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In the summer, we eat lighter, fresher, brighter-tasting foods. Seasonal eating for summer is a wonderful way to take pleasure in the moment and to give your body a break from so much of the rich heaviness that brings comfort in the cold in winter. There are many dishes I like to make and equate instantly with summer (like zucchini patties topped with lime, greek yogurt and mint; chicken and lamb kebabs; BBQ short ribs; grilled flank steak served with Fuul topped with diced tomato and feta, sliced avocado, and corn, red pepper and jalapeno; and watermelon, cucumber and red onion salad with orange champagne vinaigrette — mmmmm, soooo many!) But one of my favorites is Thai Larb Salad.

While I enjoy both the pork and chicken versions of this dish, tonight I decided to opt for making chicken larb. Because I wanted to make my version kid-friendly, I’ve tailored my larb to have less heat but still be just as flavorful and authentic tasting as the larb you may have enjoyed at your local Thai restaurant. And trust me, your kids will love this! You can even give them their lettuce or cabbage leaves and let them fill them with the meat themselves — this makes for a fun, though admittedly messy time, they’ll enjoy!

Chicken larb in butter lettuce cups with rice.

I will also note the additions you can make to your larb to bring back the heat you may enjoy. Below I’ve included a quick Cliff Notes kind of version of the history of the dish, if you’re curious. If you’re not, feel free to skip on down to the recipe. Enjoy!

Origins of Larb or Meat Salad

Also called larp, lap, laab or laap, Larb is a meat salad which can be made with pork, chicken or beef (I’ve never made or had the beef version.) Though this dish is popularly served at Thai restaurants and a favorite in Northeast Thailand, the dish is believed to have originated in Laos and is in fact considered to be the national dish of Laos. It’s a dish that was traditionally prepared for Laotian farmers in the morning to take in their lunch. Though larb has many variations, besides the variety of meats that can be used, the most interesting is the Australian Kangaroo version prepared with slices of fresh kangaroo meat.

A bottle of Red Boat fish sauce

Larb: Meal Breaker Ingredients

Of all the ingredients in larb (the ground meat, the tart and salty combination of lime and fish sauce [nam pla], the crispy cabbage or lettuce leaves) I think the key to getting that authentic bite to your chicken larb salad is making sure to top it with roasted, ground rice and a chiffonade of flavorful green herbs like mint, Thai basil and cilantro. We like our larb juicy, which means, leaves dripping with the light and tangy sauce, for extra zing!

Chicken larb topped with fresh mint, cilantro, and basil leaves.

Ness-ipe for Chicken Larb

A tangy, Thai chicken salad served on cabbage or butter lettuce leaves with rice on the side.


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in large chunks
  • 1 in knob of ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 med shallot, minced (optional)
  • 2 tsp coconut oil (can be as much as 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (I LOVE Red Boat — no crap just fishy goodness!)

Toasted Rice Topping

  • Tbsp rice

Chiffonade Topping

  • cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 handful fresh mint (yielding approximately 1 to 2 Tbsp cut)
  • 5 med-lg Thai basil leaves


  • 1 in knob of ginger, grated
  • Tbsp lime juice
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce or coconut aminos

Optional (for spicier or more oniony variants)

  • ½ cup green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 2 med Thai chili peppers with seeds, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup red onions, chopped (optional)


  • Chiffonade the cilantro, mint, and Thai basil.
  • Dry toast rice in a hot pan until golden and then grind in a coffee grinder until fine.
  • Put the raw chicken breast, grated ginger and smashed garlic into your food processor (or use ground chicken or mince finely by hand) this works the garlic and ginger into the meat as it’s chopped, giving it more flavor. (Shallots can be added at this time as well.)
  • Once finely chopped, transfer it to a hot skillet with the coconut oil on med high heat to cook. Stir continuously, breaking up the meat as it cooks and ensuring even cooking.
  • When it’s done, turn off heat and add 1 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos and 1 tsp fish sauce, stirring to cover evenly and then cover with a lid to keep warm as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
  • Make the sauce by mixing all ingredients and adding it to the warm meat, along with your cilantro, right before serving. 
  • Pile the meat on freshly washed and chilled butter leaf or romaine lettuce or cabbage leaves and serve topped with sprinklings of ground toasted rice, mint and basil.
  • NOTE: If you’re going hotter, you can add more toppings like thinly sliced red onion, chopped green onion and Thai chile peppers to spice things up some more!

Closeup of chicken larb on a butter lettuce leaf.
Mmm . . . have a bite!