This Thai Beef Basil with Coconut Rice is an incredibly flavorful, easy-to-make dinner that can be customized for all types of spicy food level preferences. It's on regular rotation in our weekly meal plans!
- ❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- 🗒 Ingredients
- 🌶 What kind of peppers to use
- 🔥 How to control heat
- 🍙 What type of rice/grain to use
- 🍚 How to make coconut rice
- 🥩 How to make Thai Beef Basil
- 🍗 Can I substitute ground chicken, ground pork, or steak?
- 🥦 Can I add more veggies?
- 🥵 More spicy recipes
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
One of my favorite things in life is going out for Thai or Indian food with Chris. It's basically like free entertainment when I watch him order food to his ideal level of spiciness.
BTW, his ideal level of spiciness is "AS HOT AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY MAKE IT." He has all kinds of strategies to get the waiter or waitress to understand how spicy he wants his food including telling them, "make it Thai hot, please" and "I want 10 stars!" and "make it as spicy as you can; I promise I will eat it!"
But my favorite is when he says, "make me cry!" For the record, in the almost ten years I've been with Chris, there have only been two occasions where he's found the food he's ordered ridiculously spicy... Almost to the point of tears.
It's generally not even close to being hot enough, no matter how he orders it.
I love spicy food, too, but definitely not to the level he does. Call me crazy, but I don't quite see the joy in crying while I'm eating. I love curries, crazy noodles, pad see ew, and pad Thai.
I cook a lot of spicy food at home and love that it's easy to vary spicy levels serving to serving, whether it's by adding some additional peppers into one person's serving, sprinkling on some crushed red pepper, or drizzling on lots of Sriracha (also of note, Chris recently tried to argue with me that Sriracha isn't meant to be spicy. Hello??).
I discovered a Thai beef and coconut rice recipe from Martha Stewart about 8 years ago and have slowly adapted it to our specific tastes over the years. It's one of the meals we have in our regular rotation now and one we both get super excited about.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
If you love Thai food (albeit Americanized Thai food), but want to be able to control the spice level, this is the recipe for you! It's packed with delicious flavor, but can be made just as spicy as you want it.
It's also super easy to make as a quick 30 minute recipe and it's made with simple ingredients that are easy to find.
This dinner is delicious year-round, but especially during the summer considering many of us likely have absolutely out of control basil plants growing on our decks.
Here's everything you need to make Thai Beef Basil and the accompanying coconut rice (see recipe card at bottom of post for ingredient amounts and full instructions):
- Jasmine rice (can also use brown rice or quinoa)
- Light coconut milk (in a can)
- Vegetable oil
- Thai chili peppers (can also use habanero, long hot chili peppers, or jalapeño peppers)
- Garlic cloves, minced
- Lean ground sirloin
- Fish sauce
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Light brown sugar
- Loosely packed fresh basil (use Thai basil if you can find it)
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Crushed red pepper, for topping
- Sriracha, for topping
🌶 What kind of peppers to use
To make this dish as authentic as possible, I recommend using Thai chilies. My local grocery store has them most of the time, but not always. Asian grocery stores will almost definitely have them.
However, if you can't find them, you can really use any type of spicy pepper for this dish. I've substituted the Thai peppers with habanero peppers or long hot chili peppers before with success.
If you want a little less heat, but still lots of flavor, jalapeño peppers are a good option. You won't be able to call this dish "Thai," but it's still a delicious twist.
If you're chopping the peppers yourself, I recommend wearing gloves... Especially if you wear contacts. If you've never felt the pain of touching your eye after chopping a hot pepper, count yourself very lucky!
🔥 How to control heat
If you or someone in your family doesn't love spicy food, it's easy to get the flavor of peppers without too much heat by simply removing the seeds of the peppers.
You can also use fewer peppers than the recipe calls for if you are spicy-averse. Or, like I mentioned above, try using jalapeño peppers instead. If you want NO spice, but still like the idea of the flavors in this dish, you can use red bell pepper.
And when push comes to shove, you can always add garnishes like lime wedges to cut the heat. Also note that the coconut rice is an excellent complement to the Thai beef because it's nice and mild and helps take away a little bit of the heat in each bite.
If you love spicy food, you can certainly add additional peppers to the dish.
Or if you want this dish to suit your whole family's tastes, you can add fewer peppers to the dish and then top some of the plates with additional peppers and/or crushed red pepper and Sriracha.
🍙 What type of rice/grain to use
The directions call for jasmine rice, but you can really use anything to pair with this Thai beef basil.
I've used quinoa and brown rice before, but you can also feel free to serve it over cauliflower rice if you want to keep the dish low-carb... You can even serve the beef over a salad!
The jasmine rice is so light and fluffy with an awesome touch of sweetness from the coconut milk. Quinoa and brown rice have more of a nutty flavor and the coconut milk isn't quite as prevalent in it.
But since I like to make a big batch of this and eat it for leftovers throughout the week, I often try to make it a bit healthier with quinoa. You can use whatever type of grain/non-grain you prefer!
🍚 How to make coconut rice
I love the way the coconut rice complements the spicy basil beef and tones down the heat, but if you're in a rush or don't like coconut, you don't have to make it and can serve the dish with plain rice instead.
You can also feel free to serve it over riced cauliflower if you want to keep it low-carb... You can even serve the beef over a salad!
I often use quinoa when I make it, but it really is the most delicious when made with jasmine rice!
To start, combine rice, coconut milk, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Let mixture come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover.
Let simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is nice and fluffy, about 20 minutes.
🥩 How to make Thai Beef Basil
While the rice is cooking, you can get started on the beef.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil, and toss in half the hot peppers and garlic. Cook for about 15 seconds.
Turn the heat down to medium-high and add the beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until just cooked through.
In a small bowl, stir together fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir this mixture into the beef and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add basil (if you can find Thai basil, use it; otherwise regular basil works!), tomatoes, and remaining peppers and stir to combine. When basil is starting to wilt, remove pan from heat, about 30 seconds.
Serve the fluffy coconut rice in a bowl with the beef basil served over the top. If you love the spice, sprinkle on additional chopped peppers, a little crushed pepper, and a Sriracha drizzle. And top off with lime wedges.
Even if you're not trying to cut the heat, there's something so delicious about a little bit of fresh lime juice squeezed on the top of this dish.
Thai beef basil is actually the classic Thai dish Chris most often orders when we're at a Thai restaurant, so it makes me extra happy that he loves my version so much. I haven't actually made him cry...
But I've gotten his serving to the spicy level that he's talking about when he says "make me cry."
I know this isn't really traditional Thai food and is definitely Americanized (especially if you're using jalapeño peppers or quinoa!), but it's an eclectic fusion dinner that is sure to satisfy most Thai food cravings... Which I get all the time!
🍗 Can I substitute ground chicken, ground pork, or steak?
Yes to all! Obviously you may not be able to call this "beef basil" depending on what meat you use, but you can certainly use any type of ground beef or even steak (flank steak or skirt steak work well) in this dish. I told you it was versatile!
🥦 Can I add more veggies?
Sure! You should feel free to make this dish your own and add any of your favorite veggies to it or anything you have leftover in the fridge. I especially recommend broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, sweet onion, and green onions.
Honestly, I think my favorite part of this dish is all that fresh basil. I want a piece of basil in every bite!
It's funny because Chris often leaves his basil behind and makes sure to eat every single pepper.
Believe it or not, it's actually quite rare that I make recipes twice. I just love trying new things too much and unless a recipe is off-the-walls amazing, I probably won't make it again for quite a while.
This Thai beef basil qualifies as off-the-walls amazing. Plus, it's so quick and simple, that it's one of those meals I can add to my weekly meal plan and know that I won't have to spend all night in the kitchen. It's right up there with tacos as one of our "eat all the time" meals.
If you're not sure what to make for dinner tonight, give this recipe a try!
🥵 More spicy recipes
Because my husband loves spicy food so much, I have lots of spicy recipes on my website! Here are some of my favorites:
- Spicy Clam Chowder with Corn
- Spicy Fennel Mussels
- Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup
- Spicy Sausage Chilaquiles with Eggs
- Spicy Cheesy Chicken Burgers
- Spicy Thai Chicken Drumsticks
- Spicy Ginger Honey Wings
- Spicy Grapefruit Margarita
And if you're looking for some really authentic Thai cuisine you can make at home, check out Thai Basil Chicken, Thai Fish Cakes, Shrimp in Coconut and Red Curry Sauce, and Thai Grilled Steak Salad. These are all wonderful authentic Thai recipes.
I should note that I actually have managed to make Chris cry with spicy food just once in our 10 years together. It was with a ridiculously spicy ghost chili pepper sauce that we used ONE drop of in mac and cheese.
He claims his hearing was affected and refused to go near it again. I opted out of trying it. Do you blame me??
How spicy do you like your food? Do you have any favorite Thai dishes?
Thai Beef Basil
- 1 ½ cups jasmine rice (can also use brown rice or quinoa)
- 1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped Thai chili peppers (can also use habanero, long hot chili peppers, or jalapeño peppers), seeds removed to tone down heat if desired + additional peppers for topping if extra heat is desired
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. lean ground sirloin
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp light brown sugar (can substitute with granulated sugar)
- 1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh basil (use Thai basil if you can find it)
- 2 small tomatoes, chopped
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Crushed red pepper, for topping
- Sriracha, for serving
- In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, water, and salt. Let mixture come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is nice and fluffy, about 20 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, heat a wok or large skillet or wok over medium high heat, add the oil, and toss in half the hot peppers and garlic. Cook for about 15 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium-high and add the beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until just cooked through.
- In a small bowl, stir together fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir this mixture into the beef and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add basil, tomatoes, and remaining peppers and stir to combine. When basil is starting to wilt, remove pan from heat, about 30 seconds.
- Serve coconut rice in bowls and top with beef basil mixture. Garnish with lime wedges, crushed red pepper, and Sriracha sauce, if desired. For extra heat, add additional chopped peppers.