohydrates: 90g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1878mg | Potassium: 533mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1055IU | Vitamin C: 47.4mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2.1mg

This post was originally published in 2018. It was updated in 2022 to add new photographs and information.

Watch my Pad Kee Mao Web Story here.

56 thoughts on “Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)”

  1. Sea urchin gonads—that is hilarious! If I won I’d buy a new set of plates and bowls. Many of our bowls have chipped, and the set is plain white – kind of boring. Fingers xed!

    Reply
  2. i like your recipe and am excited to try it! I like the wine pairings too. It’s great to have a recommendation on a wine I may not have tried. If I won the contest I would buy gadgets and things I haven’t tried. I love to experiment with food.

    Reply
  3. Your dish looks amazing ! I can’t wait to try it! I would also like an ice cream maker, when I look at the ingredient list (even on the “natural” brands) …I go home without ice cream!

    Reply
  4. I would love to buy a really nice knife set, a Kitchenaid mixer, and a great set of cookware. There are so many amazing things to buy at Williams Sonoma!

    Reply
  5. Looks delicious, especially in that Finex pan! I love Drunken Noodles, but I’ve never tried making them at home before. I’ll have to whip up a vegan version soon.

    Reply
      • My daughter suggested freezing firm tofu to make it crumbly like the ground pork. I personally went the opposite way and tossed in a few shrimp along as the pork was nearing completion.

        Reply
  6. Pad kee mao is my go-to dish whenever I eat out at a Thai restaurant, but I’ve never made it myself. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try so I can customize it just the way I love it—with extra veggies! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  7. 5 stars
    I cannot wait to try this! It looks and sounds so delicious.
    Funny, we had similar food upbringings. I grew up in suburbia Phoenix and never had Thai until college either. I’m hooked and we eat it weekly now. I love this dish (gimme all the spice!) and can’t wait to try your version. Ps, I’d totally go rosé too!

    Reply
  8. Nooooo it’s not too late to still love Uni, it’s so delicious! I love that you really spiced up the recipe to bring up the 🔥 .

    Reply
  9. 5 stars
    The first time my mom brought me to a Thai place… probably at about 13… what a day! I love Thai food and vividly remember eating some killer Tom Kah soup that I still think about.

    Reply
  10. I tried this for dinner last night. I couldn’t find the wide rice noodles at Fred Meyer so I substituted the thin ones. It was an epic disaster – I ended up with a gluey, slimy mess. Had to throw it out. I think in retrospect it was because the rice noodles I used were very skinny, and also contained some potato starch, thus probably shouldn’t have been soaked for so long. I think the flavors sound great but make sure you use the right noodles and definitely avoid the super skinny rice noodles or ones with potato starch!

    Reply
  11. 5 stars
    I’m impressed! This actually tasted like the Pad Kee Mao I get from my local Thai restaurant. Thank you so much – I am so happy that I am now able to make this dish at home 🙂

    Reply
  12. 5 stars
    Nice dish. Made this on a weeknight, exhausted from work.. Not too hard! Even works well in the blender – Pulsed this for a minute and spoon-fed it to my mother. She said it was delicious. Gave some to the wife, she cried for 20 mins because of the spice. Ha, ha! Too bad I like my food spicy, nance!

    Reply
  13. 5 stars
    Hi, I came across you blog of pad Kee Mao. I tried it today and it was totally AMAZING and DELICIOUS. Thank you for this recipe.

    Reply
  14. Erin: I made this with only a slight mod of doubling the lime juice and 50% more sweet soy because the fish sauce I used was a bit too strong. However, this tastes as good as or better than PKM from my favorite Thai restaurant! I am too ashamed to share a pic because the noodle quantity was too great for the big skillet I used and they got a bit mangled. Next time I’ll make a smaller quantity or use my wok 😬.

    Reply
  15. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight, and I’ve tried many versions of this recipe, this is the best so far! I also paired it with a rosé from our local vineyard here in the Willamette Valley, and it was perfect! Thank you so much! You have a new subscriber.

    Reply
  16. I just made this for dinner last night. It was delicious, but it was also super spicy. I used 3 serranos with the garlic and the 2 at the end. I suppose that’s authentic, but I had tears streaming down my face while eating dinner. That being said, I would definitely make it again, but I would probably only use 2, maybe 3 peppers. I usually love spicy food, but that was a bit much for me.

    Reply
  17. 5 stars
    Making it again for a pan-asian feast with my daughter and son-in-law. Wife making chicken Tikka Masala with homemade naan and cardamom rice, I’m making this with added shrimp. And I also made garam masala-spiced pepper hummus.
    (I know what we’re all eating for the next few days!)

    Reply
  18. 5 stars
    Making it again for a pan-asian feast with my daughter and son-in-law. Wife making chicken Tikka Masala with homemade naan and cardamom rice, I’m making this with added shrimp. And I also made garam masala-spiced pepper hummus.
    (I know what we’re all eating for the next few days!)

    I have a file on my phone with links to favorite recipes, and this is at the top.

    Reply

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