The BEST Thai Pineapple Fried Rice! A flavorful, umami-filled, deliciously savory fried rice recipe that can be put on the table in 15 minutes! Ready-made red curry paste and fish sauce flavors individual grains of jasmine rice. Buttery cashews and sweet juicy pineapple add so much flavor. Easy enough for weeknight dinner, fancy enough for dinner with friends!
What is Thai Pineapple Fried Rice?
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice is a popular fried rice dish originating from Thailand. In restaurants, it’s often served in a Pineapple Boat.
Although there are different variations, the flavor profile remains the same: salty-savory fried rice with sweet-sour pineapple chunks, buttery cashews, and a ton of aromatic herbs! A hint of spice balances all the flavors and makes it truly addictive!
Like other fried rice dishes, Thai Pineapple Fried Rice is amazingly easy to make at home.
The secret is cold, leftover rice — which is a common fridge item in most Asian households. Also, the combination of ready-made Red Curry Paste and umami-rich Oyster Sauce and Fish Sauce.
- Cold, Day-Old Rice. The key to the BEST fried rice. Cold leftover Jasmine rice (or any medium grain rice) works best to prevent a mushy final dish. The hard, dry rice grains will fry into separate, perfectly al dente grains. Freshly cooked rice is soft and will absorb too much liquid; the final texture won’t be the same.
- Pineapple. Fresh pineapple is preferred. They will char and caramelize to super-sweet perfection. In a pinch, sub with canned pineapple but it will be somewhat mushy and lacking in flavor.
- Red Curry Paste. Ready-made red curry paste (Thai or Malaysian) makes this recipe especially easy and delicious. Thai Kitchen (by McCormick) can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores. Asian brands Maesri, Mae Ploy, and Arroy-D are commonly found at Asian markets and sometimes Walmart. I also like Homiah, which ships directly to your home.
- Protein of Choice. A little bit flavors the entire dish! I prefer ground pork or chopped pork butt/shoulder for the flavor and subtle richness. But choose the protein you like best. Tastes good with either chicken, beef, or shrimp.
- Onion + Garlic + Ginger. The essential aromatics.
- Red Bell Pepper. Adds fresh lightness and soft vegetal crunch. Prevents the dish from being overly heavy and meaty.
- Chili pepper. *Optional ingredient.* If you’d like more spice, I suggest adding 1 chili pepper. Any of the following chili peppers work well: Thai chili peppers (spiciest), red or green Fresno peppers (least spicy), and finger green chilies (medium spicy).
- Oyster Sauce + Fish Sauce. The savory, umami-rich combo makes the base of the sauce. The final flavor will not be fishy tasting at all – but salty and sharp with deep flavor.
- Cashews. Add buttery richness. Either unsalted or salted cashews are great — simply adjust the salt level at the end.
- Green Onion + Cilantro. A generous, aromatic handful adds color and fragrance.
- Heat a wok on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp oil and red curry paste and mix until fragrant.
- Add pork and cook until no longer pink.
- Add onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and ginger. Fry until wilted and slightly soft.
- Add cold rice and oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Break up the rice with the spatula and toss a few times until well combined.
- Add pineapple, cashews, and chili pepper, if using. Toss and cook, scraping up the sides.
- Add cilantro and green onion. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve and enjoy!
Helpful Kitchen Tools:
- Wok. A carbon steel wok is the ideal cooking tool for fried rice. The deep vessel makes tossing rice grains easy. The non-stick surface also prevents the rice from sticking and scorching. If you don’t own one, use a non-stick pan, carbon steel skillet, or stainless steel skillet.
- Metal Spatula. Works better than a wooden spoon to mix. Makes tossing the rice grains easier, as well as scraping the sides of the wok to achieve that smoky char. I use a large fish spatula from Oxo.
- Prep everything in advance. The cooking time goes very fast, about 5 minutes. Don’t chop as you go — the dish will burn! Make sure everything is ready beforehand so you can add to the hot wok immediately.
- Store COLD, DAY-OLD RICE in a Ziploc Baggie. The rice can become quite dense, solid, and hard to separate when stored in a Tupperware container. Instead, store rice in a large Ziploc bag for easier cooking.
- Adjust spice level to your preference. Depending on the spiciness of the red curry paste, you may want to add a chili pepper for subtle heat. When using Thai Kitchen red curry paste, I always add one extra chili pepper as it’s not that spicy. Although this is not a spicy dish, a little spice balances everything well.
- Taste before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed. If the dish tastes flat, add a few more sprinkles of fish sauce. If the dish is too salty, add a pinch of sugar.
Serve in a Pineapple Boat:
For a fun, festive, and dramatic presentation with a “wow” factor, serve in a pineapple boat!
My preferred way of serving Thai Pineapple Fried Rice for potlucks, holiday meals, and dinner with friends. There will be lots of oohs and aahs!
- Look for a BIG pineapple. The larger the pineapple, the larger the cavity that will hold the fried rice. You’ll need both sides when serving.
- Line the pineapple boat. If not eating immediately, I suggest lining the pineapple flesh with parchment paper or cabbage leaves to prevent soggy, wet rice.
- A sharp knife is helpful. Use a paring knife with a sharp blade. Be careful when removing the core.
Watch how to Make a Pineapple Boat at home:
Can I make this vegetarian or vegan?
Yes, to make this dish vegetarian or vegan, simply make a few adjustments. Leave out the animal protein entirely (pork, chicken, beef, shrimp) or replace with tofu or scrambled eggs. For the seasoning, use soy sauce instead of fish sauce and look for mushroom oyster sauce.
How can I tell if my pineapple is ripe?
A ripe, super-sweet, juicy pineapple makes this recipe really shine. To determine ripeness, look for a mostly yellow pineapple that smells fruity and sweet. Also, the stem of the pineapple will be wiggly and not super stiff.
Note: I usually buy a green pineapple and let it ripen at room temperature on my counter. When the body turns yellow and smells sweet, it’s ready.
Can I swap the white rice with brown rice?
Yes, brown rice works as a good substitute. Brown rice will taste more firm and nutty than white rice. Make sure the rice is not freshly cooked but cold rice that’s been refrigerated overnight.
Can I use instant rice?
Western-style Instant Rice (like Uncle Ben’s) is fast and convenient but also softer than regular white rice. For fried rice, soft and fluffy rice grains do not fare well. They easily break apart and become mushy. For this recipe, I don’t suggest long-grain, basmati, or Carolina long rice.
If your Instant Rice is short or medium-grain rice, it could work. Make sure to refrigerate it overnight so the grains are cold and hard.
Can I swap with cauliflower rice?
Yes, this recipe can work with cauliflower rice. I suggest grating the cauliflower on a box grater instead of using a food processor for bigger, more uniform chunks.
How do I store and reheat leftovers?
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, tightly sealed, for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave, with the lid partially askew (to create steam), until hot and steaming. Fluff with a fork and enjoy.
Other rice recipes to love:
- Spam Fried Rice
- Instant Pot Turmeric Rice with Kale
- Soybean Sprout Rice (Kongnamul Bap)
- Korean Purple Rice
- Spam Kimchi Fried Rice
- Instant Pot Coconut Rice
Easy Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
- Metal Spatula
- 3 Tbsp Red Curry Paste (like Thai Kitchen, Maesri, Mae Ploy, Arroy-D, or Homiah)
- 1/2 cup protein of choice (pork, chicken, beef, shrimp)
- 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch ginger, minced
- 4 cups cold, day-old Jasmine rice
- 2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashews
- 1 chili pepper, diced (Thai, Fresno, Green Finger chilies all work well) (*optional: if you want a spicier final dish)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
- 1/4 cup green onions, minced (about 2)
- Prep ingredients. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Measure out and prep the rest of the ingredients and place in separate bowls.
- Add oil + red curry paste. Heat a wok over medium-high heat. When the wok is hot and slightly smoking, add 1 Tbsp oil around the outer edge. Swirl to coat the bottorm and add Red Curry Paste. Mix until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add protein. Add ground pork or protein of choice. Break up the big pieces with a metal spatula. Cook until no longer pink and slightly brown on the edges, about 1 minute.
- Add onion, garlic, ginger. Add aromatics. Cook and stir until soft and translucent with brown edges, about 30 seconds.
- Add red bell pepper. Cook and stir until slightly wilted, about 30 seconds.
- Add cold rice, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Cook and stir, breaking up the clumps of rice with the metal spatula. Toss and mix to combine, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom, about 2 minutes.
- Add pineapple and cashews. Mound the fried rice to the middle, leaving half the wok empty. Add the pineapple and cashews in an even layer. Do not disturb for 1 minutes, to develop a char. Scrape up the pineapple and cashews and mix well with the rest of the rice, tossing and stirring until well combined, about 1 minute more.
- Add chili pepper. If using, add chili pepper. Toss and stir until well combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add cilantro and green onion. Off the heat, add cilantro and green onion. Toss and mix until well combined.
- Taste and adjust seasoning. Add salt and pepper, if needed. If the dish tastes flat, add a sprinkle or two of fish sauce. if the dish is too salty, add a pinch of sugar.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
To make Pineapple Boat:
- Cut one large pineapple in half, lengthwise. Make sure to keep the stem intact.
- Working with one half at a time, score the pineapple with a sharp paring knife. Make sure to leave a 1/2-inch edge and not to pierce or cut into the peel/skin. Outline the hard core in the middle and cut the flesh on the sides in same-sized cuts.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the pineapple chunks. Set aside in a bowl to eat later.
- Cut under the core and discard.
- Score the flesh under the core and scoop out the chunks.
- Use a spoon to evenly remove any remaining pineapple in the pineapple boat. Drain the juice.
- Pile the Thai Pineapple Fried Rice in the bowl and serve immediately. If not eating immediately, I recommend lining the bottom with parchment paper or extra cabbage leaves.