Indian Spiced Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps — a fast, exceptionally flavorful weeknight meal (or even a make-ahead office lunch). Dairy-free + gluten-free. Vegetarian? Try it with chickpeas.
Hey friends! Taking a respite from the land of retail coverage (ICYMI: NSale #Dressingroom Selfies // 7 Anniversary Sale Finds Styled (With My Existing Wardrobe) // 5 Anniversary Sale Dresses Styled for Day + Night — phew!) to pop back into the kitchen for a minute with a recipe that’s been humming along in the back of my mind for the past few weeks. And I’m excited to report (as is often not the case with things that become too highly anticipated): this little diddy was worth the wait.
My love affair with lettuce wraps started with the Chinese banquet pork-and-dried-oyster classic I looked forward to at family celebrations as a kiddo, and mainstreamed into P.F. Chang’s and their undeniably sweet and sticky, hoisin-heavy rendition in the early ’00s. I remember making a pretty close knock-off on repeat in college (lettuce wraps, as it turns out, are cheap homemade eats on a co-ed budget; P.F. Chang’s…less so). And then a few years ago, I took the same classic flavors and veggified them with baked tofu and a crunchy topping of macadamia nuts. It was a good move. Still in pretty frequent rotation. If it ain’t broke, right?
But a few weeks ago, Lana and I were reading one of her fave books, What’s on Your Plate, and somewhere between explaining to her the phenomenal glory of samosas and chicken tikka masala and my own favorite childhood meals, the idea for these lettuce wraps was born. (Quick note: I’m calling them Indian Spiced Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps due to their inspired flavor profile, but I’m not claiming these are authentically anything but delicious.)
Warm garam masala, cumin and turmeric meet with sweet, dried apricots, tender peas and creamy coconut milk — all tucked into buttery leaves of lettuce with cool sliced cucumbers. cilantro and plenty of lime juice. They’re thoroughly spiced but not spicy (Lana happily devoured them), crazy flavorful, ready in under 30 mins and totally addicting. The filling reheats like a dream, too, so if you were inclined to pack these up for the office with a few leaves of lettuce on the side, you’d be in pretty rad shape come lunchtime.
And as much as I love these guys for their flavor, I love them even more for their accessibility. If you happen to cook often, my bet is that you have nearly everything on hand. And if you don’t, every ingredient is easily found in most major grocery stores. To keep things even simpler, we almost always have boneless, skinless chicken thighs on hand in the fridge or freezer. Not only are they ideal for some of my favorite fast weeknight recipes (this quick Charbroiled Shoyu Chicken comes to mind), but they make excellent ground chicken when cut roughly into cubes and pulsed briefly in the food processor. Alternatively, you can, of course, use store bought ground chicken, but if you’ve got an extra 5 minutes and a halfway decent food processor (we use this incredibly not-fancy 7-Cup Cuisinart), I love the versatility of being able to “grind” your own at a moment’s notice.
Oh, and did I mention how easily these lend themselves to a plant-based version? Just swap the ground chicken for whole chickpeas or white beans (ya’ll know how much I love white beans) and you’re good to go. And while we’re talking swaps, this filling is just as at-home tucked into a tortilla or piled atop whole grains in a bowl format, too. This weekend we even turned the leftover filling into — *gasp* — nachos. I know, I know. Really had my thinking cap on that day.
- 1.5 lbs chicken thighs (or ground chicken, see note)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 inches ginger, grated (see note)
- 1 T garam masala
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp Himalayan pink or sea salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
- 2 T avocado oil
- 1/4 cup chopped (about 6) dried apricots
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1/2 English cucumber, julienned
- handful fresh cilantro
- lime wedges
- 1 head butter or bibb lettuce (about 12-15 small leaves), leaves washed and dried
- Cut chicken thighs roughly into 1" pieces and add to a food processor. Pulse about 10-15 times, until finely chopped but not pasty. (Better to under do it than over do it.)
- Turn ground chicken out into a large bowl. Add crushed garlic, grated ginger, garam masala, tumeric, cumin, pink salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Combine well. Set aside while you chop onions, peppers and cucumbers + wash and dry lettuce.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat. Add avocado oil and heat until just shimmering. Add onions and bell pepper, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until translucent and brown in places, about 3-4 mins.
- Add seasoned chicken to onions and peppers and brown until cooked through, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, about 5 mins. Add apricots, peas and coconut milk, reduce heat to low and cook until peas are warmed through, about another 5 mins.
- Serve spiced chicken filling spooned into lettuce cups. Top with julienned cucumbers, cilantro and lime juice. Enjoy!
Regarding the ground chicken: To keep things simple (and versatile), we almost always have boneless, skinless chicken thighs on hand in the fridge or freezer. Not only are they ideal for some of my favorite fast weeknight recipes, but they make excellent ground chicken when cut into cubes and pulsed briefly in the food processor. Alternatively, you can, of course, use store bought ground chicken. I'd stick with something in the 80-85% lean camp.
And for the ginger: I keep my ginger in the freezer and just grate the frozen ginger (no peeling needed) directly into whatever dish I need using a microplane grater. Ginger snow. Easy peasy.
For a vegetarian option: swap in whole chickpeas for the ground chicken!
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And this one’s for the Pinners!