Better than takeout! How many times does a recipe claim that? And how many times have you been disappointed when the recipe required a lot of hard to find ingredients or a lot of kitchen time, and was not in fact better than takeout? Well my Thai Basil Chicken will not disappoint! This dish has been on our South Miami restaurant menu for over 20 years. We’ve made it thousands of times at the restaurant, so I know it works and tastes delicious.
When we opened our first restaurant, our mix of Pan Asian food was considered cutting edge and not many people really understood what we were serving. It took a lot of tweaks with the menu to get people onboard. One of our first goals was a simple chicken stir fry that was full of flavor, but didn’t scare anyone with loads of spice or funky smells. Thus, this version of Thai Basil Chicken was born. It’s kind of a marriage between Chinese stir fry and gentle Thai flavors. Combining some quick prep, accessible ingredients, and simple techniques, Thai Basil Chicken deserves a permanent spot in your dinner rotation.
Thai Basil is the only ingredient in this dish with which you may be unfamiliar. Slightly spicier than Italian sweet basil, with a little hint of licorice flavor, it is an essential part of Thai Basil Chicken. Thai basil can be found at most Asian markets, and you can also find plants at well stocked nurseries. You definitely want fresh leaves for this though, as the dried ones aren’t nearly as potent or interesting. You can absolutely substitute sweet basil here, but I would also throw in a little mint or even just a bit more basil to add a more punchy herbal flavor.
Thai Basil Chicken is a stir fry dish which cooks up quickly, so you should have everything prepped before you start cooking. Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss with the marinade. The marinating process is called velveting, and it is a traditional Chinese technique that helps to preserve moisture in lean meats when cooking. There are many different ways to velvet, with baking soda often used, but we find that baking soda gives a spongy texture to more delicate meats like chicken, so we usually reserve baking soda marinades to beef.
This marinade has cornstarch in it, which adds a really velvety texture to the chicken and sauce. You can prep the chicken the day before; just keep it chilled until ready to cook. Then clean and prep all the veggies. You want everything to be cut into similar sized pieces so they cook evenly and make for a beautiful presentation.
Time to Stir Fry
Now is when all your beautifully prepped ingredients come together. Thai Basil Chicken cooks in less than 10 minutes, so we’re almost done! Just whip up the sauce in a small bowl, heat your pan, and get cooking. If you’re asking yourself, why does she always make the sauce first? Can’t I just add all of the ingredients to the pan when it’s time? Well of course you can! However, I find that in the heat of the moment (I know terrible pun), you’re more likely to forget an ingredient or two. It’s just a precaution to make sure everything you’re supposed to have in the sauce, ends up in the sauce.
Serving Thai Basil Chicken:
It probably goes without saying that this is awesome with a side of perfect rice! You’ll want something to soak up that luscious sauce. I like to serve this family style, piled high on a platter. The shiny sauce and colorful vegetables make for a great presentation. So many people have enjoyed this Thai Basil Chicken over the years, and I know you will love it too. Truly better than takeout! Rate the recipe, leave a comment below, and be sure to tag us in your insta pics @funkyasiankitchen!
For the Chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- a handful thai basil leaves, about ½ ounce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons hoisin
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Hot Steamed Rice
Prep and marinate the chicken:
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces by first cutting it into strips and then cutting across the strips into ½ inch pieces. Put the diced chicken into a bowl.
- Add the soy sauce, water, sugar, cornstarch, and oil to the chicken. Mix the chicken well to combine all of the ingredients.
- Set the chicken aside or refrigerate until ready to use. You can prep the chicken the day before if you like.
Prep the vegetables:
- Wash all vegetables except for the mushrooms, which should be wiped with a wet towel to remove any grit and soil.
- Cut the onion into a medium dice. Cut the onion in half, peel off the outer layer and then cut the onion into a ½ inch dice. Set aside in a bowl.
- Cut the bell peppers in half, scrape out the seeds. Then cut the peppers into strips and finally cut across the peppers to create a medium dice. Add your peppers to your onions.
- Now cut your mushrooms into quarters and set aside.
- All of your vegetables should be roughly the same size to support even cooking and a beautiful looking dish.
To Stir fry:
- Next combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat for several minutes and then add the oil.
- Add the chicken to the pan in an even layer and stir fry the chicken for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook the chicken evenly. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 10 seconds.
- Next add the onions and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Then add the sauce and stir to coat.
- Finally add the cornstarch slurry and immediately stir it into the chicken so that it thickens the sauce evenly. Cook for 30 seconds, letting the cornstarch finish setting, so you have a shiny thickened sauce.
- Add the thai basil to the pan, tearing the leaves a little to release more flavor. Give it a good stir and then remove the pan from the stove. Scoop the chicken onto a platter and serve immediately.
Serve with the hot rice.