Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

5 stars based on 31 votes

Thai-Minced-Chicken-Lettuce-Cups

Boldly flavored with fresh ginger, lime, chili pepper, fish sauce and brown sugar, these Thai-style lettuce cups are wildly addictive. In fact, whenever I make them for dinner, I have to force myself to put the leftovers in the fridge right away before starting the dishes, otherwise I’ll finish them off while no one is watching!

ingredients

As you can see from the photo, the recipe is inexpensive to make with ingredients found at your regular supermarket. You might have to search a bit for the fish sauce but most grocery stores carry it in the Asian foods aisle. Contrary to what you might expect, it doesn’t add a “fishy” taste, but rather a salty, savory flavor. If you’ve never cooked with it, I’ll warn you that it smells pretty bad (my kids RUN out of the kitchen when I use it) but please don’t let that deter you — it absolutely makes the dish! If possible, buy a brand imported from Thailand or Vietnam, and don’t worry about buying a large bottle; it keeps forever. (The brand I use is Tiparos, which is pretty strong. Some brands, like Kame for example, are milder so you may need to add a bit more to get the desired flavor.) The other Asian sauce in the recipe is Sriracha, the hot sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand, which you can also find it in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores.

prepping-lettuce-cups-1

Begin with the lettuce cups. Slice off the base stem of the lettuce, then run your knife around the inner core to remove.

prepping-lettuce-cups-2

Remove the flimsy, ragged outer leaves and submerge the head of lettuce in a bowl of water. The water will help you pull the leaves apart; if you try to pull them apart without the water, they will inevitably tear.

prepping-lettuce-cups-3

Place the lettuce cups on a paper towel to dry, then chill until ready to serve.

perfect-lettuce-cups

For the chicken, begin by cooking the onions and ginger in oil until soft.

red-onions-and-ginger

Add the minced garlic and cook one minute more.

red-onions-ginger-and-garlic

Add the ground chicken and use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart.

breaking-up-chicken-with-wooden-spoon

Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar and red pepper flakes, and cook until the chicken is done.

adding-fish-sauce-sugar-and-lime

Finally, stir in the fresh cilantro, mint and nuts.

adding-herbs-scallions-and-nuts

Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with finely sliced carrots, herbs and one of my favorite condiments, spicy Sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

Thai-Mince-Chicken-Lettuce-Cups-

Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large head iceberg or butter lettuce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (you'll need a thick 2-inch piece)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (not all breast meat)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (see note*)
  • 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest, from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1-1/2 limes
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 large scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts

Optional For Serving

  • Sriracha
  • Finely sliced carrots
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro and/or mint sprigs

Instructions

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Place the head of lettuce on a cutting board; cut off the stem, then cut around the inner core of the lettuce and remove (do not cut all the way through the lettuce; just deep enough to remove the core). Discard the flimsy, ragged outer leaves and then place the head of lettuce in the bowl of water. Gently pull apart the leaves, then place them on a paper towel to dry. Cut any large leaves in half. Chill the lettuce cups in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  2. Heat the oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add the ground chicken and turn the heat up to high. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until partially cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until the chicken is cooked through, 5-6 minutes more. Off the heat, stir in the scallions, cilantro, mint and nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with optional garnishes.
  4. *Note that some brands of fish sauce are stronger than others. If using a milder fish sauce (such as Kame brand) you'll need to add about a tablespoon more.

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 580
  • Fat: 33g
  • Saturated fat: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Sugar: 20g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 45g
  • Sodium: 1565mg
  • Cholesterol: 195g

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    My husband, parents, and toddlers loved these lettuce wraps! I loved that this was one of the few recipes that didn’t have peanut butter in it. I tweaked it a bit by adding some shiitake mushrooms and some oyster sauce but the foundation for the recipe was terrific. It’s definitely going to be a make again recipe. Thanks so much!

    - Clare on May 21, 2015 Reply
    • Wow, Clare — so impressed that your toddlers ate this! It’s a tough sell to my big kids :)

      - Jenn on May 21, 2015 Reply
  • I have left over shredded chicken breast. Do you think it would work instead of ground chicken?

    - Tori on May 20, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Tori, If it is raw it will work but not if it is already cooked.

      - Jenn on May 20, 2015 Reply
  • I am already sold by the fabulous reviews. My question is how far ahead can these be made and refrigerated before serving? I would like to bring them to a Derby party.

    - Mary Berchtold on May 1, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Mary, You can make the chicken mixture 1-2 days ahead but I wouldn’t fill the lettuce cups or they’ll get soggy. I would probably serve the cups next to the chicken and let people assemble themselves.

      - Jenn on May 1, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fan-freakin-tastic! Followed the recipe exactly, and hubby and 2 boys devoured them! Hard to find a winner for all, but this did the trick. A bit labor intensive, but it came together in the end so it was totally worth it! We topped it with a PF Chang style sauce we made with rice vinegar, mustard, and a touch of soy. YUMMMM!
    This is the second recipe I’ve tried from this site, and I am very glad to have discovered it-cant wait to make more!

    - Jen on April 13, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This one is a winner! Easy, tasty and infinitely versatile. I make this a lot.

    I tend to ditch the sugar, mint, cilantro and sriracha and use thai curry paste instead (red, yellow or green, whatever I’m in the mood for). The curry paste gives it a great flavour with a nice spicy kick.

    Last time I made it, I used pork mince instead, and I added some peeled and diced cucumber a couple of minutes before I finished cooking. Very yummy — I’ll definitely be trying that again!

    - Laura on April 1, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe received an “A” from every member of the family! (That’s a big deal!) I was a little nervous about the fish sauce, but I stuck to the recipe and used 3 tablespoons, and it wasn’t “fishy” or overpowering at all. We all had so much fun eating this meal together, and I have added it to the rotation.

    - Hilary on March 31, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve made these several times and they are just delicious!! Easy, quick, and the fresh herbs and lime juice/zest really make this dish stand out. My toddler will eat it, too, and I feel like it’s a great way to expose him to new flavors. I’m a huge fan!

    - Christine S on March 20, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this last week and it was wonderful. Even my 17 year old son – who initially looked at it and said “That’s dinner?” – ate three wraps. He added a dollop of peanut butter to his third one.

    - Bonnie on February 17, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is da’bomb. Oh my goodness, it’s one of those rare recipes that reap huge dividends but it’s soo simple to put together AND the infusion of all the aromstic herbs & spices just transports you & everyone else in your house to Thailand. The smells are just amazing and if you can believe it, after all those delicious odors, the taste is .. to die for. Why even a beginner can sample the unique pleasure of putting a dish together that is simple [the illustrated steps will keep you on the right path] but really wonderful in the coming together and most importantly–the taste. A stellar recipe !

    - Kathryn on January 28, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent! I had to substitute toasted pine nuts for the peanuts (because I didn’t have any) and left off the scallions for the same reason. I added shredded carrots and Shiracha sauce at the end and would add additional cilantro and not forget to buy the scallions as well next time. We devoured them.

    - Marilyn on January 25, 2015 Reply
  • Is one lettuce cup considered a serving? Also, will omitting the nuts change the taste drastically? They are really high in fat and would like to eliminate them.

    - karin on January 25, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Karin, It depends on how large the lettuce cups are and how much you fill them, but I’d say one serving is about 2-3 lettuce cups. And totally fine to omit the nuts :)

      - Jenn on January 25, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fabulous! Fabulous! Fabulous! Every one who tries this asks me for the recipe. I would give it more than 5 starts if I could.

    - Jill on December 29, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Great recipe! My fiance loved it! Thank you Jenn! :0)

    - Ana on December 23, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these tonight and they were yummy. I have made lettuce wraps before but the lime added an interesting note and I really liked it.

    - Donna on December 4, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe was amazing!! I love the sauce it makes. It’s really good to mix some quinoa or rice with it to soak up those wonderful juices. I didn’t have chicken so I used ground turkey and it turned out beautifully! Don’t skip on the fish sauce it makes a big difference.

    - Ryan on December 4, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    For years I’ve loved lettuce wraps but these are better than any I’ve had in a restaurant. It’s good to have all ingredients assembled and ready-actual cooking time is very quick. I’ve made them with ground turkey or ground chicken either way delicious. Might try ground pork next. Very versatile recipe. If possible I’d give 6 stars.

    - Janice on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Love the Thai minced chicken lettuce cups for a quick mid-week easy dinner. So tasty!

    - Josie McGann on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These were a hit with my family. Even my son ate them and he’s a challenge!

    - Drew on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve made these several times and given the recipe to a friend. They are delicious. The flavour is is complex and hits different parts of the tongue. This recipe is also easy to make ahead and take to a potluck. The hardest thing is not to fill them too full, as, depending on what kind of lettuce used (I’ve used both romaine and butter), the filling is so good you just want to load it up and sometimes the lettuce breaks. These have been a hit with my most fussy foodie friends.

    - Barb on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • I guess the fish sauce can be to old. I just looked at mine and it was almost black and was full of salt crystals. I saw that it was 3 years past its expiration date. I didn’t realize I had it for THAT long! I also noticed that it says, “do not refrigerate”. Yep, you guessed it, it was in the frig!

    I’m going to have to buy a new bottle.

    - Donna on November 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thank you so much for these amazing recipes!!!! I am having so much fun trying them and being awed by the results!!! What kind of frying pan do you use? The picture in the Thai chicken lettice cups looks like a good large thick stainless steel pan. I want it!!

    - Rachel on November 22, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We all just finished devouring this, all five of us aged 7 to 47 gave it 5 stars, and declared it to be a new family favorite. Not that I’m surprised, because I love everything from this site, but this one is a superstar dinner. Walked in the door at 6 and we were eating by 6:35… light & delicious.

    - Sheila on November 3, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made these tonight for dinner and they were amazing. Used ground turkey instead of chicken. You didn’t mention draining the meat, so I didn’t. Next time I will drain before adding the soy/fish sauce mix. So light, flavorful and tasty!!!

    - Sheree on October 28, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn,
    I have made this recipe once and it was well received. My question is when do you add the scallions? It looks like, from the photos, you should add them when adding the cilantro, mint and nuts.

    Thanks,
    Mary B

    - Mary Brown on October 14, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Mary, Yes, that is correct.

      - Jenn on October 14, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We have been experiencing record breaking heat here in San Diego so this was the perfect dish for something light. We love Thai lettuce wraps and these were delicious. Very easy, healthy and a great meal for people watching their carbs. I served it with peanut sauce and also a sweet chili sauce.
    Thanks, Jen!

    - Linda on September 20, 2014 Reply
  • I am allergic to fish and shellfish. Is there anyway to make this dish with a substitute for the fish sauce?

    - Jillian on September 17, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Jillian, You could try soy sauce but it will be a completely different dish — more Chinese than Thai.

      - Jenn on September 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is a very delicious and colorful dish. My daughter isn’t a big fan of lettuce. But, tonight she asked for more lettuce cups to wrap the meat. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

    - Lynne on September 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this last night and it was so delicious!!! I add some crunchy vegetable like carrots, celery and water chestnut. It’s just so tasty and my little girl love it very much. Thank you for sharing.

    - Ahmie on September 10, 2014 Reply
  • Dear Jenn, I have always stayed from fish sauce because I don’t like the taste of strong fish. Can you make me feel better about this, so I can start cooking with it.I really want to make these lettuce cups. Thank you, Joanne

    - Joanne D'Abate on September 1, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Joanne, Fish sauce is one of my favorite ingredients for cooking! It doesn’t really have a fishy taste at all; it’s more of a salty, deep, funky (in a good way) flavor. It’s used extensively in Southeast Asian cooking so if you like Vietnamese and Thai food, chances are you like fish sauce. Fair warning: it doesn’t smell great and it’s not a sauce you would ever taste on its own, but it adds a very delicious, distinct flavor to so many dishes. Hope that helps, and please come back and let me know how the lettuce cups turn out :)

      - Jenn on September 2, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This dish was delicious and easy to make. I
    had never tried ground chicken before, but I will be making these again. I love your step by step instructions.

    - Carmen Sierra on August 21, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I used diced chicken instead of minced chicken and it still turned out delicious! I shredded jicama & carrots & cut snap peas in half lengthwise for extra garnish. I would have never tried fish sauce since anchovies aren’t my favorite, but your site convinced me otherwise.

    - Deb Hume on August 16, 2014 Reply
  • What do you usually serve these with?

    - Sam on July 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Sam, They are delicious with jasmine rice.

      - Jenn on July 31, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Tried your Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups last night for dinner and got rave reviews from the family. Really yummy! The only very small things I changed were to add more nuts because we like them and to use the lettuce more like wraps than cups. A definite keeper!

    - Terri Freeman on July 28, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These were really great! I liked the easy directions (although fresh ginger can be a pain, it is worth it). Served it with green beans. Another wonderful recipe! Thank you.

    - Karen GC on July 27, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These lettuce cups were BANGIN! I followed the recipe exactly and it was beyond delish. I gave my husband the option of using mini tortillas in case lettuce cups were too light for him. They were a hit all around.

    - Lindsay on July 27, 2014 Reply
  • 4 stars

    The recipe is very similar to Larb Gai (Thai Chicken salad) but to make it truly Thai omit the nuts and the brown sugar. Add toasted/blended Jasmine rice during the cooking and instead of brown sugar use palm sugar (which can be found at most Asian Markets). Instead of using the lettuce, substitute with sliced Green Cabbage and cucumber. Not matter what, you still have a winner!!!

    - Kevin on July 27, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe was dynamite! We loved it.

    - Julie on July 27, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent recipe! Made it with leftover roast chicken chopped fairly fine (approx 3-4 cups). Only thing I changed was using less red onion due to the amount of meat. Followed the recipe for the rest of the ingredients. I’m not a big cilantro fan but this was very good. Like it better than my PF Chang copy-cat…much easier.

    - Mary Casper on July 26, 2014 Reply
  • This looks awesome. I’m going to try this as soon as possible thanks for posting.

    - Suzan on July 24, 2014 Reply

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