The first time I tried the PF Chang Lettuce Cups, I was a bit surprised. Call me a snob, but I wasn’t really sure I was going to love a chain restaurant’s Asian-inspired cuisine. So imagine my surprise to bite into the crisp cool lettuce into which I spooned the savory chicken and veggies flavored with hoisin and ginger, with the extra fun texture of crunchy water chestnuts.
Needless to say, I ate them all.
So naturally, I decided I should be able to recreate these tasty, healthy treats at home.
What’s in hoisin sauce?
One of the key ingredients in these PF Chang Inspired Lettuce cups is the hoisin sauce. Hoisin typically contains miso, some type of sweetener, sesame oil, garlic, vinegar, salt, and chiles. But when I first created this recipe, every single hoisin I could find in the grocery stores also contained a bunch of cheap junk.
A popular brand lists its ingredients as so: “Sugar, water, miso, plum puree, soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, caramel color, modified corn starch, fermented wheat protein, salt, spices, xanthan gum, citric acid, natural flavors.”
And another: “Sugar, water, fermented soybean paste, salt, sweet potato powder, caramel color, modified corn starch, sesame paste, dehydrated garlic, spices, salted chili peppers, acetic acid, color (FD&C red #40). Contains soybeans, wheat.”
These days, you can find quite a few organic – even gluten-free – hoisin sauces that have more simple, whole foods ingredients. Feel free to find one you like and save yourself even more time.
That said, I’ve included my recipe for homemade gluten-free hoisin sauce here made of tamari, peanut butter (or nut butter of choice!), blackstrap molasses, rice vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, sesame oil, and sriracha. The tamari/peanut butter combo came about when testing a paleo-friendly version of the hoisin recipe that used coconut aminos and almond butter in place of miso (since paleo folks avoid soy). Turns out the tamari/peanut butter combo makes for a delicious umami flavor too.
Meal planning with these PF Chang Inspired Chicken Lettuce Cups
I love the ease and versatility of this recipe. While you can certainly pan cook some chicken breasts or thighs to chop up for this dish, I prefer to plan these lettuce cups as a reinvention of previous chicken leftovers. Specifically a roast chicken or even a pre-cooked rotisserie bird that I’ve picked up from the grocery store.
PF Chang Inspired Chicken Lettuce Cups
- For the hoisin sauce:
- 6 tbsp. tamari
- 2 tbsp. peanut butter, or nut butter of choice
- 2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
- 4 tsp. rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. onion powder
- 4 tsp. sesame oil
- Red pepper sauce, (like sriracha) to taste
- Asian chicken:
- 1/4 c tamari
- 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp. honey
- 2/3 inch fresh ginger
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 c water chestnuts
- 6 oz shiitake mushrooms
- 2 c cooked chicken
- 1 head butter lettuce
- 1/3 bunch cilantro
- 1/4 c roasted cashews
- 3 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- Prepare the hoisin sauce: Place all ingredients in a pint-sized mason jar, secure the lid, and shake until well combined. Store in fridge until ready to use.
- Combine the tamari (or coconut aminos), 1 1/2 teaspoons hoisin per serving, vinegar, salt, and honey in a small bowl and stir until the honey is dissolved. Set aside.
- Mince ginger and set aside. Shred the chicken.
- Finely chop onion, water chestnuts, and shiitakes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
- Remove whole lettuce leaves from head and chill until ready to serve.
- Coarsely chop cilantro and cashews, set aside for garnish.
- Heat coconut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 10 seconds. Add the onion, water chestnuts, and mushrooms; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until heated through. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add half the sauce and combine well, cooking for about 1 minute more. Add more sauce as desired.
- Spoon the filling in equal amounts into the lettuce cups. Top each lettuce cup with a sprinkle of cilantro and cashews. Serve warm with extra sauce and/or a side of hoisin sauce.