Thai satay chicken is a delicious dinner or appetizer. Skewers of seasoned chicken paired with a flavorful satay dipping sauce are a delicious Southeast Asian staple. This easy chicken satay with peanut sauce recipe can also be made with cashews for a paleo, Whole30, and Keto friendly version!
What is Thai Chicken Satay Made Of?
Satay is meat grilled on a skewer and served with a flavorful sauce that typically contains peanuts, roasted red peppers and curry. While chicken is most commonly used for satay, beef, lamb and (less commonly) pork are also used. (This post was originally published on June 12, 2012)
Satay with peanut sauce is prevalent throughout Southeast Asia. On nearly every street corner from Jakarta to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur you can find a satay vendor. Crouched low on their heels, over a coal braizer, smiling men and women will cook skewers of marinated meat for just a couple of ringget or baht.
Each vendor, of course, has his or her own marinade recipe and peanut sauce. Satay is originally from Indonesia, but if you look at a map, you can easily see how this delicious street food has taken over most of the peninsula with each region having different recipes and meats. You’ll also find different forms of satay in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines.
We spent about two weeks in Indonesia and enjoyed satay from street vendors regularly. We also loved the Balinese Breakfasts. And after our four days in Singapore, I knew I had to create my own version of Singapore Hot Pot – it’s fabulous!
How to Make Paleo, Whole30, and Keto Chicken Satay
This easy chicken satay recipe is adapted from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cook Book. I’ve made this recipe so many times, the spine is cracked and broken right at that page.
I’ve updated the recipe, with adaptations, making several changes for Keto, Paleo-friendly and Whole30-compliant options.
I substitute cashews for the peanuts (a legume, therefore not Paleo), with no discernible difference. I also substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce, and coconut sugar for the table sugar. I’ve also used jarred, pre-roasted red bell peppers, rather than roasting them at home.
None of these changes affected the flavor, and after making it again last weekend for a party, it got rave reviews.
Is satay sauce the same as peanut sauce?
Yes, most satay sauce recipes are made with peanuts, so feel free to use them if you have no issues with them. If you want a more traditional satay marinade, and have no issues with soy sauce, feel free to use it. However remember that traditional soy sauce is much saltier than low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos, so adjust accordingly.
What’s the best chicken to use for satay?
Obviously, this is a personal choice, but I prefer chicken thighs.
- Thighs have more fat, even if you remove the excess fat, (which I do for this recipe) thighs have more fat, therefore are just juicier and have more flavor.
- Curry powder or curry paste. Choose a curry powder or paste that you like. Both can vary from mild to super hot. We like one on the mild to medium side. If you don’t know what level of heat your curry powder is, start with less. You can always make it hotter, but can’t really dial it down.
- Lemon or lime juice
- Soy sauce or coconut aminos. Some people avoid soy or are sensitive to soy sauce, coconut aminos are a great option. They’re also Whole30 and Paleo. Be mindful that coconut aminos are not as salty as soy sauce, and adjust to your taste.
- Start by whisking together the marinade and pouring over the chicken strips. Let the chicken marinate for a minimum of one hour and up to 12 hours.
While the chicken is marinating, prepare your cashew or peanut satay sauce. To make this chicken with peanut sauce, simply use peanut butter instead of cashew butter.
Thread the chicken strips on the skewers and grill for a few minutes on each side. They can cook pretty quickly, depending on how thick the meat is. About 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Ingredients for peanut sauce (or cashew sauce)
Satay sauce is made with peanuts or peanut butter. If you have a peanut allergy or are avoiding legumes, substitute cashew butter. Substituting cashew butter makes the sauce Paleo and Whole30 friendly.
Ingredients for chicken satay marinade:
- Unsweetened peanut or cashew butter. Bear in mind if you choose a peanut butter or cashew butter that contains sugar, you won’t need to add any additional sugar to the sauce.
- coconut cream (not creme de coconut which is used in cocktails)
- roasted red bell peppers (you can roast them yourself, or purchase them pre-roasted in a jar).
- 1 shallot, minced.
- 2 Tablespoons curry powder. Keep in mind curry powder can range from mild to super hot! This curry powder is mild, which will give all the delicious flavor of curry, with little or no heat.
- coconut sugar (for Paleo) or regular sugar. Just 2 teaspoons gives it all the sweetness it needs.
- coconut oil (to saute the shallots)
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste.
How to make Thai peanut sauce
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, cooking briefly. Add curry powder and cook just a minute or two.
- Reduce heat to low. Add peppers, peanut or cashew butter, coconut cream.
- Let simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
- Puree sauce in food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
Thai Satay FAQs
How do you thread chicken satay?
- Cut your chicken into long strips and thread it through most of the skewer, weaving in and out like you’re sewing a piece of cloth.
- Before you are ready to cook, soak your bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes so the skewers don’t burn.
- When serving this as an appetizer, keep in mind that your guests should be able to eat the skewer in one or two bites. In that case, push a smaller amount of the chicken towards the tip of the skewer.
How much Thai satay per person?
Expect each person to eat about 4-5 skewers for a dinner serving. For an appetizer, or as one of the hors d’oeuvre for a cocktail party, I suggest 2 skewers per person.
Can I make chicken satay ahead of time?
Yes! If you’re planning a party, or just dinner for your family, you can make the peanut or cashew sauce a day (or even several days) ahead of time and store it in a jar in the refrigerator. The marinade can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for several days. The chicken should marinate from one to no more than 12 hours.
How long will satay last?
Leftover chicken skewers will last about 2-3 days, well wrapped, and satay sauce will last up to a week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
What to serve with chicken satay?
Popular side dishes for Thai satay include Asian cucumber salad, coconut or jasmine rice, Stir-fry Vegetables, dumplings or egg rolls.
Thai Satay Chicken with Peanut (or Cashew) Sauce.
For the chicken marinade:
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
- 3 Tablespoons coconut aminos (or gluten free soy sauce or tamari if not Paleo)
- 2 Tablespoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (Omit for Whole30, or can use regular sugar if not Paleo or Whole30)
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- Cut chicken into long strips.
- Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces.
- While chicken marinates, soak 3 dozen bamboo skewers in cold water. This prevents the skewers from burning on the grill.
- Marinate chicken for a minimum of one hour and up to 12 hours.
- Thread chicken on bamboo skewers. Number of skewers will depend on how much chicken you put on each skewer.
- Grill skewers for a few minutes on each side. They can cook pretty quickly, depending on how thick the meat is. About 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with Cashew Sauce.
Cashew (or Peanut) Sauce:
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, add shallots, cook briefly, stirring. Add the curry powder, or paste and cook briefly.
- Remove from heat and add peppers, cashew butter, and coconut milk or cream.
- Let simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
- Puree in a food processor or blender.
- Thin with water or chicken stock if too thick. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- To save time use jarred roasted red bell peppers, drain, rinse and de-seed before using.
- To make appetizer sized skewers, use a small amount of meat and push it toward the tip of the skewer.
- To make dinner portioned skewers, thread the chicken 3/4th of the way down.