Chicken Lettuce Cups

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chicken lettuce cups

Ah, lettuce cups – as crunchy and refreshing as a salad but with flavor! A brilliant invention. This here 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 very regular pantry ingredients. You can serve these as an appetizer but they are pretty filling so I find that they make a great main course.

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, ginger
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 cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 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 cornstarch 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, cornstarch and pepper flakes together in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan on high heat.
  • Fry the chicken in the oil until 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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    • 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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