Larb, or laab, is a Lao/Thai minced meat salad that's savory, salty, and tangy, made with ground meat, fresh herbs, shallot, fish sauce, lime juice, and toasted rice powder. It's a must-order at Thai restaurants, but now can be made at home because it's actually super easy to make. Enjoy this larb with some Thai fried rice, Vietnamese egg rolls, or egg drop soup to complete the meal.
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What is larb?
Larb is a minced meat salad that originated from Laos and later popularized by Thai restaurants. It's made of ground meat (usually chicken or pork), fresh herbs, shallot, fish sauce, lime juice, and toasted rice powder. It's a flavor bomb that's savory, salty, and tangy.
How to pronounce larb
- Contradicting to it's spelling, larb is actually spelled laab
- pronounced like laahp, with a short "a" sound and the "p" is unvoiced.
- Through english phonetic translation, "r" was adding to the spelling. Although, you'll notice that it is NOT pronounced like "larrrrb".
How to eat larb
Larb is enjoyed warm or at room temperature and traditionally with steamed sticky rice. You'd take a small piece of sticky rice and pinch up some larb with it. Then, enjoy a bite of bird's eye chili with each bite if you enjoy the heat or snack on some sliced cucumber for a change of texture and flavor.
Also popularized from Thai restaurants, lettuce is often served with the dish to make wraps. Although it's not authentic, lettuce adds a nice touch of cool, crisp, refreshing texture and flavor to each bite.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
For the larb salad:
- Ground chicken - Although this recipe is made based on ground chicken, feel free to use your preferred ground meat. Ground pork, beef, turkey, and lamb are popular alternatives.
- Fish sauce - This is a must! Fish sauce adds the needed savory, salty, and funkiness you taste in larb.
- Lime juice - Fresh lime juice is the best. Not only does it add the tanginess larb salad is known for, it also adds a nice citrusy, zesty aroma that makes the dish taste refreshing.
- Red pepper flakes - For adding a little kick and can be omitted if you do not care for spice.
- Toasted rice powder - We highly recommend adding toasted rice powder. It adds a slight toasted flavor to the dish and absorbs all the yummy juices. You can make it yourself using Thai sweet rice or use store-bought ones.
- Shallot - It adds sweetness and an extra layer of flavor to the dish.
- Green onion, cilantro, mint - These three herbs are the final ingredients that help to make larb salad taste how it should taste.
To serve with larb:
- Sticky rice - Steamed sticky rice is actually what's traditionally served with larb. It complements the strong flavors of larb.
- Lettuce - Any lettuce of your choice to use as a wrap. Although this is not traditional, it's been made popular by Thai restaurants. Plus it's a great contrast in both texture, flavor, and temperature.
- Cucumber - Great for adding texture and to freshen up between bites. We recommend english cucumbers.
- Bird's eye chili - If you love spice, bird's eye chili is a classic side that's a must with larb!
How to make larb
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Cook the ground chicken. To a medium or large saucepan over medium heat, add the ground chicken and cook until just done and no longer pink. Make sure to break up the chicken well as you're cooking.
2. Add chili. To the ground chicken, add the crush chili peppers and sauté briefly until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
3. Season. Add fish sauce and stir well to combine. Let it cook briefly, about 10 seconds. Remove from heat. Add the lime juice and shallot and mix well.
4. Finish. Stir in the toasted rice powder and mix to combine. At this point, if the larb is still hot, allow it to cool a bit. Then add the green onions, cilantro, and shallot. Toss to combine.
5. Enjoy. Serve the larb immediately with sticky rice, lettuce, cucumber slices, and/or bird's eye chili.
How to make toasted rice powder
In a pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of Thai sweet rice. Toast the rice until it's a deep golden browned, about the color of caramel sauce. Make sure to shake the pan often!
Once the rice is browned, allow it to cool to room temperature before grinding into a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
📝 Note: You can also make more than 2 tablespoons worth and store the extra toasted rice powder in an airtight container for up to 2 months at room temperature.
- Drain the ground meat if it's fatty. If you are using a fattier ground meat, like ground pork or beef, we highly recommend that you drain the meat to remove the excess fat before seasoning.
- Add the herbs when the larb is a bit cooler. This is to help prevent the herbs, specially the mint, from turning black.
- Taste and adjust the larb after everything is added. Unlike some dishes that can be tasted and seasoned whenever, larb doesn't taste complete until everything has been added. So if needed, you can add more fish sauce and lime juice at the end and adjust to your preference.
Leftover larb salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days. Make sure to allow the larb to cool completely before storing.
Leftover larb can be reheated either in the microwave or on the stovetop. For either method, it is recommended to mix in some fresh herbs for best flavor.
Microwave method: Reheat the larb in a microwave save container until warm. Make sure to cover it while reheating. Stir in fresh herbs.
Stovetop method: Place the larb into a saucepan and heat on medium or medium high heat. Stir often and once the larb is warmed through remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs.
Although larb is often known as a Thai dish, it actually originated from Laos, where it was largely considered a national dish, and later became popular in Isan, the northeastern region of Thailand.
Larb from different regions are seasoned differently. The most important seasonings are fish sauce, lime juice, chili flakes, and toasted rice powder.
Larb is generally eaten warm or at room temperature with warm sticky rice, cold lettuce and cucumber.
For the larb salad:
- 1 pound ground chicken or your preferred ground meat *see notes
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes more or less to your preference
- 1½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 2½ tablespoons lime juice about 1 to 1½ limes, juiced (more or less to your preference* see notes)
- 1 tablespoon toasted rice powder (you can also make it yourself* see instructions below)
- 1 shallot sliced
- 2 stalks green onion sliced
- ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons mint just the leaves
- Sticky rice cooked
- Cucumber sliced
- Bird's eye chili
For the larb salad:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the ground chicken and cook until almost done and the chicken is no longer pink. Make sure to break up the ground chicken while cooking.
- To the ground chicken, add the crushed red peppers and sauté briefly until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
- Add the fish sauce and stir and cook for about 10 to 15 seconds, until the chicken is completely cooked through. Remove from heat.
- To the chicken, add the lime juice and shallot and stir well. Then, add the toasted rice powder and stir to combine.
- To finish, add the green onion, cilantro, and mint leaves.*At this point, if the ground chicken is still hot, allow it to cool a little longer before adding the herbs.*
- Transfer the larb to a serving plate and top with some more toasted rice powder if desired. Enjoy immediately with sticky rice, lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and bird's eye chili if you like spice.
(Optional) If making toasted rice powder:
- In a pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of Thai sweet rice. Toast the rice until browned, about the color of caramel sauce (like a deep golden brown). Make sure to shake the pan often. Once the rice is browned, remove from heat and allow the rice to cool to room temperature. Once the rice is cool, grind the toasted rice into a coarse powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.*You can also make more than 2 tablespoons worth and store the extra toasted rice powder in an airtight container for up to 2 months at room temperature.*
- Ground meat - Larb is most popularly made with ground chicken or pork, but beef, lamb, and turkey is great too. If you are making larb with a fattier meat, such as ground pork or beef, we recommend draining the fat once the meat is cooked through (before seasoning with fish sauce).
- Lime juice - We like our lime on the tangier side. So if you prefer your larb less tangy, hold back a little lime juice. You can always add more once everything has been added to decide if you want more tang. For fattier meat, you may need a bit more lime juice than leaner meat.