I love fun foods, and Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef, or Bò Cuốn Lá Lốt, are definitely fun to make. You get to turn spiced ground beef into delicious little parcels wrapped in wild betel leaves, stick them on skewers, and cook them over a grill.
Bò Cuốn Lá Lốt is a popular dish for large gatherings. No Viet party is complete without them! If you're making these for a crowd, you can try serving them with some of my other party foods, like Vietnamese Shrimp Toast (Bánh Mì Nướng Tôm), Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn Tôm Thịt) or Vietnamese Grilled Scallion Oil Mussels (Chem Chép Nướng Mỡ Hành).
You can find wild betel leaves or piper lolot leaves at some Asian grocery stores. They're heart-shaped and shiny on one side. They're called Lá Lốt in Vietnamese. There's another leaf that's also labeled betel leaves but called Lá Trầu in Vietnamese. You DON'T want to use these for this dish. Lá Trầu is used in Vietnam similarly to chewing tobacco and has a strong medicinal taste. Wild betel/piper lolot leaves, in contrast, have a mild, peppery taste.
You will need:
- wild betel/piper lolot leaves, cleaned and dried
- ground beef
- fish sauce
- oyster sauce
- five spice powder
- cooking oil
- scallion oil (optional)
- crushed roasted peanuts (optional)
See the recipe card for quantities.
Season the ground beef with salt, pepper, garlic, shallots, fish sauce, oyster sauce, five-spice powder and oil.
Mix the beef mixture well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Place a betel leaf shiny side down and spoon some of the beef mixture onto the pointy part of the leaf. Shape the beef into a small log.
Roll the beef mixture up towards the wider side of the betel leaf.
Once you've rolled your beef halfway up the leaf, fold the two sides of the leaf toward the center and continue rolling all the way to the end of the leaf.
Poke a small hole into the beef parcell, above the stem of the leaf, with a skewer.
Insert the stem into the hole you just made to secure the beef parcel.
Secure the beef parcels onto two bamboo skewers.
Grill the skewers for 3-4 minutes on each side.
Top the cooked skewers with some optional crushed peanuts and scallion oil. Serve with noodles, fresh herbs and pickled carrots with radish.
- If your wild betel leaves are too small to comfortably roll, you can use two side-by-side.
- Use a fattier ground beef to avoid your Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef from getting too dry on the grill. I like 80/20.
- Soak your skewers for at least 30 minutes so that they don't burn on the grill.
- Remember to look for leaves labeled Lá Lốt, NOT Lá Trầu. In English, they might be labeled betel leaves, wild betel leaves or piper lolot leaves.
- Beef: You can use any ground meat that you want, though the dish is traditionally made with beef. Leaner cuts of meat might dry out on the grill.
- Wild betel leaves: These can be hard to find, even at Asian grocery stores. If you can't find them, you can use grape leaves, perilla leaves or shiso leaves. Perilla leaves are my favorite substitute — I love the flavor!
- Vegetarian: Use a plant-based beef alternative. Instead of fish sauce and oyster sauce, use a vegetarian fish sauce/oyster sauce, or substitute with soy sauce.
I recommend cooking Bò Cuốn Lá Lốt on a charcoal grill. The smokey, charcoal flavor is essential to the dish in my opinion! If you don't have one, a propane grill is fine. You can also cook these on the stovetop if you don't put them on skewers.
You'll need two bamboo skewers side-by-side to make these skewers. If you stick the beef parcel on one skewer, there's a risk it will spin around. Using two skewers makes it more stable.
👪 Serving size and storage suggestions
My favorite way of eating Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef is with fresh vermicelli noodle bowls. Serve them with vermicelli, lettuce, fresh herbs (I like mint and Thai basil), crushed peanuts, scallion oil, and pickled carrots with radish.
Don't forget the fish sauce dressing! You can use my Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nước Mắm Pha).
This recipe makes about 30 beef parcels, depending on how large your leaves are. I recommend 3-4 pieces for each person if you're serving these on top of noodle bowls. If you're serving them alone, you may want to portion more pieces per person. It's very easy to double or even triple this recipe.
✏️ Top tip
Please please please DO NOT buy betel leaves that are labeled Lá Trầu! Your label should say betel leaves, wild betel leaves or piper lolot leaves in English and Lá Lốt in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef (Bò Cuốn Lá Lốt)
- bamboo skewers
- charcoal grill
- 30 wild betel/piper lolot leaves cleaned and dried
- 1 lb ground beef
- ⅓ cup finely chopped lemongrass
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- ¼ teaspoon five spice powder
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- crushed roasted peanuts optional
- scallion oil optional
- Season the ground beef with lemongrass, salt, pepper, garlic, shallots, fish sauce, oyster sauce, five-spice powder and oil.
- Mix the beef mixture well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Place a betel leaf shiny side down and spoon about a tablespoon of the beef mixture onto the pointy part of the leaf. Shape the beef into a small log.
- Roll the beef mixture up towards the wider side of the betel leaf.
- Once you've rolled your beef halfway up the leaf, fold the two sides of the leaf toward the center and continue rolling all the way to the end of the leaf.
- Poke a small hole into the beef parcell, above the stem of the leaf, with a skewer.
- Insert the stem into the hole you just made to secure the beef parcel.
- Secure the beef parcels onto two bamboo skewers.
- Grill the skewers for 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Optional: Top the skewers with scallion oil and crushed roasted peanuts.
Note: Nutrition facts as an estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
🦺 Food safety
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 160 °F
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
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