This quick and easy Thai Basil Beef recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and is so authentic tasting you’ll feel like a true Thai chef! It’s made with ground beef (or steak) and a homemade Thai basil sauce that’s easy to customize to your preferred spice level. 

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it’s a 30 minute meal!  Some of my other favorite International foods that make great quick weeknight meals include Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian Fried Rice), Chinese Chow Mein, and Baked Ziti.

A white plate with white rice and Thai basil beef on it, chopsticks on the side and another plate of food behind it.

Thai Basil Beef

When my husband and I lived in St. Louis, there was a Thai food restaurant that we frequented that was unlike any other; I’m salivating just thinking about it.  This Thai basil recipe is my attempt at recreating one of my favorite dishes from this restaurant, Pad Gra Prow AKA Thai Basil Beef. It was made with ground beef in a very liquid-y sauce that was delicious as it soaked up in the rice it was served with.

Pad Gra Prow:

The king of street food in Thailand is called Phat kaphroa, and it’s made with your choice of meet (pork, chicken, beef, or seafood), stir fried with Thai holy basil and garlic, and served with rice and a fried egg.  It has MANY names including: Pad Kra Pao, Pad Ka Prao, Pad Ka Pow, Pad Krapow, and Pad gaprao.  Pad means “stir fried” and Krapow (kra pao, ka prao, ka pow) means “holy basil.”

Thai bail beef is known as Pad Gra Prow and is made with Thai sweet basil…I know, it starts getting confusing.

Let’s Talk Basil:

There are a few different types of basil used in Thai cooking.

  1. Holy basil (or hot basil) is known for adding heat to dishes. It can be harder to find so Thai basil is often used as a substitute.
  2. Thai Basil (or Thai sweet basil) has purple stems and a spicy licorice-anise flavor.  Thai basil can be difficult to find in American grocery stores but can be found in most Asian grocery stores (I’ve seen it in every Asian grocery store I’ve ever been in!). If you can’t find it, regular old sweet basil will work as a substitute.
  3. Sweet Basil is the type of basil we are all probably most familiar with.  It’s the most common type of basil found in grocery stores and is used in all types of sauces, marinades, and other recipes.  This is a perfectly good substitute for Thai basil in any recipe, you just loose a little of the pungent taste that comes from Thai basil.

What makes this recipe unique (and more authentic) from other Thai basil recipes you may have had is that it is made with ground meat rather than thinly sliced pieces of steak.  I love this because it feel like more authentic Thai street food, it soaks up more flavor and it’s cheaper and more practical for a regular weeknight meal.  And best of all, you can throw it together in less than 30 minutes!

My favorite Thai Basil recipe because:

  1. 30 minute meal.  Yep, this Thai basil recipe can be on your table in less than 30 minutes!
  2. Ground beef: I think this is the real star of the recipe.  It adds a great texture to the dish and I love the way it absorbs some of the sauce.
  3. That Asian sauce:  this sauce recipe is packed with flavor and I love that you can make it as spicy or mild as you like.

A skillet with Thai Basil Beef made with ground beef, red bell pepper, onion and basil.

5 steps to easy Thai Basil Beef:

  1. Cook the veggies. In a wok or large skillet over medium high heat add the oil, shallots, garlic, ginger and bell peppers and fry for 3 minutes. Push the veggies off to the side.
  2. Add ground beef.  Turn the heat to high and add the ground beef, breaking it up into small bits with a spoon. (I like to spoon the cooked ground beef into my food processor and pulse it barely a few times to break it into really small pieces).
  3. Make the sauce. In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch beef broth and water and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the basil, and stir-fry until wilted.
  5. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Three process photos for making Thai Basil Beef including sautéing onion and bell pepper, cooked ground beef and sauce added to the pan, fresh basil added on top.

More ways to make it your own:

  • Meat: Use ground chicken, ground pork, or extra firm tofu (and vegetable broth) to make it vegetarian. Flank steak would also taste delicious in this recipe. Slice it thinly, against the grain.
  • Oyster Sauce: You could substitute more soy sauce.
  • Vegetables: Use any color bell pepper and add more vegetables if you like, like shredded carrot, thinly sliced zucchini, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots or mushrooms.
  • Chili Sauce: Substitute sriracha hot sauce in place of the Asian Garlic Chili Paste
  • Rice: Use any kind of rice you like, or skip the rice and serve it in a lettuce wrap!

Close-up of Thai basil beef over white rice, on a white plate, on a white marble board.

Looking for more Thai Recipes? Some of my favorites include:

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Recipe

A white plate with white rice and Thai basil beef on it, chopsticks on the side and another plate of food behind it.
Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 30 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots , thinly sliced
  • 7 cloves garlic , sliced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger , minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper , thinly sliced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce*
  • 6 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons oyster sauce*
  • 2 Tbsp Asian garlic chili paste , more or less to taste, for heat*
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup basil leaves**
  • Cooked Jasmine rice , for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a wok or large skillet over medium high heat add the oil, shallots, garlic, ginger and bell peppers and fry for 3 minutes.
  • Push the veggies off to the side. Turn the heat to high and add the ground beef, breaking it up into small bits with a spoon. (I like to spoon the cooked ground beef into my food processor and pulse it barely a few times to break it into really small pieces).
  • In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste, cornstarch, beef broth and water and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the basil, and stir-fry until wilted.
  • Serve over hot cooked rice.

Notes

*The fish sauce, oyster sauce and chili paste can be found at most regular grocery stores in the Asian food aisle. The chili sauce could be substituted with sriracha hot sauce
**Thai basil is traditionally used is this recipe and can be found at your local asian market.  However, regular sweet basil will work as well.

More ways to make it your own:

  • Meat: Use ground chicken, ground pork, or extra firm tofu (and vegetable broth) to make it vegetarian. Flank steak would also taste delicious in this recipe. Slice it thinly, against the grain.
  • Oyster Sauce: You could substitute more soy sauce.
  • Vegetables: Use any color bell pepper and add more vegetables if you like, like shredded carrot, thinly sliced zucchini, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots or mushrooms.
  • Chili Sauce: Substitute sriracha hot sauce in place of the Asian Garlic Chili Paste
  • Rice: Use any kind of rice you like, or skip the rice and serve it in a lettuce wrap!

Nutrition

Calories: 274kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 28gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 1765mgPotassium: 633mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 333IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 4mg

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! I had to use regular basil (frozen as I didn’t have fresh and I didn’t have the Thai one) and used regular soy sauce (halved it to 3 tbs) and it came out very tasty. Can only imagine how better it is with Thai basil!

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