These Thai Basil Noodles are perfect if you’re craving some bold flavor. This pasta dish, also referred to as drunken noodles, uses rice noodles, tofu, and veggies to make a healthy dinner. It's gluten-free and ready in about 30 minutes!
Thai Basil noodles, also known as the drunken noodles, are one of the popular street foods in Thailand. The dish uses Thai basil, which imparts a rich flavor, unlike any other noodle dish.
Thai food has become one of my favorite cuisines lately. I just can't get enough of the bold flavors and liberal use of vegetables. Many Asian-inspired dishes are vegan-friendly or can be made vegan like my Teriyaki Tempeh, Chili Garlic Tofu, and Mongolian Soy Curls.
I love this recipe because it can be made in 30 minutes - less if you use pre-cooked tofu. It's a healthy vegan version of the original drunken noodles.
What are Drunken Noodles?
Thai Basil Noodles aka Drunken Noodles or Pad Kee Mao is a popular stir fry noodle dish in Thailand and can be found in most Thai restaurants.
The reason behind them being called drunken noodles is that they are so spicy that people had to chug beer to calm your tongue and tastebuds. BUT when you are making these noodles at home, you don't have to make them all that spicy.
This recipe should be mild enough for most people (though you can taste a bit of heat), however, feel free to reduce the spiciness by adding less chili or Thai holy basil.
Want it extra spicy? Turn up the heat with more holy basil or chili sauce.
All About Basil
There are a few types of basils: Thai, Thai holy, and sweet. These vegan drunken Noodles can be made with any of them - though the Thai ones will be more traditional.
Thai basil and holy basil are different than the Italian basil usually found in supermarkets.
Here's more info on the 3:
- Thai Basil - has pointier leaves and purple stems with a slightly spicy, licorice/anise flavor. It's not usually found in American grocery stores but can be found in most Asian markets.
- Thai Holy Basil - known as hot basil because it adds heat to dishes. It's actually harder to find in Asian grocery markets but if you can't find it, you can use regular Thai basil.
- Sweet Basil - normally known as Italian basil is typically found in most American grocery stores. It has rounded leaves and a sweet-ish, milder flavor. Feel free to substitute this type of basil if you can't find Thai basil.
Ingredients and Substitutions
These noodles are very easy to make and ready in about 30 minutes. Besides the Thai holy basil, you can find every ingredient in your pantry. Here is a breakdown of everything you'll need:
- Rice noodles: They are gluten-free but have a rich texture to them. They are light and soak up the flavors of the sauce really well. You can substitute any kind of long noodle if you don't have rice noodles, however, they will not absorb the sauce as well as the rice noodles will.
- Extra Firm Tofu: Adds protein and soaks up the flavors of the sauce. If you can't get extra firm tofu, feel free to use the firm kind. Tempeh or soy curls can be used instead.
- Thai holy basil: Will add depth of flavor and spice to the dish. If you can't find holy basil or don't like as much heat you can sub in Thai basil or sweet Italian basil.
- Vegetables: I use shiitake mushrooms and bok choy because they add a nice texture to this dish, however, feel free to add in any of your favorite vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, baby corn etc.
- Sauce: For the sauce, I use tamari, chili paste aka samabl oelek (check out my Chili Garlic Tofu for more on this sauce), rice wine vinegar, garlic powder, and maple syrup. You can substitute soy sauce or liquid amino for tamari and brown sugar for maple syrup.
How to make these noodles
Step 1: Heat 1 TB oil in a non-stick pan and add the tofu. Cook for a few minutes on each side until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
Step 2: Heat 1 TB oil and add onions and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Step 3: Add mushrooms and bok choy and cook until tender.
Step 4: Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for rice noodles. When water is boiling, turn off the heat and add rice noodles for about 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain the noodles and add to the pan with the vegetables.
Step 5: Whisk together the sauce ingredients, add to the pan, and cook everything for another 3-5 minutes.
Step 6: Turn off heat and add basil and tofu and stir to coat everything with the sauce.
Tips and Substitutions
- To keep the spice level low, switch Thai holy basil with Thai basil or Italian basil. You can also reduce the heat by reducing the amount of chili paste to half.
- To add extra flavor to this dish, double the sauce, and marinate tofu in half of the sauce for at least 20 minutes.
- Switch up the veggies and add in:
- other mushrooms
- bell pepper
- yellow squash
- baby corn
- Tofu tips:
- Other ways to use the sauce would be to add it to rice dishes, as a tempeh marinade or sauce, poured over veggies as a side dish, or use it as a dipping sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
I recommend prepping some parts of the dish in advance, such as the tofu and sauce because the noodles taste best right out of the pan.
It will last up to 4 days in the fridge. To reheat, add it back to a pan with a little soy sauce or water.
Yes, they can be frozen for up to one month and reheated on the stove.
Wash, remove any excess moisture, and place in a plastic zip-top bag with a paper towel loosely wrapped around the sprig. The leaves will stay fresh for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Here's a great article on keeping herbs fresh.
More tasty Thai- and Vietnamese-inspired dishes
And be sure to check out the list of my favorite vegan pasta recipes for more noodle inspiration.
If you make this recipe and LOVE IT, please give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!
Thai Basil Noodles
- 1 package of firm organic/non-GMO tofu drained, pressed, and cubed (see tofu notes)
- 2-3 Tablespoon olive oil (or sesame oil)
- 1 small onion chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 cups mushrooms (I used shiitake), chopped*
- 4 small bok choy
- 8 oz rice noodles or other noodles of choice, cooked to package directions
- ½ cup Thai holy basil cut into ribbons** or Thai basil
- Heat 1 TB oil in a large pan and add the tofu. Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. (see tofu notes)
- In the same pan, heat 1 TB oil and add onions and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes until onion is translucent.
- Add mushrooms and bok choy (as well as another TB of oil if needed) and cook until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for rice noodles. When water is boiling, turn off heat and add rice noodles for about 4 minutes or until al dente. You don't want them too soft because they will cook more later on. When noodles are al dente, drain and add to the pan with the vegetables.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients, add to pan and cook everything for another 3-5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and add basil and mix through.
- Fold in tofu and top with sesame seeds.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel confident in creating sustainable habits that align with their values and health goals. She shares easy gluten-free plant-powered food to nourish your body + satisfy your tastebuds. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition info have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.