Thai basil chicken, Gai Pad Krapao, is classic Thai street food full of delicious flavors. Ground beef, pork, or turkey work well for this dish, and it's great to serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is simple and full of bold flavors that you love in Thai food!
What is Thai Basil Chicken Gai Pad Kra Pao?
Well, here’s a little Thai language lesson for you. Thai Basil Chicken Stirfry or Gai Pad Kra Pao (Gai-Pud-Grae-Pao), a word for word translation is: Gai means chicken, Pad means stir fry, and Kra Pao means Holy Basil. So, it’s a Thai chicken stir fry with Holy basil using any protein, usually ground or chopped up very small. This recipe calls for ground Chicken.
You must use Holy basil for this recipe, as it is the main ingredient for this popular Thai street food. The Thai basil chicken basil dish is named after Holy basil specifically. You can substitute other types of basil if you have no other option. But know this, you will miss out on what makes this dish a Thai classic. Keep reading for tips on preserving Holy basil for the winter months.
Ingredients for Thai Basil Chicken Recipe
American Grocery Store Ingredient List
- Ground chicken (turkey, beef, or pork is ok, too)
- Fresh green beans-diced small, about ¼ inch
- Vegetable oil
Asian Grocery Story Ingredient List
- Holy basil (leafy parts and soft tips)
- Thai chilis
- Sweet dark soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Oyster sauce
- White or light soy sauce
What is Holy Basil?
Holy basil is a type of basil with a distinctive peppery flavor with an aftertaste that leaves a slight tingling feeling on your tongue. It smells like combining Cinnamon basil, Lemon Balm (herbs), and dried cloves (spice). Maybe that’s not helpful, but my point is that it’s unique, and substitution is not recommended.
Where Can You Find Holy Basil?
You can find Holy basil in the produce section of any Asian grocery store. Look for light green colored basil with a fuzzy branch and stems. See the enlarged picture below. They usually are sold in small bunches. Ask the workers there. They will be happy to help. Get a picture of the Holy basil here to bring with you if you want a visual image of it, and then go on a little adventure to the Asian grocery store.
And while you are there, you might as well grab ingredients for this Drunken Noodle Recipe, too, because this dish also calls for Holy basil. So there you go, two birds with one stone!
Expert Tips for Pad Krapao Recipe
Holy basil thrives in hot climates, and I tend to see more of them during summer. If you live in a cold climate like me, this is what I would do if I were you: Buy a few bunches of Holy basil during the summer season. Wash and dry them with paper towels, pick the leaves and soft tips, and freeze them in Ziploc bags for those months when fresh herbs are sparse. This is the best option I’ve come up with. Never use dried leaves or powdered Holy basil. They are great for tea, but that’s about it. Don’t do it. If a substitution is necessary, use Thai or Cinnamon Basil instead and add extra because Holy basil has a stronger flavor.
How to Make Thai Basil Chicken
Thai Basil Chicken Cooking Instructions
- Cook your egg first and set it to the side until ready to serve over your cooked Thai Basil Chicken. See instruction below with the title, Side 1: Fried Eggs Recipe.
In a small bowl, add all the sauces and wait until it's time to put the sauce into the stir fry.
Heat your wok or large skillet pan over med-high heat on your stove and wait until the wok is hot, 3-5 minutes. Add 2-3 Tbsp of oil and wait 1-2 minutes until the oil is hot. Add garlic, chilis, and shallots. Stir together for 1-2 minutes until fragrant but not too brown.
Add ground meat, and stir all together, breaking up the large chunks of meat as needed. Let it cook, and keep breaking the chunks as you go along. Cook until meat is done, anywhere from 6-10 minutes, depending on your stove and what type of pan you use. Cook until the meat is slightly brown
Pour in the sauces that you mixed earlier.
Add the chopped green beans and stir them together for about 2 minutes.
There’ll be some liquid forming in your pan or wok. That’s a very good thing! That’s all the flavors coming out, right there. If not, add about 2-4 Tbsp to the empty sauce bowl, do a quick swish and pour that liquid into your pan to give the meat a little moisture. Stir it all in.
Add in your Holy basil, mix it with the meat, cook 30 seconds more and turn off your heat.
Your finished Thai Basil Chicken!
Please read "Important Kitchen Notes" on my recipe card for more information on how to serve this dish.
Dish a portion of cooked Jasmine rice on a plate, add the Kra Pao on top, scoop some liquid, and let that deliciousness seep into the Jasmine rice. Add your fried eggs on top and serve with sliced cucumber and spicy chili sauce on the side.
Serve Thai Basil Chicken with These Sides
Side 1: 1-2 Fried eggs per serving (Check side one recipe on cooking instruction below) (Usually served with Thai Basil Chicken, highly recommend it.)
- 1-2 eggs per serving
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
Fried Egg Cooking instruction
- Heat the pan on med-high, wait until the pan is hot, add oil and wait until the oil is hot. Add the egg. No beating or scrambling here.
- Let it fry in oil until the edge looks slightly brown and crispy. Cook to your liking: runny, semi-runny, medium, etc. If you like your egg on the well-done side, just flip the entire egg over and let it cook for 1 minute until you are happy with how it looks.
- Remove from the pan and set on a paper towel plate to drain some oil. Let it cool while you go cook your Thai basil chicken.
Side 2: Thai spicy chili sauce(Check side two recipe cooking instructions below)
Thai Spicy Chili Sauce Recipe
- 1 Tbsp Fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp Lime juice
- 1 Tbsp Water
- 1-2 Chili’s-diced very small
- ½ Garlic clove-diced extra small
Mix all these, adjust the flavor to your liking, and serve in a small sauce bowl on the side of the finished Thai basil chicken. Enjoy!
Side 3: Cooked Jasmine rice, optional but highly recommended
Side 4: Sliced cucumber helps cool off the spiciness.
Enjoy your Thai basil chicken or Pad Kra Pao! It’s an awesome breakfast dish. This recipe is not too heavy and full of protein from meat, eggs, and green beans. Thai basil chicken is one of our family favorites for a weekend brunch.
Other Thai Recipes You'll love
- Pad Woonsen stir-fried glass noodles
- Pad See Ew Recipe
- Pad Mee, Vermicelli Thai Rice Noodles
- Thai Drunen Noodles, Pad Kee Mao
- Pad Thai
- Resources for Thai Cooking
- Where to Shop for Thai Ingredients
- Thai Herbs
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