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Thai Beef Basil with Coconut Rice

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!

(This recipe for Thai Beef Basil was originally posted in Februrary 2011, but was updated with new photos and content in 2018).

Overhead view of bowl of Thai beef basil served over coconut rice with a lime wedge, bowl in the background, and colorful dish towel with "Thai Beef Basil" text at top

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 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.

It’s delicious year-round, but especially during the summer considering many of us likely have absolutely out of control basil plants growing on our decks.


One awesome thing about this Thai beef basil recipe is that it’s so versatile and can cater to many different tastes for spice. It’s easy to get the flavor of peppers without too much heat by simply removing the seeds of the peppers. But you can leave them in if you love heat. You can also use fewer peppers for those who are spicy-averse and you can add additional peppers as garnish for anyone who loves it. And when push comes to shove, you can always add garnishes like lime wedges to cut the heat or crushed red pepper and Sriracha sauce to add more.

I should also mention 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.


The good news is that you can really use any type of spicy pepper for this dish. I love using Thai chili peppers, but they can sometimes be tough to find, so I often substitute with habanero peppers or long hot chili peppers. If you want a little less heat, but still lots of flavor, use jalapeño peppers. And like I mentioned above, keep in or remove the seeds depending on your preferences.


Yes! I actually make this dish all the time with quinoa and occasionally use brown rice, too. But it’s definitely at it’s most indulgent and best with jasmine rice. 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 you prefer!


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 in this dish. I told you it was versatile!

You’ll want to get your rice started first and then get going on the rest of the recipe. It’s a quick and easy one, which means you’ll have dinner on the table in no time. Though my husband doesn’t do too much to help out in the kitchen, he always offers to chop my chili peppers and garlic for this recipe, which is pretty much the toughest part. If you’re chopping the peppers, 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!

After sautéing half the hot peppers and all the garlic, you’ll add the beef, then mix in a soy sauce/fish sauce/sugar solution and then add in chopped tomatoes, basil, and remaining peppers and briefly cook.

Collage showing process for making Thai beef basil, including coconut rice in saucepan, garlic and Thai chili peppers sautéing in pan, and beef, tomatoes, peppers, and basil in pan

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.

Overhead view of bowl of Thai beef basil served over coconut rice with a lime wedge, bowl in the background, and colorful dish towel

Thai beef basil is actually the 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!

Close-up head-on view of bowl of Thai beef basil over coconut rice with lime wedge and colorful dish towel in background

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.

Landscape view of bowl of Thai beef basil served over coconut rice on a marble surface with fork, basil, and half a lime next to bowl

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.

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?

If you’re looking for other recipes with a kick, check out my Spicy Clam Chowder with Corn or my Spicy Lime Linguine with Clams and Sausage.


5 from 3 votes
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 preferences | wearenotmartha.com
Thai Beef Basil
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins

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. 

Course: Entree
Cuisine: Eclectic, Fusion, Thai
Keyword: Beef, Rice, Spicy
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Sues
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice (can also use brown rice or quinoa)
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 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 granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • Lime wedges, for garnish
  • crushed red pepper, for topping
  • Sriracha, for serving
  1. 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. 

  2. While the rice is cooking, heat a cast-iron skillet or wok over high, 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.

  3. In a small bowl, stir together fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir this mixture into the beef and cook for another 30 seconds.

  4. Add basil, tomatoes, and remaining peppers and stir to combine. When basil is starting to wilt, remove pan from heat, about 30 seconds.

  5. 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.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Thai Beef Basil with Coconut Rice -- This Thai Beef Basil is an incredibly flavorful, easy-to-make dinner that can be customized for all types of spicy food level preferences | wearenotmartha.com #dinner #beef #easy #spicy #rice

24 Responses to "Thai Beef Basil with Coconut Rice"

  1. To Kiss the Cook says:

    This is one of my all time favorite dishes and bring me some heat. Can’t wait to try this!

  2. Kerstin says:

    Mmm, thai food is one of our favorites too, although I usually can’t eat A’s since he likes it super spicy and I’m a wimp! This looks super tasty 🙂

  3. Meghan says:

    Holy crap this looks good. Must. Make. Soon.

  4. Erica says:

    haha “make me cry”- I love it! The recipe looks like it turned out great! At home takeout is always tasty (and usually better the next day after a good night in the fridge). I love a little kick, but usually actually shed tears when its at or close to make me cry status.

  5. Fun and Fearless in Beantown says:

    I’m like Chris and LOVE super spicy food! My goal is to finish a plate of the Hell Pasta at ECG (it is on my 30 by 30 list)!

  6. BostonSportsWoman says:

    I can’t possibly think of eating something that makes me cry! I like spicy hot, but not too killer. Chris is nuts!

  7. Shannon says:

    I have made this recipe in our house several times .. we omit the peppers for 1 tsp of red pepper flakes …. we’re a fan of spicy but not that much!

  8. Nicole says:

    I LOVE this recipe! I’ve made it a few times now and I love how flavorful it is and how dead simple it is to make.

    I’ve heard of the ghost chili from Man vs. Food. He’s tried a couple of heat challenges with that pepper and I don’t think I can go there. I like medium-hot, no crying for me, please 🙂

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Mmm, there’s a restaurant in NY called Rice and they have this excellent Thai beef salad on top of coconut rice. It’s Dave’s favorite. It’s more tangy than spicy.

  10. Monique says:

    wow wow wow. I seriously just want a bite.
    I like spicy foods. maybe my tolerance is low or maybe what i think is spicy really isnt… but things like pad key mao make me cry… lol but love thai basil chicken. so , go figure.

  11. I definitely want my foods super spicy!! I don’t eat Thai or Vietnamese food often because I’m allergic to fish sauce, but I do love the dishes with Thai basil. And chilis!

  12. Daisy says:

    I like some spice! But I think I’m sort of like you on the scale in the middle somewhere! I don’t want to cry or burn my tongue off, thats just not my idea of enjoying food! This dish sounds tasty, good work!

  13. emily @ the happy home says:

    i’m getting better with spice, but i do love STRONG flavors. our vegan thai place down the road has a ginger dinner that is AMAZING– and will clear your sinuses right quick!

  14. Chris says:

    Make me cry 🙂 – Just to be clear though it doesn’t actually make me cry. It’s just the only way I can be sure that they actually make it really spicy. Granted it might make others cry though 😉

    This was fantastic though – the flavors were just amazing. Also using the ground beef was a nice touch.

    Sues is about to make some hot wings so I’ve gotta run. PS We’re going to use this sauce. http://www.hotsauce.com/Anchor-Bar-Suicidal-Buffalo-Wing-Sauce-p/3746.htm

  15. Greg @ Starvingkitten says:

    Very nice! Interesting use of ground beef. It is hard to know what cut to use. We made a similar one with flank steak that worked out well.

  16. Sharlene says:

    That’s so funny that Chris tells the waitstaff to make him cry! We definitely don’t like our food THAT spicy but we adore Thai food so this will be on my to-do list but I’ll tone down the spice a bit.

  17. Bizzy says:

    I am printing this up to make, as soon as possible. This looks absolutely delicious.

  18. Pam says:

    So many great textures and flavors in this dish.

  19. Alycia [Fit n Fresh] says:

    I am not a spicy food girl, I already don’t understand how people could possibly think torture tastes good so THIS whole thing just blows my mind lol

  20. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt says:

    I once heard someone say “make it like your mom would” to a Thai woman. I could feel the heat coming off his meal when they brought it out!

  21. Molly says:

    I made this last night, it was delicious! We used about 5 thai chili peppers and one red-bell pepper and it was delightfully spicy and not too hot. The rice smelled incredible, I could make that every day. Mmmm

  22. Julie Evink says:

    This was so delicious! I love that I could make it to the spicy level I wanted. Will go on our menu rotation!

  23. April says:

    I love the flavors in this! I also love how easy it is to put together. Yum!

  24. happy wheels says:

    Thai basil beef with coconut is a great dish. I have been enjoying this dish while traveling Thailand

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