Thai food recipes: Stir-fried holy basil with beef (pad kaprao neua)

Although Pad Thai is the official national dish of Thailand, pad kaprao is the unofficial favourite dish. This spicy dish is classic comfort food and a go-to option for many Thais when ordering a quick and easy lunchtime meal. When you’re in Thailand you will see this dish at simple street stalls and high-end restaurants. The main ingredient is kaprao leaves (bai kaprao) known in English as holy basil. This stir-fry dish is usually made using pork (moo), chicken (gai) or beef (neua). For this recipe, we’ll be showing you how to make pad kaprao neua — stir-fried holy basil with beef.

Pad kaprao neua khai dao (stir-fried holy basil with beef and fried egg)
(Photo: Shutterstock)


This recipe feeds two people

  • 200 g minced beef
  • 30 g fresh holy basil
  • 50 g green beans
  • 30 g sliced white onions
  • 5-10 chillies crushed or cut in half
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 20 ml soy sauce
  • 40 ml water
  • 30 ml cooking oil

Alternative ingredients

Holy basil
Holy basil isn’t always easy to find. You can try searching for ‘tulsi’, which is the name for holy basil in India and is sold at some Asian food stores in South Africa. If not, regular fresh basil or fresh Thai sweet basil can be used and is available at many supermarkets.

Minced beef
Substitute minced beef with minced pork, chicken or cube tofu according to preference or diet.

Fish sauce
There are some good vegetarian options available and light soya sauce can be used as an alternative to fish sauce.

Thai jasmine rice
Any white rice variant can be used if you can’t find Thai jasmine rice.


  • Put oil into the wok and place on the stove, at high heat.
  • Reduce the temperature of the oil to medium heat, add the crushed garlic and chilli and stir until it’s a golden colour. 
  • Add the minced beef to the chilli mix, and stir together well at high heat.
  • Add the water, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar, and stir well again Add the green beans, white onions and basil.
  • Season well, remove from the wok and serve with steamed Thai jasmine rice.
  • Add an optional fried egg on top.
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