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Pad Kra Pao Recipe (Authentic Thai Basil Pork)

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Pad kra pao recipe is the best quick and easy Thai street food you’ll ever try! This authentic Thai basil pork has an amazing stir-fry sauce and is ready in just under 20 minutes. Serve it over steaming white rice with a crispy fried egg on top. So, so good!

Authentic pad kra pao pork served over rice with a fried egg.

This dish is perfect for meal prep and ideal for tomorrow’s lunch. I love cooking once and eating twice, so I always make some extra so I have some left for the next day.

And while we’re on the subject of preparing ahead, if you manage to find holy basil leaves, make sure you buy plenty of them.

You can freeze them for later and use them in my other holy basil recipes like pad krapow chicken recipe (an easy Thai basil chicken stir-fry), khao pad krapow (fried rice basil), and authentic Thai basil beef recipe.

What is pad kra pao

Pad kra pao, a staple in Thai cuisine, is a spicy and savory stir-fry dish featuring ground meat and holy basil. It offers an aromatic blend of spicy, sweet, and garlicky flavors. Typically served over rice with a crispy fried egg, it’s the go-to street food option in Thailand.


Pad kra pao is pronounced ‘pad kra pow’, with a soft ‘r’ in ‘kra’ and a slight emphasis on the ‘pow’.

Authentic Thai basil pork recipe

Thai holy basil pork is everything you and I love about Thai food. It’s full of spicy, garlicky flavors with lot’s of bird’s eye chilli peppers and garlic.

Whether you go for ground pork or ground chicken, it’s both equally delicious, soaking up all those tasty herbs and spices.

Close-up of stir-fried pad kra pao pork with minced meat, red chilies, and holy basil.

The heat can easily be toned down to suit your taste, or simply swap the spicy bird’s eye chilies for a milder variant.

A side of jasmine rice is a must-have for this dish, offering something mild to balance the boldness of the stir-fry sauce and chilies.

It’s one of my all-time favorite Thai dishes. It’s so simple and so easy yet so delicious!

Thai basil vs holy basil

Thai holy basil is the key ingredient in this authentic pad kra pao pork recipe. It’s a common misconception that you can simply substitute it with sweet basil or Thai basil. Doing so will turn your stir-fry into something completely new: pad horapa.

  • Thai sweet basil leaves are sweeter, lacking the peppery punch of holy basil. They’re common in dishes like Thai green curry and noodle soups.
  • Thai holy basil leaves have a distinct, peppery flavor that’s crucial to the distinct taste of holy basil stir-fry. Also known as Tulsi, these fresh herbs impart a spicy, clove-like aroma that’s essential for that authentic touch.
Comparison between Thai sweet basil on the left and holy basil on the right, essential herbs for Thai cuisine.
Comparison between Thai sweet basil on the left and holy basil on the right.

Your best bet to find holy basil in the West is an Asian grocery store or supermarket. Specialized Thai stores might have some in the refrigerated section. If not, don’t hesitate to ask the staff, they might point you in the right direction.

Another option is to try and grow it yourself, it thrives well in warm climates.

Thai street food

Pad kra pao is a classic street food choice in Thailand, just like khao man gai and ba mee moo dang.

If you ever travel to the South of Thailand, you should definitely try khua kling. It’s a regional ground pork dish that’s spicy and full of fresh herbs and spices.

Khua kling on a banana leaf in a clay dish, there's also a portion of white rice behind it.
Khua kling, a popular street food in Southern Thailand.

Now, back to our holy basil stir-fry – it’s our staple for when we need something tasty in a just few minutes. Whether you’re wondering what to eat or just need a spicy fix, this dish is your go-to.

In Thailand, you’ll find it lovingly made by skilled street vendors, often with pre-pounded chili garlic pastes for convenience. Always accompanied by steamed rice, and highly recommend, topped with a golden, deep-fried egg.

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.


Top-view of ingredients for pad kra pao: minced pork, Thai holy basil, flavor seasoning, oyster sauce, light soy sauce, fish sauce, chilies, garlic, white sugar, egg.
  • Ground pork – The protein of choice in this Thai ground pork recipe. Ground meat does a great job at absorbing the flavors and spices. Make sure your pork has a good balance of fat and meat.
  • Thai holy basil – Holy basil is always added towards the end of cooking, so the leaves become just slightly wilted.
  • Flavor seasoning (RosDee) RosDee flavor seasoning is a popular seasoning powder in Thai cooking, adding a savory taste and just that little bit of extra flavor when something’s missing. If you don’t have RosDee you can use 1/2 tablespoon golden mountain seasoning sauce instead.
  • Oyster sauce – Oyster sauce is a thick brown sauce with a salty and umami flavor. It’s an important part of Thai cuisine, often used in stir-fries and marinades.
  • Light soy sauce – Also known as thin soy sauce, this sauce is made from soybeans with wheat, water, and salt.
  • Fish sauce – Add fish sauce in small amounts and taste as you cook, especially if you’re not used to its strong and salty taste. Megachef is a good brand, it’s not as salty as most are.
  • Chilies – I love spicy Thai food, and spicy stir-fried holy basil is no exception. I often throw in a handful of spicy Thai chilies along with some dried chilies. If spicy food isn’t your thing, try using less chili, pick milder chilis, or take out the seeds to make it less hot.
  • Garlic Garlic is pounded with the chilies, transforming it into a chili garlic paste that brings aroma and lots of flavor.
  • White sugar – A touch of white sugar is necessary to balance out the savory and spicy flavors. Thai food is all about creating a balance.
  • Egg – A crispy fried egg is optional, but HIGHLY recommended! I typically cook one egg per person. The creamy yolk is a great combination with the sweet, salty, and spicy flavors.

How to make pad kra pao

Crushed chilies and garlic in stone mortar with pestle.

Step 1: Roughly crush the garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle.

Spatula stir-frying garlic and chilies in a wok.

Step 2: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wok pan or skillet. Add the crushed chili-garlic paste, stir-fry for 20 seconds, or until the garlic turns golden and the paste becomes fragrant.

Garlic, chilies, and minced pork stir-fried in a wok.

Step 3: Toss in ground pork and break up any clumps. If you’re comfortable with it, cook over high heat, stirring continuously until the meat is fully cooked through which typically takes about 2-3 minutes.

Chilies with minced pork stir-fried in a wok.

Step 4: Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, white sugar, light soy sauce, and flavor seasoning. Continue stir-frying until sugar is dissolved and sauces are well mixed.

Pad kra pao, a Thai basil stir-fry, ready in a wok.

Step 5: Turn off the heat and toss in holy basil, gently mix and serve.

Kitchenware

  • Cutting board and sharp knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Spatula or stirring spoon
  • Wok or large skillet
  • Mortar and pestle

Perfect your Thai basil stir-fry

In Thailand, we’ve pretty much agreed that this holy basil stir-fry hits its peak with ground pork. It’s a national favorite – my family, my husband, my neighbors, and everyone I know loves pad kra pao, also referred to as pad krapow and pad gaprao.

Ordering pad kra pao moo in Thailand usually means a plate filled with minced pork, jasmine rice, and a fried egg. My hubby and I both favor ground pork as it brings out more depth. But if you fancy thinly sliced meat, that’s totally ok!

Vegetarian options: While traditionally a meat dish, pad kra pao is great with firm tofu as a substitute. Swap fish sauce with a vegan fish sauce alternative. Feel free to mix in your favorite stir-fry vegetables like yard long beans or green beans and onions. Or simply try my Thai basil recipe vegetarian with egg tofu.

Stir-fry sauce: Pad kra pao can be a saucy dish or a dry one, it’s all about what you prefer. If you’d like something a bit more moist, just add 2 tablespoons of water along with your sauces and seasonings for a saucy dish.

Proteins: Some Thai restaurants offer an array of ground meats and seafood to choose from. You can go for beef, chicken, shrimp, squid, turkey – anything you can think of really.

Serving pork pad krapow moo saap

Serve your pork pad kra pao hot from the wok, with a side of jasmine rice and crowned with a crispy fried egg. Feel free to add a side of fresh vegetables, like cucumber slices and Thai eggplants.

Prik nam pla is a spicy Thai table condiment with fish sauce and spicy chilies that’s typically served alongside pad kra pao.

Authentic Thai basil pork with red chilies, holy basil, prik nam pla, and white jasmine rice.

Storing and reheating pad kra pao pork

Allow your leftovers to cool to room temperature before transferring it into an airtight container. It’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reheating: Reheat on the stove top over medium heat until it’s hot.

Frequently asked questions

What is pad kra pao made of?

Typically, this classic Thai stir-fry dish is prepared with ground meat like chicken or pork. Chilies and peppers are crushed into a paste, then everything gets stir-fried in a wok with Thai seasonings like soy sauce and oyster sauce. A sprinkle of holy basil finishes the dish.

Is pad kra pao healthy?

Pad kra pao can be a healthy choice, but there’s often a high sodium content due to the fish sauce and soy sauces used. Go easy on the amount of oil and use chicken for a healthy protein option.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

No, this recipe includes soy sauces, which typically contain gluten.

Can I make this in advance?

Yes, easily! Pad kra pao reheats like a dream and it’s the perfect meal prep option. Just cook it up, store it in the fridge, and reheat when you’re ready.

Authentic Thai pork stir-fry recipes

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Pad Kra Pao Recipe (Authentic Thai Basil Pork)

Authentic pad kra pao pork served over rice with a fried egg.
This quick and easy pad kra pao recipe makes a delicious authentic Thai basil pork stir-fry in less than 15 minutes! Serve with rice and a fried egg.
Praew
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 chilies add to taste
  • 1.5 cup ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon rosdee seasoning powder see notes
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup holy basil
  • 1 fried egg optional

Instructions

  • Roughly crush the garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wok pan or skillet. Add the crushed chili-garlic paste, stir-fry for 20 seconds, or until the garlic turns golden and the paste becomes fragrant.
  • Toss in ground pork and break up any clumps. If you’re comfortable with it, cook over high heat, stirring continuously until the meat is fully cooked through which typically takes about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, white sugar, light soy sauce, and flavor seasoning. Continue stir-frying until sugar is dissolved and sauces are well mixed.
  • Turn off the heat and toss in holy basil, gently mix and serve.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Rosdee seasoning powder - RosDee flavor seasoning is a popular seasoning powder in Thai cooking, adding a savory taste and just that little bit of extra flavor when something's missing. You can use it to flavor stir-fries, soups, marinades, and various other dishes. If you don't have rosdee you can use 1/2 tablespoon golden mountain seasoning sauce instead.
  • Before stir-frying, make sure you have cooked your rice, or that your rice is almost ready.
  • Pad kra pao is made with Thai holy basil, not to be mistaken for sweet basil.
  • If the dish seems too dry after adding the sauces, add 2 tablespoons of water. In Thailand, pad kra pao is typically served on the drier side, but this tip can help if you prefer a moister consistency.

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