Trust me when I say you’ll fall in love with this vegan kelp noodle pad thai recipe. This healthy, plant-based pad thai is a low-carb alternative to the classic asian street food we all crave. Stir-fry’s are quick to prepare and can easily include a variety of vegetables; prepare this recipe with the spicy almond dressing or this Thai Peanut-Sesame Sauce Recipe.
About this Recipe
During my time managing a culinary school I instructed a pad-thai cooking class and was astonished at how simple it was to whip together. Traditional pad thai recipes use carb-heavy rice noodles stir-fried with tofu, eggs, bean sprouts, and a sweet and sour sauce.
My least favorite part of teaching the class was the inevitability of conceiving a food baby by the end after consuming 2 bowls of sauce and oil drenched noodles - thus the inspiration for a low-calorie pad thai recipe and sauce geared towards vegetarian and plant based diets for optimal health benefits and flavor.
I love using kelp noodles in stir-frys and cold noodle bowls. They can be found in the Asian isle in most grocery stores. They are made from kelp (edible seaweed), and are a gluten-free, low carbohydrate noodle option with a high amount of minerals such as iron. Did I mention they have an amazing crunchy texture?
The added bonus of meal prepping and shopping for a stir-fry is you’ll have plenty of fresh vegetables to cross-utilize in other meals for the week.
This recipe includes crunchy cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. Feel free to add other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and zucchini!
I would limit your stir-fry add-ins to 5 or less, otherwise you’ll have to cook in batches or end up with a mushy mess.
Be sure to cut your vegetables evenly into thin slices or chunks, this ensures even and quick cooking.
Most cruciferous vegetables are packed with folate and vitamin K and tend to be rich in fiber but low in calories (1).
How to Make Vegan Kelp Noodle Pad Thai
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 1 package (14 ounces) kelp Noodles, prepared according to package directions
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup broccoli florets, raw
- 1 cup cauliflower florets, raw
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
- 1.5 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1 packaged (14 ounces) firm tofu, cut into 1” cubes or 1 Air-Fried Tofu
- For Garnish: Green Onion, Toasted Cashew, Lime wedges
Spicy Thai Almond Sauce: Yields 1 cup, 8 servings
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ginger, powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- Pinch black pepper
- Knife and cutting board
- Large saute pan or wok and tongs
- Bowl and whisk if preparing sauce
Step One: Prepare Your Sauce
I highly recommend preparing your own stir-fry dressing. Store-bought pad thai sauce ingredients often include a lot of sugar and non-vegan fish sauce. Feel free to prepare the spicy almond thai sauce below or choose from Thai Peanut Sauce or Toasted Sesame Ginger sauce!
To prepare the spicy almond thai sauce simply whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
If you opted to prepare Chef Mario's Air-Fried Marinated Tofu, heat up your air-fryer and prepare that first.
Step Two: Heat Your Cookware
Large skillet, Wok or Cast-Iron Skillet? Choose your cookware and heat over high heat and never turn it down.
The goal of cooking on high heat is to achieve Wok Hei, or ‘breath of the wok’. Although this term is cantonese it applies to all stir-fry techniques. Wok Hei refers to the smoky and caramelized flavor obtained from cooking over high heat in the wok that can be tricky to achieve at home.
Follow these tips to execute Wok Hei at home:
- If you don’t have a wok at home, go check out a local asian market and purchase a small one! Alternatively, use a large saute-pan or cast iron skillet.
- No matter what you choose, don’t overcrowd the pan with ingredients or else you’ll end up cooling the pan down and causing it to steam/stew not stir-fry. A good rule of thumb is to only take up about 1/3 or a little under a half of the pan with ingredients.
- Oil choice matters! Use avocado or vegetable oil, both have high smoking points and can be heated up to 520 degrees.
- If you’re preparing a large amount of stir-fry, cook it in batches, this ensures you’ll get appropriate browning.
Heat your cooking pan of choice over high heat and add your oil.
Step Three: Wok-it out.
Heat your pan for 1-2 minutes before adding in the oil, then add your broccoli, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and cauliflower. If you are preparing the recipe with raw tofu, add that now as well. Cook for 5 minutes on high heat, stirring to brown the tofu and vegetables. Gently pour in 1/3 cup of water.
Be careful not to get burned from the steam that will come from the pan, pour your water close to the pan and on the edge to prevent splashing or large steam clouds.
Cook for 1-2 minutes until the water is mostly gone; the water cooks the vegetables further, helps skip having to ‘blanch’ the vegetables, aka pre-cook in boiling water, and prevents them from burning.
Step 4: Mix it Up and Dig in!
At this point your veggies should be charred, crispy, and tender. Add in the cabbage and kelp noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add your sauce and cook another 2-3 minutes until the ingredients are well coated.
At this point turn off heat, and plate. Top with toasted cashews or peanuts, fresh sliced green onions, and serve with wedges of lime.
Looking for other high-protein vegan meal prep recipes? Check out this RD created Vegan Meal Prep Guide!
Consuming a nutritionally balanced plant-based vegan diet requires a bit more effort, be sure to prioritize an intentionally stocked pantry and fridge with variety and value. Check out our Vegan Meal Prep Kit for further tricks to optimize your meal prep!