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Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพรา

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพราWhen the boyfriend and I first started dating, one of his Thai friends would very sweetly bring him a bunch of holy basil whenever she went shopping at the local Thai market.   At the time, I didn’t have any clue what this strange herb was or what to do with it.  So it just sat on his countertop, wilting away day after day…

Recounting this story now is just painful and embarrassing.  Now that I know what holy basil is, I’ll go to great lengths to find it, including driving an hour plus in heavy traffic to the less-than-pristine neighborhoods where the Thai markets reside (don’t worry Dad, the boyfriend always comes with me!).

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพราSo what makes this herb so worth seeking out?  I guess it’s the unique flavor that just can’t be substituted with any other type of basil.  If I had to describe it, the flavor of holy basil would be somewhere between Thai basil and mint with a strong kick of pepper.  It’s really one of those herbs that until you’ve tried it, it’s hard to know exactly what it tastes like.  But once you’ve had it, you’ll never forget it.

Holy basil is used in several different Thai dishes, but probably the most famous is gai pad gaprow, which translates to chicken stir-fried with holy basil.  It’s a very common street food in Thailand, sort of like the hamburger here in America.  And it’s really easy to make, just like its American counterpart.  You need only chicken or some other protein, garlic, chilis, holy basil, and a few Thai seasoning sauces (dark soy sauce being indispensible, the others can vary depending on your tastes).

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพราYou start by sauteeing the garlic and chilis, then add your protein, season with dark black soy sauce and whatever other sauces you prefer, add the holy basil, and you’re done!  Really, that’s it.  To make it a little prettier, I threw in a few strips of a red jalapeno pepper with the holy basil, but that’s definitely optional.

One thing that is not optional for the boyfriend is a fried egg on top.  To make this, just heat a good bit of oil until it’s super hot and then crack an egg into it.  Fry it quickly on both sides and place on top of the dish.  Not being Thai myself, I appreciate the dish even without the egg.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to try holy basil, I hope that you do soon!  And if a friend is nice enough to bring some to you, please please do better than I did years ago and make some gai pad gaprow with it!

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพรา

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพรา

Makes 2 servings

Chicken with Holy Basil | Gai Pad Gaprow | ผัดกระเพรา


  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 Thai chili peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 cup chicken, chopped coarsely (~1 chicken breast)
  • 1 red jalapeno pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon thick black soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
  • 1 cup Thai holy basil leaves
  • 2 eggs


  1. Cook the chopped garlic and chilis in a good amount of oil (2-4 Tablespoons) over high heat until the garlic is golden brown.
  2. Add the chopped chicken and cook until it is done. While it's cooking, use the spatula to break apart any pieces that clump together.
  3. Add all three sauces and saute a minute longer. Do a taste-test here and adjust seasonings if needed.
  4. Add the red pepper slices and cook till almost done. Then add the holy basil. Saute just until the basil is wilted, then remove from the heat.
  5. Remove the pad gaprow from the wok and return to burner with a little additional oil. Allow the oil to get very hot and then crack an egg into it and allow to fry to your desired level.
  6. Serve pad gaprow alongside jasmine rice with the fried egg sitting on top.


8 comments… add one
  • Donna October 14, 2012, 7:03 pm

    This is my bf’s favorite dish! It’s hard to get holy basil but we don’t live too far from Thai town in LA but that’s still out of the way since it’s so hard to find parking around there! But I’m sure it’s worth it. Last time I made with regular basil leaves but I’ll have to try with holy basil.

  • Donna September 15, 2012, 7:46 pm

    My bf’s fav dish! We made it once with basil because holy basil was hard to find even in Asian markets. Luckily, we don’t live that far away from Thai town but that’s still out of the way for holy basil. I will definitely make an effort to get it and try the dish again. Lovely pictures.

  • BeccaNana September 9, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Made this last night and my husband wants it again tonight. He has traveled extensively in Thailand and said he felt he was getting food from a cart or noodle shop in Bangkok. Know that I did not have the preferred basil just fresh sweet and used the yummy garlic chillie sauce from fridge about 1 tablespoon. The fried egg on top is a wonderful compliment to the spicy side of the dish. I also added a bit of lime juice and a splash of fish sauce with just a pinch of brown sugar after tasting for balance.

  • anabel September 3, 2012, 6:23 pm

    Hi Rachel! I Just discovered your blog…thanks for sharing these Thai recipes! I’ve been looking for a chicken basil one for a while. I’ll be trying this one for sure! :)

  • Brittany September 3, 2012, 4:05 pm

    This looks ah-maz-ing! What is the flavor difference between sweet basil and holy basil? I never know which to use so I always end up with the purple-stemmed sweet basil.

    • Rachel September 4, 2012, 2:20 pm

      Holy basil is so different from all of the other varieties. It has this kick of pepper to it that’s hard to describe… even the texture is different. But it’s definitely the holy basil that makes this dish so good!

  • Sarah August 27, 2012, 3:05 pm

    this is my absolute favorite Thai dish. the basil makes such a difference.

    • Rachel August 31, 2012, 1:33 am

      It really does! We were eating it for about a month non-stop when we had tons of holy basil around and I was almost at the point of getting sick of it… but now I’m already craving it again!

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