Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

5 stars based on 21 votes

Thai-Minced-Chicken-Lettuce-Cups

Boldly flavored with fresh ginger, lime, chili pepper, fish sauce and brown sugar, these crisp lettuce cups filled with Thai-style minced chicken touch all your taste sensations. They 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 — the dark, pungent liquid used in Southeast Asian cooking — 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 used it, I’ll warn you that it smells pretty bad (my kids RUN out of the kitchen when I cook with 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

    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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