Thai-Style Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
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
As 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.
For the chicken, begin by cooking the onions and ginger in oil until soft.
Add the minced garlic and cook one minute more.
Add the ground chicken and use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart.
Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar and red pepper flakes, and cook until the chicken is done.
Off the heat, add the fresh cilantro, mint, scallions, and nuts.
Stir to combine.
Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with finely sliced carrots, herbs and Sriracha sauce.
You may also like
- Thai Red Curry Chicken
- Grilled Thai Curry Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Peanut Sauce
- Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing
- Kung Pao Chicken
Thai-Style Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
Based on the popular Thai dish Larb Gai, this is a quick, easy, and flavorful weeknight dinner.
- 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)
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons lime zest, from 2 limes
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1½ limes
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 large scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- ¼ cup chopped cashews or peanuts
Optional For Serving
- Finely sliced carrots
- Lime wedges
- Cilantro and/or mint sprigs
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
This recipe is so delicious. There we no leftovers for another meal so I’m making it again tonight. My only change was cutting back on the brown sugar which took nothing away from the recipe. I also want to thank you for your tip on how to pull apart your lettuce so it stays a cup instead of looking like it’s been through a shredder. My cups were perfect for the first time in years!
These are the best! So delicious, and makes a quick, flavourful, and healthy dinner. One of my go-to’s for sure!
Tried this tonight and it was delicious! I added a tiny bit of tamarind concentrate and the only fresh herbs I had on hand was some parsley so I used that but next time I will make sure I have some basil on hand…I’m not a fan of cilantro/mint in things. My husband liked it but found it on the sweet side from the brown sugar so next time I will drop that down to a couple tbsp instead of 1/4 cup but that is just a personal preference. There is a LOT of flavor in this dish and it is super quick to pull together if you’ve chopped the veggies in advance.
The whole family loved it (and that NEVER happens in my family).
Loved the freshness and flavor of the chicken. I know use this recipe to create a healthier and more filling option to serve with Asian noodles, similar to the northern Chinese noodle dishes. I dice up lettuce or cucumber to serve alongside.
I’ve made this twice, once with ground chicken and once with ground turkey. Both were delicious. Thank you!
Great, easy summer meal that did double duty as a tasty lunch the next day
This has wonderful flavor and was really easy to put together though there was a bit of prep to get all the ingredients in proper form – I did start buying ginger in bulk, grating it and then freezing so I can pull out it without needing to prep it .
I had no problem with the fish sauce. I used one of the brands Jenn has recommended and it was fine.
I made some brown rice with it for my husband. Our lettuce cups kind of fell apart so we ended up eating it more like a salad, but this didn’t change the delicious taste!
Excellent recipe. It turned out exactly as I expected it to taste, flavourful, delicious, and healthy! Who needs tortillas, when lettuce does the trick?! Thanks for sharing it!
Proud that I tried this good flavored dish. Two obstacles for me to overcome was the fish sauce and the ground chicken. I almost always use chicken breasts but did not want the meal to be dry. Mentally just not used to seeing chicken ground up like beef or turkey. Fish sauce proved to be more of a challenge. I searched online for substitutes before just deciding to go purchase some from the grocery store. At $5 per bottle it was not super expensive. When it came time to add the fish sauce I happen to be visiting with family and I opened up the door hoping for some pre airing. No chance. Really really bad smell once it was simmering in the skillet. Overpowering to my guests and me. I tried to stay positive because I didn’t want them to be scared of my dish 🙂 They left the house LOL…. and went home. I turned on the attic fan, Had the doors open, sprayed lots of room sprays, even concentrated room sprays, and it was so hard to get out. The end flavor of the dish was good. The lingering smell of the fish sauce made some remaining family members not want to try the dish.
So sorry to hear of your experience with the fish sauce. After doing some research I purchase most of my my dried spices (smoked paprika, cumin, etc…), and fish sauce on Amazon. The brand options are numerous and I feel the quality is better than my local grocery stores. I use Red Boat fish sauce and for us the smell is not that strong and I feel it adds a lot of flavor to my Asian dishes as well as my homemade pasta sauce. Everyone is different on what they like I know, I just wanted to share what works for me.
This is the best, so delicious. Better than in restaurants and easy to make. Great authentic flavor.
I made this as written last week and my family – teens and adults – loved it! Better than what we’ve had in a restaurant, and quite easy.
Just love it! I planned to have village like dinner with my three kids and hubby where I’m not going to use any cutlery but only my dinner table being wrapped with brown paper. This recipe is going to fit in perfect and it’s so easy.
Hi Jenn, I’ve made this recipe several times and its so easy and delicious! I am thinking of making it again for a dinner party but with tempeh instead of chicken as my guests are vegan. Do you think it would work and would I make it the same way? Thanks!
Hi Tamara, I’ve never cooked with tempeh, so I can’t say for sure – I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful but would love to hear how it turns out if you try it!
I ended up making this for my vegan dinner party and the tempeh would out perfectly! I substituted the chicken for the tempeh and omitted the fish sauce and everyone loved it. Thank you for all your great recipes!!
Glad it worked out!
I made this today and my family loved it. No leftovers. I left off the mint and cilantro (hubby) allergic. Absolutely delicious! Thanks for a great recipe.
These are absolutely AMAZING! Even my very picky, very ‘meat & potatoes’ only husband loved them! Because of a chronic illness I was unable to cook much at all for almost a decade, but since randomly discovering Jenn’s website I have fallen in love with cooking again at the tender age of 59! I’ve made over a dozen recipes, (many multiple times), & each one is outstanding! Of course, I’ve pre-ordered the cookbook & can’t wait to receive it! Thank you so much, Jenn, for making me look good!
Hi Jenn, I get to choose a dish for my husband to prepare for my birthday and have chosen this one. Do you think a 50/50 mix of ground pork and ground chicken could be used or should he just stick to one type of meat? BTW, so excited about the book. Pre-ordered months ago. 😊
Hi Sabine, you could definitely use a mix of chicken and pork if you’d like. Enjoy your birthday dinner and thanks for your support with the cookbook! 🙂
This is a wonderful dish, Jenn! Now, how do I get my wife from begging for more after she’s almost eaten the entire meal by herself!
These are delicious, but they aren’t quick! Lots of chopping, zesting, juicing, etc. next time, I’ll chop earlier in the day. A keeper!
This was a great dish. I added two Thai chillies instead of red pepper flakes. I also added hoisin sauce on the wrap. I served it with coconut rice as a side.
Amazing! So flavorful and delicious, my husband kept going back for more. I made it with your cucumber salad. Thank you for another great recipe!
We absolutely love this dish. It’s quick and easy to make and sooooo yummy. The cashews might be the best part! We like a bit of plum sauce or a good sweet and sour to drizzle on top. Sometimes I make this with green lentils instead of chicken and it’s also delicious.
I made this on Saturday for my son and husband who have eaten my other recipe for lettuce wraps. I used ground turkey instead of chicken, but followed the recipe otherwise except for the mint as I have an allergy to it. I had them compare it to my other recipe and it got a “delicious” rating. They like both of the recipes, just think they are different. My other one is sweeter, so this one was much lighter and fresher tasting. Loved it! Thank you. Will definitely make this again.
Forgot to rate this as 5 stars!!!!
This became an immediate favorite. I make it at other people’s houses and put everyone to work with the prep (zesting lime & pressing, rinsing & drying lettuce leaves). I often end up making my own ground chicken in the cuisinart since it is difficult to find half chicken thigh/half chicken breast. It’s easy.
This has become a favorite recipe of mine and making it almost every other week! I am using ground up Chicken Breast alone. The one addition I have made to make the texture similar to what I get the Thai place is to roast some rice in a pan and run in through the spice grinder to get coarse powder. I add it towards the middle of the cooking process.
This has become one of my frequent go to recipes when I want an Asian dish that’s light yet so full of flavor! I have made this a number of times and it never disappoints. Have used both ground chicken AND ground turkey with equally great results. Because the ground meat comes in 1 lb. packages, I usually make half the recipe which is a perfect amount for my husband and daughter. I have also used different lettuces. What a great recipe!
Loved this recipe. Had it for lunch several days. Hits the spot and very filling. Will make again.
Made this for the first time tonight and it comes together very quickly after you have prepped the ingredients. We all loved this so much, my daughter can’t wait to make this herself. Our 18 month old grandson absolutely loved this, and he has been a picky eater lately. This made enough for 4 adults and we have leftovers. I think this is a good recipe for 6 people. Thanks, Jenn! Another winner!
Hi Jenn, Planning on making this dish tonight, but wondering if I could use chopped up chicken breast instead? Any tricks to use so the meat isn’t too dry? Thank you and I can’t wait for your cookbook to come out.
Hi Kasia, I think it will work – just be careful not to overcook it.
I made these last night and the flavor was good but the meat was kind of dry. Maybe because I used breast meat chicken instead of dark meat (my grocery store didn’t have any). I was just wondering if there was a sauce I could add to it. Hoisin Sauce perhaps? Thanks!
Hi Cathy, Yes, that would explain it being dry. Hoisin sauce will give it more of a Chinese flavor but would definitely work. You could also try more of a Thai-style peanut sauce. Hope that helps!
I’m making these tonight but I’m wondering what to serve with them. Any suggestions?
Hi Cathy, I think I’m probably too late seeing your question, but jasmine rice would be nice.
Thanks! That’s exactly what I picked up. I just sent you another question regarding the dish.
This is one of my go-to recipes. Often I will make a double batch of the meat and freeze half. It reheats beautifully, so on busy nights I can quickly add the fresh ingredients for a fantastic meal that is quicker than take-out.
I love these in the restaurant and have always been scared to try these at home. I followed the recipe and instructions to a tee! These were actually easy to make and they were the best. The recipe says for 4. There are 2 of us and we had plenty for 2 dinners. These are great. Thanks for the recipe.
I also substituted stir fry sauce which has thicker consistency than the soy sauce. Oyster sauce made a good choice too. This is a wonderful recipe refreshing with full of flavor.
This is one of the most frequently asked for meal at my house! My 8 & 6 year old sons can be picky eaters at times, but when I tell them I’m making lettuce cups they’re ready for dinner! I also sprinkle in some extra peanuts just before serving for that fresh crunch, but leave out the spice since we have wimpy taste buds. There are also days when I don’t have lettuce and we mix this in with some coconut rice.
I’ve made this recipe several times because of the flavor profile. For my taste, you can’t omit the fish sauce. It adds an authentic flavor that can’t be duplicated with anything else. In the summer, its great to use this in lettuce wraps. But I’ve used it on top of rice and quinoa and its equally as good. Or sometimes it gets eaten out of the pot. Its that good!!
LEAN GROUND BEEF IS ALSO GOOD
My wife and I have made this a couple of times, and we love it! It’s nice having it the lettuce wraps in stead of over rice (although we’ve done both) as a lighter fare option. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scar you off. It’s a very simple dish to make, even on a weeknight. Delicious!!
Would it be possible to prepare the chicken mixture the night before- and warm in microwave before serving?
Sure, Pam – this dish reheats really well.
What is your preferred choice of mint for this? Spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, etc?
You can get away with any of them, but I believe that spearmint is most widely available in grocery stores.
For many years when I visited my daughter and her family in Colorado, we went to an Asian restaurant in Boulder. We always started our meal with Lettuce Cups. A few years ago, we were sad to find them closed. When I saw the picture of the cups on this site, I had to try it to see how the recipe compared. Although my precise memory of the taste had decreased, I found this recipe to be delicious. It is easy to make and tastes wonderful, with or without the sriracha.
These lettuce cups were to die for!! We thought they were better than from our Thai restaurant. I used ground pork instead because it was way cheaper than the ground chicken. It smelled a little funky while cooking but came out AMAZING! The lettuce cups were hard to make because the lettuce was not cup-shaped. I followed the tips and used water and chilled but still had issues. I think in the future I might try romaine lettuce or a different plate that has compartments to hold the lettuce cups. Absolutely amazing! Pairs wonderfully with Tom Ka Gai soup. My mouth is watering writing this review.
Is sweetened sake the same as rice wine?
Hi Janelle, they are not exactly the same but, depending on the recipe, can often be used interchangeably.
LOVE this – made it for appetizers when we were watching the US Open !
My husband and I just had the lettuce wraps. They were delicious. Just wondering if I could substitute portobello mushrooms for the chicken as our daughter does not eat meat. Any thoughts on that?
Sure, Terri – I think that’d work.
Love this recipe.
I added a little more lime zest, and lime juice. A little less brown sugar. It turned out wonderful. We are going for our second time on this recipe tonight! Thank you.
You made a lot of flavor and made it easy for everyone to have this amazing taste.
Made these when first posted, yum. just purchased ground chicken to make this week, tastes just like Vietnamese spring rolls. great south beach diet fare.
Absolutely delicious! The only change I made was used coconut oil over vegetable oil and added a tablespoon of sesame oil at same time as herbs.
Loved it! So simple and yet so satisfyingly classy!!
Cooking this for the first time and ran out of small prep bowls for the ingredients. I put the fish sauce and the soy sauce in the same prep bowl before adding to the chicken. Does this change the taste of the final product?
Hi David, That shouldn’t make any difference. Hope you enjoyed it!
Made this for my boyfriend. He loved it! Very tasty. Will definitely be adding this to my go to recipe list!
I love making lettuce cups! In addition to the recipe I like to add a small 8 oz can of whole water chestnuts (chopped into quarters) and 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce, which creates a slightly bolder taste. My bf is always looking for ways to make foods less messy, so to avoid the sauce dripping down our hands (which I say is all part of the experience), we recently experimented with wrapping the filled lettuce cups into prepared spring roll paper wraps. It was a great discovery! Now if only I could find a solution to the inevitable “s’mores stickies”….