Spicy beef lettuce wraps are a fun way to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes

I love a lettuce wrap — the idea of putting out a big platter of flavorful filling and a big platter of fresh green leaves and letting everyone dig in is a fun change of pace. And this Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps With Oyster Sauce from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook” has earned a spot on my repeat list.

It is one of those dishes that was so quick to make, it shocked me. I had it on the table in less than 20 minutes.

The dish features simple ingredients: browned ground beef and chopped poblano peppers. But it gets big flavor boosts from two lightning-fast combos of ingredients: a bit of chile-garlic sauce and minced garlic that you mash together and saute for just 30 seconds, and a sauce of water, oyster sauce and Shaoxing wine that you whisk together and add right at the end.

In fact, the only problem I had with the dish was that we enjoyed it a little too much. It ruined my meal planning! My idea was to make it and have it over two nights, but we ate and ate until, well, there wasn’t enough for two more meals. I’m betting that might happen to you, too, so I changed the servings from the recommended four in the cookbook, to just two to three servings.

That’s a good sign though, don’t you think?

The cookbook, which is all about shopping only once a week so you can prepare meals for your family, has quirky concepts for making meal planning a bit more fun. For example, this recipe comes from a chapter that recommends: “Tell your family this is an eat-with-your-hands kind of week.”

It offers lots of ingredient substitution ideas as well, such as using ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. The original recipe recommended red bell peppers, but I preferred it so much more with poblanos, which was one of the authors’ substitution ideas.

If you’re going to try it, I highly recommend using the recommended salty, sweet oyster sauce, because it is ideal for this dish. But if you don’t have it, you can use soy sauce, hoisin or fish sauce in its place.

Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps With Oyster Sauce

This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook” offers lots of tips for substitutions, as noted in the ingredient list, making it easily adaptable. Serve it with rice, rather than lettuce leaves, if you prefer. Oyster sauce can be found at well-stocked grocery stores, Asian markets and online. Gluten-free oyster sauce is also available. The cooked, seasoned beef can be made up to 1 day in advance before serving.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

¼ cup water
3 tablespoons oyster sauce (see Note)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
2 medium poblano peppers or 1 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper (about 8 ounces), stemmed, seeded and chopped
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chile-garlic sauce, such as sambal oelek
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce (about 8 ounces), leaves separated

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the water, oyster sauce and Shaoxing wine or sherry until well combined.

Make the beef: In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a medium bowl.

Add the bell or poblano pepper and scallions to the fat left in the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Push the vegetables to the side in the skillet and add chile-garlic sauce and ginger and cook, mashing the mixture into the skillet, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beef and oyster sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve with lettuce leaves as wraps for the beef.

Note: Salty, sweet oyster sauce is ideal for this dish, but if you don’t have it, you can use soy sauce, hoisin or fish sauce in its place.

Storage notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.

Per serving (1 cup of beef), based on 3 servings: 384 calories, 23 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 104 mg cholesterol, 655 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar, 30 g protein

Adapted from “The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook” (America’s Test Kitchen, 2021).

Maloney writes for The Washington Post.

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