Thai basil ground pork is a classic stir-fry dish featuring ground pork cooked with chilies, garlic, and savory sauce with the distinctive anise-like notes of Thai basil. This quick and easy meal is a staple in Thailand, often served with rice and a fried egg.

Thai basil pork with rice and fried egg.
Thai basil made with ground pork.

Thai Basil Ground Pork

It has a little bit of everything—garlicky, spicy, savory, and slightly sweet. What makes it unique is the Thai basil as it adds a distinct peppery taste and anise-like aroma.

Thai Basil stir-fry was my first ever Thai food experience. I clearly remember the bullets of sweat running down my face after my first few spoonfuls. Yes, it was burningly spicy as with most Thai food dishes. But, I love love it! So good with rice!

What You Need

Here are the ingredients you need to make Thai basil pork:

ground pork, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, dark soy sauce, fresh garlic, red chilies and light soy sauce.

Pork

Ground pork (or minced pork) is a perfect choice for Thai basil stir-fry because it cooks quickly and evenly. It also easily absorbs the flavors of the sauce and aromatics including chilies, garlic, and fish sauce.

If you prefer a richer flavor, use ground pork with a slightly higher fat content (around 80/20). Lean ground pork (around 90% lean, 10% fat) is preferred as the dish comes together quickly in a hot wok.

Sauce

Here are the ingredients you need to make the Thai basil sauce:

  • Light Soy Sauce – You can also use regular soy sauce but it will have more soy flavor.
  • Fish Sauce and Oyster Sauce – Adds umami flavor that is distinct in many Thai dishes.
  • Dark Soy sauce – A teaspoon of this will give the dish a darker/amber color. It can be omitted with minimal impact.
  • Sugar – To balance the savory flavor and counteract the spiciness of the chilies.
  • Fresh Garlic and bird’s eye chili – Gives a wonderful aroma and distinctive spicy kick to Thai basil ground pork.

Thai Basil

Thai Basil is not a common herb. You will probably need a little bit of effort in seeking it out before making this dish. Start with your local Asian grocery store or supermarket.

fresh Thai basil leaves.

Based on my little research (a.k.a. googling) Italian Basil is an acceptable substitute. I haven’t tried it myself but they say it is quite close to the anise or licorice-like flavor of Thai Basil.

How to Cook Thai Basil Ground Pork

Making this Thai stir-fry dish is so easy! Here’s how:

step by step process on how to make Thai pork basil.

A few tips:

  • Finely chop the red peppers and garlic to release their aromatic oils. Traditionally, a mortar and pestle are used, but a sharp knife works just as well if you don’t have one at home. This step is key to infusing your dish with its delicious flavor.
  • Stir-fry the garlic and chilies until fragrant over medium-high heat. Avoid burning them as this can turn their taste bitter.
  • Partially cook the ground pork then quickly pour the sauce. Simmer and let the meat absorb all the delicious flavors.
  • Do taste-taste. Before tossing in the basil, give the dish a try. Adjust the sweetness, spice, and salt levels to match your liking. Craving more sweetness? Add a bit more sugar. Is it too salty? A splash of water will balance things out.

As you are making this yourself, you have ABSOLUTE CONTROL over the level of spiciness. Start with a few chilies then add more towards the end of the cooking if preferred.

To tone down the level of spiciness, remove or lessen the seeds. Remember to use food-grade gloves when slicing and deseeding to avoid burning your hands.

Thai basil recipe.

Serve

Thai Basil Ground Pork, also known as Pad Kra Pao, is a dish that can be enjoyed all day long. Traditionally served over steaming jasmine rice and fried eggs for richness and creaminess. Garnish with chopped fresh chilies and drizzle with lime juice for good measure.

Vegetables You Can Add

Thai Basil ground pork traditionally doesn’t include many vegetables, but here are some delicious options you can add for extra flavor, texture, and nutrients:

  • Green beans or Long beans – Cut into bite-sized pieces, they add a satisfying crunch and freshness.
  • Broccoli florets – Pre-cook them slightly for a tender crisp texture. Snap peas: Similar to green beans in terms of texture and flavor.
  • Eggplant or Zucchini (courgette) – Diced and pan-fried beforehand for a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Other Meat You Can Use

You can use ground beef or pre-cut beef strips labeled “for stir-fry”. Aside from being a time-saver, it also lessens the dishes to wash like for example, the bulky chopping board.

Ground chicken with a slightly higher fat content (around 80/20) is also a delicious alternative.

Is Thai Basil the same as Holy Basil?

Don’t be misled by similar names – Thai basil and Thai holy basil leaves are distinct players in the culinary world. While both originate from Southeast Asia they belong to different species.

Thai basil boasts an anise-like sweetness, while Holy basil packs a peppery punch with hints of clove. This difference in flavor is mirrored in their appearance, with Thai basil sporting smooth leaves and purple stems, and Holy basil featuring jagged leaves and green stems.

The good news is that Thai basil and holy basil can be used alternatively to make this dish.

Watch How to Make It

More easy Thai recipes

Ground pork Thai basil with rice and egg.

Thai Basil Ground Pork (15 mins!)

Rate this recipe
Garlicky, spicy, and umami-rich! Thai basil ground pork is a quick and easy meal that is a staple in Thailand, often served with rice and a fried egg.
Servings3 servings
preparation time5 minutes
Total cooking time10 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 1 pound ground pork (with fat)
  • 5 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 pieces bird's eye chilies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or canola)
  • bunch of Thai basil leaves (note 1)

Sauce

To serve with

  • rice
  • fried eggs

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Heat oil over high heat. Stir-fry garlic, and chilies for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add ground pork and cook until no longer pink. Pour sauce and stir-fry until the meat has absorbed all the flavors, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add a splash of water if you prefer a saucier stir-fry.
  • Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir until just wilted. Serve immediately with rice and fried egg.

Recipe Notes & Tips:

  1. Thai Basil – You can find this in most Asian grocery stores. It can be substituted with Holy Thai basil or Italian basil.
  2. Dark Soy Sauce – mainly used to add darker color to the dish. If not available, increase the amount of light soy sauce by 1/4 tsp.
Jump to Video
Author : Mella
Course : Main Course
Cuisine : Asian, Thailand
Keyword : Thai basil recipe, Thai pork basil recipe
Nutrition Facts
Thai Basil Ground Pork (15 mins!)
Amount per Serving
Calories
509
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
41
g
63
%
Saturated Fat
 
13
g
81
%
Trans Fat
 
0.1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
8
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
16
g
Cholesterol
 
109
mg
36
%
Sodium
 
2137
mg
93
%
Potassium
 
525
mg
15
%
Carbohydrates
 
6
g
2
%
Fiber
 
0.3
g
1
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
28
g
56
%
Vitamin A
 
12
IU
0
%
Vitamin C
 
3
mg
4
%
Calcium
 
42
mg
4
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?I love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag @rivertenkitchen or leave a comment below!

Originally published March 2019. Updated Feb. 2024 with new photos, and a streamlined recipe after further testing to improve the recipe! 

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