Thai Basil Ground Beef Bowl

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This Thai Basil Ground Beef Bowl makes the perfect twenty-minute weeknight meal and you won't believe the flavor! Served with cauliflower rice, it's a healthy meal you will make again and again.

300 CAL 14g CARBS 12g FAT 38g PROTEIN

Ever since my trip to Thailand I have been head over heels for Thai food. Luckily in Los Angeles, I can find amazing and authentic dishes in Thai Town, but many times I want to create it at home and have more control of the ingredients.

One of my favorite spicy dishes is Thai Holy Basil Beef, or Gai Pad Krapow, so I set out to create a quick and healthier version at home using ground beef since that is what I had on hand. Now, this version isn’t completely traditional, but it sure is delicious.

Since not everyone is lucky enough to have great Thai places nearby, let's start with what this dish is. Thai Basil Beef Stir Fry (or chicken) is a traditional Thai dish made with meat, Thai holy basil, garlic, Thai chili peppers, soy sauce, and sugar. Some versions also use oyster sauce.

It's traditionally served as street food and is super popular. It can be made with chicken, beef, or pork, and many times you will see versions with tofu as well. 

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Now let's talk about basil. There are three types of basil used in Thai cooking - Thai holy basil, Thai sweet basil, and Thai lemon basil. However, outside of Thailand, it is difficult to find these unique varieties, and many times you will only see one type of basil labeled Thai basil. This is most likely Thai sweet basil.

Any of them will work for this recipe and if you can't find Thai basil, regular basil will work just fine. 

A few notes about the recipe. If you can’t find Thai basil, regular basil will work just fine. You can also mix up the veggies in the recipe and substitute the asparagus with any quick-cooking vegetable. Chinese broccoli or baby bok choy would be delicious, as would sugar snap peas, green beans, or broccoli.

Lastly. traditionally this dish would have Oyster sauce and a bit of sugar. I left it out since I have been trying to cut back on refined sugars, but you could easily add it in. A couple of teaspoons are more than enough.

Thai Beef Basil Stir Fry on a plate with cauliflower rice and chopsticks.

Can you make this with ground turkey or chicken instead?

Absolutely! This dish can be made with any type of ground meat you like. If you want to lighten things up, 99% lean ground chicken or turkey is a great option.

And in case you are wondering, you can make this dish with sliced chicken breast, thinly sliced beef, or thinly sliced pork as well. You will need to add about one tablespoon of oil to cook the chicken, garlic, ginger, and asparagus so it doesn't burn. Then just follow the directions as written.

How can I make a vegetarian version of this dish?

If you want to make a vegetarian Thai Basil dish, there are a few options. First, you could substitute vegetarian crumbles for beef. Since this cooks like ground beef, you can make the recipe as written just using the vegetarian crumbles and a touch of oil. Thinly sliced tempeh is another option and you don't have to make too many recipe adjustments. Just make sure to brown it with some oil before adding the garlic, ginger, and asparagus.

If you want to make a version with tofu, start by pressing the tofu so that it can get nice and crispy. Then dredge it very lightly in cornstarch and cook it over high heat with oil so that it gets crispy on all side. Remove the tofu and set aside. Cook the garlic, ginger, and vegetables and then add back the tofu with you add the soy sauce and chili. You may need to add a little extra soy sauce to flavor the tofu. 

Thai Basil Ground Beef in a bowl with fresh basil and a wooden background.

How can I make this dish Paleo or Whole30 friendly?

To make this dish work for Paleo, Whole30, or gluten-free diets, simply swap in coconut aminos for the soy sauce. Coconut aminos are allowed on all three of these diets and has a very similar flavor to soy sauce.

Can I use pre-made cauliflower rice?

Absolutely! Using cauliflower rice that is already riced is a great way to speed up the cooking process. You can use either fresh or frozen cauliflower rice for this recipe. If your cauliflower rice is frozen, it may take a couple extra minutes to cook.

This recipe was originally published in 2015 and has been a huge reader favorite! It has been updated with new photos, a video, and tips for cooking.

The Recipe
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Thai Basil Ground Beef Bowl

300 CAL 14g CARBS 12g FAT 38g PROTEIN
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  • 1.33 lb. 95% lean ground beef
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cups asparagus, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 2 tsp. Asian garlic chili paste (like sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup Thai basil
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)

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Prepare the cauliflower rice. Chop the cauliflower into florets and add to a food processor with the onion and garlic. Pulse into fine rice like pieces. You may have to do this in batches depending on your food processor. To cook, saute the cauliflower rice in 1 tbsp. coconut oil over medium heat until soft. You can also microwave it for 4-5 minutes.


Add the beef to a hot nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Brown and break up the larger chunks as you go until no longer pink.


Add in the garlic, ginger, green onions, and asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is just tender, about 3-4 minutes.


Add the soy sauce, chili paste, and basil. Cook for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Taste and season as needed with additional soy or chili sauce.


Serve the Thai Basil Beef over the cauliflower rice.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 300
Calories from Fat 37
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 94mg
Sodium 521mg
Total Carbohydrate 14g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 5g
Protein 38g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


For a more traditional Thai Basil recipe, add 1 tbsp. oyster sauce and a 1/2 tsp. sugar with the soy sauce.
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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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On Thai Basil Ground Beef Bowl
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Cynthia Richardson
May 8, 2020 - 18:05
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Made it! Delicious!!
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L Kat
January 28, 2019 - 09:54
Sounds yummy. I'm not a cauliflower fan.....will the other ingredients mask the cauliflower taste???
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Alissa Calsetta
July 24, 2018 - 06:16
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One of our favorites from Slender Kitchen!
Definitely influenced my decision to join!
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July 12, 2018 - 17:14
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Make this 2-3 times a month,we LOVE THIS recipe
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Rebecca Erickson
September 14, 2016 - 16:38
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I love this recipe! So easy and so delicious!
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Jennifer Judkins
January 21, 2016 - 14:24
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Is this 2 cups as in 1 cup cauliflower rice, 1 cup beef mixture?
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