This quick and easy Thai classic is a just-the-right-spiciness stir fry that’s an incredible taste payoff for minimal work.
If you’re looking for a super flavorful quick and easy dinner, this Thai basil chicken stir fry is for you
I LOVE Thai basil chicken. It gets my heart rate going not only because it’s perfectly spicy but also because it’s delicious. This is a super easy stir fry that is an incredible taste payoff for minimal prep. Goodbye delivery and hello home cooked meal!
What is Thai basil chicken?
Thai basil chicken is a super popular Thai stir-fry dish that’s eaten both at home, in restaurants, and from street food stalls. The main ingredients are chicken, Thai basil, garlic, Thai chilis, and sauce. Sometimes it’s served up with a crispy fried egg. It’s one of our go-tos when we’re craving Thai food.
What You Need to Make Thai Basil Chicken
Sugar, oil, garlic, chicken thighs – you can sub chicken breast too but chicken thighs are juicier and more flavorful.
Oyster sauce is a thick and flavorful brown sauce that can be found in the Asian aisle of any grocery store. If you see the Lee Kum Kee bottle with the two people in boats, go for that one. It’s the premium oyster sauce which lists oysters as its first ingredient, unlike the one with the red panda label which has oysters listed further down the list.
Dark Soy Sauce
You need both soy sauce and dark soy sauce for this dish – regular soy sauce adds salt and umami soy flavor; the dark adds a hint of caramel and color. If you don’t have dark soy sauce at home, you can skip out on it – your stir fry just won’t be as dark and glossy brown – but you should also give it a try. You can buy dark soy sauce easily online, and it will take your Asian/Chinese food to the next level. Once you buy a bottle, you can also use it for: Soy Sauce Chow Mein, Zha Jiang Mian, and Taiwanese 3 Cup Chicken.
Thai red chilies are very, very spicy. Frying them mellows out the spice a little, but if you’re not a spice fiend, seed your chillies (use gloves!) or decrease the amount.
The correct kind of basil to use for pad krapow gai is Thai holy basil which is incredibly difficult to buy outside of Thailand so the best sub you can use is regular Thai basil. Thai basil has a very slight licorice/fennel flavor to it that is super distinct. They sell Thai basil at most Asian grocery stores but if you can’t find it, you can sub regular sweet basil instead.
Ground chicken vs chicken thighs vs chicken breasts
You’ll see Thai basil chicken made with ground chicken or cut up pieces of chicken thighs or breasts. In Thailand, the meat is cut up quite small, which is why you see minced/ground chicken as the most used protein for Thai basil chicken in North America. I’ve made it with both and it’s really about what you prefer.
If you don’t want to break out your knife to chop your chicken, using ground chicken is perfectly acceptable (note from Mike: not just acceptable, pretty much standard everywhere including Thailand). And if you like your chopped chicken in larger or smaller pieces, that’s alright too! I tend to like my chicken pieces on the heartier side and Mike likes ground chicken so we make it both ways.
What to eat it with
This recipe makes just enough sauce to coat the chicken plus a little extra for spooning on to your fluffy white rice. It’s a pretty flavorful (and by that I mean salty) so don’t be tempted to up the sauce amounts, it will be enough!
Speaking of sauce, this is meant to be eaten with fluffy white rice! The sauce and chicken go perfectly with the blank canvas rice provides. Of course if you want you can have it over your grain of choice or even noodles. Add some cucumbers for a bit of freshness and crunch or a crispy fried egg for some extra savory goodness.
Like all stir-fries, once you get going, it goes fast, so be sure to have all your ingredients prepped and sauces measured out before you even turn on the heat.
Is it spicy?
Yes, traditionally it is, but it doesn’t have to be. If you aren’t a spice head, feel free to decrease the chili amount, de-seed the chilis, or leave them out entirely.
How to Make Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry
1. Prep all of the ingredients: make the sauce by mixing together oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Mince the garlic (a garlic press is your friend!), chop the chilies, wash and dry the basil, and cut your chicken pieces up into even chunks.
2. Fry the aromatics: heat up some oil a wok or frying pan then very briefly lightly fry the garlic and chilis.
3. Fry the chicken: add the chicken and cook, stirring until golden and cooked.
4. Sauce: stir in the sauce and reduce.
5. Basil: take the pan off the heat and mix in the basil. Enjoy!
Faster than getting your delivery order, am I right?!
chicken and rice forever,
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of water with the oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over medium high heat. When hot and shimmery, add the garlic and chili, stirring, for about 10-30 seconds – you don’t want them to burn or brown.
Add in the chicken and cook, tossing, until golden brown and cooked through.
Add the sauce and cook until the sauce reduces slightly and coats the chicken.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil.
Enjoy immediately with fluffy white rice and a crispy egg, if desired.