Chicken Lettuce Cups

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These delicious chicken lettuce cups are fresh, exciting and full of intense and spicy flavors from soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. A terrific appetizer or even main course that’s fast and easy to make.

chicken lettuce cups

This is a recipe I’ve been making for years and it’s an adaptation from America’s Test Kitchen. I love everything about it, it’s savory, a little bit spicy, very satisfying and takes little effort to put together. Plus, apart from the vegetables and the chicken breast, it’s made purely with regular pantry ingredients.

You can serve these cups as an appetizer but they are pretty filling so I find that they make a great main course.

How to make chicken lettuce cups:

This recipe starts with a marinade. It’s quite simple but really packs a punch as far as flavor goes.

You mix together rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of corn starch. (The corn starch helps to keep the meat tender during the frying process later, a technique called velveting.)

Next you grab your chicken breast, cut it into cubes, grind it in the food processor and toss it in the marinade for about ten minutes. (Recipe Tip: Put the chicken breast in the freezer for 10 minutes before handling it, that will make it easier to process it in the food processor.)

While the chicken is marinating you can finish the prep work:

For the sauce you whisk together sake, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, corn starch (to thicken the sauce) and red pepper flakes.

For the vegetables you chop up shiitake mushrooms, green onion and a celery stalk.

That’s all for the prep work, now you’re ready to cook: heat a bit of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and fry the chicken. Take the chicken out, then fry the vegetables. Add the chicken back in, then pour in the sauce and cook until it starts to thicken (this will take just a minute).

To serve, spoon the filling into fresh lettuce leaves and, if you want to, drizzle a bit of hoisin sauce on top.


Related Post:

Like Asian-inspired appetizer recipes? Check out this Asian Noodle Salad:

asian noodle salad

chicken lettuce cups
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Chicken Lettuce Cups

Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Marinating Time10 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: chicken lettuce cups, chicken lettuce wraps
Servings: 2
Calories: 320kcal
Author: Nicole Branan | The Spice Train


For the marinade:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 5 medium–large shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • lettuce
  • hoisin sauce, optional


For the marinade:

  • Put the chicken cubes in the freezer for about 10 minutes until they start to harden. (This will make it easier to process them).
  • Meanwhile whisk vinegar, soy sauce, oil and corn starch together in a bowl large enough to hold the processed chicken. Set aside.
  • Grind the chicken in the food processor, then mix it into the marinade and put in the fridge for 10 minutes.

For the sauce:

  • Whisk sake, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, oil, sesame seeds, corn starch and pepper flakes together in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan on high heat.
  • Drain the chicken out of the marinade and fry it in the oil until it is cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan and fry mushrooms, green onions and celery until they start to soften.
  • Add the chicken back into the pan, then add the sauce and cook until it thickens and turns translucent.
  • Fill the lettuce leaves with the chicken mixture.
  • Serve with hoisin sauce (optional).


Calories: 320kcal

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chicken lettuce cups


    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you, Angela! When I do a studio shoot, I start by setting up my props and my lighting. So, I set things up the way I think they look good, take a shot, then adjust props and lighting millimeter by millimeter until I have them the way I like it. I take shots throughout that process and sometimes it takes longer than others but I’d say on average I take probably about 10 to 15 shots during that process. Then I make the food, bring it to the set, take a shot and then fine-tune again, moving the food around, adding flags or reflectors, making small adjustments to the food and taking shots throughout, probably another 10 or 15 until I have my final shot. Depending on the longevity of the food I sometimes try to get 1 or 2 more shots, exchanging props or changing from vertical to horizontal or vice versa. That doesn’t always work out though, I often end a photo shoot with only one final photo.

      • Angela - Patisserie Makes Perfect says:

        Thanks so much for all of the information – it’s really interesting that you set the shot up first without the food.

        I generally plan in my head how I want it to look, or think about the props I would use and then set everything up with the food.

        Thanks for the insight.

  1. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says:

    Wonderful shot! My heaven the lettuce looks like you just picked it out of the garden — after you washed it first, of course. The recipe itself sounds wonderful. I love the spices in it and I think it would make a perfect lunch. I’ve also read not to use square plates — I have some and I have used them. I like their looks. I really find it appealing and I think it looks good as a change. Thank you for the recipe and the photo inspiration.

    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you, Marisa! I agree that square plates can look really good but I also find that they can be tricky to work with. I have very few successful shots that involve square plates but after digging up this photo I actually thought to myself I should use square plates more often. :)

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