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Tonight’s Dinner: Beef and water chestnut lettuce cups recipe

Lettuce cups are a great appetizer at any Asian-themed restaurant. But it turns out they’re just as easy to make in your own kitchen… and this way, you can add whatever ingredients and spices you like.

Lettuce cups are always a must when I go out for Chinese or Thai food. They’re delicious and usually quite filling. The only problem is they almost always come as an appetizer so there’s never enough for more than one per person in a family of four. But by making them at home and using a full pound of ground beef, each family member can have at least two lettuce cups leaving plenty left over for a late night snack.

Making them at home also allows you to add whatever ingredients and spices you like. Since I don’t like things super spicy, I usually leave out the chili sauce or cayenne pepper. I also have a toddler who’s not a big fan of vegetables, so I try to sneak them in wherever I can. This recipe from Sunset Magazine is so versatile you can either follow it to the letter or do what I did and change things up a bit by throwing in a couple of extra healthy ingredients. The delicious sauce hid those “yucky” flavors enough that my son not only finished everything on his plate, he went back for seconds!

Beef and water chestnut lettuce cups

Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 can water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large head butter lettuce, separated into leaves


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, ginger and garlic to pan and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the beef is no longer pink, about seven minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook for four more minutes. Add the bean and hoisin sauces and stir until just combined. Add the chestnuts and onions and cook for one more minute.
  2. Lay a leaf on each of the four plates. Spoon two or three tablespoons of beef mixture onto each leaf and serve.

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