← Back to Search Results
stir-frying Asian, Chinese
Spicy Beef in Lettuce Cups Recipe-3149

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 5


This Szechuan-style dish is quite delicious, quick to prepare, and fun to eat. You can use flatter lettuce leaves, such as romaine or oak leaf lettuce, and fold them into small packets for eating. Or enjoy the filling in tortillas or pita bread, along with a handful of shredded lettuce and a dollop or two of spicy salsa. We love it with rice and greens for a weeknight supper.

Yield: Serves 4


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry, white wine, or Shaoxing wine
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespooon Asian sesame oil
  • About 20 cup-shaped lettuce leaves, such as Bibb, Boston, or iceberg


In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar, and salt, and stir well to dissolve the cornstarch and combine everything into a smooth sauce.

Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, and use a spoon to separate it into five or six big clumps. Add about half the soy sauce mixture, and gently mix the seasonings into the ground beef, using your hands or a large spoon. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

To cook, heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the vegetable oil; swirl to coat the pan, and then toss in the ginger and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, tossing once, until fragrant but not browned.

Crumble in the seasoned ground beef, and use your spatula or a big, slotted spoon to break it up and spread the meat out over the hot pan to help it cook evenly. Let it cook until it changes color on one side, 1 to 2 minutes.

Toss the meat just enough to turn the uncooked side onto the hot pan, and let it cook another minute undisturbed. Pour the remaining half of the seasoning mixture over the meat. Then toss well, using your spatula to break up any large chunks. When the meat is cooked, add the red pepper flakes and the green onion, and toss well. Add the sesame oil and remove from the heat tossing once more to mix everything well.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot warm, or at room temperature. Arrange lettuce cups on a serving platter, and fill each one with a spoonful or two of the cooked beef. Or provide lettuce cups and the serving plate of beef and invite guests to make up lettuce packets themselves.

© 2008 Nancie McDermott

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

263kcal (13%)
63mg (6%)
23mg (39%)
451mcg RAE (15%)
38mg (13%)
1117mg (47%)
4g (21%)
19g (29%)
3mg (15%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.
  • stevecrow316

    05.27.13 Flag comment

    Made with ground chicken instead of beef, and it rocked! Worth making for the aroma it fills the house with :) Quadrupled the recipe to ensure leftovers for lunch. Not sure if my modifications threw it off a bit, but I definitely recommend either omitting the salt or using low sodium soy sauce.

  • Clara52

    03.26.12 Flag comment

    This is really good! I serve it for dinner in a bowl over rice with shredded romaine lettuce on top. I like to put a spoon of go-chee-jang sauce (Korean bean paste that's a little sweet and hot) in it and mix it up. With all that garlic, green onion and sesame oil, it seems more Korean to me.
    OH! I double or triple the whole recipe.
    Thanks for the great recipe.

  • nanciemac

    09.19.10 Flag comment

    Nancie McDermott here, to fill the gap in my recipe. You pour the remaining seasoning sauce into the pan just after the meat, and before the red pepper flakes, green onion and sesame oil. As soon as the meat has had a chance to cook a bit, pour the sauce over it, toss well, and then proceed as directed. Cookstr corrected my mistake as soon as I told them about it, so the recipe now has all the directions. So sorry and happy cooking!

  • swhitmansalkin

    06.18.10 Flag comment

    @scotschinese I checked in the book to see if any instructions went missing in translation from book to web, but in fact Nancie doesn't specify what to do with the rest of that sauce. It sounds so tasty, though, and I bet it would be great as a condiment on the final dish, or even over rice.

  • scotschinese

    10.15.09 Flag comment

    This is a lovely and fast dish; but there is a gap in the instructions. One is told what to do with half of the liquid mixture, but never told what to do with the 2nd half. I stirred it in while cooking and that seemed satisfactory. - Leslie


Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

le-bernardin-cookbook Le Bernardin Cookbook
by Eric Ripert, Maguy Le Coze
fresh-from-the-market Fresh from the Market
by Laurent Tourondel
fresh-from-the-farmers-market-year-round-recipes-for-the-pick-of-the-crop Fresh from the Farmers' Mar...
by Janet Fletcher
the-sushi-experience The Sushi Experience
by Hiroko Shimbo
nigella-express Nigella Express
by Nigella Lawson
jacques-torres-a-year-in-chocolate-80-recipes-for-holidays-and-special-occasions Jacques Torres' A Year in C...
by Judith Choate, Jacques Torres
125-best-vegan-recipes 125 Best Vegan Recipes
by Maxine Effenson Chuck, Beth Gurney
cook-with-jamie Cook with Jamie
by Jamie Oliver
living-raw-food Living Raw Food
by Sarma Melngailis
spice Spice
by Ana Sortun
usa-cookbook U.S.A. Cookbook
by Sheila Lukins
secrets-of-slow-cooking-creating-extraordinary-food-with-your-slow-cooker Secrets of Slow Cooking: Cr...
by Liana Krissoff
american-masala American Masala
by Suvir Saran
new-american-table New American Table
by Marcus Samuelsson, Marcus Samuelsson
amor-y-tacos Amor Y Tacos
by Deborah Schneider
martin-yans-china Martin Yan's China
by Martin Yan

Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive an activation email in your inbox shortly. Don't forget to click that link and activate your new Cookstr.com account!

Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up for Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?