My Asian Lettuce Wraps have all the flavors of your favorite restaurant appetizer (cough…PF Chang’s…cough, cough), but mine have a secret — most of the filling is made of cauliflower instead of chicken. And they are surprisingly kid-friendly! My kids call them “leaf tacos” and think they are so much fun.
The secret to getting them to eat what is essentially vegetables wrapped in salad is all in that sauce. This yummy glaze is based on store-bought hoisin sauce, mixed with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. I pour half of it over the cauliflower mixture while it cooks, then serve the rest as a dipping sauce. Do not skimp on the sauce!
Then of course, there’s the cauliflower. Most lettuce wraps in restaurants have a filling made from finely diced chicken mixed with water chestnuts for crunch. Cauliflower can give you basically the same texture and consistency, but its important to chop it to the proper bite-size. Cauliflower “rice” is too fine, while store-bought “florets” are too big. Chop it to about a 1/2 inch size (with inevitable smaller pieces mixed in) and you’ll be fine.
You’ll start by sautéing an onion with fresh ginger and garlic, then add your cauliflower and let that cook down and start to brown a bit. Once the cauliflower is soft and brown, add your sauce. At this point, you can also add some cooked, diced chicken breast (or meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken), if you’d like. Let that glaze cook down and coat the filling mixture for about 10 minutes while you get your lettuce prepped.
The type of lettuce you use is totally up to you. We tend to serve our wraps with romaine. Not only is it always in the house, its tall, long shape is similar to a taco shell and the kids find it easy to eat. Of course, iceberg or butter lettuce (my favorite) would also work beautifully.
I serve our lettuce wraps with a variety of optional toppings. The kids absolutely love the crunch of chow mien noodles, diced scallions, shredded carrots and, of course more of that sauce. We always serve ours with a side or fried rice made with brown rice, to make the meal a little more substantial, but its not really necessary. These wraps are surprisingly filling! Whether you’re making this a vegetarian meal or adding chicken for something heartier, its a fun way to get the kids interested in eating veggies.
Asian Lettuce Wraps with Cauliflower
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup cooked chicken, diced (optional)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 small heads romaine, bib, butter or iceberg lettuce, leaves washed and separated
Garnishes: shredded carrots, diced scallions, chow mein noodles, Sriracha or other hot sauce, cooked brown rice or fried rice as a side dish
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes until it turns translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for one minute more. Add cauliflower. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower begins to turn golden brown and soften, about 10 minutes.
- While cauliflower cooks, prepare the glaze. Whisk together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil in a small bowl. Pour half of the glaze in a serving bowl and reserve as a dipping sauce for serving.
- Add chicken to cauliflower mixture (if using) and pour remaining glaze into the skillet. Toss filling mixture to evenly coat with sauce and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes more, until sauce has thickened to coat filling mixture.
- Serve hot with plenty of lettuce leaves, optional garnishes and reserved dipping sauce.