30 Minute Thai Lettuce Wraps Recipe
These Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps are quick and easy, bursting with fresh ingredients, smothered in an unbelievable Pineapple Hoisin Peanut Sauce that is sweet, spicy, savory and 1000X better than takeout! They are healthy, customizable, make ahead friendly and can be served as an appetizer or main course!
These Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, however, are even better than any restaurant version in my book. The tender chicken and crisp-tender stir-fried vegges are smothered in a tantalizing hoisin, soy, peanut sauce all rounded out by red curry paste, ginger and basil.
The savory, salty sauce is complimented by sweet and tangy fresh pineapple all topped with crunchy peanuts cocooned in fresh, crisp lettuce. It is an alluring texture and bold flavor explosion.
The star of these Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps is definitely the sauce. It doesn’t get any better. I loved the sauce so, so much I created a stir fry version for you all, just so we could all savor the deliciousness in multiple forms. So its time to get giddy about these Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps!
Thai Lettuce Wraps: Start with the Best Sauce
Thai food is all about the balance of sweet, savory, salty and sour. For these Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, I wanted a multi-dimensional balanced sauce and not just flat soy based sauce. My resulting Pineapple Peanut Hoisin sauce is perfectly balanced and utterly drool worthy.
This sauce is what gives the chicken filling its rich, savory depth and what makes these wraps so incredibly addictive.
This Thai sauce is made of:
- hoisin sauce: it’s like sweet, salty and tangy Asian BBQ Sauce. It an be found in the Asian section of any grocery store. Please use only quality hoisin sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman as all hoisin sauces are not created equal.
- soy sauce: grounds the sauce. Please use low sodium soy sauce so your sauce isn’t too salty.
- rice vinegar: use unseasoned rice wine vinegar. It adds a tangy acidity to balance the flavor profile.
- brown sugar: adds sweetness to balance the soy and vinegar. You may need more or less brown sugar depending on the acidity vs sweetness of your pineapple.
- red curry paste: red curry paste packs a huge flavor punch because its made of fnely ground coriander, peppercorns, Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, cilantro, shallot, garlic, and fresh chiles – all combined for you.
- ginger: adds a warm spicy, almost pepper taste. You only need 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger so feel free to use ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger instead.
- garlic: garlic makes everything better! You can use more or less garlic depending on your garlic love. You can substitute the fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- dried basil: basil is quintessential to Thai cuisine. It adds a layer of savory, peppery and slightly minty flavor.
- peanut butter: creamy peanut butter adds a nutty earthiness and creaminess that marries all the ingredients together.
- Asian chili paste or sriracha: if your sauce is missing something, it is heat! Add chili sauce to taste. If you aren’t sure how much to add, you can start with less then stir in more at the end if needed.
Ingredients needed for Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Chicken – The Thai Chicken Lettuce Wrap filling consists of both chicken and vegetables. The filling is essentially the vehicle to shovel the delectable sauce into your mouth.
For the chicken, I use diced chicken breasts but you can also use diced chicken thighs, or ground chicken. If using ground chicken choose dark meat because it is more flavorful.
I prefer chicken because it is more mild in flavor but you may also use ground pork, turkey or tofu.
- Vegetables – For the veggies, we saute red onions, diced bell peppers, matchstick carrots, celery and pineapple. The veggies add a fabulous crunch and the pineapple add a juicy sweetness.
You can customize the veggies with what you have on hand, omit what you don’t like, add more of what you do. You can use diced mushrooms, water chestnuts, zucchini, bok choy, bean sprouts, etc, just make sure you have CRUNCH!
- Lettuce – Butter lettuce is my pick for these Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. It is also called Boston and Bibb lettuce.
Butter lettuce tastes richer and less watery than other lettuces. It is easy to use, has sturdy, broad leaves and can hold a healthy amount of filling without tearing. Any produce section should carry butter lettuce.
If you can’t find butter lettuce or want to use a different lettuce, any green lettuce will do. You can use iceberg, Romaine hearts, or even cabbage leaves.
My second pick would be Romaine hearts. They are crisp and easy to pull apart into individual leaves. Their main drawback is they are narrow so it is hard to load them with filling.
Lettuce Wraps Substitutions
Each stage of making lettuce wraps is customizable, so feel free to experiment with different ingredients and flavors to suit your taste preferences.
- Lettuce: Choose a crispy, firmer green like iceberg, Romaine hearts, or even cabbage leaves.
- Chicken: The chopped chicken breasts can be substituted with chicken thighs, ground chicken, ground pork and even cubed pork tenderloin.
- Vegetarian: Use firm, cubed tofu, additional veggies, or plant-based ground “meat” in place of the chicken. If using tofu, place it in a pie plate, top with a heavy plate and weigh down with 2 heavy cans (to release water). Set aside for 10 minutes before chopping.
- Vegetables: Customize the veggies with what you have on hand, omit what you don’t like, add more of what you do. Try diced mushrooms, water chestnuts, zucchini, bok choy, bean sprouts, etc., just make sure you have plenty of crunch!
- Sauce: The sauce is the highlight of this dish, but it can be substituted with any stir-fry sauce such as classic, honey sesame, honey garlic, teriyaki, etc.
Tips for prepping your Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Cutting lettuce for Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps is super simple if you know how, but if you don’t, it is easy to obliterate the lettuce.
- To cut the lettuce, cut the bottom stem off.
- Run your knife around the stem to separate it from the leaves.
- Remove any flimsy or damaged outer leaves.
- Submerge the entire head of lettuce in a bowl of water.
- Gently pull the leaves way. The water will help the leaves not tear.
- Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel then chill until ready to use.
How to make Thai Lettuce Wraps
First, whisk together the Pineapple Peanut Hoisin Sauce together except the peanut butter.
Next, cook the chicken and onions a few minutes then add the vegetables and cook just until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Don’t overcook, you don’t want mushy veggies!
Stir in the pineapple and Asian Sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. You can add more or less peanut butter depending on how much of a nutty taste you want and how thick you want the sauce.
Taste and add additional Sriracha/Asian hot chili paste for spicier, brown sugar for sweeter then try not to eat all of the chicken straight from the pan,
I like to garnish my Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps with fresh green onions, more sweet pineapple and crunchy peanuts.
And then I like to eat 3 in a row, or 4, or 5, or…
Tips for assembling Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Assembling chicken lettuce wraps is easy! Here are some tips to help you assemble them successfully:
- Choose the right lettuce: Select lettuce leaves that are sturdy enough to hold the filling but also flexible enough to wrap easily. Butter lettuce, iceberg lettuce, or Romaine lettuce work well for lettuce wraps.
- Finely chop ingredients: Dice the chicken and veggies into small pieces so each bite is a medley of ingredients.
- Don’t overcook the veggies: The red onions should be softened, but the other veggies should be crisp-tender, verses tender-crisp.
- Taste the filling before assembling the lettuce wraps: Add rice vinegar for tangier, brown sugar for spicier, sriracha for spicier or additional seasonings.
- Don’t overfill: Add the filling the center of lettuce leaf, taking care not to overstuff, or the filling will spill out while consuming.
- Don’t skip the toppings: The diced pineapple, crushed peanuts and green onions not only create a beautiful presentation, but add balancing textures and flavors. The pineapple is crucial to cut through the rich peanut sauce.
- Serve immediately: Keep the filling and lettuce leaves separate until you’re ready to serve, otherwise, the lettuce wraps can become soggy. Once assembled, they should be enjoyed immediately.
Making this Lettuce Wrap Recipe in advance
You can make the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps in advance at a few varying stages.
You can whisk together the sauce ingredients and store in an airtight container up to 5 days in advance.
You can prep all the veggies and store in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator up to 24 hours in advance.
Lastly, you can completely make the filling in advance and simply reheat it when you are ready to assemble the wraps. When you reheat the filling, make sure to taste it as the flavors may have mellowed and you might need an additional squeeze of lime or chili sauce. And now you have the easiest, tastiest, stress free appetizer EVER!
What to serve with Thai Lettuce Wraps
You can serve Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps alone as an appetizer or with rice and/or Wonton Soup as a meal.
Lettuce Wrap Recipe FAQs
Butter lettuce, also called Boston and Bibb lettuce, is the best lettuce for lettuce wraps. It tastes richer and less watery than other lettuces, and boasts sturdy, broad leaves and can hold a healthy amount of filling without tearing. If you can’t find butter lettuce Romaine hearts are the next best option. They are crisp and easy to pull apart into individual leaves. Their main drawback is they are narrow so, take care not to overfill.
There are 247 calories in each of these Thai chicken lettuce cups. They are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals with minimal carbohydrates.
You might also like these Asian recipes:
- Peanut Pineapple Thai Chicken Satay
- Slow Cooker Asian Sweet Chili Chicken
- 25 Minute Thai Chicken Flatbread Pizza
- Sticky Pineapple Ginger Chicken
- Asian BBQ Salmon
- Teriyaki Chicken Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Pear Salsa
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Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
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- 1 head butter lettuce (approx. 8 leaves)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound uncooked chicken breast, diced
- 1/4 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
- 1/2 cup Matchstick carrots
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
- 3 tablespoons quality hoisin sauce (like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman)
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar , more or less depending on how sweet your pineapple is
- 1 tablespoon red curry paste
- 1 teaspoon scant freshly grated ginger (¼ teaspoon ground)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- Asian hot chili paste or sriracha, to taste
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 cup fresh diced pineapple (or more to taste)
- 3 tablespoons crushed peanuts (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion (or more to taste)
- Whisk together all of the Asian Sauce ingredients in a medium bowl EXCEPT the peanut butter. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add red onions and chicken and cook just until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add peppers, carrots and celery and saute for 2 more minutes. Stir in pineapple and Asian Sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Taste and add additional Sriracha/Asian hot chili paste for spicier, brown sugar for sweeter.
- Fill lettuce leaves with desired amount of filling then garnish with fresh pineapple, green onions and peanuts.
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