Scroll down for the 30 Minute Easy Dinner using this Thai Basil Chicken Recipe.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Sometimes there’s a whole lot to say about a recipe and sometimes, it’s just straightforward, not-much-thinking involved cooking. This Thai Basil Chicken recipe falls into the second category.
In Thai, it is known as Pad Kra Pao Gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่), but bear in mind that there will be variations in the English spelling.
Pad = stir fry, as in Pad Thai
Kra Pao (Bai Kra-Pao | ใบกะเพรา) = refers to the Thai Holy Basil, that gives this dish its identifying flavour.
Gai = chicken, which you must know if you’ve eaten your fair share of Thai food!
When I first tasted and learnt to cook Thai Basil Chicken, some 30 years ago (!) on a dive holiday, the only sauce that was used was fish sauce, nothing else. These days, however, on the odd occasion when I make it with just fish sauce, I find that it lacks depth.
I like using a combination of 4 sauces, for the best all rounded flavour even if purists will tell you to skip the oyster sauce and the dark soy sauce. Apart from that, there aren’t too many ingredients to think about.
Pad Kra Pao Gai is one of those dishes you will find everywhere in Thailand, street food vendors sell it for breakfast as well as lunch, served with some steamed white rice and topped with a sunny side up egg. Quick. Simple. Super Tasty!
It’s also a dish that’s found in most restaurants, in Thailand and out and is always reliably good because of its simplicity. It’s idiot proof! The image below shows indoor vendors selling freshly cooked food in Bangkok.
Pad Kra Pao (note: no Gai/chicken) can be made using any form of protein, be it pork, beef, prawns, tofu, etc. And it can most certainly be made with a selection of vegetables – capsicum (peppers), carrots, green beans and cabbage would be great used in this dish.
This Thai Basil Chicken recipe packs a punch because of the garlic and chillies used and as mentioned before, its identifying flavour, the Thai Holy Basil.
What is Thai Holy Basil?
Thai Holy Basil is one of many varieties of holy basil or Tulsi as it’s known in India. It has a distinctive aroma, and is sharp and peppery, with perhaps a touch of lemon. Click here to read more.
Many people confuse it with Thai Sweet Basil (horapa in Thai), which is a slightly sharper herb with a hint of liquorice.
Do you need the Thai Holy Basil?
If you want to cook Thai Basil Chicken, then you do! And, more importantly, do not confuse the Holy Basil with the Thai Sweet Basil.
Many people don’t realise there is a difference, and because the sweet basil is more commonly found in the West, that’s what is commonly used.
The solution is to buy some seeds and grow them yourself, all you need is a sunny windowsill.
If you can’t get Holy Basil, use mint and call it Thai Mint Chicken Stir Fry. Or coriander (cilantro) and call it Thai Coriander Chicken Stir Fry. Substitute the herb, use regular basil if you want, it’ll be great but it won’t be Thai Basil Chicken, it will be Fusion Thai Basil Chicken!
You get the idea, don’t you?
So how do you cook Perfect Thai Basil Chicken?
Be generous with the Thai Holy Basil Leaves
I say a good handful for each diner, seriously. You know, the dish is called Thai Basil Chicken for a reason. I’m always disappointed if I’m served it with only the odd scattering of leaves, resulting in a rather insipid dining experience. Incidentally, they are very easy to grow from seed, all you need is a sunny windowsill.
Cut the chicken up into tiny pieces
The more surface area there is to take on the flavours, the richer the dish. The smaller pieces will also cook quicker, for this reason, we also use chicken breast meat.
Garlic and Chilli
These guys contribute a whole lot to the final flavour, so don’t skimp. If you can’t take the chilli heat,
leave the kitchen use 1 red Thai chilli and substitute the rest with mild ones, like red jalapeños. You could even get away with half a red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced thinly. This way, you get the chilli flavour but not the heat. To pound or to chop? Pounding in a pestle and mortar draws the essential oils and flavour out the best, but it’s your call.
As mentioned above, I use a combination of four, go to my Soy Sauces page to read up more on the different types of soy sauces. If you can’t get hold of anyone, just go ahead with what you’ve got and compensate by using a little more of the salty ones, that’s the fish and light soy sauce. Don’t use too much oyster sauce in the mix, it’ll change the flavour.
The recipe here will serve 2-3 people if served simply, as in the 30 Minute Easy Dinner, depending on one’s appetite. If serving as part of a bigger meal, it’ll serve 4. What do I mean by bigger meal? That means you have rice or noodles as the starch, maybe another meat dish and certainly a vegetable dish. So this Thai Basil Chicken will be one of 2-3 dishes to be eaten with the rice or noodles.
Turning this Thai Basil Chicken Recipe into an Easy 30 Minute Dinner
- Put the rice on, if you have a rice cooker, that’s an easy job. We’re talking white rice here, brown rice will take longer than white.
- Get all the slicing, pounding, chopping and picking done for the Thai Basil Chicken recipe. See the recipe card below. Stop short of cooking. Wash your hands after handling the chicken.
- Cut the cucumbers and rinse any salad leaves you’re using.
- Fry your sunny side up egg and keep warm.
- Cook the Thai Basil Chicken now, as in the recipe card below.
- Serve up! That’s rice, chicken, egg and salad.
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Perfect Thai Basil Chicken Recipe (Pad Kra Pao Gai | ผัดกระเพราไก่)
- 500 g chicken breasts
- 8 cloves garlic
- 5 red Thai chillies more or less, up to you
- 2 generous handfuls Thai Holy Basil
- 1 Tbsp flavourless oil vegetable or peanut
- If not bought chopped up, chop the chicken into tiny pieces and set aside. (2-3 minutes)
- Pound the garlic and chillies in a pestle and mortar or chop in a chopper. (3 minutes)
- Pick the leaves of the Thai Holy Basil. (5 minutes)
- Mix the sauces in a small bowl or cup and set aside. (1 minute)
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan on medium high heat and sauté the chilli and garlic for 30 seconds. (1 minute)
- Add the chicken and str vigorously to coat the chicken pieces. (30 seconds)
- Pour the sauces in, turn the heat to high and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes until cooked through. (5 minutes)
- Throw in the basil leaves, mix it up thoroughly for just about 30 seconds, don’t overcook the leaves.
- Serve, as above in a 30 minute dinner or as part of a more elaborate meal.