Thai Basil Beef is a quick and easy weeknight dinner that comes together in just 30 minutes and you only need one pan (wok or a skillet)! It is cheaper, faster, and tastier than a take-out! Enjoy lots of fresh ingredients in this recipe: bell peppers, spinach, and basil. The homemade Thai-inspired sauce is made from scratch using simple ingredients. Serve Thai basil beef with brown rice, ramen noodles, or quinoa. Or, keep it low-carb by serving it as is or with lettuce wraps.
Thai Basil Beef
Whenever I go to a Thai restaurant, one of my favorite items on the menu is always Thai Basil Beef (or Pad Gra Prow). This dish features so many flavors: savory, salty, sweet, spicy, and tangy. It's packed with protein and veggies. And, as the name suggests, there is a lot of fresh basil! Thai Basil Beef is always a winner when ordering it at a Thai restaurant.
Whenever I do a take-out, I always find myself enhancing the restaurant food with my own ingredients, such as adding extra veggies or toppings. So why not just make it all from scratch, to begin with? It's easier than you think. This whole recipe takes only 30 minutes - faster than a take-out! And, everything is done in one pan (you can use a wok or a high-sided skillet). The Thai-inspired homemade sauce is made from scratch, featuring Thai flavors, such as garlic, sesame oil, low-sodium tamari sauce, honey, freshly squeezed lime juice, rice vinegar, and red chili paste.
Why you'll love this recipe
- 30-Minute, quick, and easy recipe. Thai Basil Beef is made in just 30 minutes using one pan (a wok or a skillet). Quicker than a take-out!
- Flavorful recipe and a beautiful presentation. If you like fresh and bold flavors and vibrant colors of Thai food, you'll love this recipe. This recipe combines savory, salty, sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors all in one meal!
- Lots of veggies. I used bell peppers and spinach. Add even more veggies and different kinds of vegetables, if you like!
- Keep it low-carb by serving Thai Basil Beef as is or with lettuce wraps or with cauliflower rice.
- Other serving options are brown rice, white rice, quinoa, ramen noodles, rice noodles, or egg noodles.
What kind of basil to use?
- Thai Basil Beef is traditionally made with Thai Basil. This type of basil is spicy, with licorice-like notes. It could be hard to find - your best bet is to look for it in Asian markets or International markets.
- Sweet basil or Italian basil has a milder and sweeter taste compared to Thai basil. If you can't find Thai basil, use regular one - it's usually easily accessible in most grocery stores and this is what I used in this recipe.
Chili Paste - alternatives and substitutions
- Roasted Red Chili Paste by Thai Kitchen is what I used in this recipe. You can use any other brand.
- Sambal Oelek is another great option.
- Red curry paste.
- Sriracha sauce will work too if you can't find the other options.
- Ground beef. I used ground beef 85% lean.
- Bell peppers. I used 3 small bell peppers (red, yellow, and green). You can use the same color bell peppers.
- Greens. I used fresh spinach. You can also use frozen spinach - thawed and drained of any liquid. Or, use kale or arugula instead.
- Fresh basil. I used regular (sweet or Italian) basil found in most grocery stores. Traditionally, however, Thai basil is used.
- Olive oil is used for cooking veggies and ground beef.
- Minced garlic adds fantastic flavor and aroma to any dish!
- Honey adds a subtle sweetness to the Thai-inspired stir-fry sauce. You can also use maple syrup or brown sugar instead.
- Low-sodium tamari sauce provides just the right amount of saltiness, without overwhelming the flavor. It can be replaced with low-sodium soy sauce. For a gluten-free option, make sure to check the labels.
- Rice vinegar can be replaced with apple cider vinegar.
- Lime juice. I used freshly squeezed lime juice to add more balance and flavor to the Thai basil beef. You can also use lemon juice.
- Sesame oil is super flavorful and is a great ingredient in Asian-style dishes.
- Roasted Red Chili Paste by Thai Kitchen is another ingredient in the homemade Thai-inspired sauce. You can use any other brand. You can also use red curry paste, Sambal Oelek, or Sriracha sauce instead.
- Cashew nuts. I used raw cashew nuts which I roasted in the preheated oven at 350 F for 10 or 15 minutes.
How to make Thai Basil Beef
- Toast the cashews. Toast the nuts in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown.
- Make homemade Thai sauce by combining all sauce ingredients (minced garlic, sesame oil, low-sodium tamari sauce (or soy sauce), honey, freshly squeezed lime juice, rice vinegar, and red chili paste) in a medium bowl and mixing them.
- Cook veggies. Cook sliced bell peppers in olive oil, with salt and pepper in a wok or in a large, high-sided skillet.
- Cook ground beef. Next, remove the cooked veggies to a plate. Add ground beef to the same, now empty skillet, and cook until cooked through. Drain any grease.
- Add spinach to the skillet with cooked beef and cook until wilted.
- Combine all cooked ingredients. Return the cooked bell peppers to the cooked ground beef and spinach in the skillet.
- Add the homemade Thai sauce made with minced garlic, sesame oil, low-sodium tamari sauce (or soy sauce), honey, freshly squeezed lime juice, rice vinegar, and red chili paste to the skillet.
- Add fresh basil and reheat everything until the basil is just wilted.
- Stir in toasted cashews. That's it!
Variations and substitutions
- Add fresh veggies. My favorites are spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, snow peas, snap peas, green beans, mushrooms, and green onions. They will make your Thai Basil Beef so vibrant and fresh.
- Nuts and seeds. I love adding nuts to Asian-inspired dishes. Cashews and peanuts are the obvious choices. Sesame seeds also add a nice, nutty flavor. Toast both cashews and sesame seeds in the oven for a richer flavor.
- Add spice by using sriracha sauce, red curry paste, or roasted red chili paste. Or, simply use red pepper flakes.
- Soy sauce or tamari sauce. I recommend using a low-sodium version of either sauce.
- Honey can be replaced with brown sugar or maple syrup.
- Substitute for red chili paste. I used red chili paste (Thai Kitchen brand). If you can't find it, you can use Sriracha sauce, red curry paste, or Sambal Oelek instead.
Dress up Thai Basil Beef with these toppings:
- Chopped green onions or chopped chives.
- Toasted nuts, such as cashews or peanuts.
- Sesame seeds - use 2 colors (black and white) for presentation.
- Fresh herbs such as basil.
What to serve with it?
- Brown or white rice.
- Instant ramen noodles work great!
- Gluten-free ramen noodles - I like to use rice noodles by Lotus Foods brand.
- Lettuce. Make lettuce wraps with Thai Basil Beef.
- Different types of noodles. You can easily use rice noodles, egg noodles, spaghetti, or fettuccine instead! Just cook them according to package instructions and proceed with the recipe!
Storage and reheating tips
- Fridge. Thai Basil Beef keeps well refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Freezer. This is a freezer-friendly meal that can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Make ahead tip. If making this ahead, do not add (or do not use) cashews as they will get really soggy.
- Reheat in the microwave oven for about 1 minute or a bit longer until warmed up.
- You can also reheat this in a skillet on the stovetop - in this case, briefly heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the skillet and then add the leftovers on low-medium heat and reheat gently for several minutes. You can add a small amount of low-sodium tamari or soy sauce (together with some water) to thin out the sauce and to make sure that the Thai basil beef doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Other Thai-inspired recipes you might enjoy
Thai Basil Beef
- 4 oz cashews
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup low-sodium tamari sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons red chili paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
Beef and veggies
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 red bell pepper small, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper small, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper small, sliced
- 16 oz ground beef 85% lean
- 4 oz fresh spinach
- 1 cup fresh basil (use Thai basil for the traditional version, I used regular sweet basil in this recipe)
Toast nuts in the oven
- Toast cashews on the parchment paper lined baking sheet in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes.
Make Thai-inspired sauce
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine.
Cook veggies and beef
- Use a wok or a large, high-sided, heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sliced bell peppers on medium-hot heat. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the skillet.
- Add ground beef and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same, now empty, skillet, and cook, crumbling it until completely cooked through, occasionally stirring. Drain any liquid and fat.
- Add spinach to the skillet and cook until it wilts on medium heat.
- Add cooked bell peppers back to the skillet.
- Add the sauce and fresh basil. Reserve some fresh basil for garnish. Reheat on medium heat until the basil is just wilted.
- Stir in toasted cashews.
- Season with salt and pepper, if desired, or simply add 1 more tablespoon of tamari sauce or more.
- When serving, top with fresh basil.
- Substitute for red chili paste. I used red chili paste (Thai Kitchen brand). If you can't find it, you can use Sambal Oelek, Sriracha sauce, or red curry paste.
- Use tamari sauce labeled as gluten-free or soy sauce labeled as gluten-free.
- Rice vinegar is usually gluten-free (check the labels!), but just in case you can use apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar instead.
- I used red chili paste (Thai Kitchen brand). You can also use Sriracha sauce, red curry paste, or Sambal Oelek instead. All these are usually gluten-free, but always check the labels!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.