How To Make Chicken Lettuce Wraps

How To Make Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Emma Christensen
Aug 1, 2018
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

For all the times I have ordered chicken lettuce wraps at Chinese restaurants like P.F. Chang's, inhaled entire "appetizers" by myself, and sighed with happiness while licking sticky sauce from my fingers, it never once occurred to me to try making this dish at home. Partly, lettuce wraps have always felt like an indulgence that needed restriction to restaurant visits only. Partly, I assumed that the secret to their deliciousness surely lay in a long list of ingredients, fussy technique, or both.

You see where I'm heading here, yes? We can definitely make chicken lettuce wraps at home. It's actually super easy and makes a surprisingly quick and healthy weeknight meal. Pick up what you need on your way home, and you can have these for dinner tonight.

Easy Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Watch the Video

The Secret Sauce

I can't claim to know what P.F. Chang's or other Chinese restaurants put in their secret sauce, but I feel pretty happy with my own. The key ingredient is hoisin — a sweet, salty, slightly tangy, spiced sauce that's like the Chinese equivalent to American barbecue sauce. Here, I mix it with some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil to make a sticky glaze for the chicken in our wraps.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

This sauce is what gives the chicken filling its rich, savory depth. And (in my professional opinion) what makes these wraps so incredibly addictive, both at restaurants and at home.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

The Chicken Filling

Of course, a secret sauce requires a delivery vehicle, and in this case, ground chicken does the job. This is one place where the relatively light and mild flavor of chicken is a boon — any other meat would make this dish too rich. I like the chewy, nubbly texture of ground chicken (or turkey) in this dish, though you could mince some chicken breasts or thighs if you'd prefer.

To round out the filling, add some diced mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, and ginger. I especially love the water chestnuts — their wet crunchiness is always a nice surprise in each bite!

The Lettuce Wrap

Bibb or butter lettuce are my picks for these wraps. They have sturdy, broad leaves that hold a good amount of filling without major risk of everything falling apart. Look for relatively small heads with fresh outer leaves that show no signs of wilting.

You could also use long leaves of romaine, cut into a few pieces, or even a hearty green, like Swiss chard or collards.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Chicken lettuce wraps are a true 30-minute meal, even including the time to chop up the vegetables. As we veer into the warmer months, this is a meal that won't heat up your kitchen or feel too heavy to eat. It hits that magical middle zone of being both very satisfying and also surprisingly light and refreshing.

But wait, there's more! I've found that the chicken filling keeps well in the fridge. This means that I can make a big batch for dinner and then have the leftovers for lunch over the next few days, or make this for a party without cooking at the last minute. Add a splash of chicken broth if the filling looks dry; otherwise, heat up what you need in the microwave.

How To Make Chicken Lettuce Wraps - Recipe

How To Make Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Serves 2 to 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as an appetizer or side dish

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 3 to 5 tablespoons

    hoisin sauce (gluten-free, if needed)

  • 2 tablespoons

    soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon tamari, if gluten-free or coconut aminos)

  • 2 tablespoons

    rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    toasted (Asian) sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    cornstarch (optional)

  • 1 pound

    ground chicken or ground turkey

  • 2 teaspoons

    vegetable oil, divided

  • 8 ounces

    white button or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

  • Optional vegetables: finely diced onions, finely diced bell peppers, finely diced or grated carrots

  • 1 (8-ounce) can

    water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon

    peeled and minced fresh ginger

  • 1/2 cup

    thinly sliced scallions (from about 6 scallions), divided

  • 2

    small heads Bibb or butter lettuce

  • Serving options: red pepper flakes, hot sauce

  • Equipment
  • Measuring spoons and cups

  • Large frying pan

Instructions

  1. Make the sauce. Place 3 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl and whisk. If you'd like a more thickened, glossy sauce, whisk in the cornstarch; place near the stove.

  2. Cook the ground chicken. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the ground chicken and cook, breaking it up into small pieces, until cooked through and no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean bowl; set aside.

  3. Cook the vegetables and aromatics. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the same pan. Add the mushrooms and any optional vegetables, and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the water chestnuts, garlic, and ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  4. Combine the vegetables and chicken. Return the chicken to the pan and add 1/2 of the scallions.

  5. Stir in the sauce. Add the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling and the sauce is warmed through, 30 to 60 seconds. Taste and add more hoisin sauce if desired.

  6. Serve with the lettuce. Break off all the lettuce leaves and pile them on a plate in the center of the table, along with small dishes with hot sauce, red pepper flakes, and the remaining scallions. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a serving dish, or serve straight from the skillet. Give everyone a spoon and let them dig in — place a generous spoonful of chicken mixture in the middle of a lettuce leaf, top with scallions and hot sauce or red pepper flakes, and eat right away.

Recipe Notes

Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten free, use gluten-free hoisin sauce, and tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.

Make ahead: The cooked chicken filling keeps very well in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat just what you need and add a splash of chicken broth if the mixture seems dry.

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