Gluten Free Spicy Thai Meatballs Wrapped in Lettuce


Spicy Thai Meatballs is a gorgeous summer appetizer, perfect for your next party. I love taking a tried-and-true recipe and serving it up in new ways so that’s what I did.

The only gluten free adjustments was using gluten free breadcrumbs. In this recipe I used store bought panko breadcrumbs.

Usually I have a container in my freezer where I collect leftover pieces of bread or buns. Every once in awhile I make breadcrumbs, use what I need and put them back in the freezer. Other times it’s just the container with the leftover bread that needs to be turned into breadcrumbs.

Either way I usually have breadcrumbs available. In this recipe the breadcrumbs soak up the juices from the meat and contribute to the overall flavour.

Healthy Ways To Serve Meatballs

This simple meatball recipe can certainly be served up as part of an everyday meal. Everyone likes meatballs, right?

To make them look and feel a little more healthy I serve them in individual lettuce cups with lots of fresh herbs. Add a splash of the citrusy Ponzu Sauce and you’ve got a burst of flavour in every bite.

Who would have thought meatballs could taste this good!

For six or less people I make up individual plates or a small plate for all. Put two meatballs on some of the lettuce leaves for the bigger eaters.

When I take this appetizer to a large party I line the entire platter with gorgeous ‘living lettuce’ and lots of fresh herbs. I take the meatballs in a separate dish to reheat in the microwave.

When I’m ready to serve I scatter the warm meatballs on top of the platter and stick toothpicks in lots of them for a party look. Then I set it on the table, people will dig in and figure it out.

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How To Cook With a Seasonal Strategy

Meatballs don’t have a season but this platter reminds me of an outdoor summer party. Even though I can buy mint at the grocery store I seem to make this recipe when it’s growing in my garden.

Thinking about recipes in this way helps to create a seasonal way of rotating your tried-and-true recipes. When you’ve collected decades of recipes you need some way to rotate through them. This is now I do it.

It’s not a perfect system, every ingredient is almost never in season. Yet highlighting ingredients that are in season is always the goal and I think it makes the dish feel like the perfect choice for that specific event.

that I can fancy up when the occasion calls for it. These are recipes I’ve made many times so there’s no searching or trying something new. It’s on my list because we love it so remembering those my favourites is all it takes.

Cook One, Eat Twice

Smart cooks like to cook once and get two or three meals for their time and effort. Many of us need creative ways to serve that food so we don’t hear that whining about eating leftovers. (Leave me a comment if you LOVE leftovers and know exactly what I mean!)

Meatballs is a perfect example. Make lots and freeze them in different containers for different uses. Freeze them raw for maximum juiciness, cooked for a quick dinner. Here are three different ways I might label these meatballs:

  • meatballs/ponzu (for an everyday dinner with a reminder to use the ponzu sauce)
  • 12 meatballs for appetizer (I’ll serve these for an unplanned get together or 4-6 people)
  • 36 Thai meatballs for company (these meatballs are going to a party!)

Let me know in the comments below if you made my Spicy Thai Meatballs and how you served them.

Originally posted 2015, updated August 2022.

Adapted from one of my favourite cookbook authors, Hugh Carpenter. He combines Asian flavours with anything to create a unique style of Asian fusion that I can’t get enough of. Find his cookbooks on his Amazon author page

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More Thai Recipes and A Travel Tale

Spicy Thai Meatballs in Lettuce Cups

These spicy meatballs look pretty served in lettuce cups and garnished with fresh herbs. That makes these a healthy way to serve meatballs and they'll be a hit at any party.
Author: Cinde Little
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Assembling the platter: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: thai
Keyword: Spicy Thai Meatballs in Lettuce Cups
Servings: 48 meatballs



  • 2 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp Asian chile sauce (I use sambal oelek)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger root, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • lb ground pork (680 g)
  • 2 green onions, finely minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp finely minced orange zest
  • ¼ cup gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Asian chile sauce (I use sambal oelek)


  • ¾ cup gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 heads living lettuce, separated into cups
  • fresh mint, Thai basil and/or cilantro (use all 3 if you can)



  • In a glass measuring cup or jar combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be prepared a day in advance.


  • Line a baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack on top. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine pork, onion, garlic, orange zest, soy sauce and chile sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  • Use a ½ inch metal portion scoop to shape meatballs.
  • Roll each meatball in gluten free breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet. Can be done several hours in advance and refrigerated.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. When ready turn the setting to broil.
  • Place the baking sheet of meatballs on the second rack under the broiler. Cook for 6-8 minutes without turning. If they brown too quickly place them on a lower rack until cooked through.


  • Line a platter with lettuce leaves breaking large leaves into two.
  • Skewer 1 or 2 meatballs (on a short skewer if desired) and place in a lettuce cup along with some cilantro, Thai basil and mint. Put extra meatballs around the platter until you have a look you like.
  • Serve with Cilantro Ponzu Sauce.


Metal portion scoops ensure your meatballs are the same size so they will cook evenly. They make many jobs in the kitchen quick and easy. I have 3 sizes to use for everything from muffins to meatballs. Buy them, you'll never regret it!
GF Breadcrumbs - I sometimes use the cornflake breading from my recipe for Gluten Free Breading for Chicken.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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