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18 Types of Lettuce and the Best Ways to Eat Each One

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienne cut
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp monk fruit sweetener (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped green and white part separately
  • 1 head Boston or butter lettuce

Video

Little Gems Lettuce

Little Gems. Photo © food/Getty Images

Little Gem lettuce is soft with just a hint of crunch. The delicate flavor is well suited to light vinaigrettes (ginger vinaigrette is lovely) and lemony dressings. Little Gems are especially delicious with thinly sliced radishes or spears of gently steamed asparagus.

Chrysanthemum Greens

Chrysanthemum Greens. Photo © Ryoji Yoshimoto/Aflo/Getty Images

Bright and peppery, young and tender chrysanthemum greens are a tasty addition to salads. They are the green fronds from the chrysanthemum plant that grows the popular flowers, which are more commonly known as mums in some areas. They need to be young for the best flavor raw; larger, older greens will take on a bitter edge that gets tamed by cooking.

Wrap or Roll (Which is Better for Lettuce Wraps?)

Ultimately, the choice to use your lettuce as a wrap or as a roll is up to you. There are benefits to both and you can’t go wrong with either!

  • Roll – Choose a lettuce type with larger leaves if you prefer to roll your lettuce so that you have enough space to work with. Forcing a roll with a smaller lettuce leaf is just going to make it harder to eat. Still delicious of course, but it’s probably going to be messy.

Make sure you have enough leaf space to overlap your leaves and fully cover the mixture inside.

  • Wrap – For wraps, you can use small to medium-sized lettuce leaves that lay flat and can be folded in half like a taco, or use boat-shaped leaves that hold their shape even when loaded with filling.

How To Make Lettuce Wraps

So, how do you make lettuce wraps? The basic steps are pretty straightforward:

  • Prep your lettuce leaves. Wash, dry and lay out your lettuce on a flat surface.
  • Add fillings. Spread sauce over the lettuce first, then place meat or protein, cheese, extra veggies, and any additional toppings you want on your easy healthy lettuce wraps.
  • Wrap or roll. Depending on what kind of lettuce wrap recipe you are making, you may need to roll your lettuce up, or you may eat it more like a taco! It will be delicious either way.

But if you want to know how to make super tight lettuce wraps that are similar to a wrap with a tortilla, here’s how you do that…

How to Pick Butter Lettuce

When picking butter lettuce for wraps, we highly recommend you buy whole-head lettuce. Skip on double or triple-washed lettuce leaves sold in plastic bags.

There is nothing wrong with pre-washed lettuce leaves. However, nothing compares to the freshness of the leaves still attached to the core.

Pay attention to the color. While butter lettuce comes in a variety of shades, the leaves shouldn’t be yellow or brown. 

If your goal is to make lettuce wraps, you also need to make sure that the leaves are firm and have their shape. 

The outer leaves may be slightly damaged. But make sure not all of the big outer leaves are torn or have holes in them. To make good-sized lettuce wraps you will need the larger leaves which are the outer ones. 

How to Prepare Butter Lettuce for Lettuce Wraps

When making a dish using butter lettuce, it is recommended to buy the lettuce not earlier than a day before. It is a highly perishable green that won’t last long in the fridge and will lose its freshness and wilt. 

Being lose-headed lettuce, separating butter lettuce leaves to make wraps is quite an easy task.

Follow these steps to prepare butter lettuce for lettuce wraps and store them in the fridge for later use. 

  1. Take a whole head of butter lettuce and snap off the core.
  2. Make a cut around the core to remove it entirely.
  3. Once you remove the core, the leaves will start separating from one another. Unlike iceberg lettuce that needs water to be run through the leaves to separate them, butter lettuce does this on its own.
  4. Gently separate any leaves that are still stuck together. These are mainly the smaller leaves close to the center of the lettuce head. 
  5. Pu the leaves in a bowl of water. Rinse several times until the water runs clear. 
  6. Put the leaves in a salad spinner to get the leaves somewhat dry. 
  7. As the salad spinner doesn’t dry the leaves completely, put them on a paper towel to soak up the excess water. 
  8. If you are planning on using the leaves a few days later, spread the leaves on a paper towel and gently wrap.  Put the leaves in a sealable plastic bag. 
  9. Use within 3 to 4 days. 

Use a wok to make copycat PF Changs Lettuce Wraps

Lindsay D. Mattison/Mashed Lindsay D. Mattison/Mashed

A wok is a fantastic addition to your kitchen, especially if you like making Asian dishes at home. If you want your copycat PF Chang’s lettuce wraps to taste as close as possible to the original, a wok is the best way to get there. (It also happens to be the secret to making Panda Express meals at home, too.) Woks get hotter than regular pots and pans, so they can flash-sear the chicken. That cooks it quickly and evenly, and a wok also makes quick work of simmering the sauce, thickening it up to coat each piece of chicken perfectly.  

If you don’t have a wok, don’t feel like you need to buy one just for this recipe. You can use any tall-sided skillet to make the filling for PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps, and it will still taste great. The best alternative to a wok is a cast-iron skillet. When seasoned properly, your cast-iron has a similar nonstick property to a wok, and it will get hot enough to get a hard sear on the chicken.

Serve PF Changs Lettuce Wraps in lettuce cups

Lindsay D. Mattison/Mashed Lindsay D. Mattison/Mashed

When you’re ready to eat, prepare the lettuce cups. Whether you’re using iceberg or butter lettuce, the process is the same for any head lettuce. Remove any of the outer leaves that are soft or wilted. Then, cut out the core using a sharp knife and carefully remove the leaves, working from the outside in. The inner leaves may be too small to use for lettuce wraps, so you can save them for salad or another use. Wash the leaves — this is especially important if you’re using organic lettuce, as bugs love to crawl inside head lettuce — and set them into a colander to drain. From here, all you need to do is trim off the stiff white stem at the bottom to make them easier to wrap.

Scoop a tablespoon or two of the filling into each lettuce cup and spoon on the prepared table sauce. You can also fry rice noodles to add to the cups, but we always find it’s more trouble than it’s worth since these noodles don’t have much flavor. The filling for PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps also tastes great in rice bowls, so save any leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Is There Any Way to Revive Wilted Lettuce?

Most leaves will perk back up after a 15-minute soak in cold water. If that doesn’t work, don’t toss the greens out! Chop them and add to soups, stews, and grain dishes. They’ll wilt like spinach and add a fresh, grassy flavor and meltingly tender texture. 

Common Questions

What type of lettuce for lettuce wraps?

A common question that I hear is “what is the best lettuce for lettuce wraps”. I personally enjoy butter lettuce or iceberg, it gives you a larger wrap to hold all your ingredients as you eat. The firm spine on lettuce like romaine makes it more difficult to roll up your lettuce wrap.

Dressed or Naked?

Of course, we are talking about the beef lettuce wraps. Always dressed! A tip is to drizzle the sauce on top last after your wrap is filled. This helps to reduce the amount of sauce and juice that will drip out of the lettuce wrap and trickle down your chin. But I recommend having a napkin ready just in case.

Some like it hot

In our house, my husband is the only one that appreciates a seriously spicy meal. I typically lean to the mild side when I cook for the family, but I will provide some extra Asian hot sauce on the side that he can add if he wants to crank up the heat a little more.

Can I Use Chicken in these Asian Lettuce Wraps? What about Ground Turkey? Or Pork?

Absolutely! Feel free to switch out the beef for your meat of choice. You can even make these vegetarian by swapping in some mild chopped vegetables such as zucchini.

The Ground Beef for the Asian Lettuce Wraps Ready
The Ground Beef for the Asian Lettuce Wraps Ready to Serve!

5 Reasons Why Lettuce Wraps Make the Best Meal Prep for an Easy Meal

Lettuce wraps are a staple in my cooking because… well, you don’t need to do much cooking, really. For people like me who are always on the lookout for simple but nutritious meals, it’s such a welcome addition to my routine.

Here are some other reasons to start making lettuce wraps:

  1. You can use leftovers. When I’m pressed for time, I like to use leftover rotisserie chicken sometimes for my mixture and it’s absolutely fabulous served this way.
  2. It’s low in carbs. Most of the ‘fast food’ we see has a carb component of some sort, but not this one. You can literally eat a whole head of lettuce and it wouldn’t make much of a dent in your carb allowance!
  3. It’s versatile and goes with anything. What I like about lettuce wraps is it can be the main dish or be an appetizer or side dish of some sort.
  4. It’s ready in no time. How long does it take you to spoon your filling mixture onto a lettuce wrap? Probably 3 seconds. Once you have the filling ready, it really takes no time at all to prepare.
  5. It helps increase your vegetable intake. You probably already consume an adequate amount of vegetables, but another serving or two can’t hurt. For those who sometimes forget to have their veggies, this is one way to make sure you’re getting your fill.

How To Make A Lettuce Wrap With Romaine

Because romaine doesn’t have as much “leafy” area to it, romaine lettuce wraps can be a bit tricky. But you can do it!

Here are the two main ways for making lettuce wraps with romaine lettuce:

  1. Like a taco shell – This way, it doesn’t need to be completely wrapped up. If you picture it like a taco, it’s easy to eat. Hold it folded over lengthwise.
  2. Overlap the lettuce leaves – By overlapping your lettuce leaves and using parchment paper, you can create tight lettuce wraps with Romaine lettuce. See my tips below on how to do that!

What To Serve With Lettuce Wraps

Tofu lettuce wraps are an edible party of both texture and flavor—hints of spicy and sweet, big bursts of tart and umami—so they really can stand alone as a light meal. However, they also make a killer heavy appetizer (pair with icy cold beer) or any of these lovely dishes:

10. Looseleaf lettuce

Photo by Shutterstock

Alternate name/varieties: Batavia lettuce, leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, Redina

Characteristics: They have a mild flavor and are very pliable, despite the crunchy stem. Their uneven ruffled surfaces add layers of texture to salads. 

How to use it: Looseleaf lettuce can go wherever you want it to go. Because the leaves are so large, it's best to tear them up into bite-size pieces for salad. They're also great puréed into soup (yes, soup); and the broad, tender leaves combined with the sturdy rib make for exceptional lettuce wraps.

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A Better Option Than Lettuce?

What I’ve found through trial and error is that the best plant wrap isn’t actually lettuce.

Instead, try one of the following 3 alternatives:

  • Swiss chard
  • Collards
  • Savoy cabbage.

All of these are stronger than lettuce, but still relatively flexible without as big of a risk of tearing.

It will change the taste of your wraps a bit, but not necessarily in a bad way.

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