Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)

Gai Pad Krapow Recipe - Thai Basil Chicken

Thai Basil Chicken is one of those dishes that fits squarely in the category of best-bang-for-your-buck. Not only is it a cheap dish to make, it’s incredibly satisfying, and takes almost no time to make. I dunno about you, but for me, cheap, delicious and easy is the holy trinity of the perfect dish.

Savory, spicy, and redolent of garlic and basil, it’s not like the chicken really needs any help, but what really sets this dish off for me is the fried egg on top. Sunny-side-up and yolk still runny, the egg adds just a touch of velvety richness to this humble weeknight meal. On a pile of hot jasmine rice, this basil chicken is heaven on a plate.

Basil Chicken - Gai Pad Krapow

The key to getting perfect little pebbles of moist chicken that are just lightly kissed with caramelized sauce is to use a very hot pan, preferably a wok. Woks work so well for stir fried dishes like this basil chicken because they have so much surface area relative to the amount of food you put in it. Provided you have enough fire under the wok, this means the pan stays very hot allowing you to quickly cook the chicken without drying it out. Unfortunately, most home stoves (including my own) don’t put out enough BTUs to take advantage of a wok’s full surface area.

For those of you who don’t have a commercial gas burner at home, I’ve found that a cast iron skillet produces the desired results. While it doesn’t have the same surface area as a wok, it does retain heat very well, so as long as you preheat it, it will stay hot even after you’ve added the chicken.

I used Thai Basil (horapa) this time, but Gai Pad Krapow is supposed to be made with Holy Basil (kra phao). If you can’t find either type of basil near you, you could theoretically use ordinary fresh basil, but the flavor will be different. Thai basil has a stronger clove-like flavor that is quite distinct from the more anise-like flavor of Mediterranean basil.

Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)

1 Tbs vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1-5 thai “bird” chilies minced with seeds
1/2 small onion sliced
1/2 lbs ground chicken thigh meat
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
pinch of white pepper
3 sprigs of Thai Holy Basil, stems removed
2 eggs

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add a splash of oil and crack two eggs into the pan and fry until the white part is set, but the yolk is still soft. Transfer the eggs to a plate to keep them from overcooking.

Heat a wok or a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add the oil, garlic and chilies and stir fry until until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the onions and continue stir frying until the onions have wilted. Add the ground chicken and fry until the chicken is cooked.

Season with the fish sauce, sugar and white pepper. If your pan was hot enough you should not have any liquid at the bottom of the pan, but if you do, continue cooking until the liquid is gone. Add the basil and toss a couple of time until the leaves are wilted and bright green.

Serve the basil chicken with jasmine rice and an egg on top of each plate.

  • Nisrine Merzouki

    This reminds me of the outstanding and very basil-y chicken dish I get at my favorite Thai restaurant. So delicious!

  • Bunkycooks

    This is one of my favorite Thai dishes to make at home. I posted one recipe not long ago that was the hottest version I ever made! I will have to try yours next time. I still need to decide about the egg… :)

  • Cherine

    This looks so good!

  • Peter G

    This dish is one of my staples when eating out! I must admit it does look quite easy to prepare at home. I love the flavour of Thai basil…pungent and spicy!

  • Syrie

    I had the same thing last night for dinner! The addition of the egg is gorgeous.

  • Mike Pierce

    Marc – This is my favorite single dish of all. Along with Tacos al Pastor, the two dishes that became my quest for the Grail. It took me a couple of years and countless tries to get it right.. but I finally did. You version is very similar, although I use a huge amount of Thai and Holy Basil, more like a vegetable than an herb.

    The Tacos al Pastor led me -via Google- to your site for the first time. It has proven to be a life changing experience (seriously) and I do appreciate it! Yet my quest to make the perfect Pastor continues. I once had them at a little roadside cafe (La Costa ) in Oakley, CA and they were as close to heaven as you can get. I don't know if they changed owners or cooks but they are no longer as great (although still tasty) as they were a few years back. I always order them when in a Hispanic hood, Mexican Supermarcato or restaurant. Your version actually comes closer than any other, but it's still not quite the Grail for me.

    Thus the journey continues!

  • Lori Lynn

    I've had this millions of times in restaurants, cannot believe I have never made it myself. Your recipe sounds perfect. It's on my list.

  • TimesCurrent

    I tried this tonight, it was simply incredible (and easy!) And you are so right about the egg, it really adds a rich luxury to the dish. Thanks for the great approach.

  • Zhoushiyan

    I have not heard of basil yet.I do not know what it is?

  • Lisaiscooking

    Perfect timing: I have Thai basil in my herb garden and a new cast iron pan. Can't wait to make use of both. Sounds fantastic!

  • Nina

    The chicken looks so amazing and the flavors must be so pungent and fragrant…yum!

  • Sarah @ For the Love of Food

    I'm trying this! I'm surrounded by Vietnamese grocers where I live so always have easy access to these ingredients and often make a beef version with green beans and loads of Thai basil (Nua Pad Krapao). Even with all the grocers here I rarely come across the holy basil.

    I've just discovered your blog and am swooning over your photography!

  • Maria

    I love Thai but never get around to cooking such dishes at home. Will have to change that. I wish Thai Basil were more accessible though.

  • Jan

    LOVE the look of this dish. I've never been able to find Thai basil here sadly.

  • Katie@Cozydelicious

    This looks fantastic – and easy too! I love the tip about a cast iron pan – thank you! I have a TON of pruple basil as the plant on my windowsill is basically taking over the kitchen. I think I'll try making it with that. Yum!

  • Nadia

    I have to admit that I don't have a cast iron skillet, but this recipe is pushing me to go out and get one. It looks so delicious and flavorful. I love the flavor of Thai chilies, sooo spicy and right up my alley.

    Though this dish tastes nothing like Pakistani food, it looks so much like a stewed ground beef dish we make in Pakistan called Keema.

  • tasteofbeirut

    I did buy a wok and I can use it on the bbq grill for this recipe! which i love by the way! Like the egg thing on top that is fun to do.

  • norecipes

    Here's the wikipedia entry on basil:

  • norecipes

    I totally recommend getting a cast iron skillet. They're about $10 on
    Amazon and it's one of only 3 or so pans I use on a regular basis (the
    others are a dutch oven and non-stick skillet). I use my cast iron
    skillet to do everything from searing meat, to doing stir fries to
    making naan and tortillas. As for Keema, you're right it does look
    pretty similar. It's funny how different cultures have different foods
    that take a common theme. In Japanese food, we have a dish that's
    colled Soboro-don that looks very similar to this as well.

  • Debi (Table Talk)

    I have been making this at home for years (minus the egg)~ It's my Go-To “fast food” dish after a busy day. Love it!
    Your cast iron skillet tip is a good one.

  • christinefreshlocalandbest

    I like that this recipe uses staple in my kitchen. This is a great recipe for those busy weeknights. I also typically use a cast iron pan for stir fry, it yields much better results than most other pans.

  • Ellja

    we had this last week and it was great, tasty, fantastic!! wonderfull recipe!

  • Pingback: Foodwhirl » Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)()

  • The Blonde Mule

    My husband & I made this last night & loved it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rupert

    Absolutely delicious! I've made it twice in the last 4 days – I just can't get enough of the taste so I've taken to doubling all quantities other than the chicken to get a more 'bitty' dish with a bit more sauce too. Hope you don't mind! Keep them coming – I'm onto your pork char sui tomorrow!

  • norecipes

    Glad you liked it! Part of the No Recipes ethos is that you shouldn't be
    bound by recipes. I just post guidelines to help people get started, but
    what you turn the dish into is up to you and your tastes:-)

  • Teguilasunrise

    Your blog is impressive! I LOVE Paad Kra Pao, and yours looks quite original, only that the spicy red chilies are missing.

    By the way, I wonder what Thai 'bird' Chilies are….?? I am a Thai, but have never heard of it…

  • norecipes

    Thanks! The chilies I use are called “Thai Bird Chili” in the markets here,
    but I looked it up on wikipedia and the Thai name is “Phrik Khi Nu”.

  • Teguilasunrise

    I see… so it's Phrik Khi Nu…
    BTW, are you a professional cook? The pictures look soooo goood. I am so impressed at the amount and variety of recipes you have collected. I live in Germany, but have been crazy for Japanese and Korean food for quite some time. I will try your Tonkotsu Miso Ramen recipe this week. Many thanks! I will let you know the result :)

  • Pingback: thai basil chicken (gai pad krapow) | gimme some oven()

  • Requalant

    Direction of Phad Kra-Pow is similar to original. I am a thai but I have been living in japan. I was trying to find cooking direction using material bought easily in japan, finally, I found this blog and I love it^ ^.

    I’d like to give wider information about Phad Kra-pow (= fried with holy basil). this recipe is Gai Pad Krapow using chicken for meat. however in thailand, Phad Kra-pow also often use minced pork, minced beef or even pork liver.
    Either minced pork or minced beef will give stronger taste of meat. Meat soup stock may add into pan just before meat is put to make more tasty of meat. you may add more chilly, without minced, to give more odors to dish without giving too spicy.

    For further information, if thai basil is used to cook instead of holy basil or cook with both of them, the food name should be changed in Thai; it is called Phad-kee-mao. But because of stroger smell of thai basil, Phad-kee-mao usually put larger meat portion or add some vegetable, ex. oftenly carrot, yard long bean, baby corn, etc.

    Ps. Sorry , my english is not good

  • Emily Martin

    This looks gorgeous. I can’t wait to try it. I’ll be able to pick up some Thai sweet basil in a couple of days, so I’ll give it a go. I love the addition of the egg.

  • Pingback: No Recipes vol. 20()

  • Emailme

    I tried this and maybe I messed up, but it was dry and boring.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry to hear it didn’t turn out. Did you use ground chicken thigh
      meat? Most western grocery stores use breast meat in ground chicken
      which tends to get dry because it had less fat. Try getting it from a
      Chinese grocery store, or grind the meat yourself, including all the
      fat that’s on the thighs.

  • My

    Your recipes all look amazing! I finally tried this one as I had most of the ingredients and loved it! I didn’t have Thai basil so I used regular basil (and used quite a lot of it) but the flavor was still wonderful. I made a side of sugar snap peas sautéed with scallion, ginger and added a few drops of sesame oil at the end and it went very well together. Thank you for the great recipe!

  • Fran

    Say I couldn’t find Thai holy basil, but found Thai holy basil paste…do you know how much of that I could use for this recipe?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’ve never used holy basil paste before so I’m not really sure, but you may
      be better off just using regular fresh basil that the paste.

      • Fran

        hmmm,  well I’ll make it tomorrow. I’ll make a little bit with the paste and see how it turns out, but yeah I’ve got no shortage of regular basil leaves.


  • Fran

    Say I couldn’t find Thai holy basil, but found Thai holy basil paste…do you know how much of that I could use for this recipe?

  • Parksfamilee

    Can you premake part of this dish and then freeze?  Such as make the chicken until the step to add fish sauce?  I love this recipe but with three kids in soccer, dance, piano, guitar and youth group anything over 10 minutes is impossible. :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      This only takes about 2-3 minutes to cook if you have all the ingredients lined up. Just prep all the components ahead and keep them in the fridge. If you really want to freeze it, I would just make the recipe to the end then freeze it right away, it should come back just fine in the microwave.

  • Jazlyn

    I can’t believe this is such a simple dish and easy to make. I was so in love with this dish when I had it in Thailand. Will try to make it soon!

  • Matt

    I had this dish at my local Thai restaurant. They call it midnight in Thailand. Loved it so much I attempted to replicate it at home. The hard part was coming up with the sauce. I ended up using fish sauce, soy sauce, and garlic chili sauce. Tastes good, but not the same.

  • Pingback: Leftovers | Pie or Die()

  • Ellen

    This dish was one of my favorites when I was travelling in Thailand.
    I was pleasantly surprised by the authenticism of this recipe!
    Personally, I would add more chili though! I like it spicy.
    Thanks! I will definately make this again

  • veron

    can i use black pepper instead??

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It will taste a little different, but it should be fine.

  • Gaew

    I am a big fan of your blog. I am happy to see that one of your most favorite recipes is for my favorite Thai dish! As a Thai, I am very impressed with how you cook it! IMHO, this is the way to make it tastiest. Super hot wok (to get that smoky flavour-the breath of a wok!) and lots of garlic and chili with minced meat. Keep up the good work!

  • Didi

    Hi, how many servings is this recipe?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      This makes 2 servings.

  • Carlos V

    any tip on making jasmine rice??, im thinking on making you ginger chicken with some jasmine rice.

    What do u think?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Jasmin rice is cooked just like any other kind of long grain rice. Wash, it then add water, and bring to boil, cover and cook until there’s no water left, turn the heat off and let it steam for 10 minutes.

      • Carlos V

        Hi Mark, i cooked it like I usually cook rice, 1 part rice 2 parts water, I found it to be very fragant when cooking but it was undercooked whe the water was gone, then I added more water to try and get the grain to soften more (had to do this 2 times) and it didt but I thnik that all the aroma was gone :(

        • Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Carlos, did you give it 10 minutes to steam after all the water was gone? Usually when you cook rice it takes about 15 minutes for all the water to get absorbed and then you need to turn the heat off and let the rice steam for 10 minutes without removing the lid. This should cook the rice the rest of the way through without having to add any more water.

    • Thainet

      I cook Jasmin-rice to great result by using the method 2-3.
      First wash the rice, then add 3 parts water to your rice.

      2 parts rice and 3 parts water. Bring it to a boil with no lid, then when it starts boiling, lower the heat to very low, let it absorb the water for about 10-15 min, now you can eat it directly, but it gets even better if you let it rest for 10 extra min with no heat.

      • Carlos V

        Thanks, will try!

  • bimalbkhatry

    waw wot nice of chicken


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

All text and photos ©2007-2015. All rights reserved. [ No Recipes ] - Privacy Policy