How to Make Lettuce Wraps

Low Carb Healthy Meal Recipe -- Lettuce Wraps

Asian lettuce wraps are a healthy, low-carb food that taste fantastic. Filled with fresh ingredients that are brimming with nutrition, lettuce wraps can be made with pork, chicken, or beef. Add a zesty salad topping and a rich peanut sauce to finish the flavor punch. Here you will find recipes for the meat marinade, the veggie salad topping, and the peanut sauce. In themselves, these three ingredients make a complete, balanced meal.

 

Asian Lettuce Wraps Recipe

First Step: Make the Meat Marinade

Use Chicken, Beef, or Pork

This marinade is enough for one pound of meat. Increase it accordingly for larger amounts of meat.

In my photo, I am using pork tenderloin. Pork is a very commonly used meat in Asian cuisine, and we like the tenderness it offers. But I have also used this same marinade successfully with chicken and with beef. In fact, if we are having company, sometimes I make all three types of meat so we can have a smorgasbord of lettuce wrap options.

Recipe for Lettuce Wrap Meat Marinade

  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (fresh milled)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Optional:  dried chilies

If desired, add the dried chilies to a low baking dish in which you can marinate the meat. Measure the other ingredients directly into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to blend. Pour the marinade into the low dish and add the meat to coat thoroughly. Let the meat marinate for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.

Meat Marinade Ingredients

Preparing the Meat Marinade

Put Your Marinade in a Low Dish

Cut Meat into Strips

Thai Fish Sauce

There is No Substitute

Can you make lettuce wraps without fish sauce? Sure, you can! But they won't be as good. Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in many South East Asian dishes and offers a unique punch to these lettuce wraps. 

Tiparos Fish Sauce
TANG SANG HAH CO., LTD
Amazon.com: $6.43

Fortunately the sauce is inexpensive, even when imported from Thailand. My favorite fish sauce is Tiparos which I buy at my local Asian foods market. If your area doesn't have an Asian imports grocer, you can order it easily from Amazon through the link here.

Meat Marinade Tips

Because honey is rather difficult to mix into the other ingredients, my favorite method is to use a glass jar for mixing. Any large jar with a lid will do. Just measure your ingredients directly into the jar, put on the cap, and shake it vigorously to blend.

So that every bit of meat is soaking in the marinade, use a low dish to marinate your meat. A bowl will keep some of the meat on top, out of the flavors of the juice. You want each strip of meat to have maximum contact with the marinade.

Step Two: Salad Topping for Lettuce Wraps

Cucumber, Carrot, Plus Your Favorites

Salad Ingredients

Once the meat is marinating, you can focus your attention on the "salad" that goes into the lettuce wraps.

[Don't forget to wash and dry your lettuce leaves at this step, too. I always place my lettuce onto a dishmat to drain the water. Then I pat them dry with clean dish towels. Green and red leaf lettuce are great choices for lettuce wraps.]

Every time I make lettuce wraps, my salad is a bit different because I tend to use whatever I have on hand. I always use carrots and cucumbers, but the other vegetables may vary. So be creative and experiment with the vegetables your family likes the best. I really like the zest of radishes. But in this version, I chose the milder flavors of cabbage simply because that was what I had on hand.

Veggie Wrap Salad Recipe

  • 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 cups additional vegetables of your choice (cabbage, radish, pepper, cilantro, green onions, etc.)
  • 4 tablespoons peanut or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup dark rice vinegar (check your Asian import grocery)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional:  1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Add the vegetables to a large bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to blend. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Let the salad sit for at least 20 minutes before eating.

This salad doesn't keep very well, so try to make just enough for this one meal of lettuce wraps.

Veggies Cut and Ready for Dressing

Salad Done and Lettuce Washed

Step Three: Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce for Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are just not the same without this tangy peanut sauce, so don't skip it. Even if you think it sounds weird, just try it. I promise that it's great and so easy to make.

Peanut Sauce Recipe

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cup brown sugar (depending on your personal preference)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you like more zip)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger

Measure all ingredients directly into a saucepan. Heat on medium flame, whisking often to blend. Boil briefly and cool slightly before pouring into individual serving dishes.

The peanut sauce, unlike the salad, will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator in a well sealed jar.

 

Peanut Sauce in the Making

Six-Ounce Clear Custard Cups

For Individual Servings of the Peanut Sauce

Once the sauce has cooled a bit, pour or spoon it into individual dishes for each person. These Pyrex custard cups are perfect for the sauce because they are small -- only 6 ounces. 

Pyrex Bakeware Clear Custard Cups, Set of 4, 6-Ounce
Pyrex
Amazon.com: $8.29

I have a set of these custard cups in my kitchen, and I use them again and again. They are perfect for holding small sauces, condiments, and even ingredients as you are preparing a recipe.

Put it All Together

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Now the the sauce is cooling and the salad is done, cook the meat that has been marinating. Drain the meat of the majority of the marinade, and saute it over medium-high heat until cooked through. If you like spicy foods, leave the chilis in with the meat as you cook it. If not, discard the chilis before cooking. (Discard the marinade.) Serve it hot with the lettuce leaves, salad, and peanut sauce.

For those who like spicy foods, add some chili in oil. My ultimate favorite is the Lao Gan Ma brand of chilis in oil that is linked below. It comes from Guizhou Province of China.

Because lettuce wraps are eaten with the hands, be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.

Table is Set With Lettuce Wrap Ingredients

Chili Sauce

Imported from China

Lettuce Wrap Platter -- meat, salad, sauce, and lettuce

Would You Like a Printable Recipe?

Printable Recipes for Asian Lettuce Wraps

For your convenience, I've created a printable page with all three recipes featured for the Asian Lettuce Wraps:

  1. meat marinade
  2. salad
  3. peanut sauce

Click to download the free PDF from Google Docs.

Eat Family Style or Individually

Lettuce wraps are one of my family's favorite meals. They never seem to tire of it. And I'm quite happy because it is really a very healthy meal.

Because we are family, we have no problem with taking meat, sauce, and salad from the same bowl in the same style that Asians eat. However, if you have guests or are squeamish about sharing dishes, you can serve each person a lettuce wrap platter that includes all the necessary elements on his or her plate. 

Either way you serve it, the way to eat a lettuce wrap is the same.

In Asia, we learned it in these steps.

  1. Open up a leaf of lettuce and hold it with one hand.
  2. Using a fork (or chopsticks) get a piece of meat and dredge it into the peanut sauce or chili sauce (or both). Repeat until you have a few pieces of meat lining your lettuce leaf.
  3. Add a dollop of salad to your wrap.
  4. Use your hands to wrap the lettuce around the filling. And then eat!

Of course, there are no lettuce wrap police, so if you want to smear the peanut sauce onto the lettuce leaf first, that is perfectly fine! The point is to get the right proportion of the three ingredients to suit your taste! Experiment and see what you like the best.

How to Make a Lettuce Wrap

Nutrition

Instead of using tortillas or some sort of grain based wrapper, lettuce wraps use a vegetable. That makes this recipe very low-carb friendly. Choose a lettuce with nutrients such as green leaf or romaine instead of boring iceberg lettuce.

Pack in the nutrients you need with your carefully selected vegetables such as red pepper, cilantro, radish, and cherry tomatoes.

Enjoy as much as you want! Lettuce wraps are healthy.

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Comments

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101 leaves
2082 forum posts
bill on said:
This looks incredibly good! I've been getting more into wraps lately over sandwiches, though I've only had lettuce wraps once (they were excellent). Great photos of the recipe and ingredients, I like that you included a link to download the printable recipe via Google Docs. Good thinking! Currently featured on the Zujava home page. Well done on this one!
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11 leaves
12 forum posts
edecas on said:
Looks so yummy. I am definately trying this
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101 leaves
2082 forum posts
bill on said:
Congratulations on being the 2nd place winner in the Apple TV contest! Your leaf will be featured on the Zujava blog tomorrow.
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Anonymous on said:
This surpasses almost any online recipe I've ever seen in 3 ways:
1. Quality of USEFUL photos
2. Clarity of directions
3. Extra information like tips on Fish Sauce, now to eat.
Brilliant!!
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3 leaves
8 forum posts
Angel on said:
These look so good Jimmie! You are so talented with everything you do. I have to try these.
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Anonymous on said:
A brilliant idea and makes so much since to see here. I can see using this for basic stuff too like egg salad or tuna. Thanks!
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9 leaves
229 forum posts
Paz on said:
These look delicious, will make them soon. Great leaf.
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3 leaves
1 forum post
Looks like a great recipe to try. Thanks for posting the recipe and a vegetarian version.
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3 leaves
0 forum posts
Rose Mary on said:
While I appreciate your recipe and great photos, do you know what I appreciate the most? Discovering Google docs! I had never paid attention to the options on the Google toolbar. I saw your printable recipe link and got curious. I posted my PowerPoint slides for a recent continuing education course that I presented. I had included a lot of instructional YouTube clips, and my participants could click through to the videos by having an e-copy of my PP. I'm going to post my patient exercise handouts too. Thanks for teaching me something useful!
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32 leaves
22 forum posts
Yum, these look great! I am a sucker for any recipe with peanut sauce, it's my absolute favorite. Thanks for sharing!
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101 leaves
2082 forum posts
bill on said:
Congratulations on your Magna Cum Laude award for this leaf today! Read the blog post here: http://www.zujava.com/magna-cum-laude/how-to-make-lettuce-wraps
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49 leaves
51 forum posts
Great leaf! I have pork in the fridge right now that I'm going to try it out on. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!
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88 leaves
382 forum posts
Daniela12 on said:
MMMM! looks very delicious!
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7 leaves
11 forum posts
Magnum cum laude so deserved! Thank you for sharing this delicious and healthy recipe, I will be certain to integrate it often into our weekly menu plan!
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49 leaves
51 forum posts
Just wanted to come back and let you know I tried this recipe and it is AMAZING! The pork is soooo flavorful, the peanut sauce is delicious and the veggie salad & dressing is perfect! Everyone in the house loved it too, even my picky eater. Thank you so much :-)
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9 leaves
5 forum posts
GonnaFly on said:
Mmm. Looks yummy! I'll have to try your peanut sauce. We have also used steamed cabbage leaves as wraps for this sort of meal - but then I guess you couldn't call them lettuce wraps!
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4 leaves
0 forum posts
I have recently discovered that I enjoy lettuce leaves, but I have not tried them with peanut sauce. Thanks for the tip.
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8 leaves
1 forum post
Glen on said:
One word: YUM!

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