Basil Stir-fry is easy, quick, and nutritious. For a dinner that comes together in a wink, try this popular Thai street food, also known as Pad Kaprow. Make it with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp, and choose vegetables that fit your tastes.
The Benefits of This Easy Stir-Fry
- Nutritional balance: In a single dish, you’ll get an appropriate balance not only of fats, carbs, and proteins, but also a healthy serving of phytonutrients from the herbs and vegetables. Additionally, this dish provides a nice harmony of the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and umami.
- Anti-inflammatory: Although basil has many beneficial properties, one of its top healthy traits is that it may help lower inflammation through its oils, eugenol, citronellol and linalool. Including plenty of vegetables to this dish enhances the anti-inflammatory benefit of the meal.
- Immune boosting: If you include mushrooms in your easy stir-fry, especially shiitakes, you can count on their immune-enhancing characteristics.
Which Basil to Use
Although the spicier Thai Holy Basil (Tulsi) suits this recipe best, feel free to use sweet Italian Basil instead if you cannot obtain the former. While sweet basil will give a different flavor profile, it will still be delicious. Adding perhaps a small amount of Thai basil to a bunch of sweet basil will provide the welcome licorice-like taste.
Thai basil has a more distinct flavor than Italian basil, similar to licorice or anise. It’s more savory and is a defining characteristic in Southeast Asian recipes. Because its sturdy leaves hold up well to longer cooking times, it’s the perfect punch for stewed dishes, soups, and stir-fries. Use it to spice up a dish with a heavy scent that has slight citrus notes.
A Note About Ingredients
- Protein: Ground meats work best. If you’re not using a ground beef or sausage, cut meat into bite-size chunks. I personally enjoy sausage, but even vegan tempeh will work!
- Soy Sauce: Traditional pad kaprow recipes use oyster sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. To simplify the recipe and minimize ingredients, I have opted to stick with soy sauce only, spiked with a little molasses to give the characteristic thick sweetness of dark soy sauce.
- Fish Sauce: Don’t scrimp here. This ingredient is important not only for saltiness, but for umami depth. I promise it tastes a hundred times better than it smells! I recommend traditionally-fermented Golden Boy or Red Boat fish sauce. After the you cook this easy stir-fry, you can add more if needed.
- Palm Sugar: Extracted from the sap of various palm trees, including the sugar palm and the date palm, palm sap is boiled into a syrup, then crystallized. Coconut sugar is just one type of palm sugar. Palm sugar makes a good alternative to white sugar because it has been minimally processed and still retains many minerals, a few phytonutrients and some antioxidant properties. It has a lower glycemic index than white sugar.
- Mushrooms: For flavor and immune-enhancement, shiitakes are your best bet, but oyster mushrooms and criminis are also good.
- Beans or Pea pods: Be sure to add plenty to green to your easy stir-fry. They add aesthetics and polyphenols that will feed your beneficial gut microbiome. Polyphenols are antioxidants that help control inflammation. They are a major fuel source for your gut bugs.
- Red and yellow bell peppers: These sweet peppers balance the savory taste of the mushrooms, add antioxidants to help with inflammation, and create a pleasing rainbow on your plate.
- Water Chestnuts: Add these if you like a little crunch to offset the texture of the meat and rice.
- Egg: This ingredient is optional, but for a truly traditional ethnic dish, fry in oil until crispy on the edges and serve on top of your stir-fry.
Easy Basil Stir-fry
- Wok or skillet
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 lb. ground beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp
- 2 red chilies, chopped (more or less for desired heat)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups fresh vegetables (see ingredient notes, above)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 bunch fresh basil, crushed
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 4 eggs, fried (optional)
- Melt the coconut oil in your wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the protein, garlic, and chilies. Stir-fry until protein changes color and is cooked through.
- Mix in the chopped vegetables and continue stir-frying until they are fork-tender.
- Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, molasses, water and palm sugar. Stir and cook until the palm sugar dissolves.
- Mix in the basil leaves and cook just until fragrant and wilted.
- Serve over warm rice. Top with fried egg, if desired.