For years I have assumed that Thai Basil Chicken was too complicated a dish to make at home. Especially for me, someone with zero experience with Thai cuisine.
But after finding a local Thai restaurant in a food hall in Atlanta, and ordering a delicious bowl of Thai Basil Chicken, I noticed that there really weren’t that many ingredients. Maybe I should spend a few minutes actually determining if I was capable or not of making my own rendition at home.
Turns out I’m capable. I am not claiming to have mastered the most authentic and original of all Thai recipes, I am simply laying out my method of reproducing a pretty tasty version of what I have ordered and eaten at a number of Thai restaurants .
I’ve now fallen in love with this recipe, as it is very adaptable to many variables, such as which kind of pepper to use if you can’t find fresh Thai peppers, which protein to use and even what vegetable you are in the mood for. Also keep in mind that there are loads of different peppers that might be called Thai, so make sure you know which ones you are using and don’t assume they are all the same, they are not!
For instance, I have had trouble finding Thai peppers in many local grocery stores. Only by traveling a bit further than I normally do for ingredients was I able to find some. But when I come up empty I have found using Serrano peppers can work. Is it the same? No. Will it still be delicious? Yes.
Please be advised, the entire point of this dish is to be spicy. As in making your whole mouth tingle. Not to make you cry and give up eating, but a certain level of heat is part of the dish. The amount of peppers my wife and I use push us right to the boundary between pleasure and pain, a runny nose, some long drinks of water, but still looking forward to the next bite.
If you are not a heat or pepper enthusiast, I would scale back on the number of peppers I used in my recipe. If you are a glutton for punishment, feel free to bump up the hot chili peppers involved! If it helps, I would say that my level of heat enjoyment is medium to medium high, definitely not a pepper enthusiast!
One of my sisters and her family have decided that even just one or two Serrano peppers is WAY too much heat, and maybe they would be better off with one or two poblano peppers instead!
I’ve also used ground pork instead of ground chicken to rave reviews. Obviously it is no longer considered Basil Chicken if I used pork, but Thai Basil Pork is still delicious!
Some recipes I’ve seen swear by and call for only Thai basil (aka holy basil) as opposed to the basil (aka sweet basil) usually found in most grocery stores. I’ve tried it both ways and quickly order seconds with either herb, I did not find that either one made or ruined the dish. Find a good basil and use plenty.
And the vegetable you decide to use can switch from night to night, if you even choose to use a vegetable. I almost always do as it becomes a one pot dish with a balanced meal. I’m a fan of sugar snap peas, but recognize not everyone is. We’ve also tried broccoli or broccolini crowns and cauliflower florets cut down into small pieces. All very tasty.
Most of the recipes that I found online promised a dish on the table in 15 minutes, or maybe 30, but I must be slower than most everyone else. I find that it takes me about 30 minutes to do the prep work before I even start to cook. Yes, it cooks up quickly once you get going, but there is decent amount of chopping, dicing and measuring that is necessary.
Thai-Style Basil Chicken
- 1 med or large pan
- 1 tbsp cooking oil I use avocado oil
- 1 lb ground chicken or ground pork
- 2 med shallots diced
- 1 bag sugar snap peas, strings trimmed or removed 8-10 oz bag, or crowns from head of broccoli
- 6-10 cloves garlic diced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 8-10 Thai peppers – or 3-5 Serrano peppers adjust the amount of peppers used for your personal heat preferences, this amount is for a fairly spicy dish!
- 20-30 basil leaves Thai or sweet basil works
- 2 whole eggs optional
- prep all of your ingredients – when prepping the peppers, remove the stem ends and tips and finely chop the peppers, seeds and all, being careful not to stick your fingers in your eyes!
- add cooking oil to pan over medium heat
- add your ground chicken and stir frequently until it is completely broken up into small pieces and starting to brown
- add your shallots, stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes
- add garlic and chopped peppers and stir to combine, cook for another 1-2 minutes until very fragrant but before the garlic starts to burn on the bottom of the pan
- add the chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and stir to combine, cook for a few minutes to let reduce a bit and thicken up
- add your vegetable of choice and cook for just 2 minutes, give or take, you are looking for crispy crunchy veggies as opposed to soft and mushy, at least most people are
- just before your vegetables are done, throw in your basil, stir to combine until the basil wilts and is folded in to the dish
- turn stove off and serve up your dinner, can be served with rice, or not, personal preference
- If you decide to include an egg with your meal, cook up a sunny side up egg as you cook the vegetables towards the end of your dinner prep, and simply serve the egg on top
When I make this dish for just my wife and myself, we usually skip the rice and simply divide the entire pan’s worth of goodness between the two us. I was a little worried when putting together a nutritional panel at what I might find, but also knew that there weren’t any really naughty ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised when it rang up between 550 and 600 calories.
If you want to add 1/2 cup of steamed white rice, make sure to add another 100 calories or so if you don’t use any fat when steaming your rice. By the same token, if you add a fried egg to your dinner, assuming you put a little butter in the pan, I would add 100-120 calories to the nutritional panel below.