Lao Larb-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe

If you're unfamiliar with larb, it's time to get acquainted. Essentially a meat salad mixed with fresh herbs and lime juice, its claim to fame is its status as Laos' national dish (pork larb, specifically). It has also gained popularity in other countries like Thailand, and it can be adapted with different flavors, meats, and spice levels based on regional or personal preference. 

There's one specific ingredient in larb that sticks out, though: toasted sticky rice. "Sticky rice is known for having an exceptional starch content. In this recipe, it aids in flavor absorption as well as providing its own little nutty crunch," explains recipe developer Patterson Watkins. If you haven't used sticky rice before, Watkins says it's pretty easy to source; most grocery stores have it in the rice and grain aisle or the international section, although it might be labeled as sweet rice or glutinous rice rather than sticky rice. If you don't find it there, though, she suggests trying Amazon or an Asian grocery store. 

When you're ready to give these larb-inspired lettuce wraps a try, you might want to stock up on the ingredients, because making them just once won't be enough. "This is a scrumptious dish. The depth of flavor is fantastically surprising and palate-pleasing — tangy notes from the lime, zesty notes from the chiles, fragrant elements from the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs, plus oodles of umami from the fish sauce. It hits all the high points!" Watkins says. 

Gather the ingredients for Lao larb-style chicken lettuce wraps

There are quite a few ingredients required to make these larb-inspired chicken lettuce wraps, but they're almost all easy to find. You'll need sticky rice (for the larb itself and to serve as a side), vegetable oil (canola or peanut also work), ground chicken, Thai chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, lemongrass, garlic cloves, shallot (or red onion), fresh mint, cilantro, scallions, and red chiles. You'll also want green lettuce leaves to make the wraps and sliced cucumbers to serve alongside. 

While most of the ingredients are readily available, Watkins points out that it's OK to substitute lemongrass paste if you can't find fresh lemongrass. If you have trouble finding palm sugar, check your local Asian grocer or order it online. And don't worry if you end up with more palm sugar than you need for just this recipe. "It's a very versatile ingredient. If you find yourself with excess, use it to sweeten brewed tea or as a substitute for granulated sugar when called for in other savory recipes," Watkins says. 

Toast the rice

With your ingredients assembled, the first cooking step you'll need to do is toast a small amount of the sticky rice for the larb. Place 2 tablespoons of the dried rice in a skillet over medium heat. Stir the rice occasionally as the grains toast to a deep golden color — this should take about 10 to 15 minutes. When the rice is toasted, remove it from the pan and set aside to cool. 

Pulse the rice into a powder

Once the toasted rice is fully cooled, throw it into the food processor to pulse. When the grains have broken down into a coarse powder, remove the powder from the food processor and set it aside. 

Cook the ground chicken

Add the oil to the same skillet and place it on the burner over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, stirring occasionally until it's cooked through and nicely browned.

Add the rice powder and season the chicken

With the chicken fully cooked, it's now time to amp up the flavor. Add the toasted rice powder, chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots to the skillet and stir well with the chicken. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the shallots or onions are tender and the liquid has mostly been absorbed. 

Mix in the remaining herbs and seasonings to make the larb-style salad

To complete the larb-inspired filling for your lettuce wraps, remove the chicken mixture from the heat and stir in the mint, cilantro, scallions, and chiles. Add salt to taste. 

Construct the lettuce wraps

The chicken wraps are now ready to be assembled! Simply distribute the lettuce leaves across your serving plates and scoop a spoonful of the ground chicken into each leaf. Watkins suggests you serve the wraps with sliced cucumbers and steamed sticky rice on the side. And if you're looking for drink ideas, she says you can't go wrong with a beer or one of your favorite tropical cocktail recipes.

If you happen to have leftovers, Watkins notes that both the meat and sticky rice will keep for a couple of days, while using up the veggies is more time-sensitive. "It's best to stuff your lettuce wraps using fresh lettuce leaves, as they will wilt pretty quickly. If you want to bring this as a packed lunch, keep the components separated to avoid sog and flavor dilution," Watkins says.

Lao Larb-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe
5 from 31 ratings
With savory fish sauce, zingy herbs and lime juice, and a special toasty ingredient, this is an easy ground chicken recipe that packs a punch.
Prep Time
Cook Time
lao larb-style chicken lettuce wraps
Total time: 35 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons short grain rice (sticky rice)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
  • 1 pound ground dark meat chicken
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup sliced red shallot or red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons sliced red chiles
  • Salt, to taste
  • 12-16 green lettuce leaves
  • ½ cup sliced cucumbers
  • 1 ½ cups steamed sticky rice, for serving
  1. Place the 2 tablespoons of dried rice in a large skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the rice from the skillet and set aside to cool.
  2. Once the rice has cooled, transfer to a food processor and pulse into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  3. Using the same skillet, add the oil and heat over medium-high. Once hot, add the ground chicken to the skillet, stirring occasionally, and cook until nicely browned and no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the toasted rice powder, chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots to the skillet, stir to combine with the ground chicken. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the chicken and the sliced shallots are tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the mint, cilantro, scallions, and chiles. Season to taste with salt.
  6. Divide lettuce leaves between plates and top each leaf with a hearty spoonful of the seasoned ground chicken. Serve the larb lettuce wraps warm, with sliced cucumbers and steamed sticky rice on the side.
Calories per Serving 585
Total Fat 21.2 g
Saturated Fat 5.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 85.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 68.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g
Total Sugars 2.3 g
Sodium 630.9 mg
Protein 27.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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