These crunchy and fresh lettuce wraps pack a ton of flavor with a simple Thai-inspired marinade and herby lime sauce for drizzling. By marinating the meat in advance, this dish can be made in less than 30 minutes and paired with steamed rice to make an easy weeknight dinner.
I’ve been feeling ready for spring, grilling season, and the move toward lighter, fresher meals. These lettuce wraps are a dish I’ve been making for years with various tweaks and changes along the way. But always involving flavorfully marinated steak seared to perfection, wrapped in crunchy lettuce, and topped with a an herby lime sauce.
With spring fully arrived in Texas, and soon on the way for my Northern friends (hang in there!), it seemed like the perfect time to share these beauts! The beauty of these wraps is that both the marinade and lime sauce come together super quick, no special equipment needed, but add superb flavor. You can prep almost everything in advance so that when it’s time to eat, all you have to do is grill the steak, slice it, and serve it all up, preferably with some steamed rice. (If you don’t have a grill, you can still sear these indoors on a grill pan or cast-iron skillet, but you’ll want to make sure you’re vent hood is in good working order.)
How to make grilled Thai steak lettuce wraps
To make these lettuce wraps, there are two main stages: marinading/prep and grilling.
In the first stage, you’ll make your marinade. We take a flavor shortcut in this marinade by using store-bought Thai green curry paste and then enhance it with a few extra pantry and fresh ingredients. The marinade has all the flavors of a curry, but concentrated down to pack umami flavors into the steak. You’ll want to marinate your steak for at least 4 hours but up to 12 hours, so this could totally be done in the morning or on your lunch break to be ready for grilling at dinner time.
In addition to marinating the steak in advance, the herby lime sauce and vegetables can all be prepped in advance as well, meaning you can turn dinner out super quick. The lime sauce gets its flavor from tons of lime juice, a little fish sauce and brown sugar, and tons of herbs – cilantro, mint, and green onions. You can make it as spicy as you like with the addition of hot sauce – whatever hot sauce is your favorite. I’ve used a variety, from Cholula to Sriracha to a potent green chile sauce, and all of them have worked.
To make the lettuce wraps, I love to use butter lettuce or green leaf lettuce, but any lettuce that can make a cup of sorts will work. (You could even do it on hearts of romaine for a more boat-style “wrap”.) Then I make little juliennes of carrot and cucumber for extra crunch and freshness, but feel free to play around with your toppings! If you learn anything from me, I hope it’s to use what you have and like, and that you make any recipe your own.
Finally, all that’s left is grilling! An important step here is to make sure you take the steak out of the fridge to lose the chill for awhile before grilling. Grilling room temperature (or close to room temp) meats allows for more even grilling and more control to cook it to your liking. You can end up with a really rare center and charred exterior if the steak is too cold when it goes on the grill.
These steaks grill pretty quickly, just 3-4 minutes per side, on high heat to caramelize the sugars in the marinade while keeping a nice, medium-rare center. Leave on the grill longer if you prefer a more well-cooked steak. After grilling the steak, let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips against the grain. (If you’re not sure what it means to slice against the grain, this article may be helpful.)
Then simply serving everything up! I like to serve it DIY style so everyone can make the lettuce wraps to their liking, as well as some steamed white rice.
Tips and substitutions for Thai steak lettuce wraps
- Use different cuts of steak. If you want to switch up the steak, feel free! But you’ll always want to use something intended for a high-heat, short cook time; think ribeye, flank steak, strip steak, etc. Tough cuts of meat, like chuck roast, won’t work here. Be mindful of the cook time for the cut you use. Depending on the cut and thickness, you may need to grill longer to achieve medium-rare.
- Change up the protein! While I haven’t tested it with anything but beef, this marinade should work perfectly well on chicken (especially boneless skinless chicken thighs) and pork as well. Maybe even on shrimp and fish with a much shorter marinating time.
- Customize your wraps. You could use a wide variety of lettuces or even collard greens, as well as changing up the toppings – thinly slivered onions and peanuts could be great. If you don’t like wraps – this would also be great as a salad. Honestly, the steak is excellent on it’s own, especially with the sauce, so you could ditch the wrap concept all together (though I still highly recommend it).
Grilled Thai steak lettuce wraps
These crunchy and fresh lettuce wraps pack a ton of flavor with a simple Thai-inspired marinade and herby sauce for drizzling. By marinating the meat in advance, this dish can be made in less than 30 minutes and paired with steamed rice to make an easy weeknight dinner.
For the steak & marinade
3 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds skirt steak (or steak of choice – see note above)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil for grilling
For the sauce
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (usually about 4-6 limes)
1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/3 cup mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup green onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
hot sauce to taste
For the lettuce wraps
1 head butter or boston lettuce
1 English cucumber, julienned
2 medium carrots, julienned (or one bag pre-shredded carrots)
Extra mint and cilantro
- Marinate the steak. In a large, non-reactive bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients – Thai green curry paste through salt – until fully combined. Pat the steak dry, and if needed, cut into 2 or 3 pieces to fit on the grill. (Skirt steak often comes as one long piece.)
- Add the steak to the marinade and turn until all parts of the steak are well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable bowl cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours. If the steak isn’t fully submerged in the marinade, turn the steak a few times while marinating.
- Prep the vegetables and herbs. While the steak marinates, this is when I like to prep the vegetables and herbs for the wraps. Separate and wash the lettuce leaves, and peel and julienne the cucumber and carrot.
- Wash and chop the herbs and green onions for the sauce, and keep some whole herb leaves for topping. Juice the limes for the sauce into a medium bowl and add the brown sugar, fish sauce, hot sauce, garlic, and chopped herbs. Cover everything and refrigerate until serving.
- Grill the steak. An hour before you want to serve the meal, take the steaks out of the fridge and move them to a plate or sheet pan to come to room temperature. Toward the end of the hour, preheat the grill. For a gas grill, heat for 10 minutes on medium-high heat with the lid closed – you want the temperature between 450-500F. For a charcoal grill, prepare enough coals for a hot charcoal fire. (Note: If you are making steamed rice, this is also the perfect time to get it cooking.)
- When the grill is hot or the coals are ready, use a paper towel to grease the grill grates with the vegetable oil. Grill the steak for about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Serve. Cut the steak into thin slices against the grain. Arrange a platter (or two) with the steak, lime sauce, lettuce, vegetables, and extra herbs for DIY lettuce wrap making. Serve with steamed white rice, if desired.