This quick and easy Thai Basil Fried Rice recipe bursts with flavor in every bite. Made with fresh Thai basil, jasmine rice and a hint of spice, this restaurant-quality dish can be enjoyed as a main or side right in the comfort of your own home. It comes together in just 20 minutes, giving you a mouthwatering meal that will have everyone begging for more.
Thai food is probably my favorite Asian cuisine. I crave it at least once a week and while I tend to opt for pad see ew or drunken noodles more often than not, I veered out of my comfort zone once and tried Thai basil fried rice and oh my gosh. I was completely missing out!
This basil fried rice is definitely different than Chinese fried rice. The Thai version uses Thai basil, which I think is a bit more fragrant than regular sweet basil, rice, bell peppers, onions, and garlic tossed in a deliciously savory and somewhat sweet sauce. The fish sauce in the rich sauce gives it a touch of umami flavor and I put a hint of this Thai red chili paste my friend’s Thai grandmother gave to her. It’s in my freezer and it’s literally so spicy you can only use about 1/4 of a teaspoon but it’s the perfect kick to this basil fried rice.
What is the difference between Thai basil and regular basil?
The difference between Thai basil and regular basil is in the flavor. Thai basil has a strong anise or licorice taste, which makes it perfect for dishes with a spicy kick. It is also more aromatic and slightly sweet, adding depth of flavor to recipes like curries and stir-fries. Regular basil has a milder, sweet and slightly peppery flavor, making it better suited for dishes like pesto or salads.
Why You’ll Love This
This well-loved Thai side dish that is found on almost all Thai restaurant menus is one of my favorites to order. Here are some reasons why I love making this at home.
- Outrageously easy. This fried rice dish comes together in less than 20 minutes. Once you’ve got all the vegetables chopped and the sauce made, everything goes into a wok and out comes the best rice side dish!
- Delicious Thai flavors. Notes of anise from the Thai basil, the sweet and salty sauce, and the umami from the fish sauce brings out incredible Thai flavors.
- Saves money and a trip out. Our local Thai restaurant sells this particular dish for $16. I can get a pack of Thai basil from the local Asian mart for $4 and I always have white rice in the pantry along with bell peppers and onions in the fridge. This dish seriously saves you the money and the trip out and if you typically DoorDash, well then it saves you on the outrageous fees too!
Ingredients You’ll Need
For restaurant-quality meals, you really don’t need a huge ingredient list. Here is a short list of ingredients you will need to make Thai basil fried rice. Make sure to scroll down to view the full recipe for exact measurements.
- Garlic – full cloves. Just smash them! No need to mince.
- Thai basil – this is the star of the dish so make sure you have it. If you’re in a pinch, then regular basil works fine but the flavors will be off.
- Bell peppers – a combination of red and orange for beautiful color in the dish.
- Soy sauce – you’ll be using sweet soy sauce and dark soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Day old white rice – fresh is truly not the same!
Why should you use day old rice in fried rice?
Using day old rice for fried rice is typically best because the excess moisture has evaporated and you are more likely to be able to easily break up the rice for fried rice. Fresh rice holds a ton more moisture so putting it directly into fried rice will usually yield for a mushy consistency.
How To Make Basil Fried Rice
Here is a general overview of the steps involved to make this Thai fried rice. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
Make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
Cook garlic and Thai basil for the ultimate fragrant experience. Sauté the garlic and basil together to create an infused fragrance in the oil. It helps bring out extra flavor, and this is also why the garlic isn’t minced. It would burn otherwise.
Cook the vegetables. Once the garlic and basil are fragrant, add in the bell peppers and onion. Cook until softened.
Add the rice and sauce. Add in the rice, allowing the heat to soften and become easier to break apart. Pour sauce on top then toss to incorporate everything.
Substitutions and Variations
- Types of rice. You may use whatever type of rice you have. I would suggest sticking to white rice though as I find brown rice tends to be more chewy and not the texture for fried rice.
- Basil varieties. If you can’t find Thai basil, regular basil works but it won’t have that peppery flavor that Thai basil has. If you can find it, Thai holy basil is a great alternative too.
- Proteins. Feel free to add in thin sliced chicken breast, beef, tofu, or even shrimp to this! I made this with shrimp one night and it was delicious especially if you feel you need some light protein!
Tips for Success
Although fairly straight forward, there are always some tips and tricks to make the best basil fried rice!
- Plan ahead. Since using day-old rice is best for fried rice, you’ll want to make sure you have day-old rice ready and on hand.
- High heat. You’ll want to cook with higher heat to get that nice char and sear that is well-known in Thai cuisine. With that in mind, make sure your cooking oil is one that has a higher smoke point (like avocado oil).
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Store leftover fried rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. To reheat rice, I like putting a damp paper towel over the rice then covering with a container and microwaving. This creates steam and keeps the rice tender and not dry.
What to Serve with Basil Fried Rice
This fried rice recipe is a great side dish to accompany some of your favorite Thai dishes such as these:
And if you really want to be authentic, wash it down with this Chè Thái (Vietnamese Fruit Cocktail)!
Thai Basil Fried Rice
For the rice:
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 large handfuls Thai basil leaves
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 400 grams day old white rice
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons sweet soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large skillet or wok over and sauté garlic and basil on high heat, just until fragrant.
- Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until softened.
- Add the rice to the skillet/wok and break it into smaller pieces. Pour the sauce over top and stir to incorporate. Add more Thai basil leaves, if desired.
- Feel free to add spice to it like red chilies or something else you prefer.
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