How to Make Delicious Lettuce Wraps
Eating healthy is a challenge for most runners. Not for lack of desire, but more often it is a result of not having enough time in the day. Those of us with the best of intentions commonly crumble to hunger pangs, and simply eat whatever we can get our hands on – especially when training for a big event.
Since our son was born, I have become the primary dinner “preparer” in our house. For the first year, I would make meals that came from bags or boxes and add a salad to make it “healthy.” That got old fast. For the past year, I have intentionally tried to make meals that are fresh, minimally processed, and can be prepared as quickly as possible.
I added these lettuce wraps to the menu sometime in the past 12 months. I didn’t invent this recipe (my wife maybe?), but I like to think I perfected it. It is perhaps more suited to summer, but we make them year round. You won’t see any fancy ingredients, but if done right, it will remind you of something as fancy you might get at PF Changs.
Serves: 2 adults + 1 picky toddler
Time: 15 – 20 minutes with practice
- 1 lbs lean ground chicken, turkey or beef
- 1 – 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 large whole carrot
- 1 bunch green onions/shallots
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 fresh ginger “chunk” (about 2 tablespoons when grated)
- 1 huge handful of sliced almonds
- 1 head/bunch of bibb or butter lettuce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Sauces for dipping (see below)
Once you make this once or twice, it is super easy. You could even make it the night before and reheat. It should keep up to 5 days in the fridge.
- Wash all produce.
- Cut and dice the white ends of the green onions and put in a large skillet with a little olive oil on medium heat.
- Add meat and garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
- While the meat browns, break apart the lettuce leaves, wash, pat dry and set aside.
- When the meat is 90% finished, using the large holes on a standard grater, grate carrot and ginger directly into the skillet.
- Cut small the green side of the green onions with scissors directly into pan.
- After a minute or two, toss in sliced almonds and chopped cilantro.
During the cooking process, add a splash of soy sauce, or rice vinegar to keep the flavors coming out… I don’t really know why, but it tastes better when I do.
Once the meat has browned, you only need to keep it on for a few minutes so the vegetables can soften a bit. Serve on lettuce leaves with dipping sauces and enjoy!
Alternative Ingredients for Your Lettuce Wraps
One nice thing about this dish is that you can really go crazy and experiment with other vegetables options. Red peppers (diced), mushrooms (sliced small) or water chestnuts (drained and chopped small) are all commonly found in lettuce wraps. Add these when cooking other veggies above.
As you’ll notice, there are very little carbohydrates in this meal. As runners, we often think that a meal is only a win if it is full of carbs. You can add a cup of cooked brown rice to the meat and veggie medley. this turns it into more of a burrito, but it also become quite hardy. Sometimes something nice and lite is just as satisfying.
More often than not, I will make a side of pot stickers in lieu of the rice. You can find some frozen “healthy” options at most grocery stores. All the preparation required is boiling water.
Picking your the dipping sauce is where this meal can become really fun, especially with kids. Sweet Chili and Hoisen are my personal favorite, but peanut sauce or hot mustard are also tasty. If you’re feeling adventerous, try something spicy like Siracha or other hot sauces that will make you cry and clean out your nasal passages.
No question, this is a protein heavy meal. One pound of lean ground turkey has 85g of protein! Carrots are crazy high in vitamin A, which is good for our eyes and immune system. Green onions have loads of vitamin K, which helps bone growth. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties (to be fair, there’s not much in this dish, but it does taste delicious!). Cilantro has strong antioxidant activity and almonds have tons of vitamin E and healthy unsaturated fatty acids.
Give these lettuce wraps a try and report back what changes or improvements you made!