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Thai Ground Beef Larb Recipe (Larb Neua)

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Thai ground beef larb recipe – quick and easy to make and full of healthy fresh herbs and spices. This authentic larb neua is bold and spicy, just how you’d get in Isan, the Northeast of Thailand.

Thai ground beef salad on a banana leaf, surrounded by lettuce, dill, and sticky rice.

Thai larb salads are typically served with Thai sticky rice for a quick lunch or light dinner.

They’re easy to make, versatile, and come together in less than 20 minutes. They’re typically made with pork – Thai pork larb, and with chicken – larb gai salad. In this recipe, we’re focusing on beef.

What is beef larb

Beef larb, a staple from Isan in Northeastern Thailand, is a Thai ground meat salad featuring spicy, savory, and slightly sweet flavors. Tossed with fresh herbs and spices, this classic dish is traditionally paired with sticky rice.


In Thai, beef larb is known as ‘ลาบเนื้อ’ (larb neua) or ‘larb nua’.

Thai larb beef recipe

This easy Thai salad is full of ground beef tossed with a tangy-spicy salad dressing and lots of refreshing herbs.

It’s so easy to whip up, it’s almost unbelievable.

You’ve got that lean ground beef, the air filled with the scent of lime, chili, and herbs. Everything comes together in a dish that’s all at once salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.

Close-up of Thai beef larb highlighting the tender ground beef mixed with sliced shallots, fresh herbs, and a hint of chili.

Feel free to toss in some extra Thai chili flakes because what’s Thai food without a little spice, right?

Thai sticky rice, made of glutinous rice, is the perfect sidekick to a traditional larb salad. It’s sticky and filling, a daily staple for Isan locals. Feel free to use jasmine rice instead if that’s what you have on hand.

This authentic Thai beef larb recipe is quick, easy, and totally doable for every home cook. It’s the kind of dinner that’s perfect for your lazy weekend days or busy weeknights.

Lao and Isan cuisine

Lao and Isan cuisine is where Thai food meets bold and spicy flavors. It’s the stuff I just can’t stop eating.

Laos is the neighboring country of Isan, which is the Northeastern region of Thailand.

Mekong River, the bridge between Thailand and Laos.
Mekong River, the bridge between Thailand and Laos.

I live in the Northeast and you can trust me, Isan salads are more than just boring leafy greens, they’re an absolute experience.

Think som tam pla ra, a version of Thai papaya salad with punchy fermented fish sauce, and nam tok moo – a salad with grilled pork full of smoky flavors.

This Thai raw beef salad recipe is a staple in both regions, full of unique flavors. It’s dishes like this that set the rural region apart from the general flavors of Thai cuisine.

Hand holding a ball of sticky rice with Isan larb salad over a traditional serving of Thai raw beef salad.
Raw beef larb, a staple in Isan, Northeastern Thailand.

We’re heavy on grilled meats like moo yang (grilled pork) and crying tiger steak. We don’t just grill meat, we turn it into an art. From a young age, our grandparents teach us all the tricks. From moo yang’s smoky notes to the crying tiger steak’s perfectly grilled doneness.

Each bite of our food is spicy, tangy, and downright delicious. It’s food that fires up your soul and gives Thai food a new name.

You can learn more about Isan food and what sets us apart from other regions in Thailand in my article on Issan Thai food recipes and Northeastern Thai culture.

Thai salads

Whenever I’m craving something a little salty, a bit sweet, and a lot spicy, I turn to Thai salads.

There are lots of different types of Thai salads, and this spicy beef larb is just one of them. Larb comes in many different variations, with minced beef, pork (larb moo), chicken, and even larb duck which you can try in this larb ped recipe.

Thai beef larb neua served on a woven bamboo plate with fresh lettuce, dill, and sticky rice in a bamboo basket.

I’ve got some unique larb salads on this Thai food blog you can try, for example: fried chicken larb, mushroom larb recipe, and this shrimp larb recipe for a seafood twist.

Yum salads are perfect for when you need a mix of fresh vegetables and meat or seafood dressed in lime juice, fish sauce, and a little sugar to balance out the heat. My favorites are yum talay and yum nua!

Papaya salads like som tum Thai are a favorite across the world. They’re fresh, crunchy, and make the perfect side to any Thai food feast.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for Thai ground beef larb displayed on banana leaves: raw beef, toasted rice powder, shallots, fresh herbs, chili flakes, lime juice, fish sauce, MSG, and water.
  • Beef – For the best ground beef larb, use homemade ground beef. Look for cuts with a nice balance of fat and flavor, like sirloin or rib-eye. Store-bought ground beef just can’t match the texture and flavor of homemade.
  • Lime – The tangy flavor of this Thai salad dressing comes from fresh lime juice, balancing out the salty and spicy flavors. It brings a bright, fresh note to the salad that perfectly complement the fresh herbs.
  • Fish sauce – Fish sauce is made from salted anchovies or other fish that have been fermented. It’s a staple in Thai cuisine, essential for that authentic salty and umami flavor.
  • MSG – MSG is a common ingredient in Lao and Isan kitchen, enhancing and deepening the flavors. When used sparingly, MSG can subtly uplift your dishes and bring out the best in the other ingredients.
  • Toasted rice powder – Made by lightly toasting glutinous rice until golden and then ground it into a fine power. Toasted rice powder adds a subtle crunch and slightly nutty flavor. Before serving, you can sprinkle some on top for extra taste. You can get this premade at any Asian grocery store or make your own.
  • Thai chili flakes – Feel free to adjust the amount to your spice-level. If you’re not the biggest fan of spicy food, use a little bit or try to find mild pepper flakes.
  • Coriander, green onions – My choice of fresh herbs. Coriander adds a lemony note and green onions bring a crisp, fresh bite. Feel free to customize with other greens like mint leaves.
  • Shallots – Shallots add a mild, natural sweetness that goes great with the dressing, and the texture of finely sliced shallots is a perfect pairing with ground beef. Alternatively, use red onions.
  • Water – A splash of water balances the larb salad dressing. It melds the flavors of fish sauce, lime, and chili, and creating a balance.

How to make laab beef

Step-by-step visuals of raw beef being chopped into ground meat.

Step 1: Slice your raw beef into thin slices against the grain. Then ground the beef.

Cooked ground beef in a pot, steaming and ready for seasoning.

Step 2: Heat a pot or saucepan over medium, add the ground beef, and cook it until done.

Thai ground beef mixed with a spicy and tangy Thai salad dressing.

Step 3: Once the beef is cooked, either transfer it to a mixing bowl or mix in the dressing ingredients in the same pot: lime juice, fish sauce, toasted rice powder, chili flakes, and MSG.

Thai ground beef larb prepared in a clear bowl.

Step 4: Lastly, gently stir in your sliced shallots and fresh herbs like coriander and green onions. Serve immediately.

Kitchen tools

  • Mortar and pestle or spice grinder for making toasted rice powder and red pepper flakes
  • Skillet or frying pan for cooking the ground beef
  • Butcher’s knife and chopping board
  • Mixing bowl for tossing the salad
  • Measuring spoons and cups

Expert tips

Cook the meat right: Using beef or pork, it’s important not to overcook or undercook it. Cook it just right for your taste.

Balance the flavors: Thai cooking is all about creating a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. Taste as you go and adjust the seasonings before serving if needed.

Choose fresh meat: Go for a fresh, high-quality steak for the best flavor and texture.

Use fresh herbs: The freshness of your herbs makes all the difference.

Thai ground beef larb serving ideas

In Isan, beef larb is commonly served with a side of fresh vegetables like yard long beans, Thai eggplants, Thai basil, cabbage, and cucumber slices. Traditional accompaniments like this Thai sticky rice are served in a bamboo basket and can be rolled into balls to pair with the salad.

Try turning this salad into lettuce wraps with this Thai ground lettuce wraps recipe.

Keep it fresh

Store your leftover larb in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep well for up to 2–3 days, but the fresh herbs might lose their texture.

Reheating: Gently reheat in a pan over low heat, or enjoy the leftovers cold.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use store-bought ground meat?

Of course, but for the best taste and texture, it’s best to ground your own beef.

How spicy is larb?

The spiciness of larb depends on the amount of chili flakes used in the recipe. You can easily tweak the heat by adjusting the amount.

Can larb be made vegetarian?

For a vegetarian salad, you can swap the meat with mushrooms or tofu and use a vegetarian fish sauce alternative.

Can I make this ahead of time?

Larb tastes best when made fresh. Simply toss the salad right before serving.

Authentic Thai salad recipes

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Thai Ground Beef Larb Recipe (Larb Neua)

Thai ground beef larb with shallots, fresh herbs, and chilies resting on a banana leaf set on a bamboo plate, with garlic cloves to the side.
Pair this Thai ground beef larb recipe with a side of fresh vegetables and sticky rice for a complete meal.
Praew
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Salad
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 10.5 ounces beef
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted rice powder
  • 1.5 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes add to taste
  • 0.35 ounces coriander
  • 0.35 ounces green onions
  • 1.4 ounce shallots finely sliced

Instructions

  • Slice your raw beef into thin slices against the grain. Then ground the beef.
  • Heat a pot or saucepan over medium, add the ground beef, and cook it until done.
  • Once the beef is cooked, either transfer it to a mixing bowl or mix in the dressing ingredients in the same pot: lime juice, fish sauce, toasted rice powder, chili flakes, and MSG.
  • Lastly, gently stir in your sliced shallots and fresh herbs like coriander and green onions. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Feel free to swap the beef for a protein of your choice, like chicken or pork.

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