This Thai-inspired chicken larb (Larb gai or Laab Gai) is the perfect healthy weeknight meal. These ground chicken lettuce wraps are loaded with fresh herbs and savory flavors—they’re the perfect healthy weeknight meal.
What is Chicken Larb?
Larb is a popular meat salad served in Laos and Thailand. Like any dish, it varies widely by region but is always made with some sort of minced or ground meat. Larb can be made with ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, ground duck, ground turkey and even ground fish (shrimp would be delicious).
It’s widely flavored with lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, mint, and scallions. The meat, herbs, and sauce are generally stir fried together then served with cabbage, lettuce or an assortment of vegetables and sticky rice. (I like to serve these as chicken lettuce wraps.)
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is my take on the classic dish Laab Gai (chicken larb). To make this dish weeknight-friendly I made a few ingredient changes while being mindful not to deviate too far from the traditional dish. (Though if you’re looking for a super-traditional recipe, check out this Chicken Larb recipe from Tasty Thais.)
There are a few ingredients in these Thai chicken lettuce wraps that simply can’t be compromised, and fish sauce is one of those. It’s a must, and if you want to make other delicious recipes like Coconut Salmon Curry or my Bun Cha Salad, you’ll need fish sauce. It can easily be found in most grocery stores next to the Asian sauces.
For a more authentic Larb, try sprinkling some toasted rice powder over top (we’ve got a recipe for it in our Thai Steak Salad).
For these healthy chicken lettuce wraps we’re using ground chicken. It’s convenient and easy to find at most major grocery stores. If we were making a traditional version you would mince chicken breast into a fine texture.
Larb is all about fresh and powerful flavors and for our version of chicken larb we’re using shallot, jalapeno and lemongrass. Many recipe will call for Bird’s Eye chiles, Thai chiles or serranos. You can use whatever you like and prefer. Jalapeno is the least spicy of them all, but we find it pairs well with chicken.
Herbs are one of the most important components of this dish. A mixture is essential for striking the perfect balance of flavors. Our version uses a mix of scallions (green onions), fresh mint and fresh cilantro.
The sauce for larb is more like a vinaigrette. Fresh lime juice, pungent fish sauce and honey is all you need for the sauce. It’s light, savory and tangy. Find fish sauce in the Asian aisle of your grocery store or find it at an Asian market.
We like to serve this recipe as chicken lettuce wraps. Pile the ground chicken mixture into lettuce leaves (we like butter lettuce) or cabbage leaved with cooked rice and toasted peanuts and onion flakes.
How to Make Chicken Larb
- Toast the peanuts and onion flakes in a skillet. These two ingredients are not traditional, but are a flavorful substitute to the commonly used toasted rice powder.
- In the now-empty skillet, cook the ground chicken until cooked through, but not browned. Larb is made by gently cooking the ground chicken, not “frying” or “browning” it.
- While the chicken cooks, rinse the sliced shallot under cold water. We find raw, uncooked shallot are often too potent in a dish if not rinsed. If you’re curious and adventurous, you could quick-pickle the shallot in some lime juice instead of rinsing it.
- Add the shallot, scallions (aka green onions or spring onions) lime juice, fish sauce, jalapeno, lemongrass, and honey to the chicken mixture and stir to combine.
- Stir in half of the herbs and transfer to a serving dish. Top with additional herbs, toasted peanuts, and flaky sea salt.
Larb is often served lettuce-wrap style with large cabbage or lettuce leaves on the side along with white rice, fresh vegetables, and toasted peanuts for topping.
Larb is most often served warm—and that’s how I recommend serving it. When served warm, the flavors and fat of the dish meld beautifully together. Once chilled, the natural fat from the ground beef firms up and becomes less desirable.
I find this chicken larb recipe keeps well for up to 2 days. Any longer and the herbs lose their flavor and oomph. To reheat, add the meat mixture to a medium skillet and gently reheat over medium.
Chicken Larb (Larb Gai)
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried onion flakes, optional
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 jalapeno or serrano, thinly sliced*
- ½ 6 inch stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
- ½ cup torn mint leaves
- ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- Flaky sea salt, optional
- 1 head bibb or butter lettuce
- Cooked jasmine rice
- Add shallots to a bowl; cover with cold water and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, toast peanuts until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion flakes, if using, and toast until brown, 1–2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out skillet.
- Add oil to now-empty skillet and heat over medium, add chicken and cook, breaking meat apart with back of wooden spoon or spatula, until meat is no longer pink, but not browned, about 5 minutes; season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Drain shallots.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in shallots, scallions, 3 tablespoons lime juice, fish sauce, serrano(s), lemongrass, and honey. Season with salt to taste and let cool 5 minutes.
- Stir in half of the cilantro and half of the mint. Transfer to a serving dish and top with remaining herbs, flaky salt and a handful of reserved toasted peanut and onion flakes. Serve with green cabbage leaves, cooked long-grain rice and remaining toasted peanut mixture.