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our FAVE recipe, picky-eater pleaser, Thai Style Beef

Posted by on Dec 20, 2010 in Blog Posts | 17 comments

This recipe is one of our go-to’s. It’s M’s favorite, and is great for kids of (almost) all ages since it is a saucey, sloppy-joe consistency. Make it with ground beef for iron and taste, we often use ground turkey because Dad prefers it. (Notice M hiding behind the table giving a thumbs-up?)

This is fancy enough that I’ve served it with lettuce cups for a dinner party, and casual enough to throw into a thermos for lunches. I made a huge quadruple batch for the teachers at M’s school, and it got rave reviews, even from those who were initially skeptical. The ingredients can be found at most markets these days, and keep in the fridge for a long time (fish sauce and red pepper paste.) It is very mild, but flavorful… Tell me what you think! I usually serve with boiled or steamed broccoli.


our FAVE recipe, picky-eater pleaser, Thai Style Beef
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Thai Style Ground Beef adapted from Cooking Light I make a double batch and freeze leftovers or send them in thermos for lunch. Serve with white rice or brown. Serves 8 if doubled. We eat lots of this, so I'm sure our "servings" are larger than suggested 🙂
Recipe type: Main dish, meat
Cuisine: Asian influence
Serves: 4-8
  • 1 cup thinly sliced/choppedleek (about 1 leek)
  • (can use onion, but leeks are great)
  • 1 tspn bottled minced garlic (or one clove fresh, or from tubes, my fave)
  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste (such as Thai kitchen)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (can and make up the difference with ketchup, 1 14 oz. can not quite 2 cups for double recipe...)
  • ½ cup light coconut milk (Whole foods 365 brand seems richer than Thai kitchen, can use regular coconut milk I'm sure…)
  • 1 Tbspn brown sugar
  • ¼ tspn grated lime rind
  • 1 ½ Tbsn fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbspn Asian fish sauce
  • 3 cups cooked rice (or as needed)
  • iceburg lettuce or Bibb lettuce leaves
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped green onions
  1. Heat large skillet over med-high. (2 if double batching, read below)
  2. Coat with cooking spray (I use a splash of olive oil.) Sautee leeks about 5 minutes (can do more so they are very soft for kids.) Add garlic, sautee a few minutes, add beef and cook until brown (with double batch, I have the leeks going in one pan, and the meat in another then I can combine them—saves lots of time. I do remove excess liquid from the meat.)
  3. Stir in curry paste and tomato sauce, cook until half the liquid is gone (almost instantly for me…) Add coconut milk and next 4 ingrd. (through fish sauce) cook about 2 minutes. It can sit longer. Be careful not to simmer all the sauce away if you wait to serve. Serve with rice and wrap in lettuce leaves, garnish with fresh cilantro and onions.

M loves to just eat the meat with rice with a spoon, we love the crunch of the wraps. It sounds really ambitious, but folks love it, and it’s not too hard to learn. We make this a few times a month and the fish sauce tastes great in stir-fries.

Leeks: cut off the rough green parts and the root. Slice it down the middle and run cold water over it to get dirt and grit out. Use your fingers to clean it out. (link above has video)

Kids can help: kids can wash lettuce, and pull of leeks, measure and stir ingredients, use knives as appropriate to help chop leeks or onions, measure rice…

My issue is we have lots of cilantro left over. I try to plan to make guacamole too, but often throw out cilantro. Can you share fave recipes of yours that use fresh cilantro?

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  1. Elizabeth Archerd

    We toss left over cilantro, parsley, celery leaves or basil in green salads. Same with lovage and mint from the garden. Makes a lettuce mixture very flavorful, relieving salad boredom.

  2. mickey

    Thanks for the recipe. I think I will try it soon… with veggie ground round. And minus the cilantro. I am part of the population that cannot stand cilantro because I think it tastes like soap. 🙂

  3. Kathleen

    Tried this last night and it was a big hit with (most of) my family. Thanks. 🙂

  4. Lauren Bell

    You can make cilantro pesto. Supposedly cilantro is a natural chelator (removes heavy metals). There are many recipes available on the web.

  5. ila

    Have you tried freezing the leftover cilantro? I do it with parsley all the time! Just wash it, dry it very carefully with kitchen towels, chop it, put it in a jar o ziploc bag, and put it in the freezer. I love having fresh-tasting parsley at hand all the time: I just take out a spoonful and add it to whatever I’m cooking (the parsley bits are so tiny, they thaw in seconds). I have never tried this with cilantro (it’s difficult to get fresh cilantro where I live) but maybe you could experiment next time you have some leftover?

    • katja

      ill try that. I always thought you had to chop it and put it in water and the ice-cube trays. This sounds easier…

  6. restless native

    Ditto the pico de gallo. We throw chopped fresh cilantro by the handful on anything remotely southwestern or Mexican-ish. And we throw chopped fresh parsley on everything else. My kids grew up thinking it’s decoration, but there are good trace minerals and some vitamins in there!

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe next week. I’m already tired of “holiday food”. Thai beef in lettuce wraps will be a very welcome change. Thanks, Katja.


  7. KellyK

    Homemade salsa (pico de gallo, really) is a good use of fresh cilantro. I don’t have a recipe per se, but if you dice several tomatoes, a couple tomatillos if you have them, and an onion, and add a splash of lime juice and a bit of cilantro, it’s the best thing *ever* to eat with tortilla chips.

  8. AmandaL

    No problem! I should mention that the chunks are usually in the 1/2″ size range since the cooking time is so short.

  9. Jacquie | After Words

    You can make a chimichurri sauce with the leftover cilantro. I don’t have a favorite recipe–anytime I’ve made it it’s been delicious!

  10. Kathleen

    Sounds great. Will definitely give this one a try. Thanks for sharing.

  11. AmandaL

    This looks like something to add to my meal rotation, thanks! We use fresh cilantro at least once a week when we make baked tilapia or salmon (usually salmon). Here’s the url for the recipe:

    we have some form of potato with it and some kind of green vegetable, usually, which depends on what we have in the fridge. If you dice up different veggies (carrots, fennel, onion, sweet potato, squash, that kind of thing) into smaller pieces tossed with olive oil and salt/pepper, you can roast it at the same time as the fish and have a starchy delicious side.

  12. Trish

    I love cilantro and throw it on tacos practically as if it were lettuce. I also love an Indian dish called Butter Chicken which has cilantro and leftover tandoori chicken in a cream/butter/tomato sauce. The real deal is time and labor intensive, unfortunately. I find that jarred mild curry paste (such as Patak’s) does a reasonably close and FAST!! approximation to Butter Chicken, especially with a little extra greek or plain yogurt (I go full fat) and handfuls of cilantro thrown in just before serving. add onion & any other veggies to suit, but otherwise just follow directions on label.

  13. DeeLeigh

    That sounds great! Simple and tasty.

    I don’t usually cook by recipe, but I use fresh cilantro in stirfrys, salsa, wraps, salads, and it can also be an ingredient in my work from home lunches, which consist of sautéed vegetables (and fresh herbs, if I have ’em) served over toast or rice with a 1/2 mozzarella ball melted over top. Oh – and I also use it in omelets. Actually, I pretty much throw fresh herbs into most of the things I make, if I have them around.


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