7-layer dip turns into a meal with chicken taco lettuce cups

Gretchen Mckay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mexican 7-layer dip is a staple at parties, potlucks and summer barbecues for a reason. It’s easy to throw together, doesn’t require any special ingredients and can be served at room temperature.

Now that it’s officially summer and the living is supposed to be easy, shouldn’t dinner be, too?

It is with chicken taco lettuce cups. They’re inspired by the popular appetizer but more filling and easier to eat because all the ingredients are tucked neatly together inside a lettuce leaf.

I used Boston lettuce, which has large, supple leaves that make perfect “cups” for meat and veggies, but Bibb lettuce, which has smaller leaves, would work perfectly, and so would Romaine if you desire extra crunch. To spice things up, I opted for Trader Joe’s chicken shawarma thighs instead of my go-to shredded rotisserie chicken. They come already seasoned and only take 20 minutes to roast. I also subbed in black beans for refried beans.

A zesty cilantro-lime dressing, made extra creamy with Greek yogurt, is drizzled on top. Leftovers can be used as a dip for crudites or sauce for chicken, steak or fish.

Chicken taco lettuce cups are a hand-held take on the popular Mexican 7-layer dip served at parties.


PG tested

For dressing

  • 2 bunches fresh cilantro, rinsed
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

For salad

  • 12 Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken, warmed
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
  • Crumbled corn tortillas, optional, for garnish

Prepare dressing: Remove stems from cilantro by twisting the bunch between your hands, separating the top leaves from the bottom stems. Place cilantro leaves, garlic, lime juice and zest, honey, cumin and salt into a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Then, with the blade running, pour in the olive oil and yogurt and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour dressing into glass container and set aside while you make the tacos. (Makes about 1 cup of dressing).

Prepare tacos: Wash and pat dry lettuce leaves with a paper towel, then place on individual plates or a large platter.

Place corn in a small saucepan set over medium heat, and toss until it is slightly charred and warmed through.

Divide chopped chicken among the lettuce leaves. Top each with minced onion, corn, black beans, diced avocado and diced tomato. Drizzle cilantro-lime dressing on top of lettuce wraps, then garnish with crumbled Cotija cheese and crumbled corn tortillas, if desired. Serve immediately with your favorite cold Mexican lager.

Serves 4.