I don’t think it’ll come to a surprise to anyone when I say that some of my favorite flavors are Japanese. Being half Japanese, I grew up eating traditional food at my obachan’s house each Friday night and my more adventurous palette definitely stemmed from eating octopus salads and raw fish on a weekly basis. Thanks, Obachan!
While this recipe for Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Wraps isn’t “exotic” in any way, it’s an incredibly big crowd pleaser. I think chicken teriyaki is arguably one of the most loved “Americanized” Japanese foods out there (with sushi also well up in the ranks) and with good reason. There’s something about that perfect sweet + salty combination that is completely addictive and –boy– when you get that perfect bite where the teriyaki sauce drenches the rice… H-E-A-V-E-N. It really doesn’t get any better!
This recipe was born out of my need to have a few more lightened-up recipes in my arsenal. You see, eating healthy in college can be quite the challenge. Lately, I’ve been ridiculously busy with finishing up my biology degree, having a full-time load as a wedding photographer, and keeping ye old blog up and running and it’s been craaaazzyyy hard trying to eat a balanced diet and not grab something convenient. When it’s 8:30 at night and you’ve been up and running around all day, the thought of trying to scrounge something together from the freezer is a lot less tempting than grabbing Chipotle or Mexican food with Kyle. Eating out is also such an important social aspect of college and I would hate to miss out on opportunities to spend time with friends in the name of trying to eat healthy.
For example, this morning I made a resolution to eat more fruits and veggies and not dine out every day like I’ve been doing. I then get a text from the photo editor of our school’s newspaper asking me to snag some photos from a few eateries around my college town for a “best of UCSB” edition. I made rounds to our local bagel shop and, after taking photos of their popular “Sex on a Bagel”, they told me to take it with me. Noms. Then, I went to one of the coffee shops to photograph a drink + a few of their baked goods and was offered those as well. Noms x 2. THEN, I went to our school’s iconic pizza place and was given a huge pizza + beer as a thank you. I swear, it was like the universe was testing me (I failed haha).
Anywho, that was a ramble. Essentially, these lettuce wraps were created to help me fight the urge to eat out by combining some of my favorite flavors into a nifty lettuce wrap. They are relatively low carb and you can go to town with whatever toppings your heart desires. I’m a big fan of textures, so adding in some chopped peanuts for a crunch was a must!
While I drizzled the teriyaki sauce on top, mixing it in with the chicken allows for an extra flavor pump! Best of all, to can be made in 20-30 minutes depending on how quickly you can chop your veggies and is a perfect light and refreshing recipe for the summer. Whoop whoop!
- 2 tbsp olive oil, separated
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup chopped canned water chestnuts
- Teriyaki Sauce:
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ cup water
- 2 tsp ginger, finely diced
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 head Boston bibb lettuce
- 2-4 tbsp chopped peanuts
- sliced green onion
- slivered carrots
- red pepper flakes
- sesame seeds
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Transfer the garlic and onion mixture to a separate plate.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan to heat. Season the chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan, cooking till golden brown. Add the garlic and onion mixture and chopped water chestnuts and stir till combine.
- Combine the soy sauce, water, diced ginger, honey, and brown sugar into a small saucepan. Bring to a soft boil and let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Whisk together the cornstarch and water and add it to the saucepan, stirring till the teriyaki sauce thickens.
- Assemble the lettuce wraps by adding the chicken mixture to each lettuce cup. Top with chopped peanuts, green onion, slivered carrots, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds and drizzle with the teriyaki sauce.