Thai Lettuce Wraps With Beef
Crisp, crunchy, savory, and oh-so-easy, these fresh Thai lettuce wraps with beef make a great addition to your weeknight dinner rotation. All you need is a pound of beef, a head of lettuce, and some seasonings that you probably have in your pantry right now.
Inspired by larb gai (a popular dish in Northeastern Thailand and Laos made of ground chicken, fresh herbs, and onions with lime juice, fish sauce, and ground chiles), this version swaps out chicken for beef and adds an herb-flecked yogurt sauce to marry the Butter lettuce leaves and juicy ground meat. The yogurt is definitely not traditional, but it adds a cool creaminess to contrast the fatty beef and add a little heft to the greens. Pairing beef with yogurt nods to Middle Eastern cuisine, so I’m clearly drawing from several cultural influences here. If you’d prefer, you can skip it entirely and this recipe will only get easier.
Sticky rice is a tasty pairing to Thai ground beef lettuce wraps but you can swap in brown rice for a little more nutritional weight, or microwavable minute rice (the stuff is magic!) for weeknight ease.
One more note, larb gai is typically made with toasted rice powder (rice that has been toasted in a skillet and ground into a powder), which adds a delicious nuttiness, but I wanted to keep the ingredients list as short as possible so I left it out. I had my eye on the ultimate prize: Fast. Weeknight. Dinner.
How to make Thai Lettuce Wraps
First, make the herby yogurt. Add yogurt to a small bowl, stir in chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons each cilantro and mint, and lime juice. Season with salt to taste. Set aside while you make the beef.
Sauté onions in a skillet until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add in ground beef and smash into small pieces. Sauté until mostly cooked through.
Add fish sauce, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and sugar and cook until the beef is cooked through. Turn off the heat and stir in remaining herbs.
To serve, swirl a dollop of yogurt into a lettuce cup, spoon beef on top, and sprinkle on a few dashes of hot sauce.
More easy weeknight recipes:
Thai Lettuce Wraps With Beef
- ½ cup regular or Greek yogurt
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped, divided
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, divided
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped, divided
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (about ½ of a lime)
- Kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow or red onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef (I prefer 80% lean, 20% fat but 85/15 works too)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 head butter / Bibb / Boston lettuce, leaves separated from core
- Hot sauce, for serving
- First, make the herby yogurt. To a small bowl, add yogurt, 1 pressed garlic clove, 2 tablespoons each cilantro and mint, and lime juice. Season with salt to taste and stir to combine. Set aside while you make the beef.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low. Add the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and cook until softened and lightly browned around the edges, 3-5 minutes. Add remaining 2 pressed garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and smash into small pieces with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with salt. Cook, without stirring, about 6 minutes, until mostly cooked through.
- Add the sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Turn off heat and stir in remaining cilantro and mint. Season with additional salt to taste.
- To serve, swirl a dollop of yogurt into a lettuce cup, spoon beef on top, and sprinkle on a few dashes of hot sauce.
- You can substitute fish sauce for 2 more teaspoons of soy sauce. If you can’t find butter / Bibb / Boston lettuce, you can use whole romaine leaves. Serve with sticky rice, white rice, brown rice, or diced, roasted sweet potato.
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