How to Make Lettuce Wraps

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Small lettuce leaves work better for bite-sized cups.
Small lettuce leaves work better for bite-sized cups. (Image: rez-art/iStock/Getty Images)

Lettuce supplies a refreshing alternative to bread when creating a quick snack or informal meal. Almost any filling that tastes good in bread works equally well in a lettuce wrap, but keep in mind that lettuce doesn't absorb and dull flavors like bread, so less filling may still equal more when it comes to seasonings.

Finding the Perfect Leaf

Not all lettuce is created equal, and the more pliable the leaf, the more readily you can wrap it. Iceberg lettuce is too crisp to wrap well around a filling without breaking, unless you only use the more pliable outer leaves. Instead, use the large leaves from more pliable Boston, Bibb or butter lettuce. Leafy lettuce varieties, such as red lettuce, also work well. If you want the crunch of crisper lettuce, consider adding shredded iceberg lettuce to the filling and using a more pliable lettuce as the wrap. The size of the lettuce leaf determines the size of the wrap, so the larger the leaves, the better.

Filling Ideas

Warm fillings provide contrast to the cool lettuce, but a cold filling makes for a refreshing wrap. Your favorite fillings for sandwiches or tortillas also work well in a lettuce wrap. Grilled chicken, deli meats, or ground beef or pork provide meat options. Drain cooked meats well so they don't drip from the wrap. Vegetables work best when sliced small or julienned. Carrots, onions, bell peppers and olives are classic options. Combine grilled chicken with fajita or taco seasoning and add sliced onions, peppers and cheddar cheese for a taste of Tex-Mex, or make a barbecue wrap with shredded pork, provolone, onions and a thick barbecue sauce.

Sauces and Dressings

Sauces and dressings are only successful in a lettuce wrap only if they are well incorporated with the fillings or thick enough that they won't run out after the first bite. Sour cream, cream cheese, salsa and chutney work. Oil- or vinegar-based dressings, salad dressing and runny sauces are better used as dips for the wraps unless only a small amount is mixed in with the filling first.

Wrapping It Up

To create a wrap, begin with a completely dry lettuce leaf that measures at least 5 inches square. If you are using cheese, center a slice on top the lettuce before layering the meat, vegetables and any other filling on top. Keep the filling centered about 1 inch in from the lettuce edge. You can layer the ingredients, or mix them together in a bowl and then spoon the filling onto the leaf. Sauces go on top of the filling so they don't leak out of any cracks that form in the lettuce. Fold in two opposite sides of the leaf over the top of the filling, and then roll the wrap, beginning at an unfolded side, similar to rolling a burrito.

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