Why does Pad Thai taste like ketchup?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Why does Pad Thai taste like ketchup? We will talk about this essential Thai dish, and give you an easy recipe for the preparation of Pad Thai. 

Why does Pad Thai taste like ketchup?

Your Pad Thai tastes like ketchup because in many places cook Thai food, especially in the States, use Ketchup instead of tamarind paste. Tamarind paste is a concentrate made from the pulp of the tamarind fruit, a tree of tropical origin that produces an edible fruit that is highly appreciated in different parts of the world such as Asia and South America.

In the US, we can buy tamarind paste in Asian supermarkets, in its two varieties, and on some occasions, it can also be found in the supermarkets of some large stores. Pad Thai with ketchup does not taste close enough to the authentic dish!

Pad thai is the star dish of Thai street cuisine. Made with a base of rice noodles, tofu, and seafood, you will surely be able to discover new gastronomy with family and friends. 

Pad thai, the success of Thai cuisine

In Thailand there are different versions of this recipe depending on the area of ​​the country that prepares it, thus putting its characteristic touch with different ingredients and sauces.

There it can be found practically anywhere, from small stalls in the middle of the street to the most luxurious restaurants. And it is that this Thai dish based on rice and other ingredients contains a lot of protein, thanks to the tofu, prawns and you can even add chicken.

If you are a person who dares to do everything in the kitchen, read on to find out how to prepare homemade pad thai with its most characteristic and innovative recipes.

Homemade pad thai recipe


  • Medium rice noodles (125 grams)
  • Prawn or prawn (100 grams)
  • Egg (1 unit)
  • Bean sprouts (100 grams)
  • Hard tofu (75 grams)
  • Chives (100 grams)
  • Chinese garlic (20 grams)
  • Tamarind sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Lima (1/2 unit)
  • Oil
  • Salt
  1. Soak fully covered noodles in water to soften and hydrate, at least one hour.
  2. Cut the chives into small pieces, as well as the diced tofu, and peel and clean the prawns or shrimp, reserving the tail.
  3. Fry the tofu in a frying pan with oil that covers the base until it turns a golden color. Add the garlic sprouts and the prawns. Let it cool a little, remove, and reserve.
  4. Add two tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of fish sauce, two tablespoons of soy, and another two tablespoons of Tamarind sauce to the pan. Fry all the ingredients well until the sauce is caramelized.
  5. Add the noodles and sauté them well so that they take on all the flavor and are integrated with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Add a small amount of water so the noodles don’t stick. Then remove the noodles from the pan.
  7. Beat an egg and add it to the hole in the pan, fry, and break into pieces. Add the prawns again, add the bean sprouts and chives and fry well.
  8. Serve with a piece of lime. Optionally too. You can add peanuts, more fresh bean sprouts, or even sugar.

Do you want to prepare homemade Tamarind sauce?

With it, you can season many dishes, whether traditional or innovative in Asian cuisine. Tamarind is the fruit of an African tree, which once its pulp is processed is used to make this simple sauce that enhances the flavor of meat, fish, and vegetables.


  • Tamarind fruit (12 units)
  • Water (150 milliliters)
  • Sugar (60 grams)
  • White wine vinegar (30 milliliters)
  1. Scoop out the pulp from the tamarind pods. When you remove the shell, the seeds are held together by strands that are discarded. Open each fruit and remove the seeds.
  2. Put the pulp of the pods (free of seeds) in a saucepan with water. Let them soften and light the fire. Stir to undo the pulp, being careful not to stick.
  3. Add the sugar and vinegar and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and fry the ingredients with a mixer. Then pass the ground through a strainer to remove lumps and remains of ingredients that may have remained.
  5. Add water if the sauce is too thick.

We can keep it in the fridge for a week or divide it into portions (such as in an ice bucket) and freeze it for up to 2 months, using it later as we need it.

Other FAQs about Pad Thai that you may be interested in.

Why is pad Thai so unhealthy?

Why is Pad Thai red?

Can you buy Pad Thai sauce?

You can buy Thai sauce in the US from “Thai Kitchen” which sells an original, gluten-free Pad Thai sauce that you can use for different dishes. “Thai Kitchen” can be found at your local Walmart, at Albertsons, Instacart, or on Amazon.  

You can also buy original Pad Thai sauce in most Asian supermarkets along with the other ingredients that you need for this dish. Or you can make it yourself at home, with just a few ingredients.

Ideally, you will use a mix of oyster sauce and tamarind paste to make your own Pad Thai sauce, but if these ingredients are too difficult to find (depending on your location) you can also make the sauce with: brown sugar, fish sauce, 1 lime (or lemon) and ketchup. As you can see from minute 11 of this video.

The bottom line

Pad Thai represents the perfect combination of Thai gastronomy’s four primary flavors: sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. The real name of this dish is kway teow pad thai. The first two words are of Chinese origin and translate as rice noodles, and the Thai term pad or pat translates as a stir fry. 

We serve the pad thai on a large plate or individual plates and garnish with fresh coriander leaves, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, chives, and a lime wedge.

Our recommendation is, when buying Pad Thai sauce, to choose reputable options or to go directly to the source, that would be the Asian market in your town. Otherwise, it is simple to cook your own Pad Thai sauce at home and you will need just a few ingredients that you can easily find in your local supermarket.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!


Thaiest.com – Thai Food Dishes You Must Try

Thespruceeats.com – Traditional Thai Recipes

Aboutthatfood.com – Thai Food

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.