Try This 15-Minute Recipe: Soy-Ginger Pork Lettuce Wraps

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

With the popularity or grain-free, vegetable-heavy, and dairy-free diets, it’s likely one of your close friends falls into at least one of the categories. This can make entertaining sort of a bummer because you often end up making something to please just your particular pal or the rest of the crowd. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you cook these pork lettuce wraps, everyone wins.

About this recipe

soy-ginger pork lettuce wraps with scallions and lime

Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

Lettuce wraps can be made with any number of different flavors and techniques, and nearly all of them are delicious. Though you’ll find recipes using slowly braised pork shoulder, we opted for ground meat to keep this recipe quick. In order to keep this a crowd-pleasing dish, we opted for a sweet and savory sauce made with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, and lime juice. Individual tastes vary, but this flavor profile is almost universally loved. The best news is that’s really all there is to this recipe. Once the pork is done, just set out a platter of garnishes and let your friends build their own wraps.

Before you do any actual cooking, it’s best to get all of the garnishes ready. That means washing and separating lettuce leaves, cutting lime wedges, and slicing green onions. You can feel free to add any other toppings you like, but the meat is flavorful enough that you don’t need too much else. Once these finishing touches are all prepped, arrange them on a large plate and pop it in the fridge.

Now for the actual cooking. Start by making the sauce so it’s ready to go into the pan as soon as you need it. It’s just soy sauce, water, honey, and lime juice. Stir the sauce until the honey is evenly distributed. One hugely important note about soy sauce. If you’re cooking for someone who steers clear of gluten, make sure you buy gluten-free soy sauce because regular varieties contain wheat as one of the primary ingredients.

Now we’re ready for the pork. You can obviously go as lean as you want, but something with a slightly higher fat content will give you the best taste and texture. We like 80% lean pork for this. You can also use beef, if you prefer, and the same rule applies. Once the oil is almost smoking, add the pork to the pan. Instead of immediately stirring the meat, spread it into a single layer and let it sizzle until brown. Allowing the meat to sear like this will make the finished product that much more delicious.

Once you get some color, break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until there’s just a bit of pink left. Add the garlic, chile flakes, and ginger, and cook the seasonings together with the meat for about 30 seconds. Keep everything moving with your wooden spoon to prevent any burning. Next, pour in the sauce and let it simmer until it nicely coats the meat. Now grab your garnishes because it’s time to eat.

These lettuce wraps combine sweet, salty, spicy, and sour flavors typical of many Asian cuisines. These types of dishes can be a little tricky to pair with wine, but Food & Wine said an off-dry Riesling makes a nice match. Red drinkers should go for something medium-bodied and fruity with a decent amount of acid. The Chicago Tribune recommended Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.

Beer drinkers can play up the spiciness in this dish by reaching for an IPA. If you like things a little tamer, BeerAdvocate said effervescent pale ales go well with lettuce wraps. If you don’t particularly care for hoppy beers, consider a dry cider.

Since you’re already entertaining, making a big batch of punch is the easiest way to keep everyone’s thirst quenched. Something with a hefty dose of ginger that also balances sweet and tangy flavors will go really well with these lettuce wraps. Try this sparkling ginger and pineapple punch from Epicurious.

Soy-Ginger Pork Lettuce Wraps

soy-ginger pork lettuce wraps assembly with meat and garnishes

Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

As with any of our recipes, feel free to adjust the level of spice to your preference. Those who like things really hot will want to go for 2 teaspoons of chile flakes while people who are a little more sensitive can back it down substantially. This recipe makes enough to serve 4 people.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Sliced green onions

Directions: In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, honey, water, and lime juice until honey is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until until very hot. Add pork and spread quickly into an even layer using a wooden spoon. Season lightly with salt. Cook without moving until nicely browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Begin to stir and break pork into small pieces. Cook until just a bit of pink remains, about 1 minute longer.

Add garlic, chile flakes, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved soy and honey mixture. Cook until liquid reduces and pork is nicely coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve pork with lettuce leaves, lime wedges, and green onions to make wraps.

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