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Thai Basil Shrimp

One of the most popular street dishes in Thailand is made with fragrant basil leaves and a combination of protein (chicken, pork or seafood) and vegetables. This is the seafood version, and it's simply a stupendous dish. Here it's made with shrimp, but any seafood would work equally well, or a combination of shrimp and mussels, for example. It's usually quite spicy with red chili scattered throughout or sometimes added on top. In addition, it's common to serve this dish with rice and a fried egg. If you're ready to take on a true Thai dish, give this one a whirl -- you won't be disappointed!

A note from a recipe tester

"The Thai basil shrimp was delicious, and it was quite an easy preparation. The shrimp and sauce made a nice meal with jasmine rice and the fried egg, and it was a generous amount. If the flavor isn't quite right, there are several helpful suggestions for flavor tweaks."


For the Sauce:

  • 6 to 8 makrut lime leaves

  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

  • 3 medium spring onions, sliced

  • 1 2-inch piece galangal or ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 1 to 2 small fresh red chilies, sliced, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, regular

  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, or 1/2 tablespoon regular soy sauce

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar

For the Shrimp:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 medium bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, cut into strips

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine or white cooking wine, divided

  • 15 to 18 medium to large shrimp, shelled

  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, divided

  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

  • 2 large eggs, optional

Steps to make it

1. Gather the ingredients.

2. Cut the stem portion from the lime leaves to remove and discard.

3. Place the lime leaves along with all other sauce ingredients in a food processor or chopper. Process well to form an aromatic paste. Taste-test for sweetness/sour balance, adding more sugar to taste (you will adjust the other flavors later). Set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons white wine as you go.

5. Add the shrimp, stir-fry sauce and extra tablespoon of oil, if needed. Stir-fry 3 minutes, until shrimp are pink and plump.

6. Turn down heat to low and fold in 1/3 cup chopped basil. Add the coconut milk a little at a time, taste-testing as you go (some people like this dish with coconut milk, and others prefer the more potent version without).

7. Taste-test for salt and spice, adding more fish sauce if not flavorful or salty enough, or more lime juice if too salty. Add more coconut milk if too spicy.

8. To serve it the way they do in Thailand, simply fry an egg in a little vegetable oil and lightly salt it.

9. Tilt shrimp onto the plate. Add a generous topping of chopped fresh basil, and serve with Thai jasmine rice, topped with the fried eggs, if using. Often this dish is also accompanied with cucumber slices.

Raw Egg Warning Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover shrimp and sauce in a shallow, airtight container within 2 hours, and eat within 3 days.

  • To reheat leftover basil shrimp, stir-fry it in a small amount of oil until hot. It should reach at least 165 F.

Is There a Substitute for Makrut Lime Leaves? You can buy makrut lime leaves fresh or dried at Asian markets or online (Etsy, Amazon, etc.). If you need to substitute, swap out the 6 makrut lime leaves with 1 tablespoon of lime zest.

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