Chicken with Thai Holy Basil


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This dish is a popular way to use Thai holy basil, which, to me, tastes more tart than sweet basil and has almost a citrus quality to it.  The flavor of the holy basil is fantastic here, so if you can track some down, you’ll be glad you did.

chicken with peppers and basil in a blue and white bowl

I have been on a stir fry kick of late.  I love that there are so many ways to put a stir fry together for a quick lunch or dinner.  They often use few ingredients, and can be adapted to whatever vegetables are in the refrigerator.  I suddenly understand how it is that so many of our neighborhood Thai restaurants are able to have hundreds of dishes on their menu.  There are endless ways to combine a few key ingredients.

peppers, onions, and basil on a grey cutting board

Thai chefs around the world would tell you that there is no substitute for the flavor of holy basil…something that they have been vocalizing quite loudly of late.

cooking vegetables in a wok

I’ve never read as much about varieties of basil as I have in the past couple months since the EU placed a ban on several types of imported produce from Thailand, causing Thai chefs around the world to speak out about the importance of using authentic ingredients in their signature dishes. To me, this raises larger questions about the distances that we ship food. It is incredible to me that we expect fresh produce to arrive in perfect condition after traveling from Thailand to the EU. With so many Thai restaurants in the EU, how is that these ingredients are not being grown in greater quantities in Europe, minimizing the distance they must travel?

cooking chicken, vegetables and sauce in a wok

I also realize that this is a debate that is currently discussed from many angles all over the world. Thailand benefits a great deal from exporting its unique ingredients and is, I would imagine, able to produce them here at a lower cost than they could be produced elsewhere.  And this, of course, is at the heart of the one of the many complex issues we face about the production of our food these days.

Fortunately though, there is nothing terribly unusual in this delicious stir fry.  Except, of course the holy basil.  And, at the risk of contradicting the international Thai cooking community (which, as I’ve mentioned, is already pretty fired up), I think it’s pretty tasty with any type of basil you can get your hands on.

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Chicken with Thai Holy Basil Recipe

This dish is a popular way to use Thai holy basil, which, to me, tastes more tart than sweet basil and has almost a citrus quality to it.  The flavor of the holy basil is fantastic here, so if you can track some down, you'll be glad you did.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 25 minutes


  • Wok or Large Skillet


  • 1/2 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Chicken Breast, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 small Birds Eye Chili, crushed to expose seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 2 teaspoon Nam Prik Pao / Thai Chili Paste
  • 2 teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Red Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 10 leaves Thai Holy Basil


  • Heat 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until just cooked through.
  • Add chili, onion, garlic, fish sauce, chili paste and soy sauce to the pan. Cook stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften and liquids thicken slightly, 3-4 minutes.
  • Add red pepper and basil leaves, cooking until basil leaves wilt slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.


This recipe serves just one, but can be easily doubled.


Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 2353mg | Potassium: 1193mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2253IU | Vitamin C: 94mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 2mg

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

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Calories: 326
Keyword: chicken dinner, easy recipe, stir fry
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. It is easy to grow Thai Holy Basil. I live in London, U.K., and start growing my plants in a seed tray (with transperent covers) in the beginning of March, placing the trays on my south facing window sill. The seeds germinate in 2-3 weeks, and the cover comes off in weeks 4-5. The young plants are ready to plant on into individual small containers in the 8 week from start. My 10 plants are now (June 20th) 6-7 inches high, and I plan to put them outside in another 2 -4 weeks on my patio. I normally start harvesting leaves from end of July, and have enough leaves left over in late September to make a “pesto” in olive oil. This lasts in the freezer for the whole winter. Contact me by email if you have further questions.

    1. Jim – thanks so much for this note! How great that you’ve had such success growing Thai Holy Basil at home – I will definitely have to try it when I leave Bangkok and don’t have it readily available. What a great idea to make “pesto” too – I bet that’s a welcome thing to have in your freezer when it’s cold out.

  2. You are so right about using the correct ingredients. Unfortunately it’s not so easy for some of us. We love Thai, Chinese, Japenese etc, but you try getting all the authentic ingredients in Spain!

    I sometimes have to compromise greatly, which is a shame. But when needs must…..

  3. I actually am growing a little holy basil plant. Can’t remember who gave it to me, but was a Christmas present and it is doing really well. I look forward to trying your chicken stir fry with my fresh basil, it has a few leaves that are big enough to be plucked and cooked up.
    Happy Valentine’s and thanks for sharing your recipe.

  4. oh, Jessica! My kind of food! This would be so great on top of steaming jasmine rice. I just love Thai Basil. I am so grateful to connect with you too! Looking forward to learning wonderful Thai cuisine from you, friend.