Thai Lettuce Wraps is one of those meals that will make you forget you’re eating healthy! A traditional Thai dish called Larb Gai, they’re quick to make and full of fresh flavours from herbs and lime, plus a nice hit of chilli. Use chicken mince or pork mince, bundle it up in lettuce or serve it over rice!
Thai Lettuce Wraps – Larb Gai
Thai is one of the most popular Asian foods in Sydney. And there’s so much to love about it – noodles, curries and soups, grilled chicken, fried rice and Thai Fish Cakes. And of course, everybody’s favourite Thai Chicken Satay with peanut sauce!
But when you feel like something lighter (read: lower cal!) but still loaded with Thai flavours, these Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps are fabulous.
Larb Gai, Laab Gai, Lahb Gai, Laap Gai…….searching for a recipe like this where the name has been interpreted in so many different ways is always interesting! Depending on what you search will return a myriad of results!
Thai Lettuce Wraps are a celebration of fresh flavours and textures. The perfect balance of sweet, savoury, sour and spiciness with aromatic herbs and the fresh crunch from lettuce. Utterly addictive!
Larb Gai is the Thai version of everybody’s favourite Chinese Lettuce Wraps, San Choy Bow!
It’s all about the fresh flavours!
Like many South East Asian dishes, these Thai Lettuce Cups are about fresh flavours. There’s few ingredients in the sauce – just lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Much of the flavour comes from a decent wack of Thai aromatics – ginger, garlic, chilli and lemongrass – which we sauté until golden and the smell drives us crazy before we add the chicken, sauce and fresh herbs.
What goes in Thai Lettuce Wraps
Here’s a visual of what goes in the chicken mince filling for Thai Lettuce Wraps.
I typically default to a chicken filling, but this recipe works just as well with pork mince as well (that’s ground pork for those of you in the States!).
Lettuce for lettuce cups
For the lettuce wraps, don’t get too hung up on finding the perfect lettuce! Once it’s all bundled / scrunched up and you start devouring, nobody remembers whether your lettuce leaves were the perfect size or symmetrical, or a convenient cup shape. All anyone can think about is how divine it tastes!
TIP: Crisp or soft lettuce works just fine, so go with what you prefer or what looks good at the store. Crisp lettuce leaves are mostly in a cup shape – as pictured below (small cos lettuce aka romaine lettuce) – and soft lettuce leaves can be any shape as they are soft enough to wrap around the filling.
How to make Thai Lettuce Wraps
It’s no different to any stir fry – mix up the sauce first, sauté the aromatics first (garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass) then add the meat then sauce. You’ll be done cooking in 5 minutes flat!
How to serve
I always serve it in a DIY arrangement because I’m a fan of interactive food – plus I get to skip plating up for everyone! I put the filling in a bowl alongside a pile of lettuce leaves with lime wedges and some peanuts sprinkling.
SAUCE OPTION: Typically I serve it just like that, but when I want to go all out, I make Thai Peanut Sauce as well. It’s the sauce from my Thai Chicken Satay recipe which actually makes more than you need for one batch of Satay. So freeze the leftovers then pull it out when you make Thai Lettuce Wraps!
What to serve with Thai Lettuce Wraps
These are typically offered as a starter at Thai restaurants – one piece per person. As for what main to have, you could really choose any Thai main dish – there’s nothing I wouldn’t choose in my collection of recipes! Here are some favourites:
Thai Main Dish Suggestions
The other option is to make a meal out of these lettuce cups by adding some sides to fill it out – and add some extra greens if you like. If you add one rice side and one salad, that will make quite a substantial meal for 4 people. Here are some suggestions!
Dishes to make a complete meal
– Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Thai Lettuce Wraps (Larb Gai, Laab Gai)
- 2 tsp cornflour / cornstarch OR 2 tbsp uncooked rice (any rice is fine) (Note 1)
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 1/2 tbsp lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp peanut oil (or other high smoke point cooking oil)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger , grated or very finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , large, minced
- 1 lemon grass stalk , white and very pale green part only, finely chopped (Note 2)
- 2 Thai or birds eye chilli , deseeded and finely chopped (adjust to taste)
- 1 lb / 500g chicken mince (ground chicken) OR pork
- 1/2 red onion , cut into 4 wedges then finely sliced
- 1/3 cup coriander/cilantro leaves , plus extra to garnish
- 1/3 cup mint leaves , plus extra to garnish
- 3 tbsp crushed peanuts (optional)
- 6 - 8 small to medium lettuce leaves (I used baby cos / romaine) (Note 3)
- Extra lime wedges, chilli
- Sauce: Place water and cornflour OR rice powder into a small bowl. Mix into a slurry. Add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and mix to combine. Set aside.
- Heat peanut oil in a wok (or heavy based fry pan) over medium high heat. Add ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli and sauté for 45 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn, it will taste bitter.
- Add the chicken and turn up the heat to high. Cook the chicken, breaking up the mince into small pieces.
- Once the chicken turns white and is almost cooked through (about 3 to 4 minutes), add Sauce. Cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute to coat the chicken and for the sauce to thicken.
- Remove wok from heat. Stir through onion, coriander/cilantro and mint.
- Spoon filling into a bowl, and serve with lettuce, peanuts, extra herbs and lime wedges on the side - leave everyone to make their own. Spoon filling into lettuce cups and garnish with what you want!
- Sauce option: Take it over the top by serving with Thai Peanut Satay Sauce, as pictured in the first photo in post! It's extra amazing (though not traditional!)
Originally published January 2015. Updated with new photos, new process photos, new video and most importantly, Dozer added!
More Thai Food favourites
Life of Dozer
On auto pilot, I labelled this photo “Dozer guarding front door”.
LOL, what a joke! If a robber ever broke in, he’d lead them straight to all my valuables!