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    Thai Basil Beef (Pad Kra Pao)

    Thai Basil Beef is a super quick stir fry that you can have on the table in about 20 minutes. But that doesn’t mean it’s short on flavor!

    Known locally as pad kra pao, this classic dish is enhanced with your usual Asian food staples like soy, oyster and fish sauce, along with some heat from bird’s eye chilis and the distinct taste of Thai basil.

    Thai Basil Beef, also known as pad kra pao, is a super quick stir fry made unique by the addition of bird's eye chilis and Thai holy basil.

    Like other ground meat stir fry dishes such as Ground Beef Bulgogi and Ground Turkey Stir Fry, this one happens in a flash.

    If you need an interesting new weeknight dinner, Thai basil beef is your answer.

    Why We Love this Recipe

    • Bold Flavors: The combination of garlic, Thai bird’s eye chilis, and sauces, not to mention the Thai basil, creates a flavor that’s hard to beat.
    • Versatility: While the recipe calls for ground beef, it’s versatile enough to accommodate other proteins like chicken (yep, Thai Basil Chicken is a thing), pork, or even tofu for a vegetarian twist.
    • It’s Quick and Easy: With a prep time of only 5 minutes and a cook time of 15 minutes, this dish is perfect for a quick meal.
    A bowl of Thai basil beef topped with two fried eggs and garnished with fresh basil leaves.

    So What is Thai Basil Beef?

    Thai Basil Beef, is a popular Thai street food dish with big flavors. Here ground beef is stir-fried with a spicy and aromatic mixture of garlic, Thai bird’s eye chilis, and a mix of sauces like soy, oyster, and fish sauce.

    The star ingredient, Thai basil, gives the dish its unique peppery and slightly anise-like flavor.

    It’s usually served over steamed white rice. Topping it with a fried egg is traditional, and a MUST if you ask me.

    Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

    Thai basil and birds eye chilis on a wooden background.
    • Thai Basil – The star of the dish, Thai basil, has a distinct flavor that’s different from sweet basil. If Thai basil is not available, you can substitute it with sweet basil for a different but still delicious flavor. However, for an authentic taste, Thai basil is preferred. You can typically find it in Asian grocery stores.
    • Ground Beef – I find 90/10 lean to be best for this recipe. Anything leaner can be too dry, fattier can lead to a greasy dish.
    • Thai Bird’s Eye Chilis – These chilis are known for their fiery heat. If you prefer a less spicy dish or can’t find them, you can substitute with other fresh chilis like serrano or jalapeño, adjusting the amount to suit your heat preference.
    • Garlic – Fresh garlic and plenty of it.
    • Sauces – Soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and dark soy sauce. Dark soy can be replaced with more regular.
    • Sugar – To balance the flavors. It can be replaced with brown sugar or honey.
    • Cooking Oil – Any neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil.

    Step by Step Instructions

    1. Crush the garlic and chilis: Although you can finely mince them in a pinch, if you have a pestle and mortar available, use that to crush the garlic and chilis into a paste.

    Crushing garlic and chili peppers with a mortar and pestle.

    2. Sauté chili-garlic paste: Heat oil in wok over high heat, then sauté chili-garlic paste for 20 seconds.

    3. Cook pepper and beef: Add bell pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until beef is browned.

    Adding the basil into the dish.

    4. Finish the dish: Add sugar and sauces, stir until well mixed. Fold in basil. Remove from heat immediately, so the basil doesn’t overcook.

    Final product resting in a skillet.

    Variations

    • Swap the Protein: Use ground chicken, pork, or turkey. We like all of them.
    • Adjust Heat Level : The heat in this dish comes from Thai bird’s eye chilis. If you’re sensitive to spice, reduce the number of chilis or replace them with milder ones like serrano or jalapeño. If you’re a big spice fan, you can increase the number of chilis.
    • Vegetable Additions: Feel free to include more veggies like mushrooms, green beans, or baby corn.
    • Serving Options: While traditionally served over white rice, it can also be paired with brown rice or even cauliflower rice for a low-carb option. Or try it over any type of Asian noodles, like our Spicy Noodles. Other ideas: in lettuce wraps, as a topping for ramen, or even folded in tortillas (yes, it works!)
    Bowl of pad kra pao sitting on a colorful tablecloth.

    Leftovers and Storage

    Pad kra pao is great as leftovers, making it an ideal meal prep option for the whole week. Go ahead and make a double batch, and you can serve it various different ways.

    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the fridge.

    Reheat in the microwave until heated through out, or in a skillet over medium heat with a splash of extra water.

    Recipe Tips and Tricks

    1. Use a Hot Wok: High heat is key for stir-frying. Make sure your wok or skillet is very hot before adding the ingredients.
    2. Balance the Flavors: The beauty of Thai cooking lies in the balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Taste as you go and adjust the seasonings accordingly.
    3. Properly Brown the Beef: Allow the ground beef to cook undisturbed for a few minutes before breaking it up. This helps in getting a good sear on the meat.
    4. Don’t Overcook the Basil: Add the basil at the end and cook it just enough to wilt.
    Overhead shot of the fine dish.

    Take your taste buds to the streets of Bangkok with this authentic and iconic street food, Pad Kra Pao. This lightning fast stir fry is sure to satisfy!

    Pin or bookmark this great recipe so you always know where to find it. And be sure to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you.

    For more easy weeknight dinners, check out our hand picked collection of Dinner Ideas for Tonight. Until next time…

    Thai Basil Beef, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Serving of Thai basil beef atop the Gypsy Plate.

    More quick ground meat stir fry dinners:
    Ground Beef Stir Fry
    Thai Chicken Larb
    Korean Ground Chicken
    Mongolian Ground Beef
    Egg Roll in a Bowl

    Featured image for Thai basil beef recipe post.

    Thai Basil Beef

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 20 minutes

    Thai Basil Beef, also known as pad kra pao, is a super quick stir fry made unique by the addition of bird's eye chilis and Thai holy basil.

    Ingredients

    • 10-12 cloves garlic
    • 7-8 Thai bird's eye chilis
    • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
    • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
    • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
    • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
    • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
    • 1 tsp white sugar
    • 1½ cups Thai basil

    Instructions

    1. Crush chilis and peeled garlic into a paste.
    2. Heat oil in wok over high heat. Add chili-garlic paste and stir for 20 seconds.
    3. Add bell pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
    4. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until beef is browned.
    5. Add sugar and sauces, stir until well mixed.
    6. Fold in basil. Remove from heat immediately, so the basil doesn't overcook.
    7. Serve over fresh white rice, top with fried eggs and garnish with additional Thai basil.

    Notes

    1. This same recipe can be used for ground chicken, turkey or pork.
    2. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave, or in a skillet over medium heat.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 632Total Fat 36gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 177mgSodium 1828mgCarbohydrates 15gFiber 1gSugar 4gProtein 59g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      4 thoughts on “Thai Basil Beef (Pad Kra Pao)”

      • I would like to make with pieces of Chuck, or blade beef. And should marinate first. What ingredients could I use in marinade that would augment the desired flavour Thanking you.

        • Hi Shirley. The main thing you are looking for when marinating beef for a recipe like this is to tenderize it. You will want to cut the meat thinly against the grain, then marinate in a combination of soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, corn starch and baking soda. This process is called “velveting” the meat.

          For detailed instructions, follow the prep and marination instructions in my Mongolian Beef recipe.

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