There is nothing I love more than good Chinese food. Maybe my Jewish roots make me crave Chinese food, or it’s something I associate with my childhood. (Let’s just say we ate Chinese food often.) I remember a few years before I was diagnosed with Celiac disease going to Chinatown in New York and having some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.
Now, as a gluten-free gal, Chinese food is hit or miss. I can’t eat many of my favorite dishes because many of them are deep fried in shared oil. That means sesame chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and other deep fried delights are off limits. Many Chinese restaurants have adapted some of their “stir fry” recipes to the gluten-free crowd, many have not and cross contamination is still going on with shared woks, utensils and cooking oils. I’ve been to some Chinese restaurants and the only safe thing for me to eat is the steamed bamboo basket… a royal disappointment when you’re used to eating delicious Chinese food your whole life!
As I began to teach myself to cook, I learned that I could easily make chicken lettuce wraps at home. I experimented with many recipes, finally settling in on this one I’ve created on my own based on trial and error. My family seems to really enjoy it and I switch it up by using different vegetables. I’ve used frozen peas and carrots for a quicker version of this meal (or when I didn’t have any fresh vegetables on hand). I’ve also used water chestnuts and chopped broccoli.
Also, I used to just make the recipe with chicken breasts, but after experimenting with a mixture of breast (white) and thigh (dark) meat together, I think I’ve found the perfect savory concoction. You can of course make it with just breast meat or just thigh meat, but the mixture of both gives it a nice flair and will net you the most compliments too!
I also encourage you to season this how you like. Some people want it more spicy, while others like it more sweet. Experiment by adding sweetness through chili garlic sauce and sweet onions, or more spices with red pepper flakes and garlic.
The most tricky part of this entire recipe is getting the chicken texture right. I recommend using a food processor to chop up the chicken. Just pulse the chicken for 7-10 pulses, careful not to grind the chicken to a pulp. Think small pieces, but not ground, just like you’d enjoy it at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Stick your food processor parts in the dishwasher for easy and sanitary clean up.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. It’s definitely one that is in heavy rotation around here – I was shocked to see I hadn’t yet posted it on my blog because we make it so much. Enjoy!
- 2 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2lbs)
- 4 organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2lbs)
- 1/4 cup GF soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tsp. arrowroot starch, corn starch or other thickening starch
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup celery - finely chopped
- 1/2 cup red pepper - finely chopped
- 1/2 cup portobello mushrooms - finely chopped
- Cooking oil of choice (for stir frying) - I use avocado oil
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- Chopped green onions (optional)
- Lettuce leaves - options include small romaine leaves, butter lettuce leaves, or iceberg lettuce leaves
Freeze your chicken for about 30 minutes prior to preparation. If you forget, you can use complete defrosted chicken too.
Put lightly frozen chicken into food processor, working in 2-3 batches. Pulse 7-10 times until chicken is in small bits but not ground. Remember to work chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding food processor.
Add cut up chicken to a zip top bag and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, vinegar, GF soy sauce/tamari, red pepper flakes (optional) and arrowroot or cornstarch. Mix well and pour over chicken.
Seal bag and use your hands to knead the chicken and marinade together for a few seconds. Allow mixture to marinade for 10-20 minutes in the fridge.
In a large pan, heat preferred cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture to pan. Stir fry well until cooked, about 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Add mushrooms, red peppers and celery to the pan and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until vegetables are softened and cooked. (Add additional cooking oil if needed.)
Once vegetables are cooked, add chicken back to pan. Mix well and heat for another minute. (Add more tamari, salt, and/or pepper to taste.)
Add chicken and vegetable mixture to lettuce cups and sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds (both optional).