The most satisfying vegetarian lettuce wraps

Lettuce wraps
Set up a DIY board for everyone to assemble their own lettuce wraps.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The best lettuce wraps cradle something hot and fatty. Case in point: tempura. Of course, you can make your own tempura, but my move is to pick up a box from a Japanese supermarket or sushi joint (or order extra online when getting Japanese food delivered) and throw together this dish in minutes.

Tempura sauce usually comes with tempura, in a small container, and it works well as the base for this dish’s dressing. If your tempura doesn’t come with sauce, use soy sauce instead. If you want to make this even spicier, use wasabi- or chile-flavored Japanese rice crackers.

One trip to a Japanese market will get you all the ingredients you need to throw together this dish in minutes.
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Firecracker Vegetable Tempura Lettuce Wraps

10 minutes. Serves 4.


  • 6 to 8 pieces vegetable tempura
  • 2 teaspoons tempura sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 habanero or other hot fruity-flavored chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons everyday extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced
  • 12 small butter or red lettuce leaves
  • 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 4 Japanese rice crackers, crumbled


  1. If the tempura is fresh, set the pieces in a single layer on a wire rack to keep them crisp. If the tempura has been refrigerated, reheat in a toaster oven or an oven set to 400 degrees until crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Cut into 1-inch-wide strips, if needed.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the tempura sauce, vinegar, chile and oil until well mixed.
  3. Divide the tempura and avocado slices among the lettuce leaves. Drizzle the sauce all over, then top with the pepitas and rice crackers. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Tempura and Avocado Lettuce Wraps: Substitute 6 shrimp tempura for the vegetable tempura, cutting off the tails and slicing each piece crosswise in half.