Taco de Lechuga with Piloncillo BBQ Shrimp

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Amor y Tacos

Amor y Tacos

By Deborah Schneider

Published 2010

  • About

I’ve seen some wild variations on the taco theme (foie gras tacos, raw food tacos, s’mores taco cookies, and deep-fried tacos as big as plates, for example), so I’m open-minded about what makes a taco a taco, as long as all works in my mouth. Here, instead of the expected tortilla, the sweet-spicy shrimp mixture is rolled up in crisp lettuce leaves with plenty of onion and cilantro. This is a great recipe to make for a group or set out for a party, with the lettuce and garnishes alongside. The balance of heat and sweet in the sauce contrasts delightfully with the cool, crisp lettuce wrappers. The same sauce is good on grilled pork or chicken.


  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce
  • ¾ cup finely diced white onion
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces each
  • 1 large Roma tomato, cored and diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Piloncillo BBQ sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Sliced pickled jalapeños


  1. From the bottom, cut the center core out of the lettuce and carefully separate the head into individual leaves. Wash well, pat dry, and place in a sealed plastic bag. Chill until ready to use. (Ideally, the leaves should be crisp, but flexible.) Stir together ½ cup of the diced onion and the chopped cilantro and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp all at once and cook, stirring, until they are firm and pink, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining onion and the diced tomato and cook 1 minute longer. Season with the salt.
  3. Add ¾ cup of the BBQ sauce (reserve the remainder to use when assembling the tacos) and simmer until it is slightly thickened and clings to the shrimp. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the butter into the sauce until thoroughly combined.
  4. To serve, place a few shrimp and some BBQ sauce on a lettuce leaf. Top with the onion-and-cilantro mixture and a few pickled jalapeño slices. Roll up and enjoy.