Do drunken noodles contain gluten?

Quick Answer

Drunken noodles, also known as pad kee mao, are a popular Thai noodle dish that is typically made with rice noodles. Since rice noodles do not contain any gluten, drunken noodles are often considered a gluten-free food option. However, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding the potential for cross-contamination with gluten:

  • Some restaurants may use wheat flour in the sauce for drunken noodles. Check with the restaurant to confirm their sauce is gluten-free.
  • The noodles themselves are gluten-free, but could potentially come into contact with gluten during processing or preparation in a restaurant kitchen.
  • Drunken noodles are often served with additional mix-ins like meat and vegetables that likely don’t contain gluten, but it’s best to confirm with the restaurant.

So in summary – drunken noodles are made from rice noodles that are naturally gluten-free, but there is potential for gluten cross-contamination depending on the restaurant’s recipe and kitchen practices. Anyone following a gluten-free diet would need to check with the restaurant before consuming drunken noodles.

What are drunken noodles?

Drunken noodles, known in Thai as pad kee mao, are a popular stir-fried noodle dish in Thai cuisine. It consists of rice noodles (often wide rice noodles called sen yai) stir-fried in a sauce along with meat, vegetables, basil leaves, and chili peppers.

Some key features of drunken noodles:

  • Rice noodles – The foundation is wide rice noodles that are naturally gluten-free.
  • Spicy sauce – The noodles are cooked in a sauce flavored with soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, chili, etc.
  • Meat and veggies – Common proteins include chicken, beef, pork, seafood or tofu. Onions, tomatoes, broccoli and bell peppers are frequently used.
  • Basil – The dish is finished with plenty of fresh Thai basil leaves.
  • Spicy and sweet – Drunken noodles have a sweet yet spicy flavor profile from the sauce ingredients.

The name “drunken noodles” likely refers to the feeling you get after eating a dish flavored with chili peppers and basil. The spices can give a sensation of intoxication!

Are rice noodles gluten-free?

Rice noodles, the main component of drunken noodles, are made from rice flour and water. This means they do not contain any gluten or wheat.

Here are some key facts about rice noodles and gluten:

  • Made from rice – Rice noodles are made by combining rice flour and water.
  • No gluten – Since rice is naturally gluten-free, rice noodles contain zero gluten.
  • Safe for celiacs – Rice noodles are safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
  • Many shapes – Rice noodles come in various widths and shapes like pad thai noodles, vermicelli, etc.
  • Common in Asian cuisines – Rice noodles are very commonly used in Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and other Asian dishes.

So rice noodles themselves are inherently gluten-free. But keep in mind that cross-contamination is still a risk factor when eating out or buying packaged noodles. Proper precautions need to be taken by restaurants and manufacturers.

Are other ingredients in drunken noodles gluten-free?

In addition to the rice noodles, traditional drunken noodles contain a variety of other ingredients like meat, vegetables, sauce components and herbs. Here is an overview of the common gluten-free status of these additions:

  • Meat – Chicken, beef, pork and seafood contain no gluten.
  • Vegetables – Common veggies like onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc are naturally gluten-free.
  • Sauce – Soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and other common Thai sauce ingredients are gluten-free. But wheat flour is sometimes added – check with restaurant.
  • Herbs – Fresh basil, cilantro and other herbs contain no gluten.
  • Oil – Frying oils like vegetable, peanut or rice bran oil are gluten-free.

So any whole, unprocessed ingredients like proteins, vegetables, and herbs will not contain gluten. Sauces are the biggest variable and cross-contamination risk for gluten. Verify drunken noodle sauce ingredients when dining out.

Are restaurant drunken noodles gluten-free?

When ordering drunken noodles at a restaurant, take some precautions to ensure your meal is prepared 100% gluten-free:

  • Check if restaurant offers gluten-free menu – Many Thai restaurants now specify gluten-free dishes.
  • Tell server it’s an allergy – Make the kitchen extra careful to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Ask about ingredients – Verify sauce, noodles, and oils are all gluten-free.
  • Avoid add-ins like soy sauce – Only use provided gluten-free condiments.
  • Risk of cross-contact – Even gluten-free dishes can pick up traces of gluten in kitchen.

While the main components of drunken noodles are gluten-free, cross-contamination is possible in restaurant kitchen environments. Sauce stirring instruments, woks, surfaces, and oil may all introduce gluten if not carefully managed.

Some tips for finding gluten-free drunken noodles when dining out:

  • Look for restaurants that advertise gluten-free options on the menu.
  • Call ahead to ask if they can accommodate gluten-free needs.
  • Stick to restaurants dedicated to gluten-free cooking if highly sensitive.
  • If uncertain, just ask your server detailed questions about ingredients and process.

With proper precautions, those with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet can often enjoy drunken noodles from restaurants safely. But it’s smart to inquire extensively about preparation methods whenever trying a new eatery.

Are frozen and packaged drunken noodles gluten-free?

When buying frozen or packaged drunken noodles, you’ll need to read labels carefully to confirm gluten-free status:

  • Check allergen info for “wheat” – Should be absent.
  • Look at listed ingredients – Should only show rice noodles and gluten-free ingredients.
  • Beware of shared equipment – Even if ingredients are gluten-free, cross-contact is possible.
  • Confirm both noodles AND sauce – Both need to be gluten-free.
  • Look for gluten-free certification – Symbol indicates thorough testing.

Many brands of frozen Asian noodles specifically advertise on the packaging if the product is gluten-free. These are good options for convenient gluten-free drunken noodles you can easily make at home.

You can also find gluten-free rice noodles and make your own sauce from scratch following a recipe you trust. This gives you maximum control over the ingredients.

Pre-packaged noodles produced in facilities that also process wheat noodles have a high cross-contamination risk. Check labeling and contact manufacturers if uncertain.

Drunken Noodle Gluten-Free Brands

Here are some recommended widely available brands for gluten-free drunken noodles:

Brand Product Notes
Lotus Foods Rice Ramen Noodles Tested gluten-free facility
Annie Chun’s Pad Thai Rice Noodles Gluten-free certification
Sparkling Panda Drunken Noodles Vegetarian Allergen-free facility

You can find a range of gluten-free rice noodle varieties from brands like Rice King, Erawan and Hakubaku as well. Check for “gluten-free” labeled branding when shopping.

Many specialty Asian grocers also stock fresh gluten-free rice noodles you can use to prepare homemade drunken noodles. Read packaging carefully when selecting.

How to Make Gluten-Free Drunken Noodles at Home

Want to whip up your own gluten-free drunken noodles at home? Here are some tips:


  • 8-12 oz rice noodles
  • Protein (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu)
  • Onions, peppers, garlic
  • Soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sweetener
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Chilies


  1. Prepare rice noodles according to package instructions.
  2. Slice protein and veggies.
  3. Make sauce by combining soy sauce, fish sauce, sweetener, garlic, chili and corn starch.
  4. Heat oil in wok or skillet. Stir fry veggies for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Push veggies to sides. Stir fry protein until cooked through.
  6. Add noodles and sauce. Toss everything together 2-3 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. Mix in fresh basil.
  8. Enjoy your homemade gluten-free drunken noodles!

The key is using certified gluten-free noodles and sauces. You can control the ingredients when making drunken noodles at home. Plus you can add in your favorite veggies or protein.


In summary, drunken noodles are often gluten-free since they are made with rice noodles. But gluten contamination can occur during processing or restaurant preparation if wheat flour is added to the sauce. So check on preparation methods whenever ordering drunken noodles when dining out. Look for gluten-free certification on packaged noodles. Also consider making drunken noodles at home so you control all the ingredients. With some care taken to avoid cross-contact, rice noodle drunken noodle dishes can be enjoyed gluten-free!

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