Spicy, Braised Chicken Lettuce Wraps

December  4, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg
Author Notes

Meet my new favorite go-to weeknight dinner. It's saucy, flavorful, fresh, and it comes together in about half an hour. I developed these chicken and lettuce wraps while on Whole 30, so they fit that bill if you need 'em to. Or, feel free to swap the toppings for anything you like—crispy rice would be wonderful. So would almost any herb, pickle, or thinly sliced vegetable. Winner, winner, braised-chicken-thigh dinner. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 30-Minute Chicken & Lettuce Wraps for When You've Had Too Much Holiday Food. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Spicy, Braised Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2 or more
  • Chicken and creamy avocado vinaigrette
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 5 thighs)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika (use less if you prefer milder spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if you prefer milder spice)
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree (if you're following Whole 30, look for a brand that’s just tomatoes, no sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup warm water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped green herbs (like cilantro, chives) and/or green onions
  • Lettuce cups and toppings (feel free to sub in any favorites)
  • 1 head Bibb or butter lettuce, rinsed and separated into lettuce cups
  • 1 avocado, sliced into thin wedges, for garnish
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 2 radishes, sliced thinly on a mandoline or by hand
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
In This Recipe
  1. Rub the chicken thighs all over with 2 teaspoons of salt. In a non-reactive Dutch oven over a medium flame, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs and sear thoroughly on both sides to brown. Make a well in the center of the pan by pushing the chicken to the edges, and add the paprika and cayenne. Let the spices toast for 30 seconds, then add the onion and garlic pieces. Stir to distribute and sauté for a few minutes, until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  2. Add the tomato puree and 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Let simmer for about 25 minutes, or until you can easily shred the chicken with two forks. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Shred and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, as the chicken cooks, prepare the other components.
  3. Make the creamy avocado vinaigrette: In a food processor, blend together 1 avocado, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 cup warm water, and 2 tablespoons herbs until fully smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper, and lime juice. Adjust consistency with additional warm water to thin, as needed—you should be able to drizzle (or squeeze bottle) the vinaigrette over the lettuce wraps, and have it hold its shape.
  4. To serve, assemble individual cups with the saucy, shredded chicken, avocado vinaigrette, and toppings, using the lettuce as shells.

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Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.