This quick restaurant-quality Vegan Khao Pad recipe captures the essence of authentic Thai flavor using jasmine rice, aromatic herbs, and a hyper-flavorful stir-fry sauce. It’s a simple and fast way to breathe new life into leftover rice. A killer meal that’s ready in under 15 minutes!
In Thai, "Khao" means rice, and "Pad" denotes stir-frying. And while many people familiar with Chinese fried rice think it can’t be done without egg, this completely plant-based recipe that is tastier than the non-vegan original proves them wrong, without compromising on taste.
This is a fast recipe. By the time you have read this far into this blog post, your fried rice could almost be ready. So let’s not waste any more time, shall we? Grab your apron and let's spruce up your leftover rice!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🌱 Vegan AF and GF: This recipe is completely plant-based and happens to be gluten-free as well. No shrimp paste, chicken stock, cholesterol, or avoidable cruelty to animals can be found here!
🍚 Perfect Rice Saver: Did you know that the EPA estimates more than 66 million tons of food is wasted every year in the United States alone? Don’t let your leftover rice become a statistic! Recipes like this one, my kimchi fried rice, rice dumplings, and tom yum fried rice are a good opportunity to keep your leftovers exciting and from being wasted.
✅ Globally Approved: Like all recipes I share, this is not just something I dreamed up while taking a shower and then shared with the internet. After tweaking and making this fried rice recipe repeatedly until I felt it was flawless, I shared it with a massive group of recipe testers from around the world. It has received a unanimous thumbs up from a diverse team of cooks, guaranteeing it works well all over the planet with different ingredient brands and variations.
🍚Notable ingredients and substitutions
These small, reddish onions, known as "Hom Daeng" in Thai, lend a subtle sweetness and spiciness to sambals like sambal dabu dabu and sambal matah. They are sliced thinly and sizzled in the pan, infusing the rice with their aromatic goodness. If you can't find shallots, red onions can be used in their place.
Thai Jasmine rice, called Khao Hom Mali in Thai, is the traditional rice used for making this recipe. It is also perfect for making nasi uduk betawi and Vietnamese taro pudding. Because this basil fried rice relies on using cold, leftover rice, it will work fine with just about any leftover rice you have on hand. So if you want to use brown rice, basmati rice, or red rice in place of Jasmine rice, that’s totally cool.
Nam Prik Pao
This complex, smoky chili paste adds layers of spicy and slightly sweet notes to the dish. My nam prik pao recipe is easy and great to customize, but you can use store-bought chili paste too. Just make sure it is vegan if you are!
Tapioca starch is an excellent thickening agent that provides a somewhat egg-like effect in the stir fried rice. It’s super versatile to keep on hand. In recipes like bubur sum sum it is used as a thickener. It is used to make sweet potato dumplings in Biji Salak and to make the jellies in bubur cha cha. In the recipe, it's mixed with water to form a smooth slurry, giving the dish a slightly glossy finish. If you don't have tapioca starch, cornstarch is a suitable replacement.
Vegetarian Fish Sauce
Plant-based fish sauce replicates the umami of traditional fish sauce. It adds a profound savory note, enhancing the overall flavor. If you prefer, you can use vegetarian oyster sauce, which is a little easier to find, or for even more flavor you can use my homemade vegan Nuoc Cham.
Thai basil, known as horapha in Thailand, plays a pivotal role in Khao Pad. It's one of the principle flavors here, which is why some people describe Khao Pad as Thai Basil Fried Rice. For over a decade, I used to make a popular vegan donut glazed with a coconut Thai basil glaze and topped with roasted coconut. While you can get away with using Italian basil instead of Thai basil, nothing else has the same irresistible aroma.
This fried rice has a distinct citrus aroma because of the makrut lime leaves, which are known by many as kaffir lime leaves (which is a term I don’t use because it is an offensive slang name in my culture). If you can’t get fresh makrut leaves, dried ones will work in a pinch, or you can substitute them in the recipe with a little lime zest.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
For you fire freaks out there, "Khao Pad Prik" offers a spicy twist. A heavy-handed dose of sliced bird's eye chilies is mixed into the stir-frying ingredients. If that’s still not enough heat, you can add a spoonful of fermented shatta or some minced pickled green chilies.
Want to give your rice a THIRD lease on life? Use leftovers of this spicy fried rice as the filling to make rice dumplings with citrus chili sauce!
📖 How to make perfect Khao Pad
Heat canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, sauté the thinly sliced shallots and garlic for about two minutes until fragrant, without burning the garlic.
Sauté Shallots and Garlic:
Heat canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. After 90 seconds when the oil is hot, sauté the thinly sliced shallots and garlic for about two minutes until fragrant, without burning the garlic.
Get Ready for the Fragrances:
Add makrut lime leaves, Thai basil leaves, nam prik pao, and chopped scallions and stir for another 2 minutes until the basil leaves start to wither.
Incorporate Your Rice:
Every rice needs an LLC. setup. Err, that’s not what I meant by incorporate…
Add refrigerated, leftover jasmine rice or other leftover plain rice that you have on hand to the pan, breaking up any clumps. Turn the heat up to high, and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until the rice is heated through.
Continue to stir-fry until the rice is crispy and has absorbed the sauce. Finish by mixing in chopped cilantro leaves.
Garnish and Serve:
Serve your Khao Pad garnished with lime wedges, Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced bird's eye chilies, cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, and chives.
Khao Pad makes an ideal base for a variety of dishes.
It's a great partner for tofu sisig, sambal potatoes, or smoky ensaladang talong. Vegan bulgogi made with homemade seitan offers a satisfying contrast of sweet and savory. Bánh Bao Chay and Chee Cheong Fun make nice sides for this.
Add a Sidekick: Complete your Khao Pad experience by serving it with complementary sides. Pickled burdock, spicy marinated cucumbers, pickled carrots, pickled mango and kimchi all provide different tangy freshness to balance the dish.
- Chilled Rice is the Key: If you don’t have cooked rice on hand, go make some nasi minyak or biryani instead! Freshly cooked rice won't achieve the same texture for fried rice.
- Aromatics First: When sautéing shallots and garlic in hot oil, take care not to burn the garlic. These aromatics are the foundation of flavor in the dish. Cook them until fragrant, but avoid browning.
- Balance of Flavors: Achieve the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy by adjusting nam prik pao, vegetarian fish sauce, and tamari (or soy sauce) to your taste. Start with a bit and add more if needed. This customization ensures the flavor of the dish aligns with your preferences.
- Proper Stir-Frying: Continuously toss the rice to prevent it from sticking or burning.
- Don't be a worldwide good and skip dessert! Serve up some Roti Kukus or Putu Ayu as a sweet chaser.
Yes, just about any non-sticky-rice variety of day-old rice will do (so like, no sushi rice), but jasmine rice is recommended for its unique fragrance.
It's optional but adds smokiness and heat. Adjust it to your taste, or use a chili paste substitute. I love it made with nam prik pao. It's almost the secret ingredient that sets this recipe apart. So if you don't have any, you might be better off making tom yum fried rice, Indonesian pilau rice, or kimchi fried rice.
Ensure the rice is refrigerated overnight, and use a hot pan to break up any clumps while stir-frying. If your rice is extra starchy, you may need to use a tiny bit of extra oil to help create more individuality in the grains.
🥶Storage: To store Khao Pad, transfer any leftovers to an airtight glass or food container. Ensure it's cooled to room temperature before sealing the container. Refrigerate it within 2 hours of cooking. It can last for up to three days in the refrigerator. This dish should not be frozen.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating: To reheat on the stovetop, heat a non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add a touch of oil if necessary. Stir-fry the refrigerated Khao Pad for 3-5 minutes, breaking up any clumps, until it's heated through. Ensure even heating by stirring consistently.
🍚 Microwave Reheating: If using a microwave, transfer the desired portion to a microwave-safe dish. Cover it with a microwave-safe lid or a microwave-safe plate. Reheat in 30-second intervals, checking the temperature and stirring between each interval. Continue until it's hot throughout. Be cautious not to overheat to avoid drying out the rice.
✌️My faves to serve with this dish:
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Khao Pad (Vegan Thai Fried Rice)
- ¼ cup canola oil vegetable oil, or peanut oil
- ⅓ cup shallots thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 5 makrut lime leaves optional
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- 4 teaspoons nam prik pao or to taste (optional)
- 3 scallions (spring onions) cut into 2 cm. sections
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice or long grain white rice, refrigerated overnight (leftover plain rice is best)
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 4 teaspoons vegetarian fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce of your preference
- ⅓ cup cilantro chopped
- lime wedges
- Thai basil leaves
- Thinly sliced bird’s eye chilies
- Bean sprouts
- Garlic chives
- Sliced cucumber
- Heat canola, vegetable, or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, sauté the thinly sliced shallots and garlic for about 2 minutes until fragrant, without burning the garlic.
- Add makrut lime leaves, Thai basil leaves, nam prik pao, and chopped scallions and stir for another 2 minutes until the basil leaves start to wither.
- Add refrigerated, leftover jasmine rice or long-grain white rice to the pan breaking up any clumps. Turn the heat up to high, and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until the rice is heated through.
- Mix white pepper, tapioca starch (or cornstarch), water, vegetarian fish sauce, and tamari (or soy sauce) in a bowl. Pour over the rice and stir to coat evenly.
- Continue to stir-fry until the rice is crispy and coated with the sauce. Finish by mixing in chopped cilantro leaves.
- Serve your Khao Pad garnished with a little lime juice from freshly squeezed lime wedges, Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced bird's eye chilies, cilantro, bean sprouts, thinly sliced chives, and sliced cucumber.