Pad Kra Pao or Spicy Thai Basil Chicken is a spicy thai dish featuring chicken, thai basil, and mushrooms, in a spicy brown sauce. Make this thai take out classic at home and serve over rice.
I don't know about you, but whenever I get Thai food, I order the same things. Sure once in a while I like to switch it up, but in general I stick to my favorites, Beef Pad Thai, Panang Curry, and Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Chicken).
Pad Kra Pao or Pad Krapow is slightly different at every Thai restaurant, but certain things remain constant. The dish will have Thai holy basil, chopped or ground chicken, and a variety of stir fried vegetables in a sweet and spicy sauce.
Thai food is a favorite of mine. I could eat it every day. The sweet and spicy flavors, stir fried vegetables and oodles of noodles are always something I love AND crave. Looking for more Thai food inspiration? Try Beef Pad thai, Thai Curry Soup, or Thai Cucumber Salad.
Serve air fryer edamame alongside for an easy appetizer.
A little Thai food love backstory..
Thai food actually plays a special role in my husband’s and my relationship. Michael took me out to dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant for our first date. Although we were already friends, I was extremely nervous about dating, and he knew that. He asked my roommate for some suggestions of places to take me and this is what she suggested (thank you Andrea!). He took me to a local candy shop first to break the ice and by the time our meal arrived I was smitten. I knew (hoped) on that very first date, that he was going to be the man I would marry.
Fast forward a few years-- my family was out for Thai food at that same restaurant on the night Michael proposed to me. Michael was trying to get me to come meet him-- and I kept refusing because my sister was in town and I didn’t want to leave her. My dad (apparently a good actor) was getting “calls from work” at the table and kept walking away. Little did I know that it was Michael and him trying to coordinate getting me to cooperate. After dinner my parents, sister, and I were sitting on my family’s back porch and Michael walks around back and proposes right there. I’m sorry I ruined your original plan honey, but I’ll never forget that night! Best decision I ever made was to marry you.
Pad Krapow vs. Pad Kra Pao vs. Thai Basil Chicken
There are many different ways to spell this Thai dish (Pad Kra Pao, Pad Krapow, Pad Gaprao, Pad Krapow Gao). Different regions call it different things and different restaurants will choose to call it by various names as well! In general, they all represent the same or very similar variations on the dish.
Ingredients for spicy basil chicken:
- ground chicken
- vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
- bell pepper
- garlic cloves
- button mushrooms
- rice wine vinegar
- soy sauce
- thai chilis, or serranos (to spice preference)
- fish sauce (sometimes oyster sauce is also included)
- white sugar
- brown sugar
- fresh Thai holy basil leaves (regular basil can be substituted in a pinch, but the flavor isn't quite the same)
How do you make Thai Basil Chicken?
In a large skillet heat olive oil on a medium heat, add in garlic, onions, and thai chilis. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add ground chicken and break up with a wooden spoon. Once meat has been browning for 5 minutes, add in bell pepper and mushrooms.
In a small bowl mix together rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugars. Add mixture to pan and stir.
Cook until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Chiffonade thai basil and add to chicken mixture. Basil will wilt quickly, about 2 minutes. Give a final stir and serve.
Serve Pad Kra Pao with a fried egg
Fun fact, a classic way to serve this dish is over rice with a fried egg on top! Pad Kra Pao is actually considered Thai Street Food and something many people have for lunch.
Variations on thai basil chicken
- I have seen this dish made lots of different ways, with one of the most noticeable differences being ground chicken versus chicken (often chicken thigh) pieces. Here I use ground chicken, but both ways are great! The flavorings would be the same either way, so go with what you are comfortable with/prefer!
- Other variations include the veggies used. Sometimes there are almost no veggies, just thai basil leaves, chicken, and sauce. Other times, there are lots of veggies like mushrooms, peppers, onions, even green beans are common!
Pad Kra Pao (Thai Basil Chicken)
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 bell pepper small dice
- 1 small onion small dice
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 10 oz. mushrooms quartered
- 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- thai chilis or serranos (to spice preference)
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves thinly sliced
- In a large skillet heat olive oil on a medium heat, add in garlic, onions, and thai chilis. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add ground chicken and break up with a wooden spoon.
- Once meat has been browning for 5 minutes, add in bell pepper and mushrooms.
- In a small bowl mix together rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugars. Add mixture to pan and stir. Cook until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Chiffonade basil and add to chicken mixture. Basil will wilt quickly, about 2 minutes. Give a final stir and serve.