These fragrant, crunchy, and delicious Thai lettuce wraps come with all your fave Thai flavors and a hearty vegan beef filling. They’re also super pretty! This one is made all in one cast iron skillet in keeping with the easy vegan sheet pan meal ideas. It could be done on a sheet pan, but I thought this skillet was sexier.
You know I’m a big fan of meatless ground round. I like the ones from Gardein (gluten-free) or Yves, and lettuce wraps are a great vehicle to eat it. I made a yummy fish-style sauce using kombu seaweed for this recipe. If you can’t find kombu or don’t want to use it, I guess that’s fine. But it’s a natural MSG and I use it in the best vegan ramen recipe from the hot for food cookbook, so there’s plenty of use for it! But you can leave it out and skip that step. If you do, remember to replace that liquid with a half cup of mushroom broth for the final sauce, and add some vegan oyster sauce, vegan fish sauce, or hoisin to the rest of the sauce ingredients.
Now let’s get cookin’! Aren’t these beautiful looking lettuce wraps? If you want another variation using vegan chicken check out this recipe.
vegan thai lettuce wraps
It’s so easy to make these fragrant, crunchy, and delicious Thai lettuce wraps all in one cast iron skillet!
vegan beef sauce
- 15 g dried kombu seaweed (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 1 C water
- 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
vegan thai basil & beef filling
- 2 C whole Thai basil leaves, divided (1 C as garnish)
- vegetable oil or cooking oil spray
- 3 C veggie ground round
- 1/4 C red onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 C carrot, finely diced
- 1 tbsp finely diced Thai red chili (about 1 chili – add 1 tbsp extra for spicy + (optional) whole chilis for added color and garnish)
- 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 C green papaya, julienne (see notes)
- 12 bibb lettuce aka butter or boston lettuce
- 3 sprigs mint
- 4 limes, cut into wedges
To prepare the sauce, add dried kombu and water in a sauce pan. Simmer this on low for about 18 to 20 minutes until reduced to about a 1/2 cup. Remove the hydrated kombu leaves and save them for another use, as you can reuse them. In the same saucepan, add soy sauce/tamari, lime juice, sugar, Chinese 5-spice powder, white pepper, and sea salt.
You’re going to crisp up whole Thai basil leaves. Pull approximately 1 cup of leaves of Thai basil off the main stem. Coat a large cast iron skillet with a thin even layer of vegetable oil or cooking oil spray, and place the Thai basil leaves in one layer.
While the oven preheats to 400°F you will bake the Thai basil leaves in the skillet for about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway. Remove the smaller pieces once crispy, the larger pieces may take 1 to 2 more minutes. Then remove all the Thai basil leaves and set aside. You’ll use this cast iron to cook the vegan beef filling.
In a large bowl add veggie ground round, diced red onion, minced garlic, diced carrot, and Thai chili. Pour the kombu sauce mixture in and combine to coat everything evenly. Add all of this into the cast iron skillet and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway to brown the other side.
Serve this in the cast iron skillet. Move the vegan beef filling to one side and top it with the crispy Thai basil leaves and whole Thai chilis, if desired. Then fill the rest of the skillet with fresh green papaya, red onion, mint leaves, fresh Thai basil, lime wedges, and bibb or boston lettuce leaves for wrapping. Squeeze lots of lime juice over the meat filling before serving.
Make sure the papaya you buy is not a ripe or mature papaya. Green papaya has a smooth, hard green skin and its white flesh has a crunchy texture and a neutral taste. A soft, mature papaya is juicy like a melon. You can find green papayas in Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find green papaya, jicama is a good substitute or even cucumber.