thai basil chicken – pad kra pao

Thai basil chicken is a delicious mix of spicy, salty and savoury. It’s no wonder it’s almost as popular as pad Thai.

It’s easy to make. Way easier than pad Thai. Or Thai curry. Almost nothing to it. Chilies. Garlic. Shallots. Chicken. Basil. A super easy sauce. A quick stir fry.

Fifteen minutes max and dinner’s on the table. Fast food can be really good food. Sometimes it can be easy and delicious. This is one of those times.

Pad kra pao is street food

Just like pad thai. Pad kra pao. Thai basil chicken is street food. Takes about 7-8 minutes to make once your prep is done. High heat. Good reflexes. Focus. That’s what you need to make Thai basil chicken at home.

Once you start there’s no stopping. You need to pay attention. Be in the moment. When it’s done you have one seriously tasty dinner. Like something you could get in an alley in Bangkok. But in your kitchen. Think of the airfare you just saved…

You need to approach it like street food. Everything needs to be prepped. Ready to go.

Think about street food vendors. They have everything on hand. Close by. Toss in some of this. A bit of that. Stir fry. Serve. That’s what you need to do too.

Be ready. Thai basil chicken takes no time to make. You do not have time to screw around trying to chop shallots. Prep. Then cook. Or fail. Sad. But true. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thai basil chicken table scene - with rice, fried egg and nam prik plate

Holy basil is not the same as regular Thai basil

Holy basil is a thing. It is not some fancy name for Thai purple basil. And it’s not the same as Italian basil. Not even close.

It’s worth seeking out. It is somewhere between a green and an herb. It’s milder than other basils. A bit more peppery. Really good in this dish.

It’s not super easy to find where I live. Definitely Asian market territory. Don’t go looking for holy basil at a grocery store. Unless you live in Thailand I guess.

It’s a big part of Thai basil chicken. You can swap it out for Thai basil. That will still work. Different. But still tasty. Regular Italian basil though. Save that for your pesto.

Thai style fried egg

A fried egg is a classic topping for pad kra pao. But not just any fried egg. Thai style fried eggs are puffy, soft and crispy all at the same time.

Eggs are amazing things. You can do so many different things with them. If you’ve never tried frying eggs Thai style here’s one more for the list.

Lots of oil. High heat. A wok. And a spoon. That’s what you need. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok. Until it shimmers. And you see wisps of smoke.

Then crack an egg into the wok. It will sputter. And sizzle. It may even scare you a bit. Be brave. It’s worth it.

Once the egg white is set up about half way through tilt the wok and spoon hot fat onto the top. Watch it puff up. It’s crazy.

As soon as the white is set remove the egg. Salt it. And eat the first one you make. So you know what it’s all about. Tasty stuff.

Close-up of Thai basil chicken from the front.

Leave the oyster sauce out for this Thai basil chicken

There are a lot of recipes for Thai basil chicken out there that include oyster sauce. This is not one of them.

I have nothing against oyster sauce. But I don’t like it here. From what I can tell oyster sauce is not authentic. Not that I care about authentic. I care about tasty. But in this case I think the more authentic approach is tastier.

Oyster sauce is salty. Fish sauce is salty. Dark soy is salty. Put all three things together and you get really salty. Or you don’t have enough fish sauce flavour. Either way it’s a step backwards.

Fish sauce is core to Thai cooking. So less of that doesn’t make sense. Dark soy is classic in this dish. Thai black soy in fact. Adds a little sweetness. And colour.

Something has to give. And for me oyster sauce doesn’t add much. Except salt. Too much salt. So I leave it out. I like it better that way.

If you really want oyster sauce I’d roll back on the soy before the fish sauce. But not one for one. Oyster sauce is way saltier than dark soy. Be careful.

Bowl of Thai basil chicken with crispy fried egg.

Pad kra pao is easy, fast and delicious

I love this type of recipe. Easy and delicious. Weeknight speed. Weekend taste. You need to be ready. But if you are it comes together in no time.

Not as easy as picking up the phone and ordering. But if you’re here you probably don’t care. A little work is worth it.

And it’s fun to cook. Especially the Thai style egg. You don’t get to do that everyday. Thai basil chicken. Pad kra pao. Call it what you want. But do try it if you like Thai flavours. It could become a house favourite.

Bowl of Thai basil chicken on a bed of rice.
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4.78 from 9 votes

Thai basil chicken – pad kra pao

Thai basil chicken is street food at home. Seriously tasty street food at home.
Course Main
Cuisine Thai
Keyword pad kra pao, thai basil chicken
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 434.75kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


  • 12 oz chicken thighs boneless, skinless and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup shallots thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced (chopped, not crushed)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy – thai black soy is better here if you can get it.
  • 2 thai red chilies thinly sliced
  • 2 red finger hot chilies thinly sliced (or use more thai red chilies if you like really spicy)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups holy basil – you can use regular thai basil but it is not the same
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs


Do your prep

  • This is street food cooking. It goes fast. Really fast. Make the nam pla prik (see note) if you are serving it. Chop your chicken. Slice your shallots. Mince your garlic. Slice your chilies.
  • Combine the fish sauce, sugar and dark soy. Set aside. If you are making more than 2 servings do all your prep. But don't cook more than two servings (the whole recipe) at once. It won't cook right if you try to double this recipe.

Fry your eggs Thai style

  • Heat the 3 tbsp of oil in a wok over medium high heat.
  • When the oil starts to shimmer add one egg. It should sputter and maybe puff up. Let it cook for until the whites are about half done. Now spoon a bit of the hot oil onto the egg white. It should puff up at this point. As soon as the white is set remove the egg from the wok.
    Repeat with the second egg. Set aside. You are going for eggs with a bit of crispy on the edges. Check out the pictures to get a feel.

Make your Thai basil chicken

  • Turn your heat to medium. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic just starts to colour up. If you burn the garlic start again.
  • Add the chicken, chilies and shallots. Stir fry until the chicken is done. This takes around 4-5 minutes. But that depends on how big the chicken pieces are. And how powerful your stove is. Cook the chicken until it's done.
  • Add the soy fish sauce sugar mixture. Stir to combine. Add the basil and stir it into the chicken. As soon as the basil wilts it's ready to serve.
  • Thai basil chicken is great with rice and a bit of nam pla prik (see notes).


Nam pla prik is just garlic, chilies, fish sauce and lime. It takes about 1 minute to make. I like even amounts of fish sauce and fresh lime juice. From there add as much garlic and chili as you like. A pinch of sugar and stir. Just as easy as that. 
I usually do enough for 2. Juice of a lime. Around the same amount of fish sauce (around 1-2 tbsp). Maybe 1/3 clove of garlic finely minced and one or two thai red chilies. Around 1/2 tsp of sugar and stir. Make it your own. Adjust the garlic, chilies and sugar. Make it your own…


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 434.75kcal | Carbohydrates: 14.38g | Protein: 29.32g | Fat: 29.96g | Saturated Fat: 19.59g | Cholesterol: 260.63mg | Sodium: 1843.49mg | Potassium: 723.2mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 8.22g | Vitamin A: 2360.4IU | Vitamin C: 134.9mg | Calcium: 103.89mg | Iron: 3.57mg

18 thoughts on “thai basil chicken – pad kra pao”

  1. 5 stars
    This was amazing. Have tried lots of your Indian recipes but wanted something different.
    Despite doing almost everything wrong in terms of ingredients (2 red chillies and Italian basil: hey, it was a last minute decision and the supermarket wasn’t great) (oh and chicken breast but we just prefer that), I preserved. I am so glad I did! This will be a staple in our household. Really really good. Can’t wait to start sourcing the proper ingredients. Thank you so much.

  2. Hi Romain, just a follow up: I got Thai black soy and made this dish again. Wow, you were right (surprise, surprise): completely different world! So much better with the real stuff. Thanks for the pointer! Couldn’t find holy basil this time either, but maybe next time!!

    • It’s funny (to me) that nobody seems to talks about the dramatic difference in soy sauces. Happy to hear you managed to get your hands on some and are enjoying the rewards.

      Good luck finding the holy basil. Can’t wait to hear what you think once you have all the ingredients!

  3. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, great recipe and it was tons of fun making it, especially the eggs! (The kids finished almost all of the eggs before I even got to the table – I have to come up with some way of distracting the little termites before I starve.) I couldn’t find holy basil on short notice, though, and I used regular soy, but I’ll get the correct ingredients next time. Even so, the taste was great!

    • Be thankful the termites are paying attention like they do:-)

      The soy is the big one. Well worth seeking out for any Thai cooking.

  4. Dear Romain, it’s me again. Another great recipe, thank you so much. I had some prawns and I put them in the wok after 3 minutes of cooking the chicken, worked very well! The holy basil is a big discovery for us. It seems to add flavors of fennel and lemon balm. I also made the Nam Pla Prik which perfectly matched that lemon balm due to the lime juice. We were wondering if there is some kind of bread which would fit the dish and the Thai kitchen to dip in the sauce leftover in the pan. It’s so yummy! Thanks again, kind regards, Daniel.

    • So glad you liked it and discovered holy basil. It really does make a difference!

      If the sauce is good I’d say any bread is the right bread to mop it up. Baguette is big in Vietnam – close enough for me:-).

  5. This was quick and easy and delicious. I had some cashews left over fron Xmas which I threw in. Probably not traditional, but good.

4.78 from 9 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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