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Thai Basil Beef

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 327
thai basil beef over white rice in a large white bowl

A speedy, savory Thai beef basil stir fry that’s just a bit spicy and really hits the spot.

We Had You At “Thai Basil”, Right?

Have you had that revelatory moment yet? You know the one, where you’re eagerly gobbling up your favorite Thai dishes, and you suddenly realize that the thing you love most about Thai food is the abundant use of basil. It shows up in curries, stir-fries, noodle dishes—so many dishes get a fragrant boost from this simple herb. There are many different varieties of basil, though, and in America the most readily available variety is not the kind that’s typically used in Thai cuisine. Authentically Thai dishes would ideally be made with holy basil, but that’s OK! We’re calling for sweet basil here, simply because we know you’ll be able to find it—though if you can find holy basil, by all means use it. Even with this non-traditional swap, this dish is still very delicious and brims with Thai flavors thanks to fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and plenty of garlic and chili paste.

thai basil beef in a large white skillet with a wooden spoon

Chili Paste: Let’s Discuss.

For Asian stir-fry recipes like this, when we call for “chili paste” we mean this stuff—simple, spicy, delicious sambal oelek. Sambal brings heat (but not too much) and not much else, which is exactly how we like it. Sriracha has its place, but it is flavored with sugar and other spices and it can complicate things. In our Thai basil beef recipe, sambal stands in for fresh chilis—scooping some chili paste out of a jar is a lot easier than messing around with fresh chilis.

ingredients for thai basil beef in small bowls

Now You Know You Need Chili Paste! What Else?

While this recipe—the simple, Thai flavors and quick stir-frying method—works well with almost any kind of ground meat you have on hand, we love it most of all made with ground beef. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Neutral oil—vegetable or canola work best.
  • Ground beef
  • A bell pepper
  • Onion
  • A lot of fresh garlic
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Fish sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Fresh lime
  • Basil—using Thai holy basil (if you’re lucky enough to find it) makes this spicy beef stir-fry worthy of the name “phat ka-phrao” which means “holy basil stir-fry”. If you can’t find Thai holy basil (it can be hard to track down) just use sweet basil.
ground beef cooked in a large white skillet
ground beef with onions and bell peppers in a large white skillet
thai basil beef topped with fresh basil
thai beef basil in a large white skillet

Thai Beef Basil: 15 Minutes from Start to Finish!

Bold flavors and high heat team up to make for a delectable dinner that you’ll barely believe you made yourself. We’re not trying to put your favorite Thai restaurant out of business, but you’ll be amazed how easy it is to cook Thai basil beef at home. Give it a try next time the craving strikes! Here’s how:

  1. Whisk a quick sauce: chili paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. P.S. this sauce is good on everything. Marinate chicken in it, drizzle it on fish before roasting—there’s no wrong way.
  2. Crank the heat! When your oil is nice and hot, begin to stir-fry the beef. After a few minutes add the vegetables.
  3. Pour the sauce over the stir-fried beef and veggies, and toss in the basil.
  4. Serve! With white or brown rice, or if you’re trying to avoid carbs, you could even serve it in lettuce cups.
Thai basil beef in a large white skillet
thai basil beef over white rice in a large white bowl

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Swap take-out in favor of staying in and getting cozy with these easy Thai recipes:

Tools You’ll Need:

Spicy Date Night In, Anyone?

Whether you’re feeding a crowd, or just need a quick dinner for two, Thai beef basil is as easy and delicious as you can get. Snap a photo of your Thai basil beef and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see and share!

Thai Basil Beef

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 327


  • 2 tbsp Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb Ground beef 90/10
  • 1 Bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 Sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Loosely packed fresh basil leaves, divided
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)

Thai Basil Beef Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Chili paste
  • 2 tbsp Soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free alternative)
  • 1 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Fresh lime juice


  1. In a small bowl combine chili paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice until incorporated, set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon and stirring often, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the beef and cook until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the sauce mixture along with the fresh basil (reserving a fresh few leaves for the top) and continue cooking until basil starts to wilt.
  5. Serve over rice topped with fresh basil and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Note: If using low sodium soy sauce, add ½ tsp salt to ground beef.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 327
  • Protein 36 g
  • Carbohydrates 11 g
  • Total Fat 14 g
  • Dietary Fiber 1 g
  • Cholesterol 103 mg
  • sodium 922 mg
  • Total Sugars 6 g

Thai Basil Beef

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Anne

    Can I substitute red curry paste with the chili paste?

    Sure! Sounds yummy!

  • Shannon K

    Do you drain the fat of the beef before adding the veggies? Look forward to making this one!

    90/10 ground beef is quite lean, so there shouldn't be much fat to drain!

  • amber clary

    Can I freeze this dish?

    Unfortunately this recipe doesn't freeze well! It's best enjoyed right away.

  • Shayne

    Hi there! I was wondering, for this recipe, do you use really lean ground beef (93 / 7) or really fatty ground beef (85 / 15)? Thanks!

    I normally grab the 90/10. But the 93/7 would work as well!

  • Zuugii

    Can I substitute chili paste by garlic chili paste or sriracha?


  • Krysia

    SOOOO good! I am a thai food snob and was so surprised that such a simple, quick recipe could be so good! Bravo! This will surely be a weekly dish! Thank you!

    Thank you Krysia! Happy to hear you were so pleased with it!

  • Sharon Kim

    I made this recipe today and added Thai peppers for the heat. It was amazing! I will definitely make it again!

    So glad you liked it Sharon!!

  • Nicole

    Made this tonight and it was amazing. My three old kept asking for more. Excellent recipe.

    Yes! When a 3 year old wants more you've found a winner! Thanks so much or making it and letting us know you enjoyed it!

  • Taylor Kinsey

    This recipe has become a weeknight staple in my family. Simple, quick, and so tasty!

    Aw, that means so much to us! We're so glad to give you something that you can all enjoy together. Thank you!

  • Ian Shaw

    This is surprisingly easy to make! Once I gathered some of the items foreign to my American spice cabinet, this came together quite quickly. This isn't a bad meal, but I wouldn't eat this again without some tweaks.The meat: I was skeptical, as I'd never seen ground beef in anything Asian before (except maybe an Americanized eggroll). I think there's a reason for this. I didn't personally care for the texture of ground beef in this dish. I believe this would be delicious with chicken, fish, or steak strips.The sauce: very flavorful! The sauce is a great base recipe I will use in the future. It was however way saltier than I would prefer. I used low-sodium soy sauce and omitted the extra salt recommended, and it was still very salty (presumably from the fish sauce).Portions: I certainly don't think there are 4 adult servings in this as is: perhaps with some additional vegetables (maybe spinach) and some peanuts to bulk it up. Not quite a meal as is.Thanks for sharing a great base recipe!