Thai Basil Chicken is a quick and easy Thai chicken recipe that is budget friendly, incredibly delicious and so much better than takeout! Ground chicken, onions, red bell peppers, and basil stir fried in the tastiest thick savory sauce!
Thai Basil Chicken or Gai Pad Krapow is seriously one of the quickest dishes you can make! This simple Thai recipe delivers the most flavor in very little time, 20 minutes to be exact! Serve it with some rice, cauliflower rice or quinoa for a complete mouthwatering meal that is so much better than takeout.
What is Thai Basil Chicken?
Thai Basil chicken is a popular Thai street food very well known in most of the world. Thai Basil Chicken also known as Pad Krapow Gai and Gai Pad Krapow consists of stir fried chicken, pork or beef in a tasty savory sauce with chilis and basil leaves. It is often served with white rice and a sunny side up egg.
The word Krapow means holy basil (Tulsi), a specific type of basil commonly used for this recipe. However, Holy basil is hard to find anywhere outside Thailand.
Ingredients To Make Thai Basil Chicken
For The Chicken Stir Fry
- Ground Chicken – You can use ground turkey, ground pork or ground beef as well.
- Oil – Vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocado oil and even coconut oil works.
- Garlic – Minced. Fresh garlic is really a must for this simple ground chicken recipe.
- Thai Chiles – Sliced thinly. Sometimes it is hard to find Thai chiles, don’t worry! You can use other chiles like jalapenos or serranos. Remove the seeds and veins if you want a milder dish (the veins is where the heat is!). Dried Chili flakes can be used if you don’t have fresh chiles.
- Red Onions – Sliced. Feel free to use brown or white onions.
- Red Bell Peppers – Sliced. Any color of bell pepper can be used.
- Thai Basil – Holy basil or Italian basil can be used.
For The Stir Fry Sauce
- Sweet Soy Sauce – If I have run out of sweet soy sauce I use low sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce mixed with a pinch of sugar. More on sweet soy sauce below. Use tamari to keep this dish gluten free.
- Oyster Sauce – This rich and thick sauce is available in most supermarkets. You can find gluten free oyster sauce sold online and in certain specialty markets.
- Fish Sauce – Stinky and delicious at the same time. Savory, pungent and readily available. Substitutions for fish sauce aren’t as simple as opening a bottle of this stuff, this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, shiitaki mushrooms are the main ingredient in a salty/savory broth that resembles the umami flavors of fish sauce (a must read for vegetarians!). Food 52 suggests mixing soy sauce with anchovy fillets as an alternative.
- Chicken Broth – Vegetable broth or water can be used. When making this Thai recipe with ground turkey, I still use chicken broth. Turkey broth tends to have a strong old-turkey flavor (or so I think!).
- Ground Black Pepper
How To Make Thai Basil Chicken
- Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Heat the oil into a wok or large skillet and stir fry the garlic and chiles for about a minute. Don’t brown the garlic.
- Add the chicken and stir fry for 3 – 4 minutes, breaking up the ground chicken into smaller pieces (think small pebbles).
- When the chicken is no longer pink, drain any excess liquid (if needed).
- Add the onions and peppers and stir fry for about a minute. You want the veggies crispy.
- Stir in the sauce and stir fry for a couple of minutes. The sauce will get a bit thick.
- Stir in the basil and cook until the basil is wilted. The basil will turn a darker color as soon as it gets heated up. Serve!
What Is The Difference Between Thai Basil And Basil?
Thai Basil used in many Southeast Asian recipes is slightly savory with hints of licorice (anise) flavor. It has some sweet notes similar to Holy basil. Thai basil leaves are a bit sturdier than regular basil also which makes it a great ingredient to use in soups and stir fries. Regular Basil or Italian basil is more delicate and has a milder, almost sweeter flavor. The leaves and stems are delicate which makes it a great ingredient to use in raw preparations like pesto and salads.
Can I Substitute Regular Basil for Thai Basil?
Yes you can. Actually I make this Thai Basil Chicken recipe with Italian basil quite often as sometimes I cannot find Thai basil.
Frequently Asked Questions About This Thai Recipe
- Can I make this recipe vegetarian?
Yes, you can use diced tofu or add other vegetables instead of the ground chicken. Read more about vegetarian substitutes for fish sauce in the ingredients portion of this post.
- Can I add more vegetables to this Thai recipe?
Absolutely, you can add chopped asparagus, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, mushrooms, snap peas and sliced carrots among other things. You can add all these vegetables at the same time you add the bell peppers and onions. Alternately if you like your broccoli extra crispy, you can add it at the end together with the basil leaves.
- What is sweet soy sauce?
Sweet soy sauce is a thick sauce made of soy sauce, palm sugar, aromatics like ginger and green onions and a mixture of spices.
- Can I make Sweet Soy Sauce at home?
Yes you can! Omnivor’s Cookbook has a great recipe for it here
- It’s 30 minutes until dinner time and I just noticed I don’t have sweet soy sauce, what can I do? Help!
I’ve been there more times that I care to tell. Simply mix light or low sodium soy sauce with a big pinch of brown sugar. Not quite the same as simmering multiple ingredients until an almost syrupy consistence but it works!
Tips and Notes About This Thai Recipe
- You can use small diced chicken thighs instead of ground chicken for this recipe.
- If you only have dried spices (garlic powder and dried chili flakes), heat the oil in the wok or skillet, stir fry the chicken, drain any excess liquid and then add the dry spices. Follow the rest of the recipe as written.
- If you love Thai food, take a look at some of my favorite recipes:
Easy Thai Tom Yum Soup
Coconut Curry Soup with Shrimp
Thai Chicken Larb Salad
Thai Red Curry Chicken with Vegetables
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Thai Basil Chicken
For the Sauce
For the Stir Fry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- 1 - 2 Thai or serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 cup Thai basil leaves, stems removed, loosely packed *see notes
- In a small bowl mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and chiles and cook for about 20 seconds stirring constantly. Add the ground chicken and cook for about 3 - 4 minutes breaking up the meat into small pieces. You want the chicken to have some texture so don't break it up too much. When the chicken is no longer pink, drain any excess liquid.
- Add the onions and red bell peppers and stir fry for about 1 minute. Stir in the sauce and cook, stirring constantly until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the basil and cook until the basil is wilted and the chicken is cooked through.
- In the post above, I have listed substitution options in case you don't have sweet soy sauce. Light or less sodium soy sauce mixed with a pinch of brown sugar can be used instead.
- If you can't find Thai Basil you can use regular (Italian) basil.
- You can chop the basil or use the leaves whole as I did.
- The basil turns a darker color as it wilts. For a nice presentation, garnish with a few fresh basil leaves.
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