Healthy Ground Turkey Pad Thai

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by Sil Pancho

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03.15.2024


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!

a metal saute pan with stir fried noodles and fresh herbs from overhead with tongsa metal saute pan with stir fried noodles and fresh herbs from overhead with tongs

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.

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

the pad thai ingredients with text overlaythe pad thai ingredients with text overlay
  • 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 CabbageNapa Caesar or this Napa 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

on the left the cooked noodles in a colander and on the right the ingredients for the sauce (before they are whisked together.) on the left the cooked noodles in a colander and on the right the ingredients for the sauce (before they are whisked together.)

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.

photo collage of: ground turkey in a skillet on the left and the turkey and napa cabbage cooked together in the right photophoto collage of: ground turkey in a skillet on the left and the turkey and napa cabbage cooked together in the right photo

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.

collage of two photos: left is the noodles in the sauce and right is the cabbage and turkey mixture in the same skillet as the noodles before they are stirred togethercollage of two photos: left is the noodles in the sauce and right is the cabbage and turkey mixture in the same skillet as the noodles before they are stirred together

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.

a serving of the Pad Thai with turkey with fresh chopped herbs on top and lime wedgea serving of the Pad Thai with turkey with fresh chopped herbs on top and lime wedge

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:

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.

the healthy pad thai from the side with a jar of cilantro in the backgroundthe healthy pad thai from the side with a jar of cilantro in the background

More Recipes With Thai Flavors

  • This vegan Thai pumpkin soup recipe comes 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 easy Coconut Lime combination 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

Print

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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!


  • 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


  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

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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