Exotic Eats: Low-Carb Paleo Pad Thai

This nutrient-rich ethnic comfort food is ideal for non-training days.

As an athlete, you rely on your body to perform consistently at its optimum level. For this reason, many athletes turn to whole foods to fuel their training. If you follow a grain-free, gluten-free, nut-free, or paleo diet, or are simply looking to add more vegetables to your plate, this dish is one to include in your meal plan rotation. It also great for rest days when your carb consumption may be lower than a typical training day.

This vegetable pad Thai recipe replaces traditional rice noodles with zucchini “noodles” and shredded carrots. Not only does this rainbow of produce look good, it is also packed with nutrients and tastes incredible. The pad Thai sauce is an authentic flavor burst that will transport your taste buds to the streets of Thailand.

Zucchini has a high water content, which can make cooking with it somewhat problematic. The key to avoiding a watery sauce is to cook the zucchini noodles first, let them rest, and then remove them from the pan and discard the liquid. This allows the liquid to drain out from the zucchini. Don’t forget to drain the liquid from the pan before proceeding, or the end result will be a watered-down sauce.

Low-Carb Paleo Pad Thai

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish


  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (divided)
  • 3 zucchini, cut into long “noodles” with a spiralizer or mandolin (seeds discarded)
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 12oz chicken breasts or thighs cut into bite-sized cubes (substitute tofu or other protein combo of your choice if desired)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 green onions, chopped (white and green parts separated)
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate (tamarind paste)
  • 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon sunflower seed butter (non-paleo option: use 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, crushed)
  • 1 Tablespoon preserved radish (not pickled), optional
  • 1 cup (or more) bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon crushed Thai chili peppers (or adjust to your desired spice level)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Lime or lemon wedges to squeeze on top when serving


  1. Chop all veggies and set aside.
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining tamarind, water, vinegar, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, sunbutter, and radish in a small dish. Set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large sauté pan.
  4. When oil is hot, add zucchini and cook about 2-3 minutes. “Noodles” should be tender-crisp, so be careful not to overcook or they will get mushy.
  5. Remove pan from heat and let rest about 3 minutes for the zucchini to release its moisture. Remove zucchini noodles from pan into a strainer and drain excess water. Set noodles aside.
  6. Wipe pan dry and place back on the heat.
  7. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan. Add garlic, white part of onion, and chicken (or other protein). Stir fry until chicken is no longer pink on the outside.
  8. Break eggs into wok and let them fry without breaking them up for 2 minutes.
  9. Add the tamarind sauce mixture and the sunbutter (or 2/3 of the peanuts) and stir.
  10. Add carrots, red pepper, bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peppers, and onion greens. Stir fry 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add zucchini noodles back to the pan and toss to combine. Cook about 1 more minute until noodles are heated through.
  12. Remove from heat and transfer to serving dish.
  13. Top with additional cilantro, crushed peppers, remaining peanuts (if using), and onion greens. Serve with lemon/lime wedges on the side.


You can find tamarind concentrate, preserved radish, rice vinegar, and fish sauce in Asian markets. Some traditional grocery stores carry them in the Asian foods section, or you can easily find them online at sites such as Amazon.

More Paleo Cooking:

Photo courstey of Kari Lund.

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