Easy Thai Chicken Larb is a made with ground chicken, garlic, ginger, lime, and plenty of fresh herbs. Served over coconut lime rice or in lettuce wraps, this meal is nutritious and easy to make. This sweet and spicy dish can be ready in about 30 minutes or less and will be a hit with the whole family!
What is Chicken Larb?
Larb Gai is a traditional dish from Thailand and Laos that is basically a meat salad. It’s featured on Thai restaurant menus and is a popular street food dish. Typically larb is 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 every bite. Larb is typically served with sticky rice, lettuce, and lots of fresh herbs.
This Chicken Larb I’m sharing today is not an authentic version, but rather a quick, 30-minute, weeknight meal that still has all the great flavors and textures you love. While authentic larb can be a time-consuming labor of love, and not a weeknight-type recipe, now you can have Chicken Larb whenever the cravings strike!
To make this recipe more accessible and easy, I’ve replaced the 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.
How to eat Chicken Larb
- In lettuce wraps: One of our favorite ways to serve Chicken Larb is in a wrap. Start with some Boston or butter lettuce and pile in the coconut rice, larb mixture, herbs, and a quick cucumber salad. As lettuce wraps, this makes a fun appetizer; serve it potluck style and encourage guests to layer up their wraps!
- With sticky rice: Traditional Larb Gai is served with sticky rice and fresh lettuce leaves intended for layering and wrapping. For sticky rice, try this recipe.
- In a bowl: It’s easy to create a bowl meal — place the coconut lime rice as the base, add the larb on top, layer on the herbs, and top with the cucumbers. You can also add some quick pickled red onions for another bowl element.
- Over cauliflower rice: For a lower carb meal, replace the coconut rice with cauliflower rice, or enjoy the larb on lettuce wraps without any rice at all.
- In a salad: Layer chopped lettuce with the larb, herbs, and a few more veggies (like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet peppers, or red onions). Squeeze a few lime wedges over everything and add a drizzle of olive oil and rice vinegar. Sprinkle some crushed peanuts for garnish and use a microplane to grate a bit of lime peel.
- Add fish sauce: A splash or two of fish sauce will accentuate the Thai flavor.
- Spice levels: 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® in place of the chili sauce (Note that a lot of the flavor in this dish does come from the chili sauce).
- Swap the meat: I have personally only tested this recipe with ground chicken, but I think ground pork would work well in its place. You can also try ground turkey, but you may need to slightly increase the amount of sauce.
- Bulk up with veggies: I love bulking up recipes with extra veggies (not only does it make it more nutritious, it also saves money!). So, while not fully authentic, you could add in some finely diced mushrooms, carrots, and bell peppers to the larb mixture. If you add a lot, you’ll likely want to increase or double the sauce.
- Aim to use dark meat ground chicken. Most of the fat in chicken is in the dark meat; the lighter the color of the ground chicken, the lower the fat content. Lower fat meat means it will dry out quicker and faster and taste drier when cooked.
- Don’t overcook the ground chicken. just as chicken breasts can get very dry when overcooked, so can ground chicken. Stop cooking when it’s no longer pink and has turned white. Stir and break up the chicken constantly while cooking it.
- Drain off any liquid. Before adding the sauce, make sure to drain off any liquid that has accumulated while cooking the chicken to avoid a soggy and bland Chicken Larb.
Chicken Larb FAQs
What does larb taste like?
Chicken Larb should be ever-so-slightly sweet, have a touch of spice, and have a hit of acid from the lime. Larb is intended to be spicy, but doesn’t have to be overly so. We only add in 1 tablespoon chili paste and my kids inhale this, but if you aren’t feeding kids and/or like things a little spicier, you may want to increase the amount of chili paste.
Chicken Larb also is a lighter dish; it should feel nutritious and nourishing, especially with all the herbs and fresh ingredients in there. It should taste fresh and bright and deliver a myriad of textures.
I’ve also added a quick cucumber topping, which further flavors the dish and adds a nice soft crunch while bringing together all the flavors and textures.
Is larb served hot or cold?
Traditionally larb is served hot — right after it is done cooking. That said, many restaurants serve larb cold or at room temperature in a salad-type dish or for salad wraps. We like it served hot; as soon as it’s done!
Is larb gluten free?
This larb can easily be made gluten free by swapping in coconut aminos for the soy sauce. Check to be sure all the products you use are in fact gluten free and not manufactured in a facility that contains gluten. (Here’s a guide for specific gluten free brands).
More 30-minute dinner recipes
Easy Thai Chicken Larb is made with ground chicken, garlic, ginger, lime, and plenty of fresh herbs. Served over coconut lime rice or in lettuce wraps, this meal is nutritious and easy to make. This salty, spicy, and sweet dish can be ready in about 30 minutes or less and will be a hit with the whole family!
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil (can use olive oil)
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (~2 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger (~1 inch piece)
- 1 cup thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts) (~4-6 onions)
- 1 pound ground chicken (darker meat will be more tender and flavorful)
- 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoon light brown sugar, not packed
- Fine sea salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup EACH: chopped mint, chopped cilantro, chopped basil (See Note 2)
- 3 Persian cucumbers (or 1 English cucumber)
- 1 tablespoon EACH: rice vinegar, olive oil, lime juice
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 and 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 large lime (~1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
- For serving (optional): Lettuce leaves, additional lime wedges
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, whip together the sauce ingredients: add the 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (See Note 1), 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste; it will depend on the saltiness of the soy sauce, but note that ground chicken does need a good amount of seasoning). Stir to combine.
TOPPINGS: Prep the toppings next: thinly slice the Persian cucumbers and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the cucumbers. Stir and give the mixture a few more stirs while cooking the ground chicken. Give the herbs a quick coarse chop and place in a bowl (See Note 2).
LARB MEAT: Finally, prepare the meat portion. Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil to a large cast iron skillet and melt over medium high heat. Once shimmering, add in the 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, and 1 cup of thinly sliced green onions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant and tender. Add in the ground chicken. Make sure to really break up the ground chicken with a wooden spoon so there are no large clumps. Sauté for 7-9 minutes (breaking up/stirring almost constantly) or until mostly cooked through and white all over. Drain off any accumulated liquid and return skillet to medium high heat. Pour the prepared sauce over the chicken and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked (no pink remains) and sauce is coating everything. Remove from heat.
SERVE: Serve appetizer style with lettuce leaves, larb meat, coconut lime rice, a bowl with the herbs, and the cucumbers. Either layer everything in a bowl or on a plate (coconut lime rice, larb meat, chopped herbs, cucumbers) or fill up lettuce wraps. Enjoy immediately.
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. I like serving the herbs on the side so everyone can add as much as they want.
Recipe adapted from “Cooking without Recipes” from BonAppetit.