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Thai Larb Recipe

This Thai larb recipe is one of my favorites. Larb is a tangy, spicy, delicious dish from Laos and Northern Thailand. It is made of ground meat, seasoned with lots of lime juice, ground chiles, and fish sauce.

Landscape shot of thai larb in a blue and white serving bowl with fresh mint, lime wedges, sliced shallots, and lettuce leaves

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It is often eaten wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves with a side of sticky rice. It’s an easy recipe to make and gets a ton of flavor from just a few ingredients.

uncooked sticky rice in a hand
Uncooked sticky rice is more opaque than “regular” rice

The flavors in this larb recipe are bright and full of contrast—tart and sweet, spicy, meaty, and punctuated by raw shallots and fresh mint leaves.

What Is Larb?

It is essentially a meat salad—ground meat that is browned in a skillet and then tossed with fresh lime juice, fish sauce, ground red chiles, raw shallots, and fresh mint leaves. It is the national dish of Laos and is also eaten in Northern Thailand (Isaan), where there are many Laotian people.

What are the ingredients?

There are surprisingly few ingredients needed for this Thai larb recipe:

  • Ground meat (pork, chicken, duck, etc.)
  • Khao khua (toasted rice powder)–purchase or easily make your own!
  • Shallots
  • Lime juice
  • Fish sauce
  • Sugar
  • Ground red chiles or cayenne
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Lettuce leaves for serving

For the meat, I often use a 50-50 mixture of ground pork and turkey, but you can use any ground meat you like.

Ingredients for thai larb including ground meat, roasted rice powder, limes, shallots, fish sauce, and fresh mint
You only need a few ingredients to make this Thai larb recipe

Khao khua, the toasted rice powder, is an essential ingredient if you want your larb to have authentic flavor and texture—it adds savory toasty notes and a bit of crunch, and it also helps to thicken the dressing.

You can buy roasted rice powder at a Thai or Asian grocery store or online. Alternatively, you can easily make it yourself by toasting sticky rice (also called glutinous rice) in a dry skillet until it is golden brown and then grinding it to a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

What do you serve with it?

Larb is usually served as a salad or appetizer. It’s a light dish full of bright, palate-awakening flavors.

Overhead shot of ground pork and turkey larb with a plate of lettuce, lime wedges, and fresh mint

It’s common to serve lettuce leaves for wrapping up the meat. Sticky rice is also a common accompaniment. Larb is often very spicy and the raw vegetables and rice help cool the fire a bit. Of course, you can make yours as spicy or mild as you like.

My family loves to have larb as a main course. Sometimes we’ll go low-carb and just have the meat with lettuce leaves and steamed or raw vegetables on the side. When we want a more substantial meal, we might pair it with Thai fish cakes, Green Papaya Salad, and/or sticky rice.

Can this larb recipe be made ahead?

Larb keeps very well in the refrigerator. Just cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

larb wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with fresh mint leaves

What are the steps for making larb?

  1. Make or buy the roasted rice powder
  2. Heat a bit of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid in the skillet, cook a bit longer, until most of the liquid evaporates.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rice powder, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and ground chile powder. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  5. Stir in the remaining shallots and the mint leaves. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature before serving.

how do you make khao khua (roasted rice powder)?

Roasted rice powder is made using sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice). The white grains are more opaque than “regular” rice.

toasted sticky rice
Roasted sticky rice is golden brown and aromatic

Sticky rice is a staple in both Thailand and Laos, where it is often served steamed as a side dish. In Japan, sweet rice is ground into a flour and used to make mochi. You can find it in an Asian grocery store, many supermarkets, or online.

Toasted rice powder or khao khua shot from overhead

To make the toasted rice powder, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add ½ cup uncooked sticky rice.

  1. Cook, stirring frequently and shaking the pan to keep the rice in an even layer covering the bottom of the skillet, until the rice grains are golden brown and aromatic. It can take a while—anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes—but you don’t want to raise the heat too high and risk burning the rice.
  2. When the rice is toasted, transfer it from the skillet to a clean, dry bowl and let cool for a bit.
  3. Transfer the rice to a spice grinder or pestle and grind it to a coarse powder.
  4. You will end up with about 1/3 cup of the rice powder, which is more than you need for this recipe. Place the extra in a jar, cover it, and save it for another recipe.
Low angle shot of thai larb with garnishes of fresh mint, lime wedges, sliced shallots and lettuce

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Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Thai Larb

Thai Larb

Larb is a tangy, spicy, delicious dish from Laos and Northern Thailand. It is made of ground meat, seasoned with lots of lime juice, ground
chiles, and fish sauce.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 to 3 shallots, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons roasted rice powder (see note for making your own)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Ground hot red chile (add to taste according to your tolerance level for spicy food and the spiciness of your ground chile—anywhere from ¼ teaspoon to 1 or 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, plus additional whole mint leaves for serving
  • Several lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat a bit of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3
    minutes.
  2. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid in the skillet, cook a bit longer, until most of the liquid evaporates.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rice powder, sugar, ground chile powder, fish sauce, lime juice, and the chopped mint leaves. Taste
    and adjust seasoning as desired.
  4. Stir in the remaining shallots and the mint leaves. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature before serving along with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Notes

1. To make the khao khua (roasted rice powder), heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add ½ cup uncooked sticky rice (or glutinous rice). Cook, stirring frequently and shaking the pan to keep the rice in an even layer covering the bottom of the skillet, until the rice grains
are golden brown and aromatic. It can take a while—anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes—but you don’t want to raise the heat too high and risk burning the
rice. When the rice is toasted, transfer it from the skillet to a clean, dry bowl and let cool for a bit. Transfer the rice to a spice grinder or pestle and grind it to a coarse powder. You will end up with about 1/3 cup of the rice powder, which is more than you need for this recipe. Place the extra in a jar, cover it, and save it for another recipe.

2. You can use any ground meat you like. Pork, duck, and chicken area all common. I like to use a 50-50 combination of pork and turkey.







Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 535Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 142mgSodium 846mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 2gSugar 9gProtein 41g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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