The best chicken lettuce wraps feature moist chicken, aromatic vegetables and crunchy water chestnuts shimmering in a robust sweet and sour glaze. Nestled into soft lettuce leaves and eaten by hand, there’s nothing better on a hot summer night.
Lettuce wraps are said to have originated in China and are enjoyed throughout Asia. Classic versions of the dish are made with a variety of meats, though the version most people in America are familiar with is made with ground chicken. That’s because PF Chang’s version is made with chicken and the restaurant chain is touted as being the first to put lettuce wraps on the menu. The hearty starter is described as their “signature dish” and the appetizer is so beloved, it’s the most-copied menu item in the restaurant industry.
To be clear, there’s no way to truly reproduce the PF Chang’s version since the “secret family recipe” is closely guarded, but we can come close and even make something that’s arguably better.
My chicken wraps are gluten-free, budget-friendly and entirely customizable. Use this easy recipe as a starting point to create delicious lettuce wraps that are endlessly adaptable.
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How to customize your chicken lettuce wraps
The chicken: This recipe calls for ground chicken, which is typically 92% to 97% lean. That means this wholesome dish contains very little fat from your protein source. You can also use finely diced chicken breasts, tenders or thighs. If you want to substitute a different protein, try ground or diced lean pork, beef, turkey or tofu.
The vegetables: I chose carrots for sweetness, since they partner perfectly with the salty elements in the soy sauce and hoisin. I also added onion, green bell pepper and water chestnuts for taste, texture and crunch. Adding vegetables also helps stretch the filling to serve more people. Feel free to add or replace vegetables. For example, add some shiitake mushrooms or swap in jicama in place of water chestnuts.
The soy sauce: You may substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce if that’s your preference. If you’re avoiding gluten, use tamari sauce.
The hoisin sauce: Choose gluten-free hoisin sauce if you’re restricting gluten.
The peanut oil: You can substitute vegetable oil, olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil for the peanut oil, if desired.
The peanut butter: Use creamy or chunky. If you have a peanut allergy, use any nut or seed butter you prefer.
The heat level: You can make your wraps spicy by adding crushed red pepper flakes, hot sauce or sriracha. Add a little or a lot to suit your taste. You can also serve hot sauce on the side.
The lettuce: Choose sturdy lettuce leaves with thick ribs. Great choices include bibb, boston, iceberg and little gem. The leaves should be deep enough to hold the filling (like a cup) and hardy enough to be picked up and eaten like a wrap.
The leftovers: Store the lettuce leaves and filling separately. Store the filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store the lettuce in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, preferably in your produce drawer.
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Recipe: Better-than-PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wrap Recipe
Makes: 4 servings as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, regular or seasoned
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter, creamy or chunky
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil, or oil of choice
- 1 pound ground chicken
- ½ cup diced carrots
- ⅓ cup minced white onion or spring onion
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lettuce leaves, such as bibb, Boston, iceberg, or little gem, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter, honey, chili sauce, garlic powder and ginger. If your peanut butter is firm and not blending, microwave the mixture for 30 seconds and whisk until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Set aside.
- Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Add the carrots, onion, bell pepper and water chestnuts and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
- Add the sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens and reduces. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Serve with lettuce leaves and chopped peanuts. Enjoy by spooning the chicken mixture into the lettuce leaves and topping with the peanuts.
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