The moment we turned 16, my high school friends and I used our newfound freedom (and the ability to borrow our parents’ cars) to meet for dinner at a certain favorite Asian restaurant chain. We felt very adult and fancy, especially when we split an order of Lettuce Wraps. Tender ground chicken cooked in an outrageously addictive, sweet-and-salty Asian sauce, then piled inside crisp lettuce cups, this famous restaurant appetizer has since become one of my favorite healthy dinner inspirations.
I first wrote about the arrival of the aforementioned illustrious Asian restaurant chain in my Kansas hometown (and the love affair with Asian lettuce wraps that it sparked), back when I shared this recipe for copycat P.F. Chang’s Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps. My love for them hasn’t dwindled in the slightest.
As it turns out, you also share my lettuce wrap love! The vegetarian version is still one of the most popular on my site, and today’s chicken version has earned a similar set of stellar reviews.
P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps are made of less accessible ingredients that I’m not as likely to have around, like mirin and shiitake mushrooms.
When I set out to create a copycat version, it was important to me that they be made with simple ingredients that are easy to find at most grocery stores. You may even have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now!
These healthy lettuce wraps are fancy without being fussy and flavorful without requiring hours of work. They can be made in the slow cooker or on the stovetop. Each option is equally as delicious, so choose whichever fits best with your schedule.
Whether you’re looking for a simple recipe that will impress anyone you serve it to, an easy weeknight dinner with wholesome ingredients, or a nutritious stand-in for your weekly takeout order, these Asian lettuce wraps are for you.
Asian Lettuce Wraps—A Healthy Recipe Love Story
These Thai chicken lettuce wraps have the same sweet crunch and addictive taste as my original vegetarian recipe, but they’re made with ground chicken instead of tofu.
They also offer a few other advantages over the original.
- Crock Pot. This recipe is made in the slow cooker so you have maximum flexibility. Prep it now, then go about your business. In a few hours, dinner is ready to serve.
- Scalability. While I love my vegetarian lettuce wraps, a comment I frequently received was that they were gone in a single evening.
While a clean plate is the most sincere of compliments for any home cook, as a lover of meal prep (and anytime I can cook once and eat more than once), I also recognize the benefit of having leftovers.
Today’s recipe for healthy Asian lettuce wraps yields a more generous portion of the filling. Any amount you don’t finish tonight will last in the refrigerator for several days and can be frozen for several months, making them a meal prep dream.
How to Make Lettuce Wraps
What makes this recipe special is its blend of nuanced flavors and textures, along with a well-balanced incorporation of healthy food groups. Every spoonful provides double-duty servings of both protein and vegetables.
From the “Why can I not stop eating this???” tasty sauce, to the crunch of the water chestnuts, the ingredients blend together beautifully. Every bite delivers.
- Ground Chicken. Ground chicken is quick-cooking, mild, and it will soak up the flavor of the sauce without overpowering it. Perfect! Plus, it’s packed with filling protein.
- Hoisin + Soy Sauce. The sweet, sticky, salty, and umami base for our sauce. Think of hoisin as sweet Asian BBQ sauce (YUM!). If you aren’t able to use soy sauce, you could try tamari or coconut aminos instead.
- Rice Vinegar. It provides a touch of acid to balance the sweetness of the hoisin and saltiness of the soy sauce. It’s a staple in Asian-style recipes like this one. You can also use it in any of these recipes that use rice vinegar.
- Sesame Oil. A richly nutty and toasty counterpart to the sweetness in our sauce. This one is hard to swap; if you cook Asian food often (or aspire to), you’ll love having it on hand.
- Ginger + Garlic. Twin flavor bombs in Asian cooking. Fresh ginger is best but you can swap in one-third the amount of ground ginger in a pinch.
- Mushrooms + Grated Carrots. Even if you don’t like mushrooms, I highly doubt you will notice them here! They are chopped super small, and their flavor deepens the sauce without making it taste like mushrooms. Plus, the added veggies help make this dish more nutritious. Mushrooms bring antioxidants and Vitamin-B, and carrots are packed with Vitamin-A.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Just a little for some heat.
- Water Chestnuts. The delicious “crunch” factor. They are mild but oh so worthwhile.
- Butter Lettuce. Butter lettuce is the kind of lettuce used for lettuce wraps. The leaves are tender and slightly sweet, making them the ideal vessel for our filling. The inner hearts of romaine lettuce also work well. Need another option? You can use iceberg lettuce for lettuce wraps, if that’s what you have on hand.
- Combine the sauce ingredients.
- Brown the chicken in large skillet. Add the green onion, ginger, and garlic.
- Place the mixture in the slow cooker, and stir in the vegetables, red pepper flakes, and sauce. Cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours. Add the water chestnuts and remaining green onions.
- Scoop the mixture into the lettuce cups, and DIG IN!
- Beef Lettuce Wraps. Swap the ground chicken in this recipe for lean ground beef. The flavor will be different but still tasty.
- Turkey Lettuce Wraps. Use ground turkey instead of ground chicken. This swap is nearly imperceptible.
- Shredded Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Since this recipe is designed for cooking ground meat (versus a whole chicken breast), instead I’d recommend making this Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken or this Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken, then folding it into lettuce cups.
- To Make Vegetarian. See my recipe for Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps (linked above). Please note this recipe is made on the stovetop only and would not translate to the slow cooker, as the tofu would overcook.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Lettuce Wraps
- To Store. Leftover filling can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Store your lettuce separately in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator. I like to wrap my lettuce leaves in a dry paper towel or clean kitchen towel before placing them in the container/bag to help preserve their crunch.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm the filling in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave. Fill lettuce cups just before serving.
- To Freeze. Place leftover filling in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and serve with fresh lettuce cups.
What to Serve with Lettuce Wraps
Since these lettuce wraps offer both protein and veggies in a single serving (like this Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe), we enjoyed them as a standalone dinner. If you want to serve them with a side dish, here are a few ideas:
- Rice. Serve them with brown rice or quinoa, and you’ll hit every food group in a single meal.
- Veggies. Add even more vegetables by pairing these wraps with a side of Roasted Frozen Broccoli.
- Salad. A crisp, flavorful salad like this Asian Cabbage Salad would be tasty. I’ve also mixed the lettuce wrap filling with romaine for an easy salad.
Want to get really wild? Take a note from my “I work from home and anything in the fridge is fair game for lunch” book. Try this healthy lettuce wrap filling mixed with scrambled eggs and a few extra shots of soy sauce. SO GOOD!
More Healthy Versions of Takeout Favorites
- Healthy Orange Chicken
- Homemade Fried Rice
- Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
- Crock Pot Cashew Chicken
Recommended Tools to Make Asian Lettuce Wraps
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I love that it switches to “keep warm” at the end of the cooking time so my food rarely overcooks.
- Dutch Oven. This one is perfect for browning the meat and preparing the recipe on the stovetop.
- Measuring Spoons. These are easy to store and can go in the dishwasher.
Whether you’re new to lettuce wraps or consider yourself a lettuce wrap connoisseur, I hope you’ll give this tasty recipe a try! If you do, please let me know what you think in the comments below. I love hearing from you.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce - plus 1 tablespoon, use tamari to make gluten free
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds ground chicken breast
- 1 small bunch green onions - thinly sliced, white/light green and dark green parts divided
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic - minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 8 ounces baby bella cremini mushrooms - finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup grated carrots - from about 3 large carrots
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes - reduce to 1/4 teaspoon or omit if sensitive to spice
- 2 cans water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped - (8 ounce cans) drained and finely chopped
- 2 heads butter lettuce
- Lightly coat a 5-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the chicken and brown the meat, breaking it into small pieces. Continue cooking until no longer pink, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the white and light green parts of the green onions, ginger, and garlic. Cook 30 additional seconds.
- Transfer the meat mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, carrots, red pepper flakes, and sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours until the mixture is thickened and the chicken is ultra tender. (Do not be tempted to cook on HIGH, as the chicken will become tough.) Stir in the water chestnuts and green parts of the green onions.
- To serve, separate the butter lettuce leaves and fill with the chicken mixture. Enjoy hot.
- TO MAKE ON THE STOVETOP: Prepare the recipe through step 2 in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to low and let cook until the chicken and mushrooms are very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Check and stir periodically. Stir in the water chestnuts and green tops of the green onions. Enjoy!
- I do not recommend cooking this recipe on high in the slow cooker. The filling does best over low heat so that it becomes nice and tender.
- TO STORE: Leftover filling can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Store your lettuce separately in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator. I like to wrap my lettuce leaves in a dry paper towel or clean kitchen towel before placing them in the container/bag to help preserve their crunch.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm the filling in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave. Fill lettuce cups just before serving.
- TO FREEZE: Place leftover filling in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and serve with fresh lettuce cups.
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