Thai-Style Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

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Based on the popular Thai dish Larb Gai, this is a quick, easy, and flavorful weeknight dinner.

This recipe is based on Larb Gai, the popular Thai dish made from minced chicken, fish sauce, lime juice, chilies, and fresh herbs. You can have it on the table in 30 minutes, and it can be served in lettuce cups or over rice.

What you’ll need to make Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

thai minced chicken lettuce cups ingredientsAs you can see from the photo, the recipe is inexpensive to make with ingredients found at your local supermarket. One of the key ingredients is fish sauce. Contrary to what you might expect, it doesn’t add a “fishy” taste, but rather a salty, savory, umami 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

onions and ginger in pan

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

softened onions and ginger

Add the minced garlic and cook one minute more.

adding the garlic

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

adding the ground chicken

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

adding the lime zest and sauce ingredients

Off the heat, add the fresh cilantro, mint, scallions, and nuts.

adding the herbs, scallions, and nuts

Stir to combine.

thai minced chicken

Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with finely sliced carrots, herbs and Sriracha sauce.

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Thai-Style Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups

Based on the popular Thai dish Larb Gai, this is a quick, easy, and flavorful weeknight dinner.

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 (use gluten-free if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 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. If using iceberg lettuce: 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. (If using butter lettuce, you won't have any issues pulling apart the leaves so this step is not necessary.)
  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. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meat mixture can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months and reheated in the microwave om on the stovetop until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

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

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This was so delicious and so easy. I accidentally only had one pound of chicken, so my spices were doubled but the flavor was so good.

    • — Kelsey on March 6, 2021
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  • Oh my – this is better than our local Thai restaurant – and I live in Asia! It is so packed with flavour. The first time I followed the recipe exactly, but the second time when I went to get the scallions, onion, cilantro, mint and limes at our local market, the clerk threw in a couple of stalks of lemon grass – so I added it. Very subtle difference but still delicious. I’m so glad I found you – I’ve done several of your recipes and they are 5 star all the way. Easy to get ingredients and your directions are so easy to follow. I can’t wait to try your recipe for seared beef tenderloin with the red wine sauce. We’ll be doing that for our Chinese New Year meal! THANK YOU Chef Jenn!!!

    • — Lorraine Rossi Marier on February 4, 2021
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  • Love this recipe! Always looking for new recipes to fit into our dinner rotation and this is a hit! Full of flavor and low-carb.

    • — Meaghan on January 29, 2021
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  • A staple! Sometimes we eat in in lettuce cups and other times when we need a little warm comfort, we have it over rice. Tastes pretty authentic (at least compared to our mom and pop Thai restaurants in the SF bay area)

    • — Monica on January 28, 2021
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  • This recipe is now a dinner staple at home. When I first read the ingredients I must be honest that I was tempted to leave out the “fish sauce” but since you encourages us to leave it be and since you have never steered me wrong! I added not just the ingredient but the amount in the recipe and my family loves it! Granted you do have to endure the fishy smell but nowadays everyone knows what’s for dinner hahah! And they eagerly come to the dinner table!

    • — Cindy Delgleize on January 28, 2021
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  • The best healthy recipe! I omitted the nuts but made extra sauce. This is a huge hit in my house and great for kicking off the new year with a healthy (and tasty!) recipe.

    • — Shellie Bogle on January 28, 2021
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  • This is one of my family’s favorite recipes from your site, although in truth, I have never made one of your recipes that wasn’t a hit! Quick and easy, the flavors of the meat/vegetables make a great contrast to the crispness of the lettuce. And we use all the recommended toppings. Delicious!

    • — Diana Callaghan on January 28, 2021
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  • Love, love , love this recipe! It’s easy, healthy and absolutely delicious! I’m so excited to have discovered Once Upon a Chef!

    • — Kelly Klein on January 28, 2021
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  • So delicious!!!!! Thank you Jen!!!! I highly recommend these lettuce wraps…. Not greasy super tasty and healthy!!!

    • — Monica H on November 9, 2020
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  • I made this for dinner tonight, and it was outstanding. Even my son, who swears he doesn’t care for Thai food, liked it. Paired the entree with your mint cucumber salad, some sautéed green beans, and rice. I improvised with ground turkey meat instead of chicken and pistachios for peanuts (it was the only nut that I had), and it was extremely tasty. Thanks for another great meal! Will definitely make this again.

    • — Diane on September 7, 2020
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  • Great flavor! Other than the chopping, came together pretty quickly. May add some water chestnuts for texture next time. We enjoyed this recipe!!

    • — Kathy on August 18, 2020
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  • WOULD NOT BE A THAI DISH WITHOUT FISH SAUCE!!!

    • — chris e christensen on July 23, 2020
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  • Last minute idea as I had everything to make it. Left out the nuts because of allergies and it was amazing. I loved it and so did my family! Made it with my 15 y/o daughter. Fun and delish! Will make again soon.

    • — mom of two on July 9, 2020
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    • Delicious! Tried this for the first time tonight and we loved it! I never change anything on your recipes. I just made extra sauce. Thanks 😊

      • — Amy Kington on July 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • This recipe is the first i’ve made from your site. Quite an authentic Thai taste. My only alteration was to mince a jalapeo instead of using red pepper flakes- I would suggest that you consider providing a specific quantity of chopped red onion rather than ‘large’. The one I used seemed to be huge- and i tried to match the approx. amout with what i saw in your photo.

    It was a success all around. Thank you.

    • — andrea on June 10, 2020
    • Reply
    • Would this work with ground pork?

      • — Thessaly Karas on June 18, 2020
      • Reply
      • Sure!

        • — Jenn on June 18, 2020
        • Reply
  • Would you recommend any changes to the recipe if I used 1 lb ground turkey and 1 lb ground beef?

    • — Joyce C on June 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Joyce, you can use those without any additional modifications. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Just the best Jenn, I was eating this in Canada at my favorite restaurant RIZ. Now I have tried this recipe and it’s super good.
    Cheers from Holland

    • — Frits on May 19, 2020
    • Reply
    • It’s a 5 star sorry 🙂

      • — Frits on May 19, 2020
      • Reply
  • Great recipe and a family favorite- very versatile too- I add corn, red peppers, snap peas depending on what I have and my kids and hubby love it!! Always on rotation by popular demand:)) thank you Jenn for another great recipe

    • — Ash on May 15, 2020
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  • Followed the recipe to a tee and they turned out so yummy and fresh! I used Boston Bibb lettuce and served with rice and grated carrots.

    • — Rachel H on April 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Loved it! As you mentioned the smell is strong, but the taste is spot on. I didn’t have any scallions so I just added a little fresh chopped red pepper, and I put 1 T less sugar than it called for. It is amazing.

    • — Sally B. on April 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is easy to make and so delicious and flavorful. Thanks for another winner!

    • — Donna on April 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • Love this recipe so so much! And makes great leftovers too. You’re a household name in our family Jen- thanks again!

      • — Katie on May 30, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is a fantastic recipe; such a nice balance between sweet and salty flavors! I used ground turkey and unfortunately, I ran out of fresh limes so I didn’t have lime zest but I used organic lime juice and look forward to making it again with the lime zest (we are crazy about lime). I reduced the brown sugar by half since we are cutting down on sugar (my dad has cancer so limiting it as much as we can is best for him). I added chopped fresh basil to the fresh herbs and found Wegman’s organic red sriracha to use for extra heat. We are limiting carbs (again, due to my dad’s cancer status) so we didn’t serve it with rice but if I had done that, I would have used Jasmine, not Basmati.

    • — Stephanie on March 16, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was so good! Good combination of flavors and not one flavor stood out more than others. I added half can of water chestnuts (chopped) just for a crunch.

    • — Saeran on January 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Yum, just made this tonight. I picked up some ground chicken this weekend because I was in the mood to make some larb gai. I usually make it at a friend’s and realized I had no recipe here, so looked for one and yours seemed the best for what I was looking for. While I did tweak it a bit, I am worried I’m eating so much of it for tonight’s dinner that I won’t have enough for tomorrow’s lunch!

    My tweaks were the following: I don’t always measure. I used a peppered-lime infused olive oil (sorry I’m Italian I don’t actually have Wesson oils in the house lol). I use Gourmet Garden paste spices for some things I tend to use infrequently so I cheated and used that for the Ginger and I added their Lemongrass too. I used a little less than half of the brown sugar, using Splenda brown sugar blend. Also a portion of a McCormick Thai Flavor Cube Seasoning and instead of red pepper flakes, I used Thai Kitchen “thai bird eye chilies.”

    Many recipes make it soo difficult to tweak or substitute; I don’t know if it is the Larb gai itself that lends itself to the variations or your specific recipe, but I’m inclined to think it’s the way you’ve laid it out so simply and the recipe itself. I appreciated finding it and would be inclined to look at others in your cadre of recipes too! Thanks again! Yum Yum Yum!!! I’m ready for lunch tomorrow…and I didn’t even notice I had no lettuce.

    • — Carla on November 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • My mom is 💯 and lettuce wraps are her favorite. I used ground turkey and halved the recipe except for the garlic and ginger. We and her caregiver loved it. I used two lettuce leaves for serving. This is a definite do over!

    • — Diane on September 18, 2019
    • Reply
    • Wow — 100!! So glad you all enjoyed it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 18, 2019
      • Reply
  • As advertised, easy, fast and delicious! I had about a dozen left over portabellas that I minced and added to the onion before adding the meat. I lightly salted them a they cooked. That proved to be my only mistake, as it was a tad salty after the tamarin went in. Nonetheless, lesson learned and we look forward to seeing these regularly on the menu.

    • — Lisa on July 9, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this along with the Thai Cucumber Salad and Jenn’s Basic Rice recipe. It was a lot of work, but it all turned out great. Very healthy and refreshing.

    • — Chad on June 29, 2019
    • Reply
  • I was wondering if, like on the trip advisor website, you might add a way for readers to find a particular topic within the reviews. You know how when you are reading a review of a hotel on trip advisor, and you can search for a topic within the review, for example ” breakfast”? For an example, on this recipe, I was hoping to find a review for this recipe where someone used tofu instead of chicken…. but the way you have it set up now, it would be arduous to look through all these reviews to find this topic… just a thought if you are looking for an idea to upgrade your website!
    I do love your recipes!!! Have used endless ones of them, and have told all my friends about it!!! ( please don’t put this question on your site … seems inappropriate somehow!)

    • — Liz Pratt on June 12, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, That’s an interesting request! I often use the “find” function on my computer when looking for something specific. (I think all computers have the functionality but depending upon what kind you have, how to access it may vary. On my Mac, I hold down the command button and the and press the F key. A field pops up to type a word (like tofu) in. It will then show all of the places tofu shows up. Hope that helps, but I’ll add your suggestion to my list of potential enhancements to the site.

      • — Jenn on June 13, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made these last week. This is more “my” kind of food than my husbands, but by putting the cilantro and lime only on my serving he ate plenty! I’ll have to say, that this made it three servings instead of four, ha ha. But the next day I made a salad and put the leftover meat on top to carry for lunch. It was even good chilled since there’s hardly any fat. I loved it and will make it again.

  • I just made this today!! Awesome! I can’t wait to try it the day after and see how great it is when the flavors have time to meld!!

  • Hey Queen! Would ground turkey be a good substitution? Accidentally packed the wrong meat.

  • this is absolutely delicious and you can feel virtuous about it. Tonight is my third time making this dish. It is easy to follow the directions to a great and flavorful meal, but it is time and labor intensive. It would be faster to have some things prepped in advance and frozen though I never am able to get there. I wouldn’t bother with rice or salad addition given the prep involved and I feel like the healthy is incorporated with the lettuce wraps : ) Thanks for another wonderful dish!

  • I made this a couple of nights ago…it was AMAZING and the added bonus is how delicious my apartment smelled afterwards, even after dinner. The taste was right on and it was so crazy easy to make. My husband could not stop raving about it. This is definitely in my work-night dinner rotation.

  • My family loves this recipe! Simple and fresh. The only change we make is substituting coconut aminos for the soy sauce. Super tasty!

  • Thanks so much. They were delicious – followed the recipe exactly. Easy to make for someone who self proclaims as a pretty bad cook 😉 husband approved!

  • This was a fantastic recipe, so delicious and refreshing because of the mint. So far I’ve tried 3 of your recipes since I’ve discovered your website, which was just this past Monday, and All three recipes were a hit with my family. Your recipes are so easy to follow. Do you think this recipe will be good with ground pork as well?

    • So glad you’re having success with the recipes, Tina! I do think this would work with ground pork — it will probably be even better!

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