Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)

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Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai) is a super fast minced chicken stir-fry in rich, spicy brown sauce with Thai basil. This dish is great served over rice with a wok-fried egg on top. 

thai basil chicken topped with a fried egg on a white plate

Years ago I shared a recipe for Thai Basil Chicken that I titled “What to Eat in a Thai Airport”. It was a random title for a recipe post on a blog, but still accurate. When I was living and working in Bangkok and traveling throughout Thailand, I’d often find myself hungry and at a roadside food stall, in an obscure mall, or in a tiny airport restaurant. And when in doubt over what to order, Pad Krapow Gai was my go-to dish. It is the best of chicken stir-fries. A subpar Pad Krapow Gai in Thailand is easily better than 90% of what I get for lunch here in the United States. It’s rich, peppery, spicy, and loaded with the uniquely exotic flavor of Thai holy basil. 

It feels worth mentioning that in 2012 when I was traveling throughout Thailand for work, a very respectable plate of Pad Krapow Gai in rural Thailand cost 75 cents, plus an extra 5 cents for the fried egg. (I would never order this dish without that wok-fried egg!)

Thai basil chicken topped with a fried egg on a white plate

The thing that makes Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai) such a smart order in Thailand is the same thing that makes it a great Thai dish to master at home. This dish cooks fast and only uses a few ingredients. I absolutely love this Thai basil chicken recipe, and I know you will too! Here’s all you need to make it.

Thai Basil Chicken Ingredients

  • Thai Holy Basil – Find this fresh basil variety in an international / Asian grocery store. Thai Holy Basil has rough leaves and has a flavor that is peppery and and a bit sour. It is the key ingredient that makes Thai Basil chicken taste truly authentic.
  • Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken breast is great in this recipe, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs would also work. For an authentic texture, chop the chicken into pea-sized pieces yourself. For a shortcut, ground chicken totally works (though it doesn’t have quite the same rustic texture as chopping it yourself). 
  • Bird’s Eye Chilis – Bird’s eye chilis are teeny little Thai peppers that are red or green. They are SUPER spicy, so you’ll need to adjust them to your taste – start with 1 chili for a little spice and go up to 5 if you like spice (or even more if you’re super tolerant of spice – go you!). I fall somewhere in the middle and go for about 3 in this recipe.
  • Garlic – Just regular old garlic. Feel free to increase this if you love garlic. 
  • Sweet Thai Soy Sauce and Light Thai Soy Sauce – The combination of these two soy sauces gives the sauce in this dish a combination of sweet and savory flavor. Check out the Guide to Essential Thai Ingredients for more on these sauces. 
  • Oyster Sauce – The sauce doesn’t taste fishy in the amount it’s used here, but it gives the sauce a rich, savory flavor that is essential for this dish.
  • Rice and Egg (for serving) – This dish is great served over rice with a Wok-Fried Egg.
wok fried egg

Thai Basil Chicken Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Chop chilis and garlic. These are a key flavor in the Thai basil chicken. Chop them very finely or grind using a mortar and pestle.
  2. Make sauce. Mix together sweet Thai soy sauce, light Thai soy sauce, and oyster sauce.
  3. Cook chicken. Heat oil in a wok or skillet and add the chilis and garlic. When they are fragrant, add chicken and cook together until the chicken is nearly cooked through.
  4. Simmer in sauce. Pour sauce over chicken and simmer until the sauce coats the chicken.
  5. Stir in basil. Just until it is wilted.
  6. Enjoy your Thai basil chicken over rice!

What if You Can’t Find Thai Holy Basil?

As noted above, Thai Holy Basil is the key ingredient that makes Thai Basil Chicken taste truly authentic, so there is no substitute if you want the dish to taste like it does in Thailand. That said, the dish is still delicious when made with the other popular type of basil in Thailand. Regular (sometimes called “sweet”) Thai basil leaves have a slightly sweeter flavor and smoother surface compared to Thai Holy Basil.

In a pinch you can make this dish with Italian basil. It will not taste as authentic but will still be delicious.  

Thai holy basil

Variations

  • Add vegetables – This dish is great with finely chopped green beans, bell peppers, or broccoli.
  • Make it vegetarian – Try this with finely chopped tofu or mushrooms as the base for a vegetarian version. Use vegetarian “oyster sauce” which is made with mushrooms for the sauce.

Substitute for Thai Soy Sauce

In a pinch, you can make a great version of Thai Basil Chicken even if you don’t have the two types of Thai Soy Sauce required for the sauce. This substitute sauce recipe won’t taste exactly like the authentic or restaurant version of the dish, but it still makes a great version of Thai Basil Chicken. All of these ingredients are available at most grocery stores (some in the international aisle).

Whisk together:

  • 1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tsp Granulated (white) Sugar
  • 1 tsp Light Brown Sugar
thai basil chicken topped with fried egg

More Thai Stir-Fry Recipes

  • Sesame Garlic Ramen Stir-Fry – Need a quick and easy weeknight meal? Look no further than this one-pan stir-fry noodle dish made with quick-cooking instant ramen noodles, tender chicken, and crisp snow peas in a savory sesame garlic sauce.
  • Honey Garlic Chicken Fried Rice – In a sweet and savory sauce, Honey Garlic Chicken Fried Rice has tons more flavor than any fried rice you’d find at your local take-out spot. This is great served right away or tucked away for a quick and unique freezer meal.
  • Chicken with Thai Holy Basil – 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.
  • 20-Minute Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry – In 20 minutes, you can make this Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry for dinner tonight. It tastes better than take-out, has less than 400 calories, and it’s fast (did I mention that?).

Favorite Tools

  • Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok – Almost any Thai recipe you can think of can be made in a wok. This inexpensive wok has been a staple in my kitchen for 5+ years. If you’re not ready for a wok to take up space in your kitchen, a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven will work great as well. 
  • Wok Spatula – The rounded edge of this spatula helps to scrape the sides of a wok down as food cooks. 
  • Splatter Screen for Cooking – If cooking foods that will splatter, I love using this screen to cover the pan.

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Thai Basil Chicken on a white plate with rice and a fried egg
4.48 from 17 votes

Thai Basil Chicken Recipe

Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai) is a super fast minced chicken stir-fry in rich, spicy brown sauce with Thai holy basil. This dish is great served over rice with a wok-fried egg on top.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Total: 18 minutes
Servings: 2

Equipment

  • Wok

Ingredients 

For the Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp Sweet Thai Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp Light Thai Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Oyster Sauce

For the Stir-Fry:

  • 2 – 6 Thai Bird's Eye Chilis (these are very spicy; adjust according to your spice tolerance)
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil (a neutral oil like canola, vegetable, or avocado oil work well)
  • 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, finely chopped (sub ground chicken, see note)
  • 20 leaves Thai Holy Basil (see note)

For Serving:

  • Cooked Rice (cooked Thai Jasmine Rice is great here)
  • Wok Fried Eggs (check out the recipe here)
  • Fish Sauce

Instructions 

  • In a mortar and pestle, grind the chilis and garlic until they are in rough pieces, but haven’t quite formed a paste. (Note: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle or prefer not to use them, you can finely chop the chilis and garlic. Be careful when handling Bird’s Eye Chilis – they can sting your fingers and anything you touch; these are best handled while wearing gloves.) Set aside.
  • Combine sweet Thai soy sauce, light Thai soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Set sauce aside.
  • Heat cooking oil in a wok over high heat.
  • When oil is hot, add chilis and garlic and saute until fragrant, ~1 minute.
  • Add chicken, stirring until chicken is nearly cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Pour sauce into wok and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce reduces and has coated the chicken.
  • Stir in basil until it is wilted, about 1 minute more.
  • Serve over rice with fried egg on top and extra fish sauce on the side.

Notes

Sauce substitute – If you don’t have access to the Thai ingredients listed in this sauce, you can still make a very good version of Thai Basil Chicken. Instead of the sauce listed above, try this version that uses common grocery store ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tsp Granulated (white) Sugar
  • 1 tsp Light Brown Sugar
Bird’s Eye Chilis – Don’t have access to Bird’s Eye Chilis? Try using red jalapeno peppers or use dried Red Pepper Flakes for the spice.
Chicken Breast – For an authentic texture in this dish, chop the chicken yourself into small pieces, roughly the size of peas. To save time, you can also use store-bought ground chicken, though you won’t get the authentic texture that is used in authentic Thai versions of the dish.
Thai Holy Basil – There are two types of basil used in Thai cooking. “Thai Basil” has smooth leaves and is slightly sweet and citrusy. “Thai Holy Basil” has rough leaves and has a flavor that is peppery and and a bit sour. For authentic Thai Basil Chicken, you must use Thai Holy Basil. That said, I’ve made it with regular Thai Basil, and I still think it’s great. I feel confident that you’ll love the result with either of these varieties. If you use Italian-style basil the dish will not taste authentic, but will still be delicious.

Nutrition

Calories: 344kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 1185mg | Potassium: 917mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 473IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 2mg

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

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $10.00
Calories: 344
Keyword: easy Thai recipe, thai chicken, Thai main dish
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. 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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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi! I’ve been making thai basil chicken for 20 years or so. I grow my own peppers and holy basil. Your recipe looks great and not too far from the one i’ve been using. I want to try your sauce. There are so many variations!
    Here we go with a question. I have spent a number of years trying to find the exact basil to grow. I think, from reading, that I want either the RAMA or Krishna…Can you shed any light on this subject please?
    Thanks!
    Marc

  2. 5 stars
    I made this last night for a small dinner party and it was a shining star!! Everyone said it was the first Thai food they’d had since moving here. (We live in a resort town and its one Thai restaurant is becoming sad. (LAst they made me Pad Krapow without the Thai chilis and without the Basil … ! So thank you, Jess, and I appreciate your care with the recipes and explanations.
    What a tasty dish on a low budget too!

  3. 5 stars
    Super good. I used regular Thai Basil as my Asian market didn’t have holy. I also made the sauce subs because I already had those ingredients. And I made poached eggs because I trust myself more on making those lol. Anyhow this was great and I look forward to making it again (soon! I have a bunch more basil and chilis!).