These BBQ Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps are cooked in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop and served in lettuce wraps with purple cabbage, crushed nuts, and fresh cilantro. Easy to meal prep, they’re sweet, tangy, and perfect for lunch or a light summer dinner!
Perfect Pork Lettuce Wraps
Inspired by Asian takeout lettuce wraps, these BBQ pork wraps are sweet, tangy, sticky, and oh-so-tasty. However, most pork lettuce wraps from your local Asian restaurant are full of sugar, MSG, and other unhealthy, un-Cotter-like ingredients. Not to mention, pork spare ribs are loaded with not-so-good fat and very little lean meat. So, naturally, we were determined to make Chinese-inspired Asian pork lettuce wraps in a healthier, Cotter-approved way!
The whole team has tested these pork lettuce wraps, and the votes are in. They’re a huge hit! Not only are they finger-licking delicious, but they’re also:
- Made with natural, real food ingredients.
- Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and low carb.
- Prepared in just over 30 minutes.
- Great to make in advance and enjoy throughout the week.
Whole Food Ingredients You’ll Need (& Simple Substitutes)
Unlike most pork wraps, you won’t find any MSG or tons of sugar in this recipe! Instead, we use simple, nutritious ingredients to create a bold flavor and a sticky, satisfying texture. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the Sticky Sauce
- Nut or Seed Butter – We use smooth almond butter to create a rich, nutty base. However, any creamy nut or seed butter like cashew butter or sunflower seed butter could be used in its place.
- Rice Wine or Rice Wine Vinegar – Used to add depth to the sauce and a light, subtle sweetness.
- Gluten-Free BBQ Sauce – Any barbecue sauce you like best will taste great! Just watch for added sugars.
- Sriracha – This adds a hint of heat to balance out the sugar in the sauce. Gluten-free Asian chili sauce also works really well and adds an extra hint of flavor.
- Gluten-Free Tamari Sauce – This replaces the need for soy sauce, creating a salty, umami taste. If preferred, coconut aminos can be used instead.
- Honey – Technically optional but highly recommended, honey contributes to the sticky texture that helps the sauce cling to the pork while adding extra sweetness without the need for refined sugar.
- Fresh Ginger – Adds a bit of sweet tang and freshness to the sauce.
- Garlic – Included for a savory element. Make sure to use fresh garlic and not garlic powder.
For the Pot or Pan
- Boneless Pork Loin Ribs – Also known as baby back ribs, back ribs, or loin ribs, these are cut from the top of the rib cage below the loin muscle. As a result, they’re much leaner and a lot more tender than spare ribs.
- Refined Avocado Oil or Light Olive Oil – This is used to sear and brown the pork, locking in flavor and keeping it juicy. .
- Water or Broth – Used to prevent the ingredients from burning in the instant pot and helps thin out the sauce to coat the pork.
When you’re ready to eat, stuff your pork in Boston bib lettuce leaves. Then, add shredded cabbage, cucumber slices, fresh cilantro, green onions, a squeeze of lime juice, and chopped nuts like almonds, cashews, or peanuts on top!
Additional Topping Ideas: Feel free to load up your pork lettuce wraps with as many or as few toppings as you’d like. If you’re looking for more options, try adding shredded carrots, red onion, or water chestnuts for extra crunch. Or, add a dash of red pepper flakes or a bit of heat.
How to Make BBQ Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps (2 Ways)
We love our Instant Pot recipes! However, if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet, these lettuce wraps are just as easy to make on the stovetop instead.
Instant Pot Option
- Create the Sauce. Whisk the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl until smooth, and set them aside.
- Sauté. Add oil to the Instant Pot along with the ribs, and sauté to brown the outside of the meat. Transfer the ribs to a plate.
- Combine. Add part of the water or broth to the Instant Pot, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom. Then, whisk in the sauce.
- Cook. Add the ribs back to the pot, coat them in the sauce, lock the lid, set the vent to “closed,” and cook on the highest pressure. Allow the device to natural release before switching the vent to quick release to stop the cooking process.
- Rest. Remove the ribs, and allow them to rest. Reserve the sauce.
- Assemble the Wraps. Place the sliced pork in the lettuce leaves, add your toppings of choice, drizzle extra sauce on top, and finish with a splash of lemon juice. Dig in while the rib meat is still warm!
- Prepare the Sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl, and set the mixture aside.
- Sear the Ribs. Add oil to a medium saucepan, and sear the ribs, then remove ribs from the pan.
- Cook. Add extra water or broth to the pan along with the sauce, and mix to combine. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes on low. Add the ribs back to the pan, coating them in sauce. Cover the pan and continue to cook on medium-low heat, turning ribs in sauce and scraping the sauce from the pan. Ribs are done when tender and cooked through. You want them to reach an internal temperature of 145° Fahrenheit.
Pro-Tip: To keep your ribs tender and flavorful, continuously spoon the liquid over them as the cook or turn them in sauce with tongs.
Common Questions About Pork Lettuce Wraps
Yes! Prepare the pork mixture in advance, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Then, all you have to do is assemble your lettuce wraps and enjoy.
Technically, any type of green leafy lettuce can be used for lettuce wraps. However, we prefer to use bibb lettuce leaves or Romaine lettuce hearts as they tend to be a bit larger and more sturdy. That way your wraps don’t fall apart! Butter lettuce is also a common option people like to use.
If you’re preparing in advance or have leftover lettuce, wrap it in a dish towel or paper towel. Then, store it in the crisper drawer of the fridge, and it should stay good for up to 3 weeks, depending on how fresh it was when you bought it.
We haven’t tested it. However, if you want to try using ground pork, we recommend preparing the sauce and pork separately. Once the pork is cooked through, toss it with the sticky sauce, coating it completely.
You’ll know your protein is finished cooking when the center is no longer pink and the ribs reach an internal temperature of 145° Fahrenheit.
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Do you have questions, feedback, or tips about this recipe? Leave a comment below with any questions or feedback you’d like to share!