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Thai Basil Recipe Vegetarian (Pad Krapow Tofu)

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Top-down view of Thai basil vegetarian stir-fry with yard long beans, onions, and white rice, topped with a fried egg.

Thai basil recipe vegetarian and delicious: An irresistible blend of a spicy savory sauce and crisp vegetables, proving you don’t need meat to achieve an authentic Thai flavor. This pad krapow tofu is made with fried egg tofu, it’s quick and easy, perfect for beginners and ready in under 30 minutes.

Close-up of stir-fried tofu Thai basil in a white dish with vegetables, holy basil, jasmine rice, red chilies, and a fried egg.

What is pad krapow

Pad krapow, or pad kra pao, is a classic Thai stir-fry dish primarily existing of meat, Thai holy basil, garlic, and fresh chili peppers. It’s seasoned with a blend of Thai sauces, adding savory and sweet, with the spiciness of chilies. This popular street food option is typically served with white rice and topped with a fried egg.

About this pad krapow tofu recipe

This vegetarian Thai basil recipe is my meat-free twist on everyone’s Thai restaurant or street food favorite. Okay, maybe not everyone’s, but if we ranked Thai dishes by popularity, this one would surely be in the spotlight!

Close-up of stir-fried vegetarian Thai basil with egg tofu, green beans, onions, and a fried egg.

When most people think of Thai cooking, they think of pad Thai, or rich curries filled with chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp. But today, I’m introducing you to the vegetarian cuisine of Thailand.

Don’t worry, going veggie doesn’t mean skimping on flavor or settling for less. I loaded this fragrant and spicy stir-fry with fried egg tofu, so prepare yourself for a crispy meal packed with protein and all the delicious flavors of authentic pad krapow.

Close-up of egg tofu pad krapow stir-fried with vegetables, white rice, and a fried egg in a black dish.

While not traditional, this tofu recipe has extra vegetables like onions and crisp yard long beans. They perfectly complement the savory and sweet harmony of mushroom oyster sauce and light soy sauce.

Thai basil recipe vegetarian is clear of meat, but it’s at least as good as the original version.

Overhead view of prik nam pla - a spicy fish sauce with chilies condiment - and stir-fried Thai basil tofu with steamed jasmine rice.

What is Thai holy basil

Thai holy basil is a fragrant herb popular in Thai cuisine, used in dishes like pad krapow. Its unique flavor, spicy and peppery with a refreshing note, sets it apart from sweet basil. Besides its cooking applications, it holds a place in traditional Thai medicine for its potential health advantages.

Holding a pluck of Thai holy basil in front of a blurred bush of Thai holy basil.
Flourishing Thai holy basil in our garden.

Tips for Thai basil recipe vegetarian

  • Handle the egg tofu with care: Be gentle whilst cooking with egg tofu, it’s incredibly delicate. When slicing, use a sharp knife and avoid touching the egg tofu. This vegetarian Thai basil stir-fry is at its best with the egg tofu intact.
  • Don’t skip the crispy fried egg tofu: We’ll coat the tofu slices in crispy flour before giving them a good pan-fry. Trust me, that crispy egg tofu soaked with a sauce of pad kra pao flavor is a match made in food heaven.
  • Adjust the spiciness: This vegetarian Thai basil recipe is on the spicy side, but the heat can easily be toned down by using less fresh chili peppers. Start with one or two, and add more later (if needed).
  • Use a mortar and pestle: This traditional tool of Thai cuisine releases the natural juices of the ingredients, adding more flavor compared to simply chopping them.
  • Stir-fry over high heat: Thai stir-fries are cooked over high heat. Move everything quickly to keep the ingredients crisp. While this Thai basil tofu stir-fry comes together in minutes, the key is taking your time with prepping the tofu.
  • If you use extra firm tofu or ground tofu: Press the tofu to remove excess moisture for a former texture. This is important because excess water in tofu can make it cumble or fall apart during stir-frying. This is just one of the advantages of pressing tofu. Add tofu crumbles for texture and flavor.
  • Use an oil with a high smoke point: For a crispy skin on your tofu, you’ll want to use an oil that maintains stability at high frying temperatures. Some good choices are canola oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, and corn oil.

Ingredients

For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Bird's eye view of the recipe ingredients - egg tofu, light soy sauce, holy basil, mushroom sauce, white sugar, crispy flour, red chilies, yard long beans, and onions.
  • Egg tofu – For a vegan Thai basil, feel free to sub with firm tofu or ground tofu, which is often used as a substitute for ground meat. Soft tofu would not work well as it’s too soft.
  • Garlic – Pounded and sautéed, infusing this vegetarian stir-fry with aroma and taste.
  • Chilies – Use fresh, spicy peppers. Thai chilies like bird’s eye chilies or Thai jinda chilies are ideal for this recipe. For a mild version, sub with mild chili peppers like jalapeños.
  • Yard long beans, onions – Also known as snake beans, these long beans add crunch, texture, and a fresh flavor. If you can’t find them, add green beans. Slice diagonally. Onions add sweetness and depth.
  • Vegetarian oyster sauce – Often used in vegetarian Thai meals as a substitute for regular oyster sauce.
  • Light soy sauce – A salty sauce that enhances the overall flavors.
  • Dark soy sauce – To enhance the color. Note: I added this towards the end of cooking, so it’s not in the ingredients image. Thai cooking is all about taste-testing and adjusting the ingredients as you go.
  • White sugar – Sugar contributes to the sweet flavor of this vegetarian recipe. For a healthier alternative, use brown sugar to taste.
  • Holy basil – Holy basil is the key ingredient of pad kra pao, not to be mistaken for regular basil. Always add it towards the end of cooking for the best taste.
  • Crispy flour – When fried, this coating creates a crispy texture. It makes the egg tofu heavenly crisp on the outside, and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside. Some examples of crispy flour are cornstarch, tempura flour, all-purpose flour, and rice flour.

Cooking instructions

Quick tip: How to open egg tofu package

  1. Cut the package in half using a sharp knife.
  2. Open it by folding.
  3. Squeeze both halves simultaneously to slide the tofu out.
  4. Slice the tofu to your desired thickness.
Instructional steps for how to open egg tofu package on a cutting board with a sharp knife.

Take your time handling and deep-frying the tofu to maintain its shape while giving it a delicious golden crust. After deep-frying, we’ll pound a fragrant mixture of garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle. Lastly, well simply combine all ingredients in a wok, and we’re done.

Total Time: 30 minutes

  1. Deep-fry tofu

    Instructional images showing how to deep-fry tofu and how to coat them in crispy flour.

    Coat tofu slices with crispy flour and deep-fry in a deep frying pan until they rise and turn golden and crisp.

  2. Pound garlic and chilies

    Top-down view of crushed garlic and red chili peppers in a clay mortar.

    Crush garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle.

  3. Stir-fry pounded garlic and chilies

    Top-down view of sautéed garlic and chili mixture in a pan.

    Add oil to a non-stick wok or skillet over medium / high heat and sauté the garlic-chili mix until aromatic or about 20 seconds.

  4. Add vegetables

    Top-down view of stir-fried vegetables in a wok.

    Toss in yard long beans and onions, stir-frying until they’re tender yet crunchy.

  5. Add sauces and seasonings

    Stir-fried vegetables with sauce in a wok.

    Add mushroom sauce, both light and dark soy sauce, white sugar, and mix well.

  6. Add tofu and holy basil

    Top-down view of stir-fried Thai basil tofu and a wooden spatula in a pan.

    Turn off heat. Add fried tofu slices and holy basil, briefly mix. Serve immediately with white rice and a fried egg.

Essential kitchen tools

  • Clay mortar and pestle: For pounding the garlic chili paste, releasing more flavors and fragrance.
  • Cutting board & sharp knife: For the vegetables and egg tofu.
  • Spider strainer: For handling the crispy tofu pieces.
  • Non-stick wok or skillet
  • Spatula

How to serve

Serve tofu pad krapow for dinner, lunch, and even breakfast. Pair with steamed jasmine rice or brown rice and a crispy-edged fried egg. The runny yolk melds wonderfully with the spicy and savory flavors, plus it melds down the spiciness.

Garnishing options

  • Fresh holy basil leaves: Sprinkle with fresh holy basil leaves before serving.
  • Sliced red chilies: If you crave extra heat, add some extra sliced red chilies to customize the spice at the dinner table.
  • Prik nam pla: Serve with this fish sauce with chilies accompaniment. It’s a traditional condiment, often found at street food stalls to add spiciness to Thai food dishes. For a vegan version, you can use vegan fish sauce.
  • Thai chili flakes, more fried eggs, sliced cucumbers or other fresh vegetables, fresh lime juice.

How to store

This easy stir-fry is perfect for a quick mid-week dinner, but also for taking along on picnics and as a work lunch.

After cooking, let your dish cool down to room temperature. Transfer into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Use within 3 days for the best taste.

Freezing instructions: Portion your meal into single servings using freezer-safe containers or bags. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat before consuming.

Reheating instructions: Reheat in a non-stick pan on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through. If you wish, use a splash of oil or water. Alternatively, you simply can use the microwave.

How to store holy basil

  1. Freezer method: Wash and dry the leaves, then place them in freezer bags, removing air before sealing. Freeze for several months.
  2. Glass with water: Fill a glass partly with water, place stems with leaves above water. Keep on your kitchen countertop away from direct sunlight, keeping it fresh for up to a week.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Where to buy Thai holy basil?

Thai holy basil can be bought at most Asian grocery stores or Asian markets. If you’re struggling to find it, simply ask the people who work at Asian stores, they’ll probably know a place where they have it in stock. If you can’t find it locally, try checking online spice shops.

What does Thai holy basil taste like?

Thai holy basil has a unique flavor that sets it apart from sweet basil. The taste is a blend of peppery, spicy, and slightly sweet, with subtle notes of licorice.

Can I substitute egg tofu in this recipe?

Absolutely. You can sub the egg tofu with other types of tofu, such as firm or silken tofu. You can even substitute with meat such as chicken or pork.

How spicy is this dish?

This traditional recipe is made with 4 Thai chilies, which leans to the spicy side. You can adjust the spiciness by using fewer chilies or omitting them altogether.

Does pad krapow come with rice?

Yes, traditionally, pad krapow is served with steamed jasmine rice. It’s often topped with a crispy fried egg (pad krapow kai dao) which complements the salty, spicy, and savory flavors of the stir-fry.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Some oyster sauces may contain wheat as a thickening agent, double-check the label. Use a gluten-free soy sauce. Some crispy flour mixes have wheat flour as an ingredient. Dark soy sauce also typically contains gluten. Conclusion: This recipe is not ideal for people with gluten sensitivity.

More Asian vegetarian recipes

If you love this Thai basil recipe vegetarian style, please leave a star rating and/or a comment below!

Thai Basil Recipe Vegetarian (Pad Krapow Tofu)

Close-up of stir-fried tofu Thai basil in a white dish with vegetables, holy basil, jasmine rice, red chilies, and a fried egg.
This vegetarian recipe for Thai basil is made with egg tofu and traditional Thai ingredients.
Praew
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces egg tofu
  • 1/2 cup crispy flour
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 chilies Thai chilies, to taste
  • 1.5 ounce yard long beans sliced diagonally
  • 2.8 ounces onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy
  • 0.35 ounces holy basil

Instructions

  • Coat tofu slices with crispy flour and deep-fry in a deep frying pan until they rise and turn golden and crisp.
  • Crush garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle.
  • Add oil to a non-stick wok or skillet over medium / high heat and sauté the garlic-chili mix until aromatic or about 20 seconds.
  • Toss in yard long beans and onions, stir-frying until they’re tender yet crunchy.
  • Add mushroom sauce, both light and dark soy sauce, white sugar, and mix well.
  • Turn off heat. Add fried tofu slices and holy basil, briefly mix. Serve immediately with white rice and a fried egg.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Be gentle while handling the egg tofu, it's super delicate.
  • Adjust the spiciness to your spice-level.

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