Tofu Pad Krapow or Pad Kra Pao is a blend of ground tofu, vibrant Thai basil, tender crisp green beans, red bell peppers, and aromatic spices, creating an explosion of flavors. It takes less than 15 minutes to whip up this delicious one pan meal, making it my absolute favorite weeknight dinner.
As a busy mom juggling the demands of work, household responsibilities, and shuttling my daughter between various after-school activities, finding the time to prepare a wholesome dinner can be quite a challenge. This Tofu Pad Krapow is my go-to recipe on those chaotic weeknights. The simplicity of the recipe means I can have dinner on the table in the same amount of time it would take to wait in a drive-thru line. It's a one pot meal that is both delicious and nutritious.
What is Pad Krapow?
Pad Krapow, also known as "Pad Kra Pao," is a popular Thai dish known for its bold and spicy flavors. It originates from Thailand, where it's commonly enjoyed as a street food or as a quick and delicious meal at home.
The name "Pad Krapow" translates to "stir-fried holy basil," where "pad" means stir-fry and "krapow" (or "kaprow") refers to holy basil. Holy basil, also known as "tulsi" in some regions, is a fragrant and aromatic herb that plays a central role in the dish's distinctive flavor profile. Its slightly peppery and clove-like taste contributes to the dish's unique taste.
The dish typically consists of ground meat (such as chicken, pork, or beef) stir-fried with garlic, chili peppers, and holy basil. While the traditional version of Pad Krapow includes meat, vegetarian and vegan variations are also available, where tofu, mushrooms, or other plant-based protein sources are used as substitutes. The stir-fry is usually served over a bed of steamed rice, and a fried egg is often added on top, creating a rich and satisfying meal.
Why you'll love this recipe
Explosive Flavors: The porous nature of tofu allows it to readily soak up the aromatic spices, savory sauces, and fragrant herbs. The ground tofu becomes infused with the dish's rich, spicy, and herbal notes.
Quick Preparation: With its simple recipe and minimal cooking time of just 15 minutes, Tofu Pad Krapow offers a swift solution for satisfying hunger without compromising on taste.
Healthy Choice: Packed with protein-rich tofu and fresh herbs, this dish presents a wholesome option that caters to both vegetarians and those seeking a nutritious alternative. Even for those who typically consume meat, this stir-fried tofu and basil dish offers a healthful and lighter alternative. It's an opportunity to enjoy a plant-based meal packed with nutrients, aligning with a balanced and diverse diet.
Customizable Heat: Adaptable to personal preferences, Tofu Pad Krapow's chili component can be adjusted to deliver just the right level of spiciness.
Authentic Thai Experience: Pad Krapow delivers an authentic taste of Thai street food.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Tofu: Use extra firm tofu, which is good for stir frying.
- Basil: Traditionally, this dish uses Holy basil but unless you live in Thailand, it will be very hard to find. Thai basil and Italian sweet basil are great substitutes. In my opinion, Italian basil probably resembles Holy basil the most and it is readily available in most grocery stores.
- Garlic: Fried garlic is an aromatic. Not only does it smell good, it also makes the dish taste so much better.
- Red Peppers and Green Beans: For the pop of color to the dish and to make it a one pan meal that is healthy and balanced. Use any stir fry veggies of your choice or omit them altogether.
- Fish Sauce: The majority of the flavoring is from the fish sauce. Choose a high quality fish sauce. Make it vegetarian or vegan by replacing this with vegan fish sauce or adding a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
- Soy Sauce: Adds depth and umami to the dish.
- Sugar: Some sweetness to balance out all the salty seasonings. It enhances the natural flavors of the basil and vegetables.
- Salt and Pepper: The tofu can be pretty bland. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper to taste. Do a taste test of the sauce before stirring it all in.
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see the full ingredient amounts and instructions ⬇️
How to Make it
Step One: Remove the tofu and drain the liquid. Place tofu between two plates and weigh it down with a heavy object to remove excess liquid. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.
Step Two: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, and Thai chilies (if using).
Step Three: Next, crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands to get ground tofu. Have a variety of medium and small chunks for different textures.
Step Four: In a hot pan, add oil and tofu. Spread the tofu around the pan, break up any leftover big chunks, and let it dry out for about 5 minutes, stirring only 2-3 times. Let some of the pieces develop a golden crust.
Step Five: Then, move the tofu to one side of the pan and add the garlic, bell peppers, and green beans. Let the vegetables sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally on the veggie side.
Step Six: Stir in the sauce. Give everything a good stir. Add a lid on top of the pan and let everything cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but still have a slight crunch. (Note: The vegetables will still continue to cook when removed from the heat.)
Step Seven: Stir in the basil. Serve over rice and top with a crispy sunny side up egg.
Tips for the best Thai Basil Stir Fried Tofu (Pad Krapow)
1. Use extra-firm tofu: To prevent the tofu from becoming too mushy during cooking, use extra-firm tofu. Press it before using it to remove excess moisture, which will help it hold its shape better and absorb the flavors of the sauce.
2. Cook the tofu separately: Fry the tofu in the pan until it's golden brown and crispy before adding in the vegetables. This will give the tofu some texture.
3. Use fresh Thai or Italian basil: Authentic Pad Krapow is made with Thai holy basil, which might be hard to find depending on where you live. Use fresh Thai or sweet basil instead.
4. Don't overcrowd the pan: When cooking the tofu and other ingredients, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook in batches if necessary to allow the ingredients to sear properly and develop flavor. You can also do what I did and just push the tofu to one half of the pan and cook the vegetables on the other half.
5. Customize the heat: Adjust the level of spiciness to your preference by adding more or less Thai bird's eye chilies or red pepper flakes. Be cautious, as Thai chilies can be very spicy.
6. Serve with jasmine rice: Traditional Pad Krapow is often served with jasmine rice, which complements the flavors of the dish well. Prepare fluffy jasmine rice to accompany your Tofu Pad Krapow.
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerate: Before refrigerating, allow it to cool down to room temperature. Place the Pad Krapow in an airtight container. It should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking to ensure its safety and it can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat: When you're ready to enjoy your leftover Pad Krapow, you can reheat it. Here's how:
- Microwave: Place a portion of the Pad Krapow in a microwave-safe dish, cover it with a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap, and reheat it in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until it's heated through. Be cautious not to overheat, as it can dry out the dish.
- Stovetop: Heat a non-stick skillet or pan over medium-low heat. Add a little oil to the pan and then add the leftover Pad Krapow. Gently stir and heat until it's hot throughout, usually just a few minutes.
Thai Basil Tofu Stir Fry (Pad Krapow)
- 1 (14 oz) package extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- ½ cup Thai or Italian basil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup green beans, cut into ½ long pieces
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 Bird's Eye (Thai) Chilies or red pepper flakes (optional)
- Remove the tofu and drain the liquid. Place tofu between two plates and weigh it down with a heavy object to remove excess liquid. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, and Thai chilies (if using).
- Next, crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands to get ground tofu. Have a variety of large and small chunks for different textures.
- In a hot pan, add oil and tofu. Spread the tofu around the pan, break up any leftover big chunks, and let it dry out for about 5 minutes, stirring only 2-3 times. Let some of the pieces develop a golden crust.
- Then, move the tofu to one side of the pan and add the garlic, bell peppers, and green beans. Let the vegetables sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally on the veggie side.
- Stir in the sauce. Give everything a good stir. Add a lid on top of the pan and let everything cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but still have a slight crunch. (Note: The vegetables will still continue to cook when removed from the heat.)
- Stir in the basil. Serve over rice and top with a crispy sunny side up egg.