Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps

I la-la-love the flavor palette of this time of year: lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, cranberries, sweet potatoes… everything is earthy and warm and makes me want to curl up under a blankie with a cup of tea.

But we superheroes-in-training can only afford to do that on rare occasions. The rest of the time, we need foods with bright colors and bright flavors that get us fired up to lift heavy things, run fast, beat the clock, and demolish our preconceptions about what we can do.

Yes, I know: that’s a lot to expect from a plate of food. But you know what? These lettuce wraps deliver. They’re easy to make from ingredients you probably already have in the house, and I guarantee, you will feel ready to take on the world after your snarf down these babies.

Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps with Sunbutter Sauce
Serves 2-4, depending on their size and how much they lift heavy stuff


The Beef:
favorite fat for sautéing (I like unrefined coconut oil.)
1/2 onion, diced fine
2-3 fresh chili peppers: hot, mild, or a mix, washed, seeded, and sliced thin
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb. happy cow ground beef
a handful of fresh basil leaves (optional)

The Sauce:
1/4 cup Sunbutter
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons coconut aminos or homemade substitute
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
pinch dried ginger

The Go-Alongs:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 head lettuce: red, green, butter, or a mix, leaves washed and separated
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 carrots, shredded
a handful of snap peas, slivered

1. Prepare the go-along vegetables. Wash and slice the vegetables. Place on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Put in the fridge ’til you’re ready to eat.

2. Make the sauce. Place all ingredients in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. (You can also mix by hand if you want an arm workout. Try your non-dominant hand!)

3. Make the beef. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite fat in a sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and peppers, sauté until vegetables are slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the ground beef and crushed garlic. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through. To make it really sing, throw in the basil leaves and cook just until the basil is wilted.

4. Serve and eat! Serve everything family style so your fellow foodies can make their own wraps to order. I like to start with a lettuce leaf, add a few slivers of onion and cucumber and some carrots, then top with the meat mixture, and drizzle that with some of the Sunbutter sauce. Just roll up and eat! It’s fun finger food that’s packed with nutrition, bright colors, and a tasty contrast of flavors: meaty richness, cool veggies, creamy sauce, and a hint of fire from the peppers. And because it’s communal and potentially messy, it invites lots of conversation and “try it this way” idea sharing. It represents the best of eating with family and friends.

Bonus dessert: Berries or mango with coconut milk and a spinkle of grated coconut.

I’m excited to once again join the punk rock foodies on Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.


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12 Responses to “Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps”

  1. Lauren {Stylized Existence} says:

    That looks delicious. I have a boring whole chicken in the oven and now I want to ditch it and make your meal! Maybe tomorrow night….

  2. DagneyTaggert says:

    "…demolish our preconceptions about what we can do." That is a great statement.

    I am going Paleo starting December 3, and I will using your website for a recipe resource.

  3. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Dagney! Glad you like it, and good on for starting your paleo adventure this month! Be sure to let us know how you're doing!

  4. Elizabeth, blogging for SunButter says:

    Ah, you've done it again! Think this would be okay with a little more lime? That's a fav flav around our house.
    Thanks for another great recipe.

  5. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hi, Elizabeth! I think if you want to add more lime flavor, it would work great if you squeezed fresh lime juice over the meat when it's done cooking. It will taste really bright and fresh. Too much lime in the sauce makes it taste weirdly sweet. Let me know if you try it!

  6. Food Renegade says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing. I am a lettuce wrap addict, although I usually serve them with a Vietnamese fish sauce. But I'm eager to try your coconut milk/sunbutter sauce. I always *love* your sauces. Sauces really make the meals, don't they?

  7. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, FR! Thanks for stopping by! The sauce is stupid good. Seriously. You're gonna love it!

  8. Elizabeth, blogging for SunButter says:

    Finally! I tried it and it was perfect (also according to our dinner guests). Stupid is good is absolutely right. Thanks for the lime guidance.

  9. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Elizabeth! That's great… glad y'all liked it! I just ordered 3 jars of organic Sunbutter, and this is the first thing I'm making when it arrives!

  10. […] that cooked, I made this amazing sauce that I ninja-ed from The Clothes Make The Girl. I subbed wheat-free tamari for the coconut aminos. One day I will actually get around to buying […]

  11. Angie says:

    I made this using chicken mince – very delicious!

  12. […] I had yetiman whip up some sunshine sauce this afternoon so we could have spicy beef salads. Because you know what else nobody got time for? Lettuce cups. I just make a damn mess. The […]

  13. […] I made dinner before my chicken and roast veggies were even done for lunch. Spicy beef has become a new staple in my paleo repertoire because it’s spicy AND easy. Plus: sunshine […]

  14. […] recipe fit all three criteria, and are frequently part of my weekly food plan. Spicy Beef! This recipe is out of one of my favorite cookbooks by one of my favorite paleo bloggers, Well Fed […]

  15. Angela says:

    Tried these for lunch today and just like every other recipe I have tried from your site, these were awesome! Messy, but awesome!

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! Glad you like it!

      I love the messy recipes because paleo sometimes doesn’t seem very fun — most finger food isn’t paleo, right?!

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