Asian Lettuce Wraps

These wraps. Oh, these wraps! How do I adequately convey their deliciousness?

Should I tell you that when my sis-in-law, Kylie, told me about them, she confessed they had eaten them twice in one week? Or should I alert you that after I made them, they haunted my dreams until I made them again (er, two days later)? Exaggeration = off. Promise.

They are so delicious, I’ve already made a specific note to Brian that these will be my birthday meal request this year. That’s saying a lot, because I love me a good birthday meal request and have been known to think (read: obsess) all year long about what I want to eat that day (come on, it only happens once a year!).

Will it further convince you of their tastiness if I add that if you put your game face on, you can have these ready to serve in 20 minutes. Do you hear angels singing? Do you?

The flavors are astounding. The crisp lettuce is the perfect vehicle for the refreshingly light chicken mixture and the rice is just a little bit of decadence in a very healthy meal. I have made these, oh, I don’t know, probably 10 times in the last few months. And I’m still looking forward to them on my birthday next month. Major love. (And Major Smugness for providing you with such a healthy, actually-delicious meal this soon in the new year. Don’t worry, true diet failure coming next week. I am who I am, what can I say.)

Asian Lettuce Wraps

What To ServeAn Asian-inspired side salad like Asian Noodle Salad or this Asian Salad
Baked Southwest Egg Rolls with Creamy Chipotle Dipping Sauce
Fresh fruit

One Year Ago: Coconut Shrimp Curry
Two Years Ago: Pineapple Salsa Chicken {Slow Cooker}
Three Years Ago: Tortellini Spinach Salad with Balsamic-Tomato Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago: Quick and Delicious Clam Chowder

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps {Quick and Delish}

Yield: Serves 4

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps {Quick and Delish}

Note: I love the texture of short grain rice for this recipe but if you'd rather use long grain rice (or any other rice you prefer, for that matter), that would work fine, too. The rice is basically there to sit in the bed of the lettuce and soak up all the delicious flavors and juices from the chicken mixture. Alternately, you could cut the carbs and serve without rice. Lean ground turkey could easily be subbed for the ground chicken. Also, if you can't find fresh basil readily (if it is off-season), use 1-2 teaspoons dried basil and add it when you cook the chicken with the jalapeno and lime zest.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup short grain rice (i.e. sushi rice), rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest (from about 3-4 limes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 jalapeno stemmed, seeded, and minced (leave in the seeds if you like more heat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 12 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves (about 1 head), washed


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and rice to a boil high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and let sit, covered, until tender, another 10-15 minutes.
  2. Whisk the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, jalapeno, and lime zest and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk the fish sauce/lime mixture to recombine; add it to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, a minute or two. Off the heat, stir in the fresh basil and scallions. To serve, open up a lettuce leaf, place a small scoop of rice on the bed of lettuce and top with some of the warm chicken mixture.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2010

89 Responses to Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps {Quick and Delish}

  1. Gail says:

    Oh! These were really refreshing! So glad we tried them! As I was putting my plate on the table they looked so green and springlike….beautiful….but even more importantly they tasted fantastic. My husband and I enjoyed these new flavors and being little piggies almost finished the whole batch! I think there’s enough for 1 person’s lunch tomorrow. Oh well! We can make more…. I happen to have a bag of frozen brown rice from Kroger and used that….super easy! Will try the short grain rice as suggested next time. Thanks, Mel!

  2. Megan says:

    Finally made these last night and they were so delicious. My 6 year old thought the fish sauce smell in the kitchen might actually kill her, but other than that it was another winner. Can’t wait for the leftovers at lunch. I’ve never been able to find ground chicken so I always sub Costco ground turkey and it seems to work great.

  3. Nina says:

    These look delicious! I’m one of those weird people that actually like the fish sauce smell and taste. Haha. I grew up with my mom making dishes with it. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Jennifer says:

    We’ve been a super fan of Mel’s recipes for sometime. She did not disappoint with this one either. I was surprised what the basil brought to the flavor! So Delish! My husband said this is definitely in our top 10 recipes. Easy to make. Everyone loved them. I made extra sauce in the side and we ate rice separately. Sooooo good!!!!

  5. Julie says:

    I made these tonight and loved them! So fresh and different! There was no ground chicken at our local grocery store, so I used two big mostly-thawed chicken breasts and ground them in my food processor. I was pleasantly surprised how well that worked! I also used half coconut milk and half water to make the rice, and it was really yummy. Thanks Mel!

  6. Jess says:

    Thank you for the delicious, easy and healthy recipe. We topped them off with a bit of siracha-wonderful.

  7. Nancy E says:

    Yum!!!!! I was expecting to just make quesadillas for the kids after they tried dinner because they are picky and don’t like onions or peppers. Sadly they all asked for seconds which didn’t leave as much for me and the hubby. They were a big hit with the whole fam and my oldest requested this for her birthday in two weeks. Love your recipes!

  8. Anne says:

    Hi Mel, any suggestions other than lettuce to serve this mixture?

  9. Holly says:

    These were fantastic! I made exactly as the recipe states and we loved them. I served them with egg rolls and it made a wonderful meal. I love your recipes!

  10. mangomama says:

    I made these for a large group of Thai friends and everyone enjoyed them. Just FYI, we think the best brand of fish sauce is the kind that is actually made in Thailand but you can buy it in Asian markets here. It has a yellow label with red edges and a red circle with Thai writing on it (if you translated the Thai letters into English letter– which the label does not– it would read something like “Tip rote”) but the key thing to look for is that on the original label there is NO English. It is the real deal! As sold in my current American town, they stick a tiny label in English on the side saying Fish Sauce “Tiparos”. The brand has authentic Thai flavour. (No, I do not have stock in the company– just have lived in Thailand for many years!) This is a good recipe–very adaptable and delicious. thank you, Mel!

  11. Eleanore says:

    Marvelous! Thanks for another great meal idea!

  12. Jane says:

    These are on my meal plan for next week but I just got back from the store and realized I didn’t buy fish sauce. Is there a substitute? Also how hot is the jalapeño seeded? What are the chances my three and one year old (fairly good eaters who eat what we eat) and myself who can’t handle super hot things can handle it?

    • Mel says:

      Jane – You can probably just leave out the fish sauce or up the soy sauce just slightly. I don’t think these are spicy at all – my kids eat them up with no complaining. Just be sure to seed the jalapeno (and discard the seeds). Good luck!

  13. Rebecca says:

    We had these AGAIN tonight. Thank you so much for giving us this recipe.

  14. Heather says:

    I can’t wait to try these! We LOVE getting these from PF Changs (which is about 45 minutes away) so it will be great to be able to make them. Can you recommend your favorite brand of fish sauce?

    I made your firecracker chicken tonight and it was great! Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Heather – I don’t really have a favorite brand because I only have one option in my little town but when I can find it, the Tiparos brand is what I look for.

  15. Angela says:

    These are delicious! I had to make a few substitutions, so it seems really versatile too. So in case others are reading thru comments without all of the ingredients… Only had Napa cabbage leaves, but they worked fine. And didn’t have ground meat, so just diced up chicken breasts. And i was out of limes and used lemon juice. I’m partial to limes and am sure it is way better with limes, but lemon was fine in lieu of a trip to the store. Okay, so I was missing a couple more things too…but these sounded so good so we went for it. And they’re great! Can’t wait to try it again when we have it all on hand, but I think you could pour that sauce on shoe leather and I’d go back for seconds. Thanks for another winner, Mel!

  16. ava says:

    These were really good. I didnt have fish sauce so I used more soy sauce. My husband felt that the lime zest was too overwhelming. I will ease up on the lime as well. Also, (dumb question are we supposed to hold the leaves and eat from the leaves or with use a fork?

  17. Amanda Z says:

    The sauce for this had a great flavor, but I think used too much lime zest because there was an overwhelming lime flavor. Can’t wait to give it another try and ease up on the lime.

  18. Ashlee says:

    Oh and for future reference, it’s also called butter lettuce. I stood in the store forever staring at the choices and finally figured that out. I’ve heard you can get a package of chicken breasts and ask the butcher to grind it up too…

  19. Ashlee says:

    I made these tonight, and hubby loved them! I think they were pretty good, but I’ve had a cold for a week and a half, so I can’t taste much… It seemed a bit spicy though… We liked them but our kids didn’t as much

  20. Katie says:

    So for those of us in 100+ summer temps…this needs to be on your bi-weekly (heck, weekly menu) It is THAT good! Really refreshing! PS. I dont “do” fish sauce, just up’d the soy sauce and served without rice and was completely filled up. Thanks Mel!

  21. Maureen says:

    Maybe you can shed some light for this ignorant “chef.” Why does it need to be stirred with a wooden spoon? Does the wood really make a difference, I’ve never understood this when reading recipes as to why it would matter to specify.

    • Mel says:

      Maureen – I don’t think it’s that the wood itself makes a difference, I think it’s more the shape of the spoon so if you have another spoon (silicone or otherwise) that has a similar shape to a wooden spoon it should work. I think the shape helps break it into clumps but not pulverize into extremely small pieces.

  22. Mary says:

    WOW. I have been using your blog for years (thank you for all of your amazing recipes, by the way!), but this recipe is definitely my new favorite. As an American living in the Middle East, it is often quite difficult to find all of the ingredients to match your recipes exactly — I often have to improvise with substitutions — but what I LOVE about your website is that almost everything is made from scratch. Since fresh mushrooms and cream are much easier to find here than, say, condensed cream of mushroom soup, it is a joy to come to your website and only have to substitute corn flour for cornstarch, rather than make up something completely on my own. And just so you know, my husband loves you almost as much as I do because I would never have been able to work up the courage to make bread without your step-by-step tutorials — now I make bread all the time, and my husband is a very happy man.

    I ended up having to substitute this weird orange fruit (looks like an orange, tastes sour like a lemon/lime — actually it’s been so long since I’ve had a lime I’m not even sure what they taste like anymore!) for limes in this particular recipe, but I had everything else on the list. And WOW. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I will be making this many.more.times.

  23. Addie says:

    oh my goodness! I made these last nite and cannot stop dreaming of them! They were amazing! I wanted more veggies in them like the OBB version, so I added toppings in bowls to sprinkle on and called them asian tacos for my kids! I used diced cucumber, shredded carrots, red pepper, and chopped almonds. Delicious!

  24. Melissa C says:

    Made these the other night….my husband has a workshop, so he didn’t get home until 10:30 or so. When he came up to bed he said “those lettuce wraps were delicious…probably the best thing you’ve ever made!” I said “did you heat them up?” he said he ate them cold lol. The next day, he had them for lunch and heated them up and fell in love all over again! Love your site and thanks for this great recipe!

  25. Jill says:

    My three-year-old daughter took one bite, smiled, and said, “Yummmmmm!” She gobbled up three wraps and then groaned because she was so full. My finicky 16-month-old ate a big bowl of the chicken mixture with rice without any coaxing. Wow! The 6 of us ate a whole head of lettuce and everyone loved it but my 5-year-old who only likes bland food with no texture but she ate it anyway. Thanks for the great recipe!

  26. […] “stuffing” on the side.  I am not going to type up the recipe but I will send you to the link.  This blogger is one of my favorites.  I love her cooking, she usually uses unprocessed products […]

  27. Chiquita says:

    My family just loves these;delicious, quick, and easy!!!!

  28. Kira says:

    These were very different from the recipes I usually try. I have never made an Asian or Thai dish before. We ablsolutely loved them. The flovors were wonderful. Glad we will be able to use up the rest of the fish sauce!

  29. amber says:

    I got everything for these today- with the exception of fresh basil. My store had it, but it was $4 for a little bunch!! I’m hoping it still tastes good without it! I’ll make these in the summer and use thai basil- it’s so yummy! Thanks Mel!

  30. […] kale & sweet potato “stew” Asian chicken lettuce wraps Chicken and veggie coconut curry Mushroom & barley detox soup Lean beef chili loaded with […]

  31. Jill says:

    They don’t have fish sauce in my small- town grocery stores, either. I have always subbed oyster sauce when a recipe calls for fish sauce and, while I don’t know what a side-by-side comparison would reveal, I think it works great!

  32. Jnl2211 says:

    Yes! Keep your fish sauce! It stays good for ages!

  33. alyssa says:

    Super yummy! Husband loved them too and we’re not lettuce wrap people. I used extra soy sauce, as I threw away our fish sauce after using the recommended amount in a different cook’s illustrated recipe. I’d think about buying it again and just using a bit next time. Also made with ground turkey and jasmine rice. Can’t wait to make again!

  34. Leigh says:

    This kind of looks like the thai dish larb or laab. I’ve had it with pork and it’s delicious.

  35. Mel says:

    Bri – shockingly, the little grocery store in my town carries ground chicken. I’m surprised Smith’s didn’t have it but ground turkey would sub perfectly in this recipe.

  36. Bri says:

    Mel, where do you buy your ground chicken? Smiths did not have it. I got the ground turkey. We will be making this tonight! Can’t wait to try it!

  37. Danielle says:

    Mel–I made this recipe and must say, divine!! Even my picky eaters gave it a try. And yes, I have been dreaming about the yummy goodness ever since I licked the last bite from the pan! So this is defiantly a keeper!!

  38. Whitney says:

    I couldn’t find fish sauce, but I finally found Oyster sauce, which I’ve been looking for for months so I can make your beef broccoli stir fry. So I used the oyster sauce in this recipe. Delicious! I can’t wait to make them again! Oh, and I couldn’t find Boston or Bibb lettuce, so I used romaine…not the best choice but they were still good!

  39. Jennifer G. says:

    These were so awesome! Made them last night and couldn’t stop eating them. I will make them again minus the rice. I’m going low carb for the new year and I don’t think they will be any less fab without the rice. For anyone worried about the fish sauce, just go ahead and buy a bottle of it. It imparts such a nice rich flavor (that is not “fishy”) I don’t think this recipe would be as good without it. These wraps are so good you will make them again and again.

  40. Jenn W. says:

    Made them too. I enjoyed them, my kids–not so much, but I don’t judge recipes on their tastebuds. My fish sauce was a little overpowering, not in taste, but in smell. I think I might need to invest in some better quality fish sauce (like another reader suggested).

    I can always count on your recipes for a good meal! Thank you, Melanie!!

  41. Mel says:

    Tricia – when I make this, I usually serve it with some kind of steamed veggie (broccoli, asparagus) and lots of fresh fruit that’s in season. Pretty simple! I don’t include any other carbs since we use the rice in the recipe.

  42. Tricia says:

    Now how did you know that I’ve been craving a recipe served in lettuce wraps?! Genius!
    These look delicious, and I will be trying it tonight!
    Question: What would YOU serve with these wraps? (I’m thinking I’d like more vegetable.) 🙂

  43. Laura says:

    Yum! These are so good. I love your website! Thanks for making dinner (and lunch and breakfast) taste soooooo good!

  44. Beth says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious! Thanks for the great recipe. It will definitely be in rotation at our house from now on!

  45. Bliss says:

    I held out to make them until I found Fish sauce (Albertson’s had it) and OH MY GOD!! I didn’t use any of the jalepeno seeds, and only bought one lime (for the zest and juice), but next time I will add the seeds, because I think we needed a little more spice. That sauce could definitely be made in a larger batch for chunks of chicken over rice.

    I will definitely be making these again… Probably later this week! My husband isn’t a lettuce fan, so he ate them on warmed tortillas, and they were amazing on it as well. Kids and myself gobbled them up on the lettuce, and still have half of a head left, so we’ll be making them again later this week…

    Your recipes never cease to amaze my taste buds!

  46. Renee says:

    Mel, these are AWESOME!!!!! You are right, you can’t taste the fish sauce other than amazing flavor! I used whole chicken breasts sliced real thin because I didn’t have ground chicken and did everything else the exact same. These were incredible. Once again Mel…you delivered on a delicious recipe. I tell people all the time about your site. Thanks for all that you do!!

  47. Jnl2211 says:

    Vicky, if you’ve ever eaten Asian food at all, you’ve already had fish sauce 🙂 the brand and what type of seafood is used to make it makes a huge difference. The higher the quality, the smoother the taste…much like a fine wine or even olive oil.

  48. Vicky says:

    My grocery store was all out of Boston lettuce so I had to sub iceberg, which worked okay but was certainly not as good. My husband loved the chicken mixture more than I did, but this was my first time using fish sauce so I think I am just unaccustomed to the unusual flavor. All in all it was a tasty recipe that I’ll probably try again sometime. (And of course the store had Boston lettuce a few days later…) (Also, my kids found it a little too spicy, but my husband and I like the spice.)

  49. […] Asian chicken lettuce wraps — I was really happy when this recipe popped up in my feeds just after we bought 5 packages […]

  50. Mel says:

    Bliss – oh, that’s frustrating! Who the heck is buying out all of Kroger’s fish sauce? Hmm, I think oyster sauce would make a fine substitute (try 1 tablespoon to start just because I’m not sure how strong it will be).

  51. Bliss says:

    MEL! I can’t find fish sauce anywhere in our little town! (Well, Kroger is usually my go-to, but they were COMPLETELY OUT!) Anything else I can sub in for it?

  52. Aubrie says:

    These were delicious! I was a little afraid of the spiciness since I was making this for my two kids, but like Sharlene said, it wasn’t spicy at all. I subbed honey for the brown sugar. The flavor was awesome–unlike anything I’ve ever had before, but we loved it. My husband isn’t a huge fan of lettuce wraps, but still really enjoyed these. I think next time we’ll try it as rice bowls (minus the lettuce and with some other steamed veggies like broccoli and carrots). Thanks for the yummy recipe!

  53. Sharlene says:

    I made these for dinner last night and omg they were fabulous! I couldn’t get enough! I served hummus and celery on the side and it served 4 adults and 2 kids. I made a little extra rice though, so idk if that made a difference. But anyways, the SAUCE is to die for! I added the whole jalapeno and it wasn’t even slightly spicy. So good! definitely will be making it again!

  54. Jude says:

    Sounds great! Can these be made in advance, like for a party or trip to the beach etc! How many does this serve?

    • Mel says:

      Jude – I don’t know…I’ve never made them in advance. This probably serves about 4 adults. Maybe 5, depending on appetites.

  55. Perfect timing! I needed a recipe for chicken, and this looks perfect. Yum!

  56. Squishy says:

    EEE! THESE LOOK AMAZING! I am putting this in my weekly rotation for the new grocery trip I do.

    I have been reading your blog for a long time.. and just now started my own blog! 2013 is the year I am changing my eating habits and cooking at home every night- whether it be quick meals, frozen make ahead crock pot meals, etc.

    Would you mind if down the road, I use one of your recipes- I could link it back to you and post it on my new blog? I am new with this, so don’t know how ti all works.

    Anyways, love your blog.. and your recipes! 🙂 Will keep following and trying your yummy food!!


  57. Rochelle says:

    Or the point value for weight watchers

  58. Rochelle says:

    Does anyone know the calorie total on ea one buy any chance .

  59. Jnl2211 says:

    I bet cucumber and cilantro would put these over the top!!

  60. Jocelyn says:

    We had these last night for dinner the only negative thing that I have to say is that there wasn’t any left over! Really, its that good! Your recipes are spot-on Mel! Thanks for sharing with us!

  61. Jackie Atkisson says:

    Mel, do you have a cookbook for sale?

  62. Kim in MD says:

    I love chicken lettuce wraps! These look delicious, and yes- the fish sauce is a must. It is the secret ingredient in most Thai dishes. You won’t taste anything fishy in the finished dish, but it gives it that special flavor that is impossible to duplicate. Just don’t smell it from the bottle or before you add it into the dish, though!

  63. Meghan says:

    Is there anything you can substitute for the fish sauce?

  64. Oh Mel, I’m surfacing here to confess that your blog is one of my very favorite food blogs in the whole entire blog-universe. Everything you post appeals to me and that’s such a rare thing find. So thank you for the stunning photos and to-die-for recipes. I’m a big fan.

  65. Maria says:

    Oh boy, these look so delicious! I LOVE lettuce wraps. I can’t wait to try these! I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year!

  66. Carol says:

    Since excess carbs (which all break down to sugar) are a leading cause of most cancers and stomach bloating/inflammation, I appreciate you posting this anti-carb (minus the rice I will do) meal.

  67. Lettuce wraps are one of my favorite meals! Quick and easy and something I never get sick of! I have several lettuce wrap recipes I rotate through so I’ll have to give these a go next time I make some.

  68. VERY fresh and yummy looking!

  69. leigh anne says:

    Gotta get some fish sauce and them I’m all over it! Healthy too….just what I need after my holiday indulgence 🙂

  70. Jillian says:

    These are so simple, yet look so beautiful, and delicious! I love that the rice is a vessel for soaking up the yummy juices, perfect. I think I will make them for my girls for lunch sometime this week! Happy New Year!

  71. Amy says:

    I love how these are a paleo food, aka, no carbs!!! Thanks for the idea!

  72. Valerie H. says:

    Man!!! They sound good!

  73. These look great, Mel! My hubby and i LOVE lettuce wraps. It seems easy enough to make them at home after looking at this recipe.

  74. Mel says:

    Hi Brett – that’s a great question. The flavors of this new Asian lettuce wrap recipe are a bit more authentic – definitely more light and fresh. It’s a good example of how my personal food tastes have changed over the years. Those lettuce wraps from 2009 are good, but this recipe blows them right out of the water in my opinion.

  75. Wow, this could not have come at a more perfect time! On New Years Eve, my husband and I ordered chinese takeout, and he ordered these chicken lettuce wraps, and was so obsessed with them, he begged me to find a way to remake them! You did the work for me 🙂 I can’t wait to give these a try!

  76. Karly says:

    Love this! I wonder if I can get my big manly husband to eat a lettuce wrap? It’d be fun to try!

  77. Brett A says:

    Hey Mel – can you compare these to you Lettuce Wraps from 2009? ( They ingredients are substantially different, so I just wondered which you preferred, and what the flavor differences were?

  78. Kelley says:

    Oh, Mel! These look delicious and they will be just what I am making for lunch next week. I am 33 weeks pregnant and I pretty much think about food all day long 🙂 Happy New Year to you and your family. Can’t wait to see what this year brings with your recipes. You are my FAVORITE food blog of all time. Pretty much a girl after my own heart….a girl who loves to eat as much as I do! 🙂 Blessings to you and your family in 2013!

  79. I love lettuce wraps! 🙂 I’ll have to try this! 🙂

  80. Renee says:

    These look so good. I love chicken lettuce wraps! The fish sauce scares me a little. I used it in a recipe one time and the smell is horrible. I have the brand that Cooks Illustrated recommends. Can you taste it in the final product?

    • Mel says:

      Renee – I completely agree – fish sauce smells awful. Maybe the worst smelling stuff on the planet but I love the flavor it imparts. I actually cut the fish sauce down a lot from the original recipe (I think it was a full 3 tablespoons). I can’t necessarily “taste” fish sauce in the final product but I can tell the flavors are deeper and delicious. I’d definitely recommend using – especially if you have a highly recommended brand.

      • Paris Tews says:

        My husband always begs me to put in less fish sauce than you call for because he hates the smell! Then I always insist on what “Mel says” and every single time he admits he’s wrong haha. Scary but worth it!

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