Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

For as much planning as I typically do for food I take to parties or that I’m hosting, I just don’t plan ahead for the annual Super Bowl party we go to.  In typical fashion, I decided (with my husband’s help, I must admit) what to make this year on Saturday at 4:00 (pm, of course).  Despite the last minute planning, the dish I made turned out to be a hit (with a very small audience, in the end), and I had to share it. So, even though you can’t make it for the big game this year, you’ll enjoy it just as much for a make-ahead weeknight meal or for a crowd on the weekend.

By the way, wasn’t that a great game overall (I guess, unless you’re a Seahawks fan, that is)?  I don’t usually pay too much attention to the actual game, but that was exciting at the end!  And I thought the half time show had some amazing special effects. Well done!

The inspiration for this recipe came from a chicken wings recipe I recently made, but because I wasn’t hosting the party, I didn’t want to make the recipe because the wings are fried (yes, every once in a great while, I will make fried food), and it just doesn’t work well to “make-and-take” something that’s fried. It doesn’t stay crisp, or hot. So, I came up with an alternative way of combining the same basic flavors into a different package, one that could easily be made ahead and taken to a party.

My solution…chicken thighs and the trusty slow cooker.

Okay, before I go any further, I want to confess that this recipe isn’t healthy. Yes, there are vegetables and, no, the fat isn’t exorbitantly high, but it’s got way more sugar and salt than any recipe should have to even remotely be considered as “healthy food”. I just wanted to throw that out there so none of you are misled. Remember when I said I think all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, in moderation? Just don’t eat these every day, and you’ll be good.

I had to come up with a “vehicle” for the chicken, and I decided on lettuce leaves, as in lettuce wraps. We all love them, right?  The chicken is so flavorful, it doesn’t need to be embellished, but turning it into lettuce wraps made for a pretty presentation and fun way for serving.

Unfortunately for us (or, rather for the people we were going to be partying with), this is what we woke up to Sunday morning…

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

 

…and it continued snowing throughout the day. So, instead of serving these wraps to a crowd at the super bowl party, it was my small family who devoured them. Luckily for me, the leftover chicken will freeze well, and I will be able to pull it out on a night I don’t have time to cook. Gotta love that!

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

 

Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps How-To Photos:

Mix together the marinade ingredients – it’s thick but once you work it around on the chicken, it coats it well!

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Coat chicken with the marinade, right in the slow cooker.

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

This is what the chicken looks like after cooking.

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

These are the cooking juices – some gets used in the sauce so be sure to save it!

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

The fun part! Shredding the chicken. It’s easy when the chicken is so moist and tender.

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Finely chopped ginger and sliced green onion bottoms to start the sauce (be sure to save the green onion tops for later!

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Once the sauce gets to boiling, this is how it looks.

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Finished sauce

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Chicken and sauce tossed together in the slow cooker.

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

New-found chopped vegetable product, that worked so well in these (and saved me a lot of time!)

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Sliced green onion tops – they add so much fresh flavor!

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Assembled lettuce wrap

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

Fold them up and enjoy!

These Spicy Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps are crowd-pleasing, finger-licking good! Vary the heat level by adjusting the crushed red pepper in the sauce.

 

Spicy Chinese Chicken Wraps

Yield:  32 wraps (8 to 10 main-dish servings)

Nutrition Info (based on 8 servings – 4 wraps):  492 cals, 42 g pro, 45 g carb, 15 g fat, 176 mg cholesterol, 4 g sat fat, 2 g fiber, 1117 mg sodium

Ingredients:

Chicken:
5 1/2 to 6 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) (about 16 total)
1/2 cup chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water

Sauce:
6 green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2/3 cup cooking juices from slow cooker
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper* (optional)

To Serve:
32 butterhead lettuce leaves (3 heads)
1 1/2 cups packaged Asian Blend Chopped Salad** (or shredded coleslaw mix)
Reserved sliced green onion tops
1 1/4 cups chopped lightly salted peanuts
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:

Chicken:
1.  Remove and discard the skin from the chicken. Place chicken in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.  In a small bowl combine chili garlic sauce, 3 tablespoons ginger, and the minced garlic (sauce will be thick). Spoon over chicken in cooker. Use tongs to turn and move the chicken around so that all the chicken is coated with the sauce mixture on both sides. Cover the slow cooker and set the slow cooker liner with the chicken in the refrigerator. Let chicken marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2.  When ready to cook the chicken, pour the water into the cooker with chicken. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large cutting board. Pour the cooking juices into a large bowl; set aside. Use two forks to remove the meat from the bone and shred the chicken. Discard bones. Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker.

Sauce:
3.  Thinly slice the green onions, keeping the green tops separate from the white bottoms. Set green tops aside. In a large skillet, cook white green onion bottoms and 2 tablespoons ginger in hot coconut oil over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until ginger is very fragrant and onion is starting to get tender, stirring occasionally. Add 2/3 cup of the reserved cooking juices from the slow cooker (discard any remaining cooking juices), the brown sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Stir in honey and, if desired, crushed red pepper.

4.  Add sauce to the shredded chicken in the slow cooker. Toss until well coated. Cover; warm the chicken back up by cooking on low-heat setting for 30 minutes. Turn to the “keep warm” or keep on the “low” setting. Keep chicken warm in the slow cooker up to 2 hours.

5.  To serve, allow people to assemble their own wrap(s). Set out a platter of the lettuce leaves, for the base, and bowls of the chopped salad, the green onion tops, peanuts, and cilantro to pile on the lettuce leaves along with some of the chicken from the cooker. Just don’t overload your lettuce leaf or it will be hard to eat!

 

Tips:

*Because I knew kids would be eating this, I didn’t make it super spicy. There is a kick for sure, but if you want to take it up a notch, add the crushed red pepper to the sauce.

**Asian Blend Chopped Salad:  This is a Dole brand product that contains a mixture of chopped green cabbage, red cabbage, shredded broccoli, carrots, kale, and snap peas. Whew!  That’s a lot of great ingredients that I love not having to chop!

 

For a healthy take on standard Chinese fare, try these Spicy Chicken Chinese Lettuce Wraps. They are finger-licking good and you can adjust the heat level by increasing or decreasing the crushed red pepper. The best part is that the chicken cooks in the slow cooker, making your life even easier!