If you're looking for sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, this easy Thai Basil Beef is a quick meal that satisfies.
Quick and Easy Pad Kra Pao
When you think of your favorite Asian beef dishes, too often ground beef recipes get overlooked for more traditional classics like Mongolian beef, Pho bo, or Beef Ramen Stir Fry.
In a mid 2020 virtual meet-up, I had the opportunity to ask celebrity chef, restaurateur, and Thai culinary ambassador Jet Tila what his favorite beef recipe was to cook. His answer: "Spicy Basil Beef." (AKA Pad Kra Pao or Pad Gra Pow).
After making a variation of his own Thai Basil Beef recipe from "101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die," that answer totally makes sense.
Why You'll Love Thai Basil Beef
This recipe is colorful, quick and easy, and it scratches that itch for a savory (mildly spicy) stir-fried comfort food.
At the same time, Thai Basil Beef also gives your taste buds a fresh herby spice from the peppers and basil all in a sweet glazed package that's perfect over rice or noodles.
Plus there's nothing like that glazed texture you get on every morsel when you cook ground beef in a sticky sauce. MMM!
This dish is less saucy than our Ground Beef Bulgogi or Ground Beef and Broccoli, so if you love a sloppy saucy meal, maybe try our Korean Sloppy Joes.
- Sauces - Most of the salty, savory and spicy flavors in Thai Basil Beef come from it's mix of sauces. You will need low sodium soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and chili paste (sambal oelek). I wouldn't get too adventurous trying to substitute any of these out. Many grocery stores have a World Foods section but if yours doesn't, you might need to try an Asian or international market, or good ol' Amazon.
- Brown sugar - Molassesy brown sugar melts perfectly into the sauce here to glaze your beef with a touch of sweetness.
- Garlic and (*optional) fresh red Thai chilies - Sauteed garlic and chilies give this dish some kick. But only include the Thai chilies if you really like the spicy. The flavor is amazing, but it was about all the heat we could handle.
- Ground beef - ah how we love thee.
- Onion and bell pepper - Yellow and red varieties respectively are a nice grilled veggie accessory to the saucy beef.
- Fresh Thai basil leaves - Thai basil is much sweeter, and has a minty zing compared to the spicy sharpness of plain old basil. It is quite different than traditional basil, and I don't recommend swapping it unless absolutely necessary.
How to Make Thai Basil Beef
- Whisk all the sauces together.
- Saute some garlic *and optional Thai chilies.
- Brown your ground beef.
- Add in onion, bell pepper, sauce mixture, and Thai basil leaves.
- Serve over rice and/or with a fried egg.
Tips and Storage Information
- The key to getting nicely browned beef is to use a very hot wok, cast iron skillet, or heavy duty pan. We talk more about this in our post on how to cook ground beef.
- Because we're working with high heat, this recipe will go fast! Have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start.
- Easily adjust the heat levels by omitting the fresh Thai chilies and upping or lowering the amount of sambal oelek you use.
- Leftover Thai Basil Beef can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or stir fry over high heat for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.
What Goes With Thai Basil Beef?
Served over rice, this Thai Basil Beef stir fry has everything you need to make a complete meal. Though I would take mine paired with a simple iceberg salad topped with Ginger Salad Dressing, and a creamy cool beverage like a Thai Iced Tea, this Tropical Mint Smoothie, or an Iced Matcha Latte.
Thai Basil Beef
- 3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
- 4 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 2-3 Tablespoons chili paste (sambel oelek)
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1-3 serrano or Thai chilies (sliced, optional)
- 1 ½ lbs ground beef
- 1 yellow onion (sliced)
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 1 ½ cups Thai basil leaves (picked off the stem)
- Whisk together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chili paste, and brown sugar in a small bowl.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and chilies, if using, and cook until the garlic starts to brown, about 30 seconds.
- Add the ground beef, using a spatula to press the beef flat across the pan. Cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip over and cook for another minute. Break up the beef into smaller pieces. If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain it off.
- Stir in the onion and bell pepper and saute for about a minute. Add the sauce and stir everything together. Continue to cook for a few minutes, until the onions and pepper are tender and beef is cooked through. Sprinkle the Thai basil over top and stir until wilted.
- Serve immediately over rice or topped with a fried egg, or both!