Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (2024)

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Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (1) by Katie Webster
March 8, 2024
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This Healthy Pad Thai is made with ground turkey, simple ingredients and kitchen staples you can find at any grocery store! It’s even faster than takeout because you can get it on your table in 30 minutes flat!

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (2)

I originally shared this recipe for Turkey Pad Thai on June 2nd, 2012. I have updated the recipe and content to share with you again today.

Table of contents

  • Why We Love This Turkey Pad Thai Recipe
  • Ingredients For Ground Turkey Pad Thai
  • How To Make Turkey Pad Thai
  • FAQ’s and Expert Tips for the Best Turkey Pad Thai
  • Make Ahead, Leftovers, Storage, Reheating
  • Serving Suggestions for Healthy Pad Thai
  • Variations To Try
  • FAQs
  • More Recipes With Thai Flavors

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Why We Love This Turkey Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai is a popular Thai recipe of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, tofu and typical Thai seasonings like Tamarind, dried shrimp, palm sugar and fish sauce. Our simplified (and healthified) version is made with basic ingredients you can easily find in any North American grocery store.

Why it’s healthier: We have cut back on the added sugar, fat and bulked up the serving size with the low-calorie but nutrient-dense addition of cabbage. It is lower in fat, and made with lean ground turkey instead of stir-fried tofu and eggs. Each serving has only 3 grams of saturated fat.

Ingredients For Ground Turkey Pad Thai

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (3)
  • Stir-fry rice noodles: I used Thai Kitchen brand of rice noodles. If you cannot find rice noodles you can also use linguini for this recipe.
  • Cooking oil: I recommend a high-heat cooking oil such as organic canola oil or avocado oil. Vegetable oil is another option or if you have grapeseed oil or peanut oil, they’ll work too.
  • Ground turkey: For the best texture do not use 99% lean ground turkey. Instead use 85% to 95% lean. Note: You can also make this recipe with leftover turkey, so if you’re wondering if it will work with chopped cooked turkey meat you can read how here.
  • Scallions: Chopped green onions (or scallions) are used to cook with the turkey and cabbage and to finish the dish. When you slice the green onions make sure to separate the green parts from the whites.
  • Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage: To bulk up the amount of fresh veggies in this Turkey Pad Thai I added in about 1 small head of Napa Cabbage. Here’s a primer on how to cut cabbage. You’ll want to slice it so that it blends in with the Pad Thai noodles. If you have a large head Napa, use the leftovers to make sauteed Napa Cabbage,Napa Caesaror thisNapa and Ramen Salad.
  • Coconut milk: To cook the cabbage mixture down and help thin out the sauce a little so that it coats the noodles nicely. I use light coconut milk, but full fat works too.
  • Brown sugar: The sauce is a little sweet which balances the tangy acidic flavors. You can sub in maple syrup instead of brown sugar
  • Thai fish sauce and Salt: For the sauce we call upon a classic Thai ingredient: Fish Sauce. It has a funky smell but in small amounts it adds umami flavor to Thai cooking. I like Red Boat or Golden Boy fish sauce. Keep it refrigerated and it will last for years! We also add in a tiny bit of salt too to help bring the flavors alive. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, simply remove these items and only add to taste.
  • Tomato paste: The tomato paste thickens the sauce
  • White vinegar and Lime juice: For acidity we added both white vinegar and fresh lime juice to the sauce. This has to balance the sweet and savory ingredients in the Turkey Pad Thai.
  • Garnish: To garnish, top off your Ground Turkey Pad Thai with chopped peanuts or cashews plus cilantro and Thai basil (or regular basil if you can’t find Thai basil.)

How To Make Turkey Pad Thai

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (4)

Step 1: Prepare noodles

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the stir-fry noodles according to their package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Step 2: Combine the sauce ingredients

Meanwhile, whisk brown sugar, fish sauce, tomato paste, lime juice, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (5)

Step 3: Cook the turkey

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add turkey and scallion whites. Crumble and stir the meat with a wooden spoon as it browns. Cook until the meat is cooked through, 6 to 9 minutes.

Step 4: Cook Cabbage

Add cabbage and coconut milk and reduce heat to medium. Stir until the cabbage is just slightly wilted, 1 to 4 minutes. Transfer the turkey mixture to a large bowl.

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (6)

Step 5: Cook noodles in Pad Thai Sauce

Add the reserved sauce to the skillet and the drained noodles and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the noodles are heated through, about 1 minute.

Step 6: Finish and serve

Combine the noodle mixture with the turkey, add the scallion greens and toss to coat. Serve each portion topped with the herbs and nuts.

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Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (7)

FAQ’s and Expert Tips for the Best Turkey Pad Thai

Make Ahead, Leftovers, Storage, Reheating

  • Make Ahead: You can chop the cabbage and whisk the sauce and keep separate in air tight containers (and the sauce in a jar) for up to four days.
  • Leftovers: Any leftover Turkey Pad Thai can be stored in an resealable container in the refrigerator up to three days. Enjoy cold or reheat to serve.
  • Reheating: To reheat place one serving in a microwave safe bowl with a tablespoon or so of water. Cover with parchment. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals (tossing with a fork to break up clumps) until steaming hot. Alternatively re-heat in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat with a little water, stirring often. Reheat while stirring until hot and the noodles are broken apart.

Serving Suggestions for Healthy Pad Thai

Serve this healthy Pad Thai with Turkey on its own or pair it with one of these dishes:

  • Pair with a simple green veggie like Green Beans
  • This Thai Green Mango Salad is a perfect sweet and tangy side dish for Pad Thai
  • Serve the Pad Thai as a side dish with Broiled Thai Skirt Steak and Sesame Slaw.
  • A crunchy Thai Cucumber Salad would be great with this too.
  • Serve Watermelon Sorbet or Coconut and Pineapple Sorbet as a dessert course

Variations To Try

  • Use leftover turkey. Instead of browning the turkey in step 3, simply sizzle the scallion whites for a minute or so. Then add your chopped leftover turkey with the coconut milk and Napa cabbage in step 3.
  • Instead of Napa cabbage, shave down your prep time and use bagged coleslaw cabbage mix.
  • Use thinly sliced yellow onion or red onion instead of scallions
  • Add some spice by finely chopping a Thai bird chili and adding it to the skillet with the scallion whites. Alternatively, add some Sriracha to the sauce or pass hot sauce at the table

FAQs

What is the difference between lo mein and Pad Thai?

Pad Thai is a Thai noodle dish made with cooked rice noodles with a sweet and tangy sauce, meat, poultry or vegetables and crushed peanuts. Lo Mein is a Chinese noodle dish where the wheat noodles are parboiled, tossed with a light sauce, and added to a wok after the veggies and protein have been cooked.

What is the flavor in Pad Thai?

The overall flavors of this dish are a combination of sweet, savory, salty, nutty, tangy and acidic.

What is the best way to reheat Pad Thai?

The best way to reheat leftovers is to place the Pad Thai in a covered microwave-safe dish, add a bit of water and reheat in 30 second increments.

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (8)

More Recipes With Thai Flavors

  • This veganThai pumpkin soup recipecomes together in 15 minutes—really! Plus, it’s paleo-friendly and gluten-free.
  • This Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Coconut Soup is loosely based on the classic Thai soup- Tom Kha Gai, but I’ve loaded it up with veggies and rice noodles to make it a easy, hearty and healthy weeknight meal.
  • Thai-style fish cakes with herbal salad made with Tilapia, cooked in coconut oil and served with a flavorful shredded salad with fresh lime, mint, cilantro and basil. It’s a flavor explosion!
  • I marinated this Grilled Skirt Steak in an easyCoconut Limecombination that gives it Thai-inspired flavor.
  • Just a simple platter of sliced tomatoes with 4 ingredient Thai Basil dressing.

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (9)

Healthy Turkey Pad Thai Recipe

★★★★★4.3 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
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Description

This Healthy Pad Thai is made with ground turkey, simple ingredients and kitchen staples you can find at any grocery store! It’s even faster than takeout because you can get it on your table in 30 minutes flat!

Ingredients

UnitsScale

  • 6 ounces Thai stir-fry rice noodles
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced and whites and green parts divided
  • 8 cups sliced Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage, (about 1 small head)
  • 1/2 cup lite coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted cashews or peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, preferably Thai

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the stir-fry noodles according to their package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk brown sugar, fish sauce, tomato paste, lime juice, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add turkey and scallion whites. Crumble and stir the meat with a wooden spoon as it browns. Cook until the meat is cooked through, 6 to 9 minutes.
  4. Add cabbage and coconut milk and reduce heat to medium. Stir until the cabbage is just slightly wilted, 1 to 4 minutes. Transfer the turkey mixture to a large bowl.
  5. Add the reserved sauce to the skillet and the drained noodles and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the noodles are heated through, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer the noodle mixture to the bowl with the turkey, add the scallion greens and toss to coat. Serve each portion topped with the herbs and nuts.

Notes

How to reheat leftovers:

Place the Pad Thai in a covered microwave safe dish, add a bit of water and reheat in 30 second increments.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Thai

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 cups each
  • Calories: 365
  • Fat: 13
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 21 g

Keywords: Turkey Pad Thai,Healthy Pad Thai, Ground Turkey Pad Thai, Ground Turkey and Rice Noodles,healthy pad thai recipe,turkey pad thai recipe,ground turkey pad thai recipe

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (10)

About the Author

Katie Webster

Katie Webster studied art and photography at Skidmore College and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. She has been a professional recipe developer since 2001 when she first started working in the test kitchen at EatingWell magazine. Her recipes have been featured in numerous magazines including Shape, Fitness, Parents and several Edible Communities publications among others. Her cookbook, Maple {Quirk Books} was published in 2015. She launched Healthy Seasonal Recipes in 2009. She lives in Vermont with her husband, two teenage daughters and two yellow labs. In her free time, you can find her at the gym, cooking, stacking firewood, making maple syrup, and tending to her overgrown perennial garden.

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10 comments on “Turkey Pad Thai”

  1. PJ Van March 18, 2024 @ 1:49 pm Reply

    Loved this recipe and so did the family. I added some hot pepper flakes because we like a little heat. It was fresh, light, and so yummy. Something different.

  2. Tracy March 6, 2023 @ 8:03 pm Reply

    We loved the combination of textures with the fresh Napa, smooth noodles, crunchy nuts, etc, but there seemed to be very little Thai flavor in the overall dish. We made it strictly according to the recipe, only substituting extra basil in place of cilantro, but were disappointed by its bland taste.

    • Katie Webster March 16, 2023 @ 5:19 am Reply

      Hi Tracy, Thank you for your honest feedback. I really appreciate it. It sounds like this is a recipe I may need to revisit!

  3. Jan Marinelli June 30, 2021 @ 8:23 pm Reply

    Really liked this recipe.
    Will make it again, and again.
    Tastes fresher and healthier than most take-out Pad Thai.
    Was wondering what additional spice to add to give it a wee bit more punch? Thoughts?
    Otherwise, happy with it like it is.

    • Katie July 2, 2021 @ 8:29 am Reply

      Glad you like it! You can add some sriracha and soy or tamari.

  4. Trudy April 15, 2020 @ 11:16 am Reply

    Fine recipe – the tomato paste actually ends up making it taste quite a bit like spaghetti. I ended up adding much more fish sauce and including sesame oil, which was not originally included, to cover up the tomato taste. I also had to add quite a bit of spice (Sriracha) to cover the sweetness from both the tomato paste and the brown sugar. My advice would be to add half the tomato paste and half to 2/3 of the brown sugar in this recipe, as well as include your favorite Pad Thai spice (in my case, the Sriracha). I also thought the coconut milk came out too strongly tasting like coconut, so again, had to incorporate more fish sauce and sesame oil.

  5. Kristi Rimkus June 5, 2012 @ 12:37 am Reply

    What a terrific use for ground turkey! Everything looks beautiful!

  6. ChefAndie June 4, 2012 @ 3:07 pm Reply

    I just happened on your website and read both this great sounding recipe and about Linke. I too have occassional flashbacks of his critiques (and appreciate them).
    Fellow Skiddie Class of 1990

  7. myfudo June 4, 2012 @ 8:49 am Reply

    Looks wonderful. Haven’t tried anything like this. I love the combination.

  8. thyme June 3, 2012 @ 2:35 am Reply

    Looks fantastic. It was all worth the effort you put into getting it right. We go out for Pad Thai once a month and I just inhale it.

Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai | 30 Minute Recipe (2024)

FAQs

Can pad thai be healthy? ›

It can definitely be a part of a balanced, well-rounded diet. While pad thai includes many nutritious ingredients, its sodium content is considerably high. You can reduce its sodium by requesting the eatery go easy on the sauce and salt-contributing condiments.

Is drunken noodles healthy? ›

And, Thai dishes don't tend to be terribly high in calories, either. Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles both have a moderate calorie count, making them a good choice at a restaurant. On top of that, they're packed with veggies and protein.

What is the difference between Pad See Ew and pad thai? ›

What is The Difference Between Pad See Ew & Pad Thai? Noodles – Pad Thai is often made with thin rice noodles whereas Pad See Ew will have a wider, flatter rice noodle. Sauce – Pad Thai is all about the tamarind whereas Pad See Ew takes its primary sauce flavor from soy sauce.

How many calories are in pad thai? ›

Just watch your portion: Pad thai clocks in at 300 to 400 calories a cup. Some restaurants' entrees are three or four times that.

Can I eat Pad Thai while losing weight? ›

Thai food is fairly healthy and good for weight loss.

What is unhealthy in Thai food? ›

These include fried foods and meals that are high in sugar and sodium. Thai menus also include some less healthy options, like fried appetizers and drinks made with added sugars.

What is the healthiest Thai food to order? ›

Gorin likes to order the salad as an appetizer, but if you add some grilled protein to your order, it easily transforms into a light meal.
  • Chicken Satay. ...
  • Spicy Beef Salad. ...
  • Whole Steamed Fish. ...
  • Pad Thai (With Extra Vegetables) ...
  • Green Curry (With Extra Veggies And Lean Protein) ...
  • Chicken Larb. ...
  • Basil Tofu. ...
  • Tom Yum Soup.
Sep 24, 2019

Why is Pad Thai so high in calories? ›

While the dish isn't usually the highest calorie option on a Thai menu, it does provide significant calories because it is stir-fried using oil, and because the dish includes peanuts. Pad Thai nutrition is sometimes called into question because of the sugar in the dish.

Which is healthier Drunken Noodles or Pad Thai? ›

What's healthier - Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles? Overall, Pad Thai has less calories than Drunken Noodles. Pad Thai has 357 calories per cup whereas Drunken Noodles has 323 calories per cup.

What meat is best for Pad Thai? ›

Pad Thai is a Thai noodle stir fry with a sweet-savoury-sour sauce scattered with crushed peanuts. It's made with thin, flat rice noodles, and almost always has bean sprouts, garlic chives, scrambled egg, firm tofu and a protein – the most popular being chicken or prawns/shrimp.

Is Pad See Ew or Pad Thai healthier? ›

I would say Pad Thai is healthier - but only in its basic form. When it arrives at the table it is usually accompanied by a set of condiments, including white sugar, fish sauce, chilli and vinegar. If you add all these you will tip the balance in favour of Pad See-Ew!

What makes Pad Thai taste like Pad Thai? ›

Traditional pad thai sauce includes fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and tamarind paste. Tamarind paste is not easily found at a regular grocery stores so I substituted rice vinegar. If you would like to use tamarind paste, substitute about 2 Tablespoons in place of the rice vinegar in this recipe.

Is pad thai junk food? ›

Although the ingredients in pad Thai are generally pretty healthy, the calories can still add up fast. Just one cup of a typical pad Thai has about 400 calories and 17 grams of fat, as well as loads of sodium.

What is the lowest calorie Thai dish? ›

Thai Food Calories List
Healthiest Thai Food (calories)Approximate Calories per Serving
Tom Yum Soup70-90 calories
Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)80-100 calories
Gai Pad Krapow (Basil Chicken)200-300 calories
Yum Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Salad)170-250 calories
16 more rows

What Thai food has the least calories? ›

Thai Food With Low Calorie - Healthiest Options
  • Pad Thai. ...
  • Green Curry (With Extra Veggies) ...
  • Tom Yum Soup. ...
  • Chicken Larb. ...
  • Fresh Summer Rolls. ...
  • Eat the Healthiest Thai Food Guilt-Free.

Is Thai food healthy or unhealthy? ›

The health benefits of Thai cuisine include improved digestion, immune system, and balanced nutrition. Thai cuisine also incorporates a variety of vegetables, herbs, and lean proteins, making it a great option for people looking for healthy Thai food.

Are Pad Thai rice noodles healthy? ›

Rice noodles are low in fat and moderate in calories, making them a healthy option. Try pairing them with high fiber veggies and tasty sauces — though you may want to limit your use of high sodium add-ins like soy sauce.

Are Pad Thai noodles healthier than pasta? ›

Pasta and rice noodles are just about tied when it comes to calories, fat and fiber, as well as on the carb front (if you're on a low-carb diet like keto, stick to zoodles). Regular pasta has about 2 grams of sugar per serving while rice noodles are virtually sugar-free. Both are also free of cholesterol.

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