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July 21, 2023

Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups

Piled high with fresh herbs and shredded red cabbage and drizzled with green onion oil, these lemongrass meatball lettuce cups are all kind of fresh!

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Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups sprinkled with fresh herbs, drizzle with brown sugar sauce and green onion oil.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Meet Your Lemongrass Meatball

Meatballs can be any kind of meal. Cozy and warm (like Swedish Meatballs), or delicious finger food (Buffalo Chicken Meatballs), or an easy and fresh bite like these lettuce cups with lemongrass meatballs. We love this recipe for chicken or pork meatball lettuce cups because all of the components are great on their own. Serve with Coconut Fried Rice and Asian Cucumber Salad.

ingredients to make lemongrass meatball lettuce cups in prep bowls: ground chicken, soy sauce, spices and fresh herbs

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Ingredients You’ll Need To Make Meatball Lettuce Cups

  • Fresh: Lemongrass, garlic, ginger, lettuce, red cabbage, herbs

  • Pantry: Low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, sriracha, toasted sesame oil, light brown sugar

  • Protein: Two pounds ground chicken or pork

ground chicken, lemongrass, brown sugar, salt, garlic and ginger in a large bowl
lemongrass meatballs on a baking sheet made with ground chicken, lemongrass, brown sugar, salt, garlic and ginger
brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sriracha, and sesame oil in a bowl
green onion oil in a bowl made with green onions, vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger

How to Make Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups

  1. Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken with the lemongrass, brown sugar, salt, garlic, and ginger. Mix well, then with wet hands, form golf ball–size meatballs.

  2. Make the meatball cooking sauce. stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sriracha, and sesame oil.

  3. Cook the meatballs. Brown the meatballs and then cook in the soy sauce mixture from step 2.

  4. Make the green onion oil. Stir together the green onions, vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger.

  5. Serve. Divide the meatballs between the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle them with the herbs and drizzle them with the brown sugar sauce and green onion oil.

brown sugar suace being poured over browned lemongrass meatballs in a skillet
lemongrass meatballs being cooked in brown sugar sauce in a skillet

How to Store Leftover Meatballs + Tips

  • The best part, you’ll 100% use any of the fresh components (lettuce, cabbage, herbs) that don’t get used in this recipe throughout the week.

  • Cooked meatballs are great to freeze. The standard technique is to freeze them on a flat surface (like a baking sheet), and then transfer them to a plastic bag in serving size batches once frozen.

  • Our three main guiding meatball principles are: don’t overmix, don’t use a food processor, and use wet hands. Check out all of our meatball making philosophy in our Best Meatball Recipes roundup post.

  • You should be able to find fresh lemongrass near the fresh ginger at most grocery stores. Look for rigid stalks with tight layers. To prep it, just trim off the root end like you would with a green onion. Peel off any loose outer layers, then slice and dice away!

  • And if you can’t find fresh lemongrass, you will likely be able to find lemongrass paste in the product section of the grocery store. You can substitute one tablespoon of lemongrass paste for the fresh lemongrass in this recipe.

lemongrass chicken meatballs in a skillet in a sweet brown sugar sauce
lemongrass meatballs, butter lettuce, brown sugar sauce, green onion oil and shredded red cabbage in bowls for lettuce cups

More Great Lemongrass Recipes From The Modern Proper

Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups sprinkled with fresh herbs, drizzle with brown sugar sauce and green onion oil.
Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups sprinkled with fresh herbs, drizzle with brown sugar sauce and green onion oil.

Follow Us For More Fresh Meal Ideas

For more recipe inspiration, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest or order our cookbook. We love when you share your meals. Tag us on Instagram using #themodernproper. Happy cooking!

Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 327

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground chicken or pork
  • 1 (5-inch) piece lemongrass, tough outer parts removed, minced (see Note)
  • â…“ cup + 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • â…“ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 heads butter, bibb, or Boston lettuce (about 20 leaves)
  • Shredded red cabbage, for serving
  • ÂĽ cup roughly chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, and cilantro, for serving

Green Onion Oil

  • 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

Method

  1. Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken with the lemongrass, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, salt, 1 tablespoon of the garlic, and 3 teaspoons of the ginger. Mix well, then with wet hands, form golf ball–size meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on a plate. You should have about 24 meatballs.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining ⅓ cup brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, the remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, the remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, the sriracha, and ½ teaspoon of the sesame oil.

  3. Heat the remaining 2½ teaspoons of sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the meatballs in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, until the meatballs are just browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn them carefully and cook to brown the opposite side, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer. Cover and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes or until the meatballs reach 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove lid, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Continue simmering the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl for serving.

  4. Meanwhile, make the green onion oil. In a small bowl, stir together the green onions, vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger to combine.

  5. To serve, divide the meatballs between the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle them with the herbs and drizzle them with the brown sugar sauce and green onion oil.


Note: You should be able to find fresh lemongrass near the fresh ginger at most grocery stores. Look for rigid stalks with tight layers. To prep it, just trim off the root end like you would with a green onion. Peel off any loose outer layers, then slice and dice away!

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories327
  • Protein33 g
  • Carbohydrates19 g
  • Total Fat14 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol120 mg
  • sodium1616 mg
  • Total Sugars13 g

Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Cups

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Amy Leon

    What is the serving size?

    4 meatballs. Hope you enjoy Amy!

  • Karen E Sharif

    The meat mixture didn't hold its shape at all -- I just served it like ground chicken and the flavors were wonderful but it'd have been a lot less messy if the meatballs would have formed! The only change I made was to use a keto brown sugar. What can I do differently?

    This is the first modern proper recipe that didn't turn out perfectly so I'd love to figure it out!

    Hi, So far we haven't had this problem come up. They held together for me the 2 times I made it and then again when the photos were shot. The only thing I can think of is that the ground meat you used might've been too wet. If we get any more reports of this happening, I will send the recipe over to our recipe tester and see what she thinks. Glad they still tasted good!

  • Whitney Eley

    So delicious! Tastes like the inside of a pork dumpling. I was too lazy to use a meat thermometer and slightly over cooked the meatballs and learned a lesson. Don’t make my mistake, they could’ve been better.

    Thanks Whitney, glad you enjoyed them!

  • Griffin

    Made it tonight and it was a smash hit.

    Thanks Griffin! We are so happy you loved these!

  • Kay

    These were really fun to make, taste great, and quite beautiful!

    Thanks Kay, we are so glad you enjoyed them!