Kim’s Gluten-Free “Healthy” Vegetarian Pad Thai
It has been a really long time since I last made pad thai….mostly because it is so hard to find a healthy recipe. So after searching the internet for, oh, was it an hour? seemed like it (!) ...I found ideas through a few different recipes, to inspire me to try to make my own healthier version of pad thai. (and, even if I do say so myself, it turned out to be pretty delicious!)
Pad thai gets such a bad rap, because it is usually so high in fat and sugar. Some people think it is because of the tamarind sauce, but tamarind itself is actually healthy – well, at least it is not UN-healthy. And so in the spirit of “it is not what you put on your plate but what you take off of it”, I focussed on finding ways to still use this very vibrant ingredient.
Tamarind fruit has been shown to have several health benefits (reference USDA website: (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base): It is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Tamarind fruit is also rich in many vital vitamins, including thiamin (36% of daily required levels in 100g), vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C. Many of these vitamins play antioxidant and co-factor functions for enzyme metabolism inside the body. Tamarind fruit also contains fibre (100 g of fruit pulp provides 5.1 g or over 13% of dietary fiber); dietary fibre binds to bile salts (produced by cholesterol) preventing their re-absorption by the colon and thereby reducing “bad” or LDL cholesterol. Not bad, huh?
The “bad” comes in when recipes add refined sugar to counteract the bitterness of the tamarind paste. The recipe that I concocted uses maple syrup (pure, organic…not maple-flavoured corn syrup), which contains antioxidants and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. It has a lower GI (glycemic index) level than refined sugars (54 compared to an average 64), so it causes less of a sugar spike. It’s also very intense, so less of it can be used. But maple syrup can taste…well, maple-y, so if you don’t like how it tastes in this recipe, raw honey would work too (again, make sure it is raw wildflower honey, not processed honey). I have also used olive oil, which has heart-healthy properties compared to the usual processed oils. I switched out the usual white noodles for brown rice (again, it has a lower GI, but it also adds fibre and keeps the recipe gluten-free – my husband has celiac). Raw spiralized zucchini noodles would also work, and would add a huge serving of vegetables. I’ll try that next time. I made a few other minor changes, as you can see in the recipe below.
Ok, so now that we know it’s healthy, is it GOOD? My husband (my “taste tester” and fellow carb addict) thought so. And it was easy to make. From start to finish, it took about 20 minutes which is important when we have so much on the go.
I encourage you to try this and let me know what you think. Recipes are only a guide, not a blue-print...feel free to make adjustments (as long as they are healthy ones of course!) as you try this recipe:
(link to Kim’s Gluten-Free “Healthy” Vegetarian Pad Thai Recipe)