Thai-style meatballs in lettuce cups | Something New For Dinner
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Thai-style meatballs in lettuce cups

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Easy and quick

Thai-style meatballs

I love meatballs for their ease, versatility and deliciousness. This meatball recipe is great as an appetizer when served in lettuce cups described below. They also can be used in a main course salad, with all the same ingredients. The lettuce cups become the lettuce in the salad and the sauce becomes the dressing.

Make in advance

The beauty of these meatballs is that they can be made in advance and then reheated before serving. They can also be eaten at room temperature.

Pile on the fruit and veggies

I have written the recipe for mango, cucumbers, mint and cilantro, but you can substitute pineapple, peaches, red bell peppers or basil. Go with whatever is fresh and in season.

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These meatballs have no added bread and are gluten-free providing your Thai fish sauce has no added wheat. Double check the ingredient list to be sure.

A bit of sugar

These meatballs are dipped in a light coating of sugar before baking to promote caramelization. Yes, I know we should all be cutting back on sugar, but there really is not much sugar per meatball and it does give them a nice finish. You can always skip the sugar if you want.


I found this sugar technique in a recipe some time ago, and can't put my hands on it to credit the author. Has anyone used this technique before?



Thai-style meatballs in lettuce cups

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These easy gluten-free meatballs are packaged in lettuce cups with a Thai-inspired sauce, mangos, cilantro and mint. They can be served as an appetizer, a main course, or reconfigured as a salad.

  • Author: Something New For Dinner
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 15 meatballs 1x


  • 1/2” finger of ginger, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 c Thai fish sauce
  • 1/4 c rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 t red chile pepper flakes
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Parchment paper
  • 2 heads butter lettuce, leaves cleaned and separated
  • 2 small mangos, cut in 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 handful mint leaves


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first 10 ingredients in a small bowl to make sauce. Remove half the sauce and combine it with the ground pork. Shape the pork mixture into 1 1/2″ meat balls, about the size of golfballs. Set the remaining sauce aside.
  2. Put sugar in a small bowl or plate and dip each meatball into the sugar to coat. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and arrange the meatballs on the paper at least an inch apart. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 425 and bake an additional 5 minutes to caramelize the meatballs.
  3. Place butter lettuce leaves side-by-side on a serving platter. In each leaf put one meatball, a couple pieces each of mango and cucumber and a sprig of cilantro and mint. Top each meatball with a teaspoon of sauce.
  4. Or toss the meatballs, lettuce, mango, cucumbers, mint and cilantro together with the sauce for a salad.







  1. Erica says:

    These were great! I used this recipe as a base substituting ground turkey for the pork, added a shallot and some powdered garlic, onion, and ginger as well, pan seared them in sesame oil then served them bahn mi style with cilantro, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and sri racha in lettuce leaves. Delish!

    1. Kim says:

      Hi Erica,
      Wow that sounds like a delicious sandwich! I’m going to give your version a try! Thank you for sharing!

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