If you’re looking for a deliciously fun twist on elote chicken, look no further than these boat lettuce wraps! Featuring tender chicken, charred corn, crumbled cotija cheese, and a creamy chili sauce, these Mexican wraps are the perfect mix of smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors.
Updated: This post was originally published in June 2018. I’ve made updates to the post below to include more information about lettuce boats. Plus, I’ve included a recipe video to show you *just* how easy these Mexican lettuce wraps are to make!
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About these lettuce boats
These tasty corn and chicken lettuce wraps are ALL about the layers of flavors. We’re talking – smoky, tangy, spicy, sweet and savory – essentially, ALL the incredible flavors. Here’s whats happening in this loaded lettuce recipe:
First up to bat, tender crumbles of mildly spicy, Mexican seasoned lean ground chicken. Then, we have the star of the show, a savory Mexican street corn salad made from a tasty mix of juicy kernels of corn, salty cotija, herbaceous cilantro and tart lime. Next up, cool, crisp, fresh leaves of butter lettuce (or romaine lettuce if you prefer a more traditional route). Last, but not least, these Mexican wraps get finished off with a generous drizzle of smooth, impossibly creamy, ultra-dreamy, chili spiced sauce.
This boat lettuce with Mexican chicken elote is going to be your new meal obsession. Light and healthy, yet super flavorful and perfectly filling, these protein and veggie-centric lettuce wraps are something you can feel good about eating!
What is a lettuce boat?
FAQS: frequently asked questions
Best lettuce for lettuce boats?
The best lettuces to use when making wraps is any variety with broad and sturdy leaves. When selecting lettuce for wraps, you’ll want to consider a few things – the size and shape, texture, and flavor.
- Butter Lettuce: Personally, this is my favorite variety to use when making these lettuce boats. With large, soft, pliable leaves and a mild buttery flavor, they’re a natural for holding a variety of fillings.
- Little Gem Lettuce: Runner up would be little gem lettuces. Think of these as a miniature version of romaine lettuce, but with a more tender texture.
- Romaine Lettuce: With sturdy leaves and crisp texture, romaine lettuce will provide a ton of structure for your lettuce wraps and boats. However, just be aware that romaine has a slightly higher water content than butter.
- Iceberg Lettuce: While it may not be my personal favorite, iceberg lettuce is a pretty famous in the lettuce wrap world. Iceberg has large leaves that can hold plenty of filling; however, I find it to be lacking in flavor and provide a little too much watery crunch.
- Radicchio: Okay, so not a traditional lettuce to use for boats and wraps; however, radicchio’s sturdy structure and beautiful purple-reddish hue lends plenty of appeal. Just be aware that the leaves do have a pronounced bitterness.
Are lettuce boats healthy?
How to make Mexican lettuce wraps
These Mexican chicken lettuce boats and so simple to make! They only require 15 minutes of prep and a few easy steps. Here’s how:
- Cook chicken. Place ground chicken in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is starting to brown. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add in the lime juice and salsa verde. Saute until chicken is cooked through.
- Make the Mexican corn. In a medium sized bowl, stir together cooked corn, cilantro, cheese, lime juice and zest, paprika, chili powder and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, chili powder, cumin, paprika and lime juice.
- Assemble the lettuce wraps. Spoon the chicken mixture into individual leaves of lettuce. Top with Mexican corn and drizzle with sauce. Enjoy!
Tips for the best lettuce wraps mexican
- Lettuce: I highly recommend using either gem or butter lettuces (such as bibb or boston lettuce) because they’re buttery in flavor with a sturdy-yet-tender texture. However, anything lettuce with a broad leaf, such as romaine, works great too. for these street corn salad wraps.
- Chicken: The recipe as written below calls for ground chicken. You can use all lean, white meat ground chicken if you would like. However, the plain packaged combination of white and dark meat ground chicken packs the most flavor. If ground chicken isn’t your thing, you can easily substitute ground turkey!
- Salsa: I used homemade salsa verde for the chicken, however you can used canned salsa, or you can use green enchilada sauce if you prefer!
- Cheese: The recipe calls for cotija cheese, which is a hard, crumbly Mexican cheese made of cow’s milk. If you can’t find cotija, you can either substitute queso fresco or feta cheese.
Step-by-step photos: making Mexican wraps at home
Serving loaded lettuce
I like to top my chicken elote mexican lettuce wraps with a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro and a little dusting of smoky paprika. As well, I like to drizzle the lettuce boats with a little Mexican crema for richness and then serve the remaining on the side for dipping. However, there are a TON of ways you can customize these chicken boats, so you do YOU!
What goes with a Mexican wrap?
- Chips and Dip: I can’t think of anything easier than a bag of salty tortilla chips with bowls of pico de gallo and guacamole.
- Soups and Chilis: You’ve heard of soup and salad – think of this as a fun variant on that idea. I personally love this Mexican Short Rib Chili or Chicken Black Bean Soup.
- Coleslaw: Keep things light and fresh with a bowl of coleslaw. I prefer this spicy sweet coleslaw and this Mexican coleslaw.
- Avocados: Rich and creamy avocados work brilliantly. Stuffed avocados and avocado salad with tomatoes and corn are my recommendation here.
- Black Beans: If you’re looking for a little more protein, consider black beans or pinto beans. Think: black bean salads, black beans and rice, or mexican pinto beans.
- Rice: If you prefer a little heft, consider serving your chicken boats with grains, such as mexican-style rice with cauliflower.
These Mexican lettuce wraps are fantastically fresh and loaded with tons of flavor! Plus, they are incredibly versatile! You can serve them as an appetizer, snack, healthy lunch or light dinner! They are simple to prepare, yet bold on flavor and will definitely have everyone wanting more!
Until next time, friends, cheers – to fresh corn and summer’s bounty!
More lettuce boat recipes!
The best Mexican Lettuce Wraps recipe plus step-by-step video👇
Mexican Lettuce Wraps
- Large Skillet or Wok
- Mixing bowls (2)
- 1 head Bibb Lettuce – leaves separated*
For the Chicken:
For the Street Corn:
Optional: Diced Avocado, Microgreens, Sliced Green Onions, Sliced/Diced Jalapeno, Lime Wedges
- Cook the Chicken: Heat oil in a large wok, or fry pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, cumin, paprika, chili powder and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to break up any clumps, until the chicken is starting to brown, about 3-4 minutes. (Depending on the type of ground chicken you use, drain off any excess fat from the pan if necessary)
- Add vegetables: Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds-1 minute. Add in the lime juice and salsa verde. Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Make the Street Corn: Place the corn, cilantro, cheese, lime juice, lime zest, paprika, chili powder and garlic powder in a medium sized bowl. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper. Gently stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper, lime juice, cilantro and/or more cheese. Set aside.
- Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk until smooth and well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- To assemble: Spoon the chicken mixture into individual lettuce ‘cups’. Top with street corn and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with optional toppings if desired. Enjoy!
- I highly recommend using either bibb, butter, or boston lettuce for these street corn salad wraps. Their broad leaves are perfect for holding a generous amount of filling.
- The recipe as written calls for ground chicken. You can use all lean, white meat ground chicken if you would like. However, the plain packaged combination of white and dark meat ground chicken packs the most flavor. If ground chicken isn’t your thing, you can easily substitute ground turkey!
- I used homemade salsa verde for the chicken, however you can use canned salsa, or you can use green enchilada sauce if you prefer! Click HERE for homemade salsa verde recipe.
- The recipe calls for cotija cheese, which is a hard, crumbly Mexican cheese made of cow’s milk. If you can’t find cotija, you can either substitute queso fresco or feta cheese.
- Spray or coat corn on the cob with oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Place corn under a broiler and rotate every 1-2 minutes, or until each side of corn is blistered and charred. OR, heat an outdoor grill, or indoor grill pan, to medium-high heat. Oil the grates of the grill and add corn. Grill for a few minutes per side, or until each side of corn is blistered and charred.
- When corn is done cooking, remove it to a clean work surface and allow to cool slightly. Slice kernels off of the cob and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
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