This Thai Basil Chicken recipe tastes better than your favorite restaurant made with pantry friendly ingredients on your table in less than 30 minutes!
This Thai Basil Chicken recipe is a ridiculously quick and easy stir fry that’s huge on flavor, low on effort and destined to become an easy weeknight family favorite. It’s made with chopped chicken, bell peppers, and loads of basil blanked in an aromatic savory, salty, sour, spicy stir fry sauce spiked with lime, ginger and garlic. This Thai Basil Chicken also earns major points because it’s made with pantry friendly ingredients, is easy to customize with your favorite veggies and you can make it as mild or as numbingly hot as you like. Serve this versatile, filling, satisfying Thai Basil Chicken with some hot steamed rice and skip the takeout forever. If you’re feeling extra fancy, add some chicken satay and Tom Kha Gai for a complete Asian feast.
If you aren’t familiar with Thai Basil Chicken, prepare to fall in love. Unlike my other favorite Thai one pot wonders: Red Curry Chicken, Coconut Chicken Curry, Panang Curry, Yellow Curry, Green Curry and Thai Peanut Butter Chicken just to name a few – this Thai Basil Chicken doesn’t have a base of coconut milk, but instead is a lighter stir-fry with in intoxicating sauce that will blow your mind – and your taste buds.
This Basil Chicken recipe is definitely one of my favorite stir fries to date because not only does it boast all your favorite umami, garlic, ginger stir fry flavors, but it is enhanced by tangy lime juice, salty fish sauce, toasty lemony citrus coriander, gingery punchy earthy turmeric and peppery minty basil. It’s an exotic intoxicating complex flavor bomb that will leaving you wanting more and more.
MORE REASONS TO LOVE BASIL CHICKEN RECIPE:
- Flexible: I used chopped chicken thighs because they are more authentic and have a better texture, in my option, than ground chicken, but you can also sub ground chicken or even use chicken breasts, pork or shrimp. Thai Basil Chicken isn’t traditionally loaded with veggies, but this is YOUR basil chicken, so add whatever you want to make it the best irresistible, healthy clean-out the fridge dinner.
- Pantry friendly: you won’t need to hunt down Thai basil or Birdseye chilies for this recipe! All of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store with spectacular results.
- QUICK and easy: chop the chicken, chop the bell peppers, whisk together the sauce then stir fry! The whole meal can be on your table in less than 30 minutes.
- Juicy easy chicken: you will LOVE the texture of the chicken! Juicy chicken thighs are chopped into small bite size pieces that emerge incredibly tender and flavorful without the need to marinate or velvet.
- Flavor! the stir fry sauce is an explosion of layers of flavor made from basil, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, Asian sweet chili sauce, aromatic garlic, and ginger. You will be drooling.
- Custom spice level: you can keep this Thai Basil Chicken recipe 100% family friendly by omitting the Asian chili paste and just spicing up your own plate or you can load on the chili sauce or even stir fry with Birdseye chilies.
- Budget friendly: feed the entire family for the fraction of dining out with the bonus of customizing the heat and veggies just how you like.
Now, I’m going to break down this Basil Chicken recipe and try and answer all your questions as well as offer some tips and tricks. You can use my “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to skip straight to the recipe.
What is Thai basil chicken?
So, first things first. What exactly is Thai Basil Chicken? Thai Basil Chicken (pad kra pao gai ผัดกระเพราไก่) is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand. It is characterized by the finely chopped chicken thighs stir fried in a soy-based sauce along with Thai holy basil and Thai chilies served over rice, often with a fried egg on the side.
In this Thai Basil Chicken recipe, I have taken some liberties and used Asian chili sauce instead of chilies and allowed regular basil instead of Thai basil for an easy pantry-friendly recipe that tastes just as good as your favorite Thai restaurant – or better! – in my humble opinion.
Basil Chicken recipe ingredients
The ingredients for this Basil Chicken recipe are easy to find – you probably have almost all of them already! The list might look lengthy but the sauce ingredients are just a quick whisk away. Here’s what you need:
FOR THE STIR FRY
- Basil: you can use Thai basil or regular “sweet” basil, whatever is easiest to find.
- Chicken: set yourself up for success by using chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are juicier and hard to overcook which is important because we are not marinating the chicken or coating it in any way. Chicken thighs will emerge wonderfully tender every time.
- Oil: you want a neutral oil with a high smoking point such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
- Bell peppers: red or orange because they are sweeter than green; use all one color or I like to use one of each.
- Ginger: adds a warm spicy, almost pepper taste. You will need 1 tablespoon fresh or may substitute 1 teaspoon ground in a bind and add it directly to the sauce.
- Garlic: use more or less depending on your garlic love. You may substitute 1 teaspoon garlic powder in a bind and add it directly to the sauce.
- Dried basil: is used in addition to fresh basil to infuse the chicken with a layer of savory, peppery and slightly minty flavor.
- Ground coriander: adds a toasty, lemony citrus flavor that I use to mimic lemongrass.
- Turmeric: adds gingery, punchy, earthy undertones.
- Cashews: are an optional addition but I love the buttery crunch. Make sure to use UNSALTED cashews or your Thai Basil Chicken will be way too salty. You can find unsalted cashews at the bulk bins at Sprouts.
FOR THE SAUCE
- Soy sauce: grounds the sauce and adds the salty, savory undertone. Please use low sodium soy sauce so your sauce isn’t too salty.
- Fish sauce: is a staple in Thai cooking and imparts a fabulous umami flavor that cannot be achieved in any other way. I promise it will not make your basil chicken taste fishy!
- Lime: you may use fresh or bottled lime juice. Fresh is always best. I will freeze lime juice in cubes so I always have some on hand.
- Brown sugar: adds sweetness to balance the soy, fish sauce and lime juice.
- Asian sweet chili sauce: is not to be confused with Asian Chili sauce/paste without the “sweet.” It is sweet and spicy and packed with flavor from a combination of red chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce. It can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. It is sometimes labeled “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.”
- Asian chili sauce: adds heat and rounds out the flavors. You can customize the spice level by adding additional chili sauce to taste. If you aren’t sure how much to add, start with less then stir in more at the end if needed. If your Basil Chicken is missing something, it is probably heat.
- Toasted sesame oil: a “secret ingredient” that adds an irresistible, subtle nutty flavor.
- Cornstarch: helps thicken the sauce to glossy perfection instead of remaining sad and watery.
Basil is one of the main ingredients in this Thai Basil Chicken recipe, hence the name. Authentic Thai Basil Chicken in Thailand is made with holy basil which is different than Thai basil. Holy basil is so hard to find in the US, however, that most Thai restaurants use Thai basil. Thai basil is actually preferred to holy basil which can be described as “medicinal-tasting.”
Thai basil can be found at specialty Asian grocery stores. It tastes like normal basil with more of a fresh, herbal-licorice flavor and crisp pungency that’s slightly more peppery than the sweet kind.
Best substitute for Thai Basil
Now that we’ve established holy basil is practically impossible to find, the next question is, do I have to use Thai basil? The answer is NO – remember this is pantry friendly Thai Basil Chicken 😉. While sweet basil lacks the slight aniseed flavor of Thai basil, this Basil Chicken recipe is so flavorful that normal basil, also known as “sweet” or Italian” basil still works great.
What other vegetables can I add?
I kept the vegetables simple like traditional Thai Basil Chicken, but you are welcome to mix it up. I particularly love adding broccoli in addition to the bell peppers. You can mix and match your veggies based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale. Here are some great vegetables for stir fries:
- Snow Peas
- Snap Peas
- Baby corn
- Bean sprouts
- Cabbage (green or red)
- Bok choy
HOW DO I CHOP VEGETABLES FOR BASIL CHICKEN?
Whether you’re only adding bell peppers to your Basil Chicken or adding other vegetables, it is important to chop them the right size – you don’t want some veggies to be crunchy and some to be mushy! There are some vegetables that take longer to cook such as broccoli and carrots and some take less time to cook such as zucchini and bell peppers.
In order to cook all of the veggies at the same time, the longer cooking vegetables need to be chopped smaller/thinner, and the shorter cooking vegetables larger. For example, chop the bell peppers into larger 1” chunks, slice zucchini thick and THINLY slice the carrots, and so they cook in the same amount of time.
This technique will take care of most veggies, but there are some that cook in extremely short time such as snow peas, cabbage and spinach, which should always be added at the very end of cooking.
Basil Chicken Recipe Variations
- Gluten free: to make the Thai Basil Chicken gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Ground chicken: you may substitute the chicken thighs with ground chicken but I don’t find the texture as appealing; the chicken also isn’t as juicy.
- Birdseye chilies: you are welcome to substitute the Asian chili paste for minced Birdseye chilies. You will want to remove the seeds and finely chop.
- Other proteins: the sauce is SO good in this recipe, you’ll want to make it with everything! You can swap the chicken for thinly sliced steak, cubed pork tenderloin, tofu or shrimp. When making with shrimp, cook the shrimp first jut until opaque, remove from the pan and add back at the very end of cooking after the sauce has thickened.
- Nuts: I’ve added cashews for a deeply satisfying crunch but you can also add peanuts as well.
- Sesame seeds: add the nutty sesame flavor. Take care to use toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself.
- Pineapple: I love the salty sour savory with the sweet pineapple.
- Mango: one of my favorite fruits to add to EVERYTHING. If you’re intimidated by choosing or cutting mangos, check out this post here.
- Mandarin oranges: use canned or fresh. Fresh hold together better but canned or super convenient.
How to Make Thai Basil Chicken Recipe
- Whisk sauce together. In a medium bowl, whisk the Sauce ingredients together: soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, Asian sweet chili paste, Asian chili paste, sesame oil and cornstarch; set aside.
- Chop chicken. You can chop the chicken with a knife or you can pulse it a food processor. To chop in the food processor, first cut chicken into 2-inch pieces, then place in the food processor. Pulse until meat is chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces, about 6 to 8 pulses.
- Season chicken. While the chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and toss with the coriander powder, turmeric, and dried basil.
- Stir fry chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and shallots and cook just until chicken is opaque. Don’t keep cooking because it will continue to cook in the sauce.
- Stir fry vegetables and aromatics. Add peppers, garlic and ginger and cook an addition 60 seconds.
- Add sauce. Add sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, 2-3 minutes.
- Add basil. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and cashews. Serve with rice and dig in!
HOW DO I ADJUST TO TASTE?
The most important part of any recipe is tasting and adjusting to suite your personal tastes because no two palates are the same. This Thai Basil Chicken recipe is so quick and easy that the adjusting comes at the end. Here’s how to make it YOUR perfect basil chicken recipe:
- spice it up with additional Asian chili paste
- add salt/more umami with additional fish sauce
- amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor
- sweeten it up with additional brown sugar or swap the sugar for honey
- add sweet heat with additional sweet chili sauce
- for extra tang or less sweet, add additional lime juice
HOW DO I THICKEN THE SAUCE?
The cornstarch in the stir fry sauce will thicken the sauce as it simmers with the chicken and bell peppers. If you still would like a thicker sauce, then just keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency. For an even thicker sauce, make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water then adding to the simmering sauce. Repeat this as step as desired.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THAI BASIL CHICKEN RECIPE
- How to quickly chop chicken. Chop chicken into 2-inch pieces then pulse in your food processor 6-8 times until chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces.
- Use chicken thighs. Chicken thighs emerge juicier than chicken breasts without the assistance off a marinade.
- Use reduced sodium soy sauce. Soy sauce is the main ingredient in this recipe so make sure it is reduced sodium or your sauce will be way too salty.
- Prep sauce and veggies before you start cooking. This Thai Basil Chicken recipe comes together in MINUTES once you start cooking so make sure everything is chopped before oil ever touches your pan.
- Toast cashews. Toasting the cashews really amps up the flavor and only takes a couple extra minutes. Make sure you use UNSALTED cashews or your stir fry will be way too salt.
- Customize heat. Start with less chili sauce and add more to taste. You can always add heat but it’s hard to take away!
- Customize veggies. You can substitute the veggies for your favorites.
- Ginger pro tip. I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips. To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months. You can add frozen ginger directly to your stir fry.
- How to chop ingredients. The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified in the recipe. As detailed earlier in the post, chop the long cooking vegetables smaller and the short cooking vegetables larger.
- Don’t overcook chicken. For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook! Cook it just until opaque then let it finish cooking in the sauce.
HOW TO PREP BASIL CHICKEN RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME
This Thai Basil Chicken recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes but most of that time is prep. If you want dinner to come together in minutes, then you can prep everything ahead of time. Here’s how:
- Chop chicken: chop the chicken by hand or in the food processor and toss with spices. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Make stir fry sauce: whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator. Shake it up or whisk it to recombine before using to recombine.
- Chop veggies: you can chop your shallots, garlic, grate your ginger and chop the bell peppers 24 hours in advance and store in separate air tight containers in the refrigerator.
- Cook! Within the next 48 hours, proceed with the recipe and dinner can be on the table in 10 minutes!
HOW TO STORE and REHEAT BASIL CHICKEN
This Basil Chicken reheats wonderfully for lunches or dinners.
- How to store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals.
- How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.
CAN I FREEZE BASIL CHICKEN RECIPE?
I do not recommend freezing the Basil Chicken with the bell peppers because they become an unpleasant mushy texture. You may freeze the chicken without the bell peppers or freeze the chicken and stir fry sauce separately.
Cook the Thai Basil Chicken without the bell peppers if you are making for the sole purpose of freezing, otherwise, pick bell peppers out of the portion you wish to freeze.
- Let the basil chicken cool to room temperature.
- Transfer to a freezer safe bag, squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn and seal.
- Label and freeze for up to three months.
- Defrost in the refrigerator before warming according to above reheating directions.
TO FREEZE CHICKEN & SAUCE SEPARATELY:
- Stir fry sauce: Whisk together, add to a freezer bag or freezer safe airtight container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Chicken: After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool to room temperature then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.
WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH THAI BASIL CHICKEN?
- Rice: Thai Basil Chicken is traditionally served with rice to mellow and absorb the flavorful sauce and offers a neutral textural component. I prefer jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse your white rice until the water runs clear to achieve the fluffiest rice. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.
- Low carb options: Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
- Appetizers: Turn this Basil Chicken into a feast with traditional Thai Chicken Satay or Peanut Pineapple Thai Chicken Satay, Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, or Thai Chicken Pizza. It is also delish with other Asian inspired, non-Thai appetizers such as Crab Rangoons, Homemade Egg Rolls, Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, or potstickers.
- Bread: Naan or roti bread to soak up the delectable sauce.
- Salad: A simple green salad or Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Fruit: I love extra sweet fruit with Thai food such as pineapple and mangos.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE bASIL CHICKEN
- Stainless Steel Skillet: if you don’t have a wok, then stainless steel is the perfect alternative for stir fries but I also LOVE them for pastas! They are virtually indestructible, distribute heat evenly, and won’t leech into the food. It is particularly useful when cooking with acidic ingredients like tomatoes or vinegar because the metal won’t react with the acidity. I love both my 10 and 12-inch Le Creuset Stainless Steel Pans with a limited lifetime warranty but this more economical pan also has excellent reviews.
- Garlic press: I use this every single day! It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze. Unlike other presses, this garlic press has beveled holes that finely cut the clove rather than bruising it, bringing out the best flavor.
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far! Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
- Rice Cooker: I LOVE my rice cooker and use it all the time – it is pretty much the only way I make rice. Many instant pots have built in rice cookers these days, but if you’re not ready for that big-ticket item, then this reliable rice cooker will always get the job done without any babysitting!
LOOKING FOR MORE THAI RECIPES?
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Thai Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry
- Thai Orange Peanut Chicken
- Thai Coconut Chicken Rice Soup
- Thai Peanut Dressing
- Thai Peanut Beef and Broccoli
- Thai Chicken Tacos
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