Larb, or Ground Meat Lettuce Cups

Finished ground-beef larb with basil, mint, and ground toasted rice

While you may not have heard of larb by that name, you are likely familiar with the variation known as “lettuce cups”. Lettuce cups often feature Chinese flavors while larb tends to be spicier, with flavors of Thailand and Laos.

This ground meat dish features lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, and herbs. You can use any type of ground meat, though chicken seems to be the most traditional. Serve in lettuce cups and make a little extra sauce for spooning over the completed dish if you’d like.

Once interesting ingredient in this dish is ground toasted rice. It can be optional, but the rice powder adds a bit of crunchiness that is surprising, so I suggest going for it. You can toast the rice on the stove, but I prefer the oven method because it’s less hands-on — I do all the other meal prep while the rice is browning away!


Finished ground-beef larb with basil, mint, and ground toasted rice

By Kassia Krozser Published: September 3, 2013

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Ready In: 45 mins

This gluten-free dish featuring spicy ground meat served in lettuce cups is a versatile appetizer or main course. Make extra so you have leftovers!



  1. In a 350 degree oven, toast the rice, shaking the pan every ten minutes or so, until browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer the rice to a plate and let cool completely. Put the toasted rice in a spice grinder and grind to a gritty powder. Set aside.
    Oven-toasted white rice.
  2. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, honey, and half of the chiles. Taste and adjust the seasonings. I like mine spicy!
    Chile, lime, and fish sauce for the larb
  3. In the skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and stir to incorporate. Add the ground meat, and cook over medium-high heat cooked through. Add the sauce and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Taste and add additional chiles as needed.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the onion, basil, and mint. Transfer to a deep platter or bowl. Sprinkle the rice powder over the meat mixture.
  5. Serve with lettuce leaves on the side. Spoon a bit of the larb into the leaves and eat like a taco.

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