Known in its native land as Pad Gkaprow Mu, Thai basil pork is a near-constant on the table in its native country, whether at breakfast or dinner. Once you experience the slightly spicy, salty, and sweet, and realize how easy it is to make, you’ll understand why it’s a classic.–Renee Schettler

A wooden cutting board with a rectangular plate and spoon on top, the plate has a mound of rice on the back half. On the front half, there's a pile of ground pork, basil, and peppers.

Thai Pork

4.84 / 18 votes
This Thai basil pork recipe is easy and slightly spicy and made with ground pork, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, shallots, Thai chiles, and basil. A quick weeknight dinner that’s cheaper and better than takeout.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineThai
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories578 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 5 Asian shallots, or 1/2 small onion, cut into thin slices (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 6 red Thai chile peppers, seeded, if desired, and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh holy basil or Thai basil leaves*
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, (optional)
  • Steamed white rice , (optional)

Instructions 

  • Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Carefully swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer but doesn't begin to smoke. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the pork, using the edge of your spoon or spatula to break up the clumps. Stir and cook until the meat has just lost its blush of pink, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and toss in the chiles. Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar and stir to coat the meat evenly. Stir in the basil and cook until the basil is wilted and the pork is cooked through, another 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Move to a serving dish and, if desired, sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper. Serve hot with freshly steamed rice.

Notes

*What is a substitute for holy basil?

As the author explains, Thai basil pork is traditionally made with the jagged leaves of holy basil (bai gkaprow), which is native to Asia. However, Thai sweet basil (bai horapa) tends to be easier to find in Asian markets in the United States and makes a laudable stand-in. But if you can’t get your hands on either, no worries. You can always substitute any variety of basil you can get your hands on or, even better, a mix of basil and mint.

Thai Basil Pork variations

Instead of pork, you can opt for ground chicken or turkey or virtually any fresh seafood, including shrimp, scallops, mussels, or firm-flesh fish like halibut or salmon.

Adapted From

The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 578 kcalCarbohydrates: 15 gProtein: 32 gFat: 43 gSaturated Fat: 19 gMonounsaturated Fat: 17 gCholesterol: 122 mgSodium: 1101 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 7 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Patricia Tanumihardja. Photo © 2009 Lara Ferroni. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe is our family’s go-to weeknight winner. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe to a T, but after that? Let the variations begin! I’ve used ground beef, chicken, turkey, and even venison.

Depending on what I’ve got on hand, I may substitute regular basil for Thai basil, any pepper (even dried crushed red peppers) for the Thai chilies, and green onions for the shallots.

The most important element is the combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and brown sugar. Once you have that, let the experimentation begin.

This Thai basil pork recipe filled my house with fragrance and tasted every bit as good as it smelled. I would encourage the use of quality soy and fish sauces to prevent the recipe from becoming too salty. It is also very quick to make and will become a permanent addition to my list of quick weekday meals.

If you’re craving Thai food, I highly recommend this simple and tasty basil pork dish. The flavor is sweet and salty at first bite, and then the hit of spiciness comes through. The flavors blend beautifully, creating a restaurant-quality dish that is easy for a home cook.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by wok cooking, but it’s very easy. This pork dish had an interesting mix of flavors from hot pepper and garlic to brown sugar and the fish and oyster sauces gave extra layers of flavor.

For such a simple dish you get a wonderful mixture of flavor levels. I also like Sriracha sauce as a side for extra heat.

This Thai basil pork is a spicy dish not for the faint of heart, but what a reward for the brave souls who dare eat it! It’s a full-bodied, flavorful dish with a kick of Thai chiles to cut the fullness and a touch of bright basil to level it out.

The ingredients may be a little hard to find in certain areas, but the dish is well worth the search. It’s a quick and flavorful must for households on the go.

The combined texture and flavor go well with the rice suggested in the recipe, but I suspect it would also blend well with pasta.

I’m a huge fan of simple, healthful, delicious meals, and this fits the bill. Because the ingredient list is relatively short, you want to use the best-quality ingredients. I decided to grind my own pork from some boneless pork chops I had on hand, which lent a beautifully light texture to the dish.

We served this with cellophane (mung bean) noodles. It was a huge hit with the entire family!

This Thai basil pork recipe arrived just as I started Asia night at home. Once a week, I cook a meal inspired by an Asian country. This recipe was quick, allowed me to have fun wandering in our local Asian grocery store, and tasted complex thanks to the genius of fish, soy, and oyster sauces.

Our six-year-old liked it, although it was a bit hot for her. White rice was fine, but sticky rice would have been better. Next time.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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4.84 from 18 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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30 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is definitely a “back-pocket” recipe for me. Never fails to comfort and at the same time excite the taste buds. I usually use regular basil as I never get to a specialty store for Thai basil. Just use what you have.

    1. Linda M, isn’t this such a fabulous recipe? I’ve used Italian sweet basil for it myself. Thanks for writing!

  2. 4 stars
    It was poetic with the timing that I found this recipe and was on the verge of making some dinner. I had the mince (used chicken instead) out thawed and ready to go, and another site in the background to start preparing the meal. Loyalty, it is a hard beast to kill – I stuck by here.

    Before I knew it, everything was fresh and ready to eat. It may have been one of the easiest meals I have ever cooked; pad kra pow should be among the meals to recommend for university students just out of the home. I can’t envision the ingredients costing too much, and the food is ready within less than half an hour.

    One of the measuring sticks I use with how a meal goes down is how quickly my housemate praises it. It was within one or two bites, and he is saying I should cook it more often. I don’t know what chillies I used in the recipe (I got them off the clearance tray at the fruit barn), but they provided the right amount of spice. Add that unique note of fish sauce, the sweetness of the oyster sauce, and soy sauce’s abilities, and that is flavour town.

    It would also go down well with bodybuilders for that chicken and rice combination—no need to settle on blandness when you have some of these items in tow.

    As far as where I am collecting all my recipe backlog since the new laptop, Leite’s may well be the final boss.

    Leite’s Standings: 11-1.

    1. Fantastic, Mikey! I’m glad this worked out so well for you and can’t wait to hear what you try next.