Korean BBQ Lettuce Wraps

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Maybe it’s all the hype around PyeongChang and the Winter Olympics, but I am now officially hooked on the sweet/spicy/zingy/umami-rich flavors of Korean barbecue sauces and might need an intervention. It all started when I discovered We Rub You sauces while cruising the international aisle at WholeFoods. Why did I pick up a bottle? The label, of course.

We Rub You

This stuff is so good! Imagine a less sweet, more complex hoisin sauce. Or gingery/garlicky (vs smokey) BBQ sauce. I knew right away it would be a perfect shortcut sauce for lettuce wraps.

If you’ve been to a PFChang’s China Bistro, there’s a good chance you’ve tried their signature lettuce wraps – which are like tacos with lettuce shells or a really tasty salad that you get to eat with your hands. My version is extremely veggie-forward (as in, lots of veggies mixed in with the ground turkey), as well as quick and easy to make thanks to prepared hoisin and Korean BBQ sauce. If you can make tacos, you can make lettuce wraps.

I make a large batch of the filling because everyone loves it, it reheats well, and keeps for up to a week. Trust me when I say you’ll want leftovers. (Serve it with lettuce wraps one night, and on top of rice or soba noodles the next.) Also, feel free to play around with the vegetables. No mushrooms? No big deal. Love zucchini? Add more. Not afraid of nightshades? Try with diced eggplant or bell peppers.

Let the Games begin!

Korean BBQ Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 6-8 or 4 with leftovers
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Low cal, low carb and totally addictive


Credit: subeeskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast (dark meat OK but I prefer leaner)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (about 2″ section)
  • 1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced crosswise (white and green parts)
  • 1 8-oz package fresh mushrooms (white or brown), chopped
  • 1 10-oz package shredded carrots
  • 2 or 3 zucchini, diced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 8-oz can diced water chestnuts (drained)
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup Korean BBQ sauce, original or spicy (I like We Rub You brand)
  • 1-2 heads iceberg lettuce, cored and cut into quarters
  • Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • Chopped peanuts (optional)

Directions

Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Add ground turkey and cook 3-5 minutes, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon. (Turkey won’t be cooked all the way through.)

Add chopped ginger and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in scallions and mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes. Add in zucchini, carrots, garlic and water chestnuts and cook for 2 more minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in hoisin and Korean BBQ sauces. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. (If sauce seems too thick, add 1/4 cup water; if too soupy, remove cover and stir until some of the liquid has reduced.)

Core and quarter the head or heads of iceberg lettuce. Serve components buffet style, allowing everyone to create their own lettuce wrap.


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Ground turkey breast makes these very low cal. Use dark meat or ground chicken if that’s what you prefer.

Fresh ginger facts: 1) You can break off a piece of the root in the store, so you only pay for what you need; 2) you can easily “peel” the root by scraping it with the edge of a spoon!

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Stored in a zip-top plastic bag in the refrigerator, fresh ginger will keep for up to 8 weeks.

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This is an example of a lazy chop job, but it worked out fine. No need to go super fine with the dice or dirty a food processor.

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Adding the ginger at this stage helps season the turkey and ensures the ginger will be cooked through (despite a rushed dice job).

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All parts of the scallion can be used, but I discard the roots. Brown mushrooms (sometimes called Baby Bellas) are preferable but any button mushroom is fine. Shiitake mushrooms would be delicious, but they’re more expensive (and not appreciated by the rest of my family members).

To prep zucchini, I first cut them into flat planks (shown left). Then they’re easy to cut into a medium dice.

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Note the turkey is still not cooked all the way through. It will get there.

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Why two sauces? The Korean BBQ sauce gives complexity and spice (and saltiness); the hoisin sauce brings sweetness. You could go with all (1 cup) hoisin, but 1 cup Korean BBQ sauce would most likely be too salty. 

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Finished filling, after covering and simmering. The vegetables give off extra liquid, so if it looks too soupy just let it simmer a little longer uncovered. Be sure to have extra napkins available when eating lettuce wraps.

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Could you use romaine leaves instead of iceberg wedges? Sure. I just like the extra crunch and stability from iceberg. Usually I’ll double or triple up the lettuce wrappers for mine (making it more of a portable salad).

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Does the lettuce have to be perfectly portioned like at PFChang’s? Nah. In fact, you could make things easy (and neater) by just making a big salad topped with the turkey/vegetable mixture.

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I happen to like the fresh herbal flavor of cilantro leaves and the crunch of chopped peanuts, but these are completely optional. Make it your own.

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You know what would be amazing on these, now that I think of it? A drizzle of Momofuku ssäm sauce! Next time.

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This is not a sponsored post– I just love these sauces. If you don’t have a WholeFoods near you, these sauces are also available on Amazon. (Note that I do get a small sales commission if you purchase through these links. It will not put my kids through college. )

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