No chopping or lengthy prep required for this easy weeknight meal of crisp lettuce wraps filled with saucy Korean ground chicken. The sauce is sweet and savory – spice it up as much as you’d like!
When I create new recipes for Asian-style dishes (noodles, stir-fries, etc) here on the blog and over at Cook Smarts, the number one thing people ask for is more sauce! You guys love saucy Asian food. So do we!
We spent a week at the Outer Banks in North Carolina last week. We tried very hard to ditch all of our electronics, so there’s not much photo evidence, but the entire week was beach + pool + ice cream on repeat. My mom, her husband, plus all four of my siblings and their partners were there too. It was a packed (and loud) house, but we had so much fun. As is our tradition, each family took a turn cooking dinner. (My sister and her boyfriend made cactus salad one night – so good!)
Frank and I served Asian noodle bowls with chopped butter lettuce, ramen noodles, and this Korean-style ground chicken. The chicken is super versatile, loaded with an addictive sauce (that can be spiced as much as you like), and makes great leftovers. Make it for a crowd like we did, or serve it just to your family. With no chopping, and quick cooking time, this is made for weeknights.
Korean Chicken Lettuce Cups Ingredients
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – I always use low-sodium soy sauce in testing and cooking. If using regular soy sauce, add an extra teaspoon of brown sugar (taste and adjust it if needed) to help keep the salty/sweet balance.
- Dark Brown Sugar – Light brown sugar will also work.
- Gochujang – Spicy, smoky, and a tiny bit sweet – this red chili paste is used often in Korean cooking. Adjust the amount to fit your spice preference, but I highly recommend including at least a little to balance the sweetness of the sauce.
- Rice Vinegar – A pantry staple for Asian cooking. In a pinch, another vinegar (white wine or apple cider for example) would work, but the flavor won’t be as authentic.
- Toasted Sesame Oil – Like rice vinegar, this is a great staple to have in your pantry for Asian cooking. A little goes a long way and it gives the dish its distinctive sesame flavor!
- Boston, Bibb, or Butter Lettuce Leaves – These are different names for a similar variety of lettuce that comes in small heads and is soft but crisp. These are the best for lettuce wraps. Romaine lettuce leaves are longer and sturdier, so those work well too and make a longer taco-like shape wrap.
- Cooked Rice – This is optional, but I like to add a bit of extra substance to the lettuce cups with a grain or starch. Cooked brown or white rice is classic. Quinoa, farro, or cauliflower rice would also be great. (In the photos, I used short-grain brown rice cooked in the Instant Pot.)
- Roasted Peanuts – Optional, but good for crunch!
- Other kitchen staples like ketchup, cornstarch, and cooking oil.
What Type of Lettuce Is Best for Lettuce Wraps?
Boston, Bibb, and butter lettuce have soft, buttery leaves that wrap easily around filling and still have a subtle crispness. Romaine and iceberg lettuce leaves have the most crunch but are more difficult to fold into wraps.
- Boston, Bibb, and butter lettuce – Look for small heads of these lettuce varieties with leaves that are dense, bright green, and don’t look limp. (It’s what I used for the photos in this post.)
- Romaine lettuce – Look for hearts of romaine with the outer leaves intact and showing no sign of browning.
- Iceberg lettuce – Look for light green, firm heads of lettuce, that are fairly small (the outer leaves can be too large to use for wraps). Separate the leaves carefully to prevent tearing them.
- Carbon Steel Wok – A good wok is super useful and cooks everything more quickly than a regular skillet. This one has been my favorite and is holding up great since I bought it years ago.
- Wok Spatula – A spatula designed specifically for the wok seems gimmicky, but the rounded base actually makes it super useful when cooking this way.
More Weeknight Meals with Chicken
- Lemon Chicken Piccata – A one-pan crowd-pleaser. The lemony sauce makes this dish great served over pasta, rice, or any grain.
- Sweet Chili Chicken – Love this slow-cooker sweet and spicy chicken as a base for Asian-inspired meals.
- Caribbean Chicken Quinoa Bowls – An easy from-scratch Caribbean spice rub makes the chicken super flavorful, but the pineapple and avocado salsa is the real star of these fresh bowls.
- Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce
- Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas
Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Sweet and Savory Korean Sauce:
Korean Lettuce Wraps:
- 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I like avocado or grapeseed oil; vegetable or canola oil would also work)
- 1 1/2 lbs Ground Chicken (sub ground turkey or any other ground meat)
- 2 Tbsp Water
- 2 tsp Cornstarch
- 2 tsp White sesame seeds
- 16 leaves Boston, Bibb, or Butter Lettuce Leaves (see note)
- 2 cups Cooked Rice (see note)
- 1/2 cup Roasted Peanuts (preferably unsalted)
- Extra Gochujang, for serving
- Make sauce by whisking together soy sauce, 6 Tbsp water, brown sugar, ketchup, Gochujang, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil and when it begins to shimmer, add ground chicken. Saute, breaking the chicken apart, until chicken is nearly cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Pour sauce over chicken and cook, stirring, until sauce begins to bubble.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp water and cornstarch to make a slurry.
- Pour slurry over chicken and stir. Continue cooking until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes more. Top chicken with sesame seeds.
- Set out chicken, lettuce leaves, cooked rice (if using), roasted peanuts, and extra Gochujang. Assemble lettuce cups at the table and enjoy!
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