Salsa Beef and Bean Lettuce Cups

I went to bed the other night all prepared to make delicious little calzones for the family’s dinner the next evening. The next day, the temperature outside was roughly that of the surface of the sun. And humid.

Now I don’t know about you, but when it feels like a giant sauna outside, I am not much disposed to baking. (That was a giant euphemism for you couldn’t PAY me to heat up the oven.)

The moral of the story is don’t menu plan.

Actually, the moral of the story is to be flexible. I took the ‘guts’ of the doomed calzones and turned it around into something quick and not at all oven-y. I fried up some bacon, added it to some browned ground beef then stirred in a can of our favourite chili beans and a fistful of chopped cilantro. Thanks to great sale on produce at our local-ish grocery, we were well stocked on lettuce. The result was a smoky, saucy, beefy, bacony, beany concoction that somehow managed to be filling without being heavy. We served it in crispy lettuce cups, topped it with grated cheese, velvety ripe avocado cubes and some spicy salsa, sat on the porch and let what little breeze there was cool us all down. Three cheers for switching it up!

The no-vegetable contingent had the toppings (meat and cheese, thankyouverymuch) over brown rice while the rest of us happily munched our lettuce cups. We ended up liking the dish so much we made it two nights in a row.  Then two nights later, we made it again. Thank heavens for bursts of inspiration!

Salsa Beef and Bean Lettuce Cups
Crisp, fresh lettuce cups with a smoky, saucy, beef, bean and bacon filling are topped with lime-kissed ripe avocado cubes, shredded Cheddar cheese and a generous dollop of your favourite salsa for the ultimate hot-weather dinner. Easy enough for busy evenings but pretty enough to serve to company, you'll be sure to add this to your regular meal rotation!
For the Beef Filling:
  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • ½ of a pound of sliced bacon
  • ½ an onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces, approximately) chili beans in sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
To Serve:
  • Butter or Iceberg lettuce leaves
  • shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • cubes of ripe avocado with lime juice squeezed over them
  • salsa
To Prepare the Filling:
  1. Stack the bacon slices and cut cross-ways into ¼- to ½-inch thick strips. Fry those over medium heat in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour the remaining bacon fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat.
  2. Break up the ground beef into the hot pan and add the chopped onions and garlic. Use a wooden spoon to continue breaking the beef and working the onions and garlic into it as it cooks. When the beef is no longer pink in the center, drain off any fat (if there is any!) and return the pan to the heat. Add the can of beans with their sauce, stir well and bring up to a simmer. You can simmer it to thicken the sauce if necessary.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.
To Serve:
  1. Stack the lettuce leaves 2 to 3 thick to provide a little structure for when you lift it to eat it. Scoop about ⅓ to ½ cup of the beef filling in the center of the lettuce cup. Top with the shredded cheese, cubes of avocado and a dollop of salsa.


  1. Jeannean says

    If you wanted to substitute homemade chili beans would it be about 2 cups in the cooking liquid. I really want to make this cause I see it mixed with rice for the non meat eaters and vension for the non beef eaters and all get lettuce cups. Would you use brown rice or some other grain. maybe quiona.

    • says

      I would say 2 cups in the liquid would be just about perfect! I like brown rice with it, but I’m very, very, VERY partial to sweet brown rice. I think quinoa or even barley would be good here, too.

  2. Connie says

    This sounds yummy. I made your bacon cheeseburger pasta and it was devoured by my family. Thank you for such inspirations in the kitchen. How do you make your brown rice sweet?

    • says

      Sweet brown rice is an actual variety of rice (and just happens to be my favourite.) It’s slightly sweeter than other rices and it’s sticky in texture (like sushi rice. In fact, it makes great sushi rice.)

  3. Born27 says

    WOW! This Salsa Beef and Bean Lettuce looks way too tempting. I cant wait to try this and i really appreciate the recipe. Thanks!


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