Beef Larb

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Easy, 30-minute Beef Larb is made in one skillet. While not authentic, Beef Larb is easy to make and has all the great flavors you know and love from Thai food. It’s packed with fresh herbs and the beef is coated in the best savory sauce. Serve the beef over coconut lime rice for a filling meal.

Photo of Beef Larb, rice and garnishes of lime and cilantro.

Beef Larb

Larb Gai is a traditional dish from Thailand and Laos; it’s a meat salad that is typically made with ground chicken or pork and flavored with lime, garlic, chili peppers, palm sugar, fish sauce, and rice powder. It’s an explosion of flavor with spicy, sour, sweet, and salty notes in each bite.

My Beef Larb recipe is not an authentic Thai dish, but rather it’s a quick30-minuteweeknight meal. Authentic larb can be a time-consuming labor of love, and not a weeknight-type recipe, so now you can enjoy this “cheater” larb whenever the cravings strike!

To make this recipe more accessible, I’ve replaced fish sauce with soy sauce (a more readily available ingredient in most kitchens), replaced the typical ground up chilies with chili sauce, and left out the toasted rice powder. You’ll need a few fresh ingredients like the herbs, lime, and zucchini, but hopefully the rest are pantry staples you already have like frozen ground beef, rice, coconut milk, soy sauce, chili sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and oil.

Browning the onions, garlic and ginger; adding and cooking the ground beef; adding the zucchini; simmering to finish the Beef Larb.

How to make Beef Larb

  • Start by prepping ingredients, since the cooking goes quickly. Chop the green onions, ginger, garlic, and zucchini. Coarsely chop the herbs.
  • Sauté onion, garlic, and ginger. 
  • Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink; you’ll crumble and break up the beef as you cook it. Quick tip: let the beef cook undisturbed in the hot skillet for 30 seconds to a minute to get a bit of a char; this adds flavor to the beef!
  • Add in the zucchini and sauté until tender.
  • While the beef is cooking, whip together the sauce. It’s easy! Whisk together a few pantry staple ingredients and add in some fresh lime zest and juice.
  • Add the sauce to the beef and cook until the sauce is nice and glossy and coats the beef.
  • Remove the dish from the heat and gently stir in the fresh herbs

 I have a few serving suggestions for Beef Larb, shown below. I also recommend chopping up an English or Persian cucumber to top the beef; it adds a nice fresh flavor and crunchy texture.

Overhead process shots: the prepared sauce; the sauce added to the beef; cooking everything until thickened; roughly chopped herbs; herbs added to the beef and sauce; cooking a few more minutes to finish.

How to enjoy Beef Larb 

  • Over coconut rice: Our personal favorite way to serve Beef Larb is layered on coconut lime rice. This rice is so easy to make; we replace most of the water with a can of coconut milk and stir in some lime juice and zest once it’s cooked.
  • With sticky rice: Traditional Larb Gai is served with sticky rice. For a great sticky rice recipe, try this one.
  • In lettuce wraps: Start with lettuce (Boston, Bibb, or Iceberg) and pile in some rice and the beef mixture. 
  • In a salad: Layer chopped lettuce with the beef and a few more veggies (like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet peppers, or red onions). Add a quick Thai-inspired vinaigrette.
  • As a bowl meal: It’s easy to create a bowl meal: use rice as the base, add the beef mixture on top, and add some other fun elements such as pickled red onions or a creamy avocado.
  • Over cauliflower rice: For a lower carb meal, serve Beef Larb over riced cauliflower.

Close-up photo of a wooden spoon scooping into the pan of finished dish

Variations

  • Add fish sauce: A splash or two of fish sauce will accentuate the Thai flavor. If you really love Thai flavors, you may want to add a tablespoon or two; add slowly and to taste.
  • Adjusting the spiciness: Start with 1 teaspoon of the chili sauce and increase from there, going slowly if you’re sensitive to heat. You can also try Sriracha®sauce in place of the chili sauce (Note that a lot of the flavor in this dish does come from the chili sauce). You can also add in an extra teaspoon or two of sugar to counteract the spice of the Sambal Oelek (chili sauce).
  • Change up the herbs: This meal has cilantro, mint, and basil; we love all of these herbs in this dish and it does give an authentic flavor. That said, feel free to use just use what you have on hand. One herb or a mixture of two of the herbs is better than nothing!
  • Swap the zucchini: Use chopped eggplant, summer squash, or chayote squash instead!

Shot of a plate full of Beef Larb with a fork to the side, and lime and herb garnishes.

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Beef Larb

5 from 5 votes
Easy, 30-minute Beef Larb is easy to make and has all the great flavors you know and love from Thai food. It's packed with fresh herbs and the beef is coated in the best savory sauce. Serve the beef over coconut lime rice for a filling meal.
Print Recipe

Beef Larb

5 from 5 votes
Easy, 30-minute Beef Larb is easy to make and has all the great flavors you know and love from Thai food. It's packed with fresh herbs and the beef is coated in the best savory sauce. Serve the beef over coconut lime rice for a filling meal.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Keyword beef larb
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 230kcal
Cost $6.28

Ingredients

Beef

  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic ~3-4 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger ~1 inch piece
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions white and green parts (~4-6 onions)
  • 1 pound lean (90/10) ground beef

Quick Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup regular, all purpose, (not light) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 teaspoon zest zest (~1 large lime)
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (ground chili paste) (See Note 1)
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I use/recommend a combo of cilantro, mint, and basil (See Note 2)
  • Optional: 2-3 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, additional lime wedges (for serving), fish sauce

Coconut Lime Rice (optional)

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (1 can) full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large lime (~1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)

Instructions

  • COCONUT BASMATI RICE: Get the rice started first (if making). Combine 1 cup basmati rice, 1 and 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Stir and place over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the rice. Allow to simmer for 13-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep covered, and let stand for 10-15 minutes; don't rush or it will be sticky! Fluff the rice with a fork and then add in the zest and juice of one lime. Stir and evenly divide onto plates.
  • SAUCE: In a small bowl, add the 1 teaspoon cornstarch and the 1/4 cup soy sauce. Whisk with a fork until smooth and then add in the 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon lime zest, the 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (See Note 1), 1 teaspoon white sugar, and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar. I add 2 tablespoons, but add slowly to preference. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (leave out salt if you're worried about saltiness with soy sauce; you can always add some more at the end). Whisk with a fork until smooth and set aside.
  • BEEF: Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil to a large cast iron skillet and melt over medium high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add in the 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, and 1 cup of thinly sliced green onions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant and tender. Push the veggies to the edges of the pan, increase the heat to high and add the ground beef to the center of the pan. Let stand for 30 seconds without moving, then flip to the other side and let stand for 30 seconds. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste (I add a tiny pinch of each). Then, using a wooden spoon, break up the beef and cook until no longer pink inside and fully cooked through. Drain off any accumulated grease and add in the 2 cups diced zucchini. Stir until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Quickly whisk the sauce again with the fork and then pour the prepared sauce over the beef and cook for another 1-3 minutes or until beef is glossy and sauce has thickened and coated everything. Taste and adjust any of the sauce ingredients -- flavors should really "sing" so add additional lime juice or salt until they do. You can also add in some fish sauce to taste here if desired (more authentic Thai flavor). Remove from heat and stir in the 1 cup coarsely chopped herbs. Stir gently.
  • SERVE: Add even amounts of beef to the coconut basmati rice. If desired, top with sliced Persian cucumber and lime wedges. Enjoy immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: The Sambal Oelek adds a lot of flavor and is fairly spicy. If you're sensitive to heat, start with 1 teaspoon of the sauce and increase from there. You can also try Sriracha sauce in place of the chili sauce (Note that a lot of the flavor in this dish does come from the Sambal Oelek).
Note 2: The herbs add so much to this dish, but if you prefer, use a combination of two of the herbs instead of the three suggested.  When measuring the herbs, coarsely chop them and very loosely measure to get 1 cup.
Note 3: These nutrition facts do not include the optional coconut lime rice. A serving with the rice is 402 calories.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 4servings | Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.9g | Protein: 26.7g | Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 67.8mg | Sodium: 168.3mg | Fiber: 1.5g | Sugar: 3.8g

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh wow, this looks SO good and I can tell from the ingredients it’s going to be a hit – on the menu for this week! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Made this tonite, turned out delicious!! I only buy light soy sauce so I used that & also added a little dark sweet soy sauce & fish sauce.

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