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Khao Pad Krapow Recipe (Holy Basil Fried Rice)

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Khao pad krapow, also known as holy basil fried rice, is a simple dish that’s perfect for any busy weeknight. This ground pork stir-fry is fragrant, spicy, and can easily be tweaked to your taste. I used minced meat, but you can absolutely switch it up with your favorite proteins.

Khao pad krapow with holy basil, topped with a fried egg.

After making this, try one of my other easy Thai recipes with holy basil: Thai basil pork belly, Thai basil recipe vegetarian, and pad krapow chicken – they’re all equally delicious.

What is khao pad krapow

Khao pad krapow is a classic Thai dish and a popular street food option in Thailand. It includes stir-fried jasmine rice with ground meat, usually pork or chicken, mixed with holy basil leaves, garlic, chilies, and soy sauce for flavor.

Holy basil fried rice

Pad kra pao traditionally presents the stir-fried meat and basil atop a bed of steamed jasmine rice, but holy basil fried rice stirs everything together. This allows the fragrant rice to soak up the savory juices of the ground meat and the scent of holy basil.

In Thailand, krapow with rice on the side is somewhat the norm. However, this fried rice with holy basil is just as good and comes together in less than 20 minutes. That’s faster than takeout!

Fried rice holy basil in black dish topped with fried egg.

It’s a quick and easy dish that you can easily make at home, requiring just one pan and minimal cleanup. It’s perfect for making ahead, and it’s a full meal in itself, combining protein and carbs.

Feel free to toss in some stir-fry vegetables for a nutritional boost. I’ll guide you through how to customize this recipe after the instructions.

Make sure to taste-test and balance out the flavors before serving, that’s what Thai cooking is all about. Aim for that balance of umami, savory, and spicy.

Don’t forget to pair it with a crispy fried egg on top, it’s a common sight in Thai restaurants. The fried egg with its runny yolk adds a creamy texture and is great for mellowing down the heat.

And hey, if you prefer stir-fried holy basil beef, make sure to check out my authentic Thai basil beef later!

Holy basil

Holy basil is a key ingredient in ka pow fried rice. In Thai, holy basil translates to “ka pow,” “krapow,” “gaprao,” or “krapao,” underscoring its essential role in this dish. It’s crucial to use holy basil, not sweet basil, which is typically used in dishes like pad horapa and Thai green curry.

Hand presenting Thai holy basil.

Holy basil has a distinct peppery, clove-like taste that sets it apart from sweet basil. Substituting sweet basil for holy basil would result in an entirely different dish, missing the authentic flavors of fried rice holy basil.

I know finding holy basil outside of Thailand can be challenging, as I spent my teenage years in Belgium. However, I always managed to find it by asking the employees at Asian grocery stores, especially those specializing in Thai ingredients. Don’t hesitate to ask store employees – Thai people are very friendly and always honored when Westerners want to learn more about Thai food!

Once you’ve sourced holy basil, I recommend buying it in bulk. Holy basil freezes exceptionally well, preserving its freshness and robust flavor for more of my recipes like Thai jungle curry. Simply wash, dry, and store it in an airtight container or zip-lock bag before freezing.

Close-up of khao pad krapow with minced pork and a fried egg.

If you’re looking for something without holy basil, feel free to try one of my other Thai fried rice recipes: Chicken pineapple fried rice, fried rice with leftover rice, vegetarian Thai fried rice, and tom yum fried rice.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for Khao pad krapow labeled: steamed rice, ground pork, holy basil, chilies, garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and fish sauce.
  • Ground pork – Ground pork is ideal. It’s rich and savory, and its fatty content contributes to the fried rice’s moisture and depth. Feel free to switch it up with your favorite proteins.
  • Steamed rice – Thai fried rice is typically made with jasmine rice, known for its delicate, floral aroma and slightly sticky texture when cooked. This type of rice absorbs flavors beautifully, making it perfect for ka pow fried rice. It’s easiest when your rice is chilled and day-old, as it fries up better, preventing the dish from becoming mushy.
  • Holy basil – Holy basil is the key ingredient. It is more robust than sweet basil and adds a depth of flavor that is irreplaceable in this dish. Adding it towards the end of cooking ensures its aroma and taste remain fresh and vibrant. Try to source it at Asian grocery stores or Asian markets.
  • Chili peppers – Khao pad kra pao is beloved for its signature spice and aroma. I always toss in a handful of Thai chilies, like bird’s eye chilies or Jinda chilies. The heat is easy to adjust, and you can absolutely make this without chilies for a mild family meal.
  • Garlic – Garlic is a staple in Thai stir-fries, adding a pungent and aromatic base.
  • Dark soy sauce – Brings an appealing dark hue and contributes a unique sweetness, balancing the heat from the chilies. Don’t add too much as it can easily ruin the flavor balance of your final dish.
  • Oyster sauce – A staple in Thai cuisine, oyster sauce adds depth and umami with its savory, slightly sweet flavor.
  • White sugar – White sugar is essential for balancing the salty, spicy, and savory notes. To replicate the exact flavors of this recipe, avoid palm sugar and brown sugar.
  • Fish sauce – One of the key ingredients in Thai kitchens, fish sauce adds that necessary umami flavor to khao pad krapow.
  • Oil – Oil with a high smoke point is essential for frying at high temperatures without burning, making it ideal for stir-frying rice. Neutral oils like canola, vegetable, or peanut oil are preferred.

How to make fried rice holy basil

Freshly pounded chili and garlic paste in a mortar.

Step 1: Crush garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle.

Chili and garlic paste sizzling in oil.

Step 2: Preheat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chilies and stir-fry until the garlic becomes golden and fragrant.

Ground pork with chili and garlic cooking in wok.

Step 3: Add ground pork and cook until it’s cooked through. Then, season with fish sauce, dark and light soy sauces, and white sugar, stirring to combine everything into one.

Fried rice ground pork mixture cooking in a wok.

Step 4: Add your steamed rice and break down any clumps using your spatula. Ensure each grain of rice is separated and coated with the stir-fry sauce before moving on to the next step.

Ka pao fried rice ready in a wok.

Step 5: Turn off the heat and gently stir in holy basil until just wilted. Serve hot with an optional fried egg. Enjoy!

Kitchen tools

  • Cutting board and a sharp knife
  • Spatula or spoon for stirring
  • Wok or large skillet
  • Mortar and pestle

Customize khao pad krapow

Seasonings: Before serving, make sure to taste-test and adjust the seasonings to achieve a flavor balance that’s right for you.

Vegetables: While not traditional, this holy basil fried rice recipe is versatile and can be customized with your favorite greens like bell peppers, green beans, yard long beans, carrots, broccoli, and onion.

Spiciness: Simply adjust the amount of chili peppers to control the heat level. Alternatively, you can use a mild type of chili pepper, remove the seeds, or omit the chilies altogether.

Protein: Feel free to substitute with ground chicken, beef, or even tofu.

How to serve khao pad kra pao

Serve hot straight from the wok. Don’t forget a crispy fried egg on top. For a final touch, add a side of prik nam pla, a spicy Thai table condiment. A refreshing drink like green Thai tea is perfect for countering the spice.

How to store ka pao fried rice

Leftovers store incredibly well, and stir-fried basil is ideal for meal prep. Let the dish cool to room temperature before transferring it into an airtight container. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep well for up to 3 days.

Freezing: Allow the fried rice to cool completely after cooking. Then, portion it into airtight containers or freezer-safe bags and keep it in your freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Reheating: Simply reheat the leftovers on the stove top over medium heat until it’s hot. Don’t forget a fried egg!

Frequently asked questions

Is ka pao fried rice spicy?

Ka pao dishes are typically a bit spicy. You can easily adjust the heat in this recipe by using more or less chilies.

I don’t have holy basil, can I use other basil?

You could substitute holy basil, but then you are creating an entirely different dish and not holy basil fried rice. Holy basil is the key ingredient in this recipe.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

No, this recipe is made with soy sauce, which is not gluten-free. To make it gluten-free, opt for alternatives.

Do I have to use jasmine rice?

While jasmine rice is preferred for its fragrant aroma and authentic flavor, you can substitute it with other types of long-grain rice if jasmine rice is not available.

Do I have to use day old rice?

Using day-old rice is recommended for fried rice to prevent it from becoming mushy, as it has less moisture compared to freshly cooked rice.

Easy Thai stir-fry recipes

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Khao Pad Krapow Recipe (Holy Basil Fried Rice)

Khao pad krapow with holy basil, topped with a fried egg.
Khao pad krapow recipe, or holy basil fried rice, is an easy and fragrant dish perfect for busy weeknights.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 1

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 chilies add to taste
  • 3.5 ounces ground pork
  • 1.5 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 cup steamed jasmine rice day-old, chilled
  • 0.35 ounces holy basil

Instructions

  • Crush garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle.
  • Preheat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chilies and stir-fry until the garlic becomes golden and fragrant.
  • Add ground pork and cook until it's cooked through. Then, season with fish sauce, dark and light soy sauces, and white sugar, stirring to combine everything into one.
  • Add your steamed rice and break down any clumps using your spatula. Ensure each grain of rice is separated and coated with the stir-fry sauce before moving on to the next step.
  • Turn off the heat and gently stir in holy basil until just wilted. Serve hot with an optional fried egg. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Add more or less chilies to taste.

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