Thai Larb-Style Turkey Lettuce Wraps Recipe

Inspired by the bright flavors of traditional Thai cuisine, Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps offer a flavorful twist on lunch wraps with bright, zesty flavors and a punchy aroma. You can't go wrong with this spicy and nuanced dish, and the serving style is a party in its own right.

Larb is a popular Thai salad typically made with minced meat, roasted rice powder, lime, fish sauce, herbs, and chilies. According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, larb likely originated as a way to use up leftover roasted meat and stale rice. The rice is toasted or fried and then ground to a fine powder, adding texture and nuttiness that complements the bold flavors of the fresh herbs and fish sauce that we use for dipping. The hands-on prep and interactive assembly make this dish fun for weeknight dinners with friends, or even a casual solo lunch that feels like a celebration. Pair it with a Thai Tiger beer or a refreshing Thai tea.

Gather the ingredients for these Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps

Despite this dish's pedigree and seemingly long ingredient list, it comes together very quickly, so we recommend getting your mise en place ready before you start cooking. For the base of the dish that gives it its name and unique character, you will need some long-grain rice. This makes the toasted rice powder that provides the nutty texture to the dish.

For the flavorful, larb-style turkey filling, you will need aromatic ingredients — garlic, shallots, sugar, and dried red chilies. Ground turkey provides the base, and fish sauce adds a savory, umami note. Lime juice, more fish sauce, and more sugar make a quick, Thai-inspired dipping sauce.

For wrapping the dish together, grab some crisp, cool lettuce leaves — we recommend using Boston lettuce for its size and freshness. Fresh mint, basil, and cilantro add brightness and should not be skipped. Finally, throw in some thinly sliced red Thai chilies and vegetables (cucumber and shallot here) to give the dish its crunch.

Step 1: Toast rice

Add the rice and oil to a skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking frequently, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.

Step 2: Grind rice

Grind the cooled rice to crumbs in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Step 3: Saute garlic

In the same skillet, cook the garlic in the oil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Step 4: Add sugar

Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and cook for 20 seconds.

Step 5: Add turkey

Add the ground turkey to the skillet. Break it up into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until no pink remains, about 3–5 minutes.

Step 6: Season turkey mixture

Add 2 shallots, ground dried chilies, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, salt, and pepper to the turkey mixture.

Step 7: Finish cooking

Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until turkey cooks fully and becomes golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Step 8: Make dipping sauce

Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and sliced Thai chili.

Step 9: Serve

Serve the lettuce leaves, turkey mixture, rice powder, sliced chili, torn herbs, sliced Lebanese cucumber, shallot slices, and dipping sauce on a plate. Let each person spoon the turkey mixture into lettuce leaf cups before adding a sprinkle of rice powder and other toppings. Dip in the sauce and eat.

Can you make these Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps in advance?

Yes, these Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps can be partially or fully prepared ahead of time, but don't try to assemble them or you will ruin the whole dish. The ground rice powder will keep for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container. It can be made 1–2 days in advance. The larb turkey filling can be cooked up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge or even frozen. Let it cool completely, then store it in an airtight container. When ready to serve, reheat the turkey gently over medium heat until warmed through.

The veggie garnishes will hold well for a day when stored separately in airtight containers lined with paper towels, though the herbs may start to wilt if they're not kept in water. The dipping sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored covered in the fridge. You can even wash and pat dry the lettuce leaves before refrigerating them in a zip-top bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. When you're ready to serve, assemble the lettuce wraps with the filling, sauce, garnishes, and herbs. It will look as though you just put it together 30 minutes before serving, and your guests will be none the wiser!

Can these Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps be made vegan or vegetarian?

Though these wraps are not vegetarian by default, it is easy to make them and their ingredients more veggie-friendly. If you are one of those people squeamish about fish sauce, then the good news is that yes, the fish sauce in this Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wrap recipe can be substituted. For the larb turkey filling, soy sauce or tamari can provide the necessary savory and umami flavor in place of the fish sauce. You may need to add a little extra since soy sauce is less pungent. For the dipping sauce, coconut aminos are a great substitute for fish sauce, offering complexity and rich flavor. The ratio of 1 tablespoon coconut aminos to 1 tablespoon lime juice to 1 teaspoon sugar will provide the right balance. For non-vegan vegetarians, the filling can be made with a meat substitute, such as seitan or tempeh, that's crumbled to mimic ground meat. The toasted rice powder, lettuce wraps, fresh herbs, and veggies make the rest of the recipe naturally vegetarian and vegan. With a few simple substitutions, these Thai-inspired lettuce wraps can be enjoyed by anyone looking for big, bold flavors without compromising on their dietary needs and preferences.

Can I use a different type of lettuce for the Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps?

If you don't have Boston lettuce, you can substitute other types of lettuce for these Thai larb-style turkey lettuce wraps. The key is to use leaves that are large enough to wrap around the filling and sturdy enough to prevent tearing. Green or red leaf lettuce are great options, as their tender, substantial leaves hold the filling well. Romaine lettuce leaves provide a nice cup shape to contain the larb turkey filling, though they are not very pliable and stay in their natural boat shape. Napa cabbage is another sturdy alternative — separate the larger, ruffled leaves from the head and they can stand in as wrap vessels. The crisp inner leaves of iceberg lettuce are also good choices due to their firmness and wrap-ability, though this variety has less flavor than its other leafy counterparts. The more delicate butter lettuce can also be used, employing 2–3 leaves per wrap since the individual leaves are smaller. Their buttery texture contrasts nicely with the filling. Remember that whatever lettuce you choose, make sure you use only fresh, intact leaves that are free of blemishes for your dish. 

Thai Larb-Style Turkey Lettuce Wraps Recipe
4.9 from 30 ratings
These Thai-inspired turkey lettuce wraps offer herby, spicy flavors, and extra fun comes from everyone building their own wrap out of the fragrant ingredients.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
11
minutes
Servings
4
servings
Turkey wrap ingredients on a metal tray
Total time: 26 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the rice powder
  • 1 tablespoon long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • For the turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 small dried red chiles, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • For the dipping sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Thai chilies, very thinly sliced
  • For serving
  • 8 Boston lettuce leaves
  • 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves, torn
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, torn
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
  • 1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
Directions
  1. Add the rice and oil to a skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking frequently, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.
  2. Grind the cooled rice to crumbs in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. In the same skillet, cook the garlic in the oil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and cook for 20 seconds.
  5. Add the ground turkey to the skillet. Break it up into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until no pink remains, about 3–5 minutes.
  6. Add 2 shallots, ground dried chilies, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, salt, and pepper to the turkey mixture.
  7. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until turkey cooks fully and becomes golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  8. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and sliced Thai chili.
  9. Serve the lettuce leaves, turkey mixture, rice powder, sliced chili, torn herbs, sliced Lebanese cucumber, shallot slices, and dipping sauce on a plate. Let each person spoon the turkey mixture into lettuce leaf cups before adding a sprinkle of rice powder and other toppings. Dip in the sauce and eat.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 303
Total Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 2.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 78.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 24.2 g
Dietary Fiber 4.0 g
Total Sugars 11.3 g
Sodium 905.8 mg
Protein 26.3 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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