Is Pad Thai or Pad Kee Mao healthier?

Both Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mao are popular Thai noodle dishes enjoyed around the world. But when it comes to nutritional value, which one is the healthier choice? Here we’ll compare the ingredients, calories, and nutritional profiles of Pad Thai versus Pad Kee Mao to help you determine the healthier option.

Pad Thai Ingredients

The primary ingredients in Pad Thai are:

  • Rice noodles
  • Protein (usually chicken, shrimp, tofu or eggs)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Lime
  • Fish sauce
  • Palm sugar
  • Garlic
  • Tamarind paste
  • Dried chili pepper

Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish flavored with a balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy ingredients. It often includes eggs, protein and veggies like bean sprouts for a well-rounded meal.

Pad Kee Mao Ingredients

The primary ingredients in Pad Kee Mao are:

  • Flat rice noodles
  • Protein (usually chicken, shrimp, pork or beef)
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Bean sprouts
  • Garlic
  • Chili peppers
  • Basil leaves
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce

Pad Kee Mao, also known as drunken noodles, contains stir-fried noodles along with veggies and protein in a spicy soy and oyster sauce. The basil provides fresh herbal flavors.

Calories in Pad Thai vs Pad Kee Mao

The calories in Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mao can vary greatly depending on the specific ingredients used. However, here are some general estimates based on average restaurant versions:

  • Pad Thai (1 cup) – Around 300 calories
  • Pad Kee Mao (1 cup) – Around 250-350 calories

Overall the two dishes are fairly comparable in calories. The vegetables and lean proteins in Pad Kee Mao may sometimes result in slightly fewer calories than Pad Thai.


The main source of carbs in both dishes comes from the rice noodles. A 1 cup serving of Pad Thai or Pad Kee Mao will provide around 45-60g of carbs.

Since they are both based on rice noodles, their carbohydrate content is similar. However, Pad Thai often contains palm sugar which may slightly increase its carbohydrate and calorie density.


The protein content depends on the specific ingredients used in each dish. In general:

  • Pad Thai with chicken or tofu will provide around 15-20g protein per serving.
  • Pad Kee Mao with pork, chicken or beef will offer around 20-25g protein.

Both provide a good amount of protein from the included meat, seafood, eggs or tofu. Pad Kee Mao may sometimes be slightly higher in protein due to its common use of red meats.

Fat Content

The fat content again will vary based on ingredients. But in general:

  • Pad Thai contains around 10g total fat per serving, from oil used for stir-frying and ingredients like eggs and peanuts.
  • Pad Kee Mao provides around 13-15g fat per serving, mostly coming from the stir-frying oil and meats.

Pad Kee Mao tends to be slightly higher in fat, especially saturated fat, due to its common use of pork or beef instead of lighter proteins like chicken or shrimp more often used in Pad Thai.


Pad Thai contains around 2-3g of fiber per serving. This comes mostly from the bean sprouts.

Pad Kee Mao is higher in fiber, with around 4-5g per serving. The increased vegetables in Pad Kee Mao, like cabbage and broccoli, boost its fiber content.

Sodium Content

The sodium contents of the two dishes are:

  • Pad Thai: Around 1000mg sodium
  • Pad Kee Mao: Around 1500-2000mg sodium

Pad Kee Mao contains significantly more sodium, derived mostly from the soy sauce and oyster sauce used to flavor the noodles.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pad Thai contains a small amount of vitamins and minerals like:

  • Vitamin A (11% DV)
  • Vitamin C (7% DV)
  • Calcium (6% DV)
  • Iron (11% DV)

Pad Kee Mao is higher in vitamins and minerals, providing around:

  • Vitamin A (45% DV)
  • Vitamin C (50% DV)
  • Vitamin K (30% DV)
  • Calcium (10% DV)
  • Iron (15% DV)

The greater amount of vegetables in Pad Kee Mao boosts its vitamin and mineral content, especially vitamins A, C and K.

Key Nutritional Differences

To summarize some of the key nutritional differences:

Nutrient Pad Thai Pad Kee Mao
Calories Around 300/serving Around 250-350/serving
Carbs Around 45-60g Around 45-60g
Protein Around 15-20g Around 20-25g
Fat Around 10g Around 13-15g
Fiber Around 2-3g Around 4-5g
Sodium Around 1000mg Around 1500-2000mg
Vitamin A 11% DV 45% DV
Vitamin C 7% DV 50% DV

The Verdict

So in general, Pad Kee Mao appears to be the slightly healthier option, providing more fiber, vitamins and minerals. The increased vegetables boost Pad Kee Mao’s nutritional value.

However, Pad Thai is still a relatively healthy choice and offers a good balance of carbs, lean protein and fiber. It’s lower in fat and sodium compared to Pad Kee Mao.

When choosing between the two dishes, consider your own nutritional needs and preferences. Those limiting carbs or sodium may prefer Pad Thai. For an extra vitamin boost, go for Pad Kee Mao.

Tips for the Healthiest Versions

Here are some tips to make either Pad Thai or Pad Kee Mao healthier:

  • Choose lean proteins like chicken, shrimp or tofu
  • Load up on extra veggies like carrots, cabbage, broccoli
  • Ask for light oil or sauce
  • Request brown or whole grain noodles (if available)
  • Avoid heavy sauces like oyster sauce if limiting sodium
  • Use Sriracha or chili paste instead of heavy soy sauce
  • Add fresh lime, garlic and basil for extra flavor over salt, oil and sugar

Healthier Homemade Versions

To lighten both dishes up, consider making healthier versions at home. You can adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Try these homemade recipes:

Light Pad Thai

  • Swap half the noodles for spiralized carrots or zucchini
  • Use chicken or shrimp instead of beef
  • Flavor with lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger instead of heavy sauce
  • Add tofu for extra protein
  • Pile on fresh basil, bean sprouts, carrots
  • Use just a drizzle of olive oil

Lighter Pad Kee Mao

  • Choose brown rice noodles
  • Use ground turkey instead of pork or beef
  • Season with reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Boost flavor with extra garlic, chili and Thai basil
  • Increase veggies like snap peas, broccoli and onions
  • Use just a small amount of avocado oil to stir-fry


In summary, Pad Kee Mao is likely the healthier choice between the two dishes, due to its higher fiber and vitamin content from more vegetables. However, Pad Thai can also be a nutritious option when made with lean proteins and lots of veggies.

To make either dish healthier, choose lean proteins like chicken or shrimp, load up on extra vegetables, and use natural flavor boosters like lime, garlic and fresh herbs instead of heavy oils, sauces and sugars. Making lighter versions at home can allow you to control the ingredients.

So whether you’re in the mood for Pad Thai or Pad Kee Mao, you can feel good knowing both dishes can be tasty and good for you when made with whole ingredients.

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