An easy chicken satay recipe marinated in coconut cream, curry powder, and spices and grilled over an open flame and brushed with a light coconut cream glaze. Served with a simple and easy to make peanut sauce!
Thai chicken satay is essentially thin strips of tender chicken marinated in a curry coconut marinade and grilled over a hot grill. It's full of flavor from the curry and spices, easy to make, and fun to eat (because meat on sticks is always fun to eat). Chicken satay is also quite versatile and can be made as an appetizer/snack, or as a main course with a side of sticky or white rice on the side.
My favorite part of this chicken satay recipe is the peanut sauce, which is also very easy to make and super flavorful. If you recognize the peanut sauce in my previous recipes, it's probably because it's the same recipe! This is my go-to easy peanut sauce recipe for snacks, noodles, and meat on sticks.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN SATAY
- Chicken - To get that traditional chicken satay strips, I use chicken breast. You don't need to worry about the white meat being dry in this recipe because it is cut quite thin and marinated in full-fat coconut cream. You definitely can also use dark meat for this recipe as well - I actually like to use dark meat a lot because it's cheaper and a lot more flavorful.
- Coconut Cream - To get the best flavor, I like to use coconut cream for this recipe. Try to find a full-fat coconut cream with no preservatives if possible. I find the ones without preservatives have the best coconut flavor. If you can't find coconut cream, you can also use coconut milk but look for the full-fat ones. I like to shake my coconut creams/milks cans to find the thickest sounding ones.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk - Instead of sugar, I like to use sweetened condensed milk as the sweetener. It gives the chicken a bit more flavor with a touch of sweetness.
- Turmeric - To give the chicken satay it's well known yellow color, I use a bit of turmeric. Be careful when working with it and wearing light-colored clothing, it does dye clothes!
- Curry Powder - I like to use Madras curry powder for this recipe because I find it has a bit more flavor than the normal yellow curry powders. If you can't find Madras curry powder, you still can substitute it with the standard yellow curry powders as well.
- Fish Sauce - To give the chicken satay it's salty and umami flavors, I use fish sauce. Soy sauce can be used in a pinch but you will definitely miss out on a bit of the flavor that fish sauce gives. I highly recommend using fish sauce if you can find it.
- Onion/Garlic - These 2 ingredients cannot be omitted. They give the chicken a lot of flavors especially after it has been charred on the grill and the onion and garlic have been caramelized.
- Lemongrass - This is another herb you definitely cannot substitute out or omit. It is the base of the chicken satay flavor and it is what makes it unique from other chicken skewer recipes. You can buy this fresh or frozen. Frozen ones usually come pre-ground. Fresh lemongrass needs to be finely chopped by hand or use a food processor. I have used both frozen and fresh for this recipe and they both work great!
- Spices - For the spices, I use a bit of coriander and cumin. Coriander is a hit or miss because of its strong flowery flavor but when paired up with cumin it gives the chicken a lot of wonderful flavors - just make sure not to put a lot of it. I find cumin is a must for this recipe, so try not to omit it.
INGREDIENTS FOR COCONUT CREAM GLAZE
- Coconut Cream - I like to use coconut cream as the base for the sweet glaze for this chicken satay recipe.
- Honey - To sweeten the glaze, I use honey because I find it mixes into the coconut cream a lot better than sugar does. You can also substitute it for maple syrup as well.
- Fish Sauce - To balance the sweetness, I like to use fish sauce.
HOW TO SLICE THE CHICKEN TO KEEP IT TENDER
When you turn the chicken over, you will notice a thin flap that is usually not fully attached to the chicken breast. This is the chicken tender. I like to cut this off whole and set it aside to skewer later. It is a very tender piece of the breast and usually doesn't need to be sliced thinner.
For the rest of the chicken breast, I like to slice the breast in thin ¼ inch slices at an angle. If you look closely at the front of the chicken breast, you will see long strands - cutting against these strands will shorten the grains and create slices of chicken that is a lot more tender and soft for grilling. Depending on what side of the breast you are slicing, the grains will be in different directions, so you will need to look to find the grain strands before slicing the chicken.
MARINATING AND SKEWERING THE CHICKEN
Before you skewer the chicken, make sure you soak the back ends of the skewers in a cup of water if you are using wooden/bamboo skewers so that they don't burn when you grill it.
You don't need to worry too much about soaking the front end of the skewers since they will be covered with chicken satay.
SIMPLE PEANUT SAUCE FOR CHICKEN SATAY
As much as I love meat on sticks, I think the peanut sauce is my favorite part of this chicken satay recipe. I love it so much that I will usually make extra so that I can use the leftover peanut sauce and mix it in with rice noodles the next day for an easy peanut noodle meal. If you have any leftover peanut sauce, you can store it in the fridge for up to a week with no issues as well, if you want to use it to dip other things with it.
- Coconut Cream - For this peanut sauce, definitely use coconut cream if you can find it. I find that coconut cream has a lot more coconut flavor and it tends to be a bit creamier. If you cannot find coconut cream, try to find full-fat coconut milk.
- Peanut Butter - I like to use natural peanut butter with no added sugars or preservatives for this recipe. The kind that the oil separates from the peanut butter, and needs to be stirred. I usually like to stir it once, and store it in the fridge right after - I find that you usually don't need to stir it again once it's been refrigerated.
- Red Curry Paste - This is where a lot of the flavor of the peanut sauce comes from. You can usually find this either at an Asian grocery store or online and it should definitely not be substituted or omitted out.
- Honey - I like to use honey as a sweetener because I find that since it is a liquid it mixes more easily and evenly into the peanut sauce.
- Soy Sauce/Fish Sauce - I usually use soy sauce as the source of sodium and umami flavor for this peanut sauce. You can also use fish sauce in place of soy sauce as well.
- Rice Vinegar - This ingredient gives the peanut sauce a bit of balance between all the flavors. If you cannot find it, you can substitute it with fresh lime juice.
- Water - I use water to thin out my peanut sauce. You can use chicken stock as well if you have it. Tweak the amount you use to how thick or thin you like your peanut sauce. Make sure not to add too much water, or else it might water down the flavors too much.
- Sesame Oil - I like to use sesame oil to add a bit more nuttiness to the peanut sauce.
- Crushed Peanuts - Adding crushed peanuts is completely optional. Add if you like a bit of texture or if you like the way it looks.
- Chili Oil - I like to add a bit of chili oil for the extra garlic/onion flavor. The specific one I always have on hand at home is Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp - it's definitely something that is a staple and adds a lot of extra flavor to noodles and sauces. This is completely optional and can be skipped if you don't have chili oil.
To make crushed peanuts for any of my recipes, I usually like to buy whole peanuts that have already been shelled and skinned. If you have the time and patience to de-shell and skin the peanuts then definitely go for it, but I found that removing the thin skins off of the peanuts was very a very difficult and tedious task so to simplify it I just buy the de-shelled/skinned peanuts. Definitely toast them on a pan before you crush it to bring back the nutty flavor - it also removes the raw/musty flavor as well. Once you toasted it on the pan for a few minutes, use the back of a pan or a rolling pin to crush them.
LOOKING FOR MORE THAI RECIPES? TRY THESE!
- Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot and Sour Soup)
- Grilled Thai Coconut Chicken Skewers
- Khao Soi (Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup)
- Thai Basil Turkey Fried Rice
- Creamy Thai Red Curry
- Thai Peanut Sauce (From Scratch)
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Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- For a juicier chicken satay, you can use dark meat such as boneless thigh or drums instead of chicken breast.
- Try to find coconut cream that has no preservatives. I personally find that coconut cream that contains preservatives has less of a coconut flavor. If you can't find coconut cream, you can use full-fat coconut milk. I like to shake the can to find the thickest ones.
- For the peanut sauce, use the natural unsweetened peanut butter where the oil and peanut butter separate. It should only contain peanuts (or peanuts and salt), no preservatives.
- Be careful when working with turmeric, it may stain your hands and clothes.
- If you have lots of leftover marinade, after cooking the chicken, you can cook it down and make a homemade yellow curry paste by cooking the marinade in a frying pan on medium heat with a bit of oil for 10-15 mins until it is thick. Store for up to 1 week in the fridge. You can add stock to it and make a curry or use it for stir-fries and noodles with a bit of water to thin it out.
- 2 lbs chicken (approx. 4 chicken breast, see notes)
- 6 tablespoons lemongrass (approx. 1½ stalks)
- 3 cloves garlic (approx. 1 ½ tablespoons)
- ½ small onion (or 2 shallots, approx. 3-4 tablespoons)
- 1 cup coconut cream (full fat)
- 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric (for color)
Coconut Cream Glaze
- 6 tablespoons coconut cream (full fat)
- 1½ tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Quick Peanut Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
- ¼ cup natural unsweetened peanut butter (the kind where the oil and the peanut butter separate. No preservatives, just peanuts)
- 2 tablespoons coconut cream (full fat)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or lime juice)
- 3 tablespoons water (add as much or as little as you like, until you get the consistency you like)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
- crushed peanuts (optional, as a garnish, or for a crunchy sauce with texture)
Preparing and Marinating the Chicken
- Peel away the first layer of the lemongrass and cut off approximately 2 inches of the top dry ends and discard them. Use a rolling pin or the back of your knife and smash the lemongrass to release the oils and finely chop it and place it in a food processor.
- Roughly chop the garlic and onions and place them in the food processor.
- Add the rest of the ingredients under 'Marinade' into the food processor and blitz it. Place the marinade in a large bowl.
- Slice the chicken breast, against the grain into ¼ inch slices. (See blog post for examples of how to do this) Add the chicken slices to the marinade.
- Mix the marinade and the chicken together so that each piece is well coated. I find it easiest to use hands for this step.
- If you are using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak the back ends of the stick in a cup of water, so it doesn't burn on the grill. You don't need to worry about soaking the front ends since it will be covered with chicken.
- Skewer 2 slices of chicken breast per stick. Flatten it out so that it is thin and cooks quickly on the grill. Place the skewered chicken on a plate or bowl and refrigerate it for 4 hours (overnight preferably).
Making the Coconut Glaze
- In a small bowl, mix together the coconut cream, honey, and soy sauce and place it in the fridge.
Grilling the Chicken Satay
- Take the chicken and coconut glaze out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before you are ready to grill it.
- Set the grill to medium-high heat and give the grill a few minutes to heat up.
- Once the grill is hot, rub or spray some cooking oil on the grill and place the chicken satay skewers on the grill and grill them for approximately 3-4 minutes per side, 6-8 minutes in total.
- [Dark Meat Instructions] if you are using dark meat instead of chicken breast, cook it for an additional 5-7 minutes since they will be cut into chunks so it will take longer to cook. Glaze the chicken the same way with the instructions below.
- Brush on the coconut cream glaze and flip them every minute for 5-7 minutes until you get a bit of char. The chicken satay should have cooked for 11-15 minutes in total.
- [Alternative to Grilling] If you don't have a grill, you can also make this indoor by cooking it on a cast-iron frying pan on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side for a total of 6-8 minutes. Glaze and flip them every minute for an additional 5-7 minutes afterwards.
How to Make the Peanut Sauce
- In a bowl, mix the peanut butter and red curry paste together until they are smooth and well combined.
- Add in the coconut cream, honey, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and mix well.
- Depending on how thick or thin you like your peanut sauce, mix water into it - 1 tablespoon at a time and do a taste test when you are done. Don't add too much water, or else it will water down the flavor too much. My happy medium for the peanut sauce is 3 tablespoons.
- [Optional] Add chili oil for some extra spice and flavor. My favorite chili oil to use is Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp. Drizzle right before serving.
- [Optional] Toast some pre-shelled peanuts (without skin) on a frying pan and let it cool before crushing it with the bottom of a pan or roll it with a rolling pin on a cutting board. Sprinkle on top right before serving.
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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I have a question before I try this recipe-can I substitute coconut milk for the sweetened condensed milk in the marinade? I can't have dairy.
Joyce Lee says
Yes you can substitute coconut milk with sweetened condensed milk but you will also need to add a bit of sugar as well since coconut milk doesn't have any sugar.
The recipe calls for about 1/4 cup of condensed milk, which I personally think is about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of sugar.
So to substitute it, I would add 1/4 cup of coconut milk with about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of sugar.
Hope this helps and hope you enjoy it! 🙂
This chicken satay dipped with peanut sauce our family loves it. Never get fed up with this. Yummy delicious ,
Joyce Lee says
So happy you like it! The sauce is definitely one of my favorite parts too!
Ana F. says
The flavors on this chicken satay recipe are amazing! The peanut sauce was so easy to make that even my hubby was able to make it with no problems (he hates to cook lol). Can't wait to make it again!
Denay DeGuzman says
My husband assembled this easy Thai recipe. This chicken satay is flavorful and delicious. It's a new family favorite!
This peanut sauce is everything!
This looks mouthwatering delicious. I love chicken satay and will surely try out your recipe. Thanks for sharing.
This peanut sauce is SO good! Will definitely be making it for more recipes in the future!