What is Satay Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Satay sauce is created with creamy peanut butter.
Satay sauce is created with creamy peanut butter.

Satay sauce is a rich peanut and coconut-based sauce used in Thai cuisine. This thick, creamy sauce is typically paired with grilled meats such as chicken or beef, classically served on skewers. It can also be served over vegetables or meats on a bed of rice and used in a variety of other ways. Many fans of Thai food label this sauce as one of their favorite aspects of Thai cuisine.

Grilled meat like chicken is served on skewers with satay sauce.
Grilled meat like chicken is served on skewers with satay sauce.

This sauce, like most Thai sauces, represents a balance of hot, salty, sour, and sweet. The heat is provided with chilies or red curry, while the salt comes from peanuts and soy sauce. Sour notes come from the fish sauce which is traditionally included in satay sauce, while sweetness is added with brown sugar or molasses. The ingredients are usually cooked together for around 20 minutes to ensure that they are fully blended, and the sauce is traditionally served warm.

Soy sauce is a key ingredient in satay sauce.
Soy sauce is a key ingredient in satay sauce.

Satay sauce is intensely rich, thanks to the fats in the coconut milk and peanuts, so a little bit goes a long way. Some people like to thin satay sauce with water to make it a little bit less overwhelming, but in general, sparing use is sufficient to avoid the sensation of being overloaded by this rich sauce. The sauce can also be served on the side, allowing diners to adjust the amount they want to use to taste.

Peanut satay sauce can be drizzed over a green salad with grilled chicken.
Peanut satay sauce can be drizzed over a green salad with grilled chicken.

To make satay sauce at home, one cup (236 milliliters) of coconut milk should be poured into a heavy saucepan, along with one half cup (118 milliliters) of creamy peanut butter, four teaspoons (16 grams) of brown sugar, one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of fish sauce, one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of fish sauce, red curry paste to taste, and a pinch of curry powder. An additional half cup (118 milliliters) of hot water should be added to the ingredients before they are stirred and simmered on low heat for around 20 minutes.

After the flavors taste well-combined, juice from half a lime can be added, and the sauce is ready for use. If the sauce is not going to be used right away, it can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for approximately two months. If you freeze satay sauce, consider freezing it in serving-size bags or containers, so that you only thaw out as much as you need at any given time. Repeated freezing and thawing can negatively impact the flavor.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

wesley91

@medicchristy: I don't have the recipe on hand, but on Martha Stewart's website, she has an awesome recipe for satay sauce. I have cooked it on more than one occasion and gotten rave reviews from my dinner guests!

CellMania

@medicchristy: One variation of satay sauce is to use crunchy peanut butter. It gives it that crunchy taste and is really great. I use 1 can of coconut milk, ½ cup crunchy peanut butter, ½ small onion (grated), 2 tsp. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (dark), and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes.

In a saucepan, over medium combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, onion, soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper flakes. Bring it all to a boil, being sure to stir frequently. Remove it from heat and keep it warm.

medicchristy

Is that the universal recipe for satay sauce or are there other ways to make it?

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    • Satay sauce is created with creamy peanut butter.
      Satay sauce is created with creamy peanut butter.
    • Grilled meat like chicken is served on skewers with satay sauce.
      Grilled meat like chicken is served on skewers with satay sauce.
    • Soy sauce is a key ingredient in satay sauce.
      Soy sauce is a key ingredient in satay sauce.
    • Peanut satay sauce can be drizzed over a green salad with grilled chicken.
      Peanut satay sauce can be drizzed over a green salad with grilled chicken.