Korean Lettuce Wraps with Bitter Melon


Are you wondering how to use your bitter melon? Well, I think I found the perfect recipe for carnivores and vegetarians alike. I was searching for a ground beef lettuce wrap recipe and found this one. The sweetness and spices in the recipe are just want you need to balance the bitterness in the melon. I made the recipe with ground beef but I am sure it would be equally as tasty if you substituted tofu. You can also make use of your Red Leaf lettuce in this recipe. I found the large, crunchy leaves worked great as wraps. We hope you enjoy it!

Korean Lettuce Wraps with Bitter Melon
makes enough for about 4 small servings


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 bitter melon, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed, and sliced 1/2″ thick on the bias
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pound ground beef or firm tofu
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Cooked white rice for serving
  • Lettuce for serving


  • Heat the vegetable oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the bitter melon, season with salt and pepper and cook until first side is browned, 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is brown and the melon is tender, another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Prepare the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, chili power and ginger together in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • Using the same non-stick pan, saute the beef over medium heat until cooked through. Alternatively, add a little oil to the pan, add the tofu, break it up into little pieces (follow this technique), and brown. Add the garlic, mix with beef/tofu to combine and cook for an additional minute. Add the sauce and simmer for a few minutes, or until the mixture has reduced slightly. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with rice and bitter melon in a large lettuce leaf.