I knew I was onto something good when I made my Better-Than-Takeout Orange Chicken recipe for my cookbook, Rachael’s Good Eats, and you guys loved it. I mean, so did I – who doesn’t love a healthified indulgence? I wanted to keep the “better-than-takeout” meals going for all of us, and Thai basil beef was just screaming for a recreation. I did a few rounds of testing this recipe to make sure it’s perfect, and the result is an insanely easy and flavorful dish.
ALL THE FLAVOR
The main reason these Thai basil wraps are “better-than-takeout” is because they’re made with better-for-you ingredients that definitely do not lack in flavor. It’s quickly becoming a frontrunner favorite meal in our house, so to keep it fresh, I love serving it a bit differently each time – but more on that later.
First, I just need to take a minute to highlight the incredible, mouthwatering flavor that will have you running to the grocery store to pick up all the ingredients. If you’ve never cooked with Thai basil before, you are in for a treat. Herbaceous and vibrant, the Thai basil is the starting point of the savory and spicy flavors you’ll taste in each bite. When cooked together with organic ground beef (an ideal source of protein) and the touch of sweetness the red bell pepper adds – the only word that comes to mind is YUM.
For the sauce, I prefer to use Tamari (instead of regular soy sauce) as the base because it’s gluten-free, but you can absolutely use soy sauce if you prefer! The toasted sesame oil adds an umami, nutty taste while the minced ginger and garlic create a delicious aroma and provide all the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. And last but not least, what’s a Thai-inspired sauce if a chili crunch is not included? I love using the Momofuku chili crunch, but anything similar works too.
SIDES ON SIDES
The first couple times I made this, I served the Thai Basil Beef in butter lettuce wraps, with a side of rice and sautéed bok choy (love adding extra veggies where I can), and top the wraps with a few pieces of thinly sliced jalapenos and a sprinkle of any extra Thai basil leftover, roughly chopped. However, when it’s in rotation so often, I do like to switch up the sides from time to time. For example, you could skip the butter lettuce and simply serve over rice with either a side of the sesame bok choy or a cucumber sesame salad (one of my favorite recipes from the Salads & Greens section in my cookbook). Another option is to pair it with rice and crispy buttery broccolini.
INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED:
- Organic grass-fed ground beef
- Large onion
- Red bell pepper
- Avocado oil
- Thai basil
- Arrowroot starch
- Tamari (or soy sauce)
- Toasted sesame oil
- Chili crunch
- Minced ginger
- Minced garlic
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
TOPPINGS & SIDES:
- Butter lettuce (crunchier the better)
- Jalapeños, thinly sliced
- Any leftover Thai basil
HOW TO MAKE THAI BASIL BEEF LETTUCE WRAPS
First, get your rice going on the stove according to the appropriate instructions, depending on which kind you’re making (I typically use jasmine rice). Also take this time to wash and prep the veggies, toppings and sides. Prepare the butter lettuce, slice the pepper, onion and jalapeños, then remove the ends of the bok choy and slice in half lengthwise and set aside. And of course, rinse and roughly chop the Thai basil.
Now, add the oil and beef to a large, hot skillet, and brown the meat. Once the beef is barely pink, break it up with your spatula (or a potato masher works great too!). Add your onions and peppers, give it a stir, then cover to cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
In the meantime, whisk together all of your sauce ingredients – the tamari, toasted sesame oil, lime, chili crunch, minced garlic, minced ginger, salt and pepper.
Stir the meat and peppers, then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle arrowroot starch over the top to help thicken. Mix everything together thoroughly, then cover and cook on medium to low heat for another 5-7 minutes. After that, you’ll stir in the basil (keeping any extra on hand to use as a topping).
While the beef is simmering, add your bok choy to a separate skillet with a splash of avocado oil and sesame oil. Heat on medium to high, until crispy and golden. When finished, sprinkle with sea salt.
Once the beef mixture is hot and cooked through, serve with lettuce wraps, rice and the sautéed bok choy, or whichever sides you prefer. And voila! A delicious homemade meal that tastes better than takeout.
RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS & QUESTIONS
Feel free to switch out, add or omit any of the toppings and sides. As for the meat, I definitely recommend sticking with the beef (ideally organic and grass-fed) to achieve that homemade Thai food taste, but if you’re not into the beef, then ground chicken or turkey could work here too.
Also, if you’d like to make it a soy-free sauce, you could use coconut aminos instead of Tamari as well as omit the chili crunch (or at least make sure the chili crunch you use does not contain any soy).
WHAT LETTUCE MAKES THE BEST WRAPS?
You can use any type of leafy green lettuce of your choice, it just depends on your preference and/or what you’re serving in the wraps. For this recipe, a butter lettuce (which is essentially the same variety as Boston and/or Bibb lettuce) works best. Depending on what cuisine you’re making though, romaine hearts, jicama or cabbage leaves could also work.
WHAT I USED TO MAKE THAI BASIL BEEF LETTUCE WRAPS
WHAT TO EAT WITH THAI LETTUCE WRAPS?
There are so many options of what you can serve with these Thai Basil Beef lettuce wraps. My favorites as you now know are rice and sauteed bok choy, cucumber sesame salad or crispy buttery broccolini. Some other ideas which you can scale or cherry pick based on how many people you’re serving, etc., are: dumplings, cauliflower rice, coconut shrimp, egg rolls, pickled carrots, or even a mango and jicama slaw. Feel free to get creative!
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Click here to watch the reel I made of this recipe 🙂
Thai Basil Beef
- 2 lbs organic grass-fed ground beef
- 1/2 large onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 small packs Thai basil, ~1/2 cup roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1/2 cup tamari, or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 large lime, juiced (or 2 small)
- 1/2 tbsp chili crunch
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Butter lettuce, crunchier the better
- Jalapeños, thinly sliced
- Any leftover Thai basil
- Add oil and 2lbs meat to a large skillet to brown. Once barely pink, add onion and peppers, stir, and cover to cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together all sauce ingredients.
- Stir meat & peppers, then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle arrowroot starch over the top to help thicken. Mix thoroughly, then cover and cook on medium to low heat for another 5-7 minutes. Stir in basil, then Serve with lettuce wraps, rice and sautéed bok choy
- Bok choy: remove ends and slice in half lengthwise. Add to a skillet with a splash of avocado oil and sesame oil. Heat on medium to high until golden and crispy. Season with pink salt.