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Thai Holy Basil Beef Stir-Fry (Pad Kra Pao)

Pad Kra Pao Beef

This Pad Kra Pao Beef is one of the first recipes I made with ground beef because it’s so simple and dangerously good. Pad Kra Pao, also known as Thai basil stir-fry, is known for its robust flavors, and the perfect balance of spicy, salty, and sweet. It’s a quick stir-fry beef recipe that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or a quick lunch. Plus, it’s super easy to make and it’s a great way to spice up your usual ground beef recipes.

Thai Basil vs. Italian Basil

Traditionally, Pad Kra Pao Beef is made with Thai holy basil (also known as hot basil). This type of basil has a slightly spicy, peppery flavor that adds a unique kick to the dish. But Thai holy basil isn’t always readily available in local grocery stores. So, I’m going to use Italian basil Italian basil for this recipe.

Italian basil has a sweeter, more anise-like flavor compared to Thai basil, it still complements the savory and spicy elements of this dish. The key is to use fresh basil leaves and add them at the very end to preserve their aromatic qualities.

Pad Kra Pao Beef Ingredients

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • 1 lb beef (grounded)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic (minced)
  • Fresno chilies (juvenile)
  • Italian/Thai basil (a handful)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce/soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  • Fried egg
  • Cucumber slices
Pad Kra Pao Beef

How to make pad kra pao

  • In a large wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until it’s fragrant and slightly golden. 
  • Add the beef to the pan. Increase the heat to high and let the beef brown without stirring too much. This helps to develop a nice crust and deep flavor. Cook until the beef is just slightly done.
  • Throw in the Fresno chilies and give everything another good stir. Continue cooking on high heat. The chilies will add a subtle heat and a pop of color to the dish. If the beef becomes too dry, add a bit of water.
  • Add fish sauce, sprinkle sugar over the beef, and stir everything together.
  • Turn off the heat and immediately add the basil leaves. The residual heat will wilt the basil just enough without overcooking it.

Serving Suggestions

  • Pad Kra Pao Beef is best served hot, straight from the pan. 
  • Traditionally, it’s paired with a fried egg on top – the runny yolk adds a rich, velvety texture that complements the spicy beef. 
  • I like serving it with fresh cucumber slices on the side to cool down the heat and add a refreshing crunch. You can also use kimchi radish as a side dish. That’d taste good as well.

The signature of Pad Kra Pao is its spiciness from Thai chilies. 

These small chilies pack a punch that’s central to the dish’s bold flavor. But like many others, I don’t have a high tolerance for heat or spicy food, so I’m using Fresno chilies, which are slightly milder but still provide a good amount of heat. 

If you can handle the spice and want to stay true to the authentic taste, feel free to use Thai chilies or add a few alongside the Fresno chilies.

Pad Kra Pao Beef

 Tips for the Best Pad Kra Pao Beef

  • Use High Heat: Keeping the heat high ensures that the beef browns nicely and doesn’t steam.
  • Fresh Basil: If you can find Thai holy basil, it’s perfect for this dish. Italian basil works as a great substitute.
  • Adjust the Spice: If you like it spicier, keep the seeds in the chilies. For a milder version, remove them.
  • Make sure you serve this pad kra pao beef dish hot straight from the pan. 


This Pad Kra Pao Beef recipe is a fantastic way to bring the bold flavors of Thai street food into your home. It’s quick, easy, and packed with flavors. I love it and I think you should give it a try next time if you’re short on time. Let me know how it turned out in the comments below. Happy cooking!


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Hey, I'm Sa. Welcome to Wikisizzle! I’d like to keep it simple with everyday meals that are easy to make. Hope you find some delightful flavors here. Let’s get cooking.

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