Chicken Satay is a delicious alternative to your standard saucy Thai curries, with chicken marinated in a positively potent mixture of red curry paste and coconut. We sear the skewers to perfection, and serve them up with a tasty peanut sauce.
It’s a great flavorful weeknight dinner or party appetizer (cook the chicken pieces individually, add toothpicks, and voila!). However you serve it, people will clamor for more of these flavorful little bites.
Note: This post was originally published on June 18, 2019. We have since updated it with clearer photos, more detail, metric measurements, and more. The recipe remains the same. Enjoy!
A Few Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier
A lot of recipes call for an elaborate—and I’m sure, more authentic—blend of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and spices. For the average cook, we find it’s easier to use a good Thai red curry paste to do the heavy lifting in the taste department.
We always use Maesri—you probably recognize the little red can from some of our other favorites like 15-minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup!
Nagi over at Recipe Tin Eats gave us the idea to lean hard on red curry paste for the chicken marinade. This frees you up to worry about other important add-ins like fish sauce and lime juice, for extra goodness.
One other modification on this recipe is that while “satay” is a fun thing to eat and say, you can also cut the chicken thighs into larger chunks and just sear those—without skewers.
It would make this recipe a whole lot easier for weeknight dinners, but still pack all that good chicken satay flavah.
What Is Chicken Satay? Where does Chicken Satay come from?
Chicken Satay is a street food dish from Southeast Asia, which usually consists of grilled chicken skewers, served with a dipping sauce.
It is one of those dishes that many countries claim to make the best version of. But where does this delicious stick of chicken and sauce actually come from?
Well it’s originally from Indonesia, and sate can be made from many different kinds of meat, not just the standard chicken that your average American knows and loves.
However, like most good things, other Southeast Asian countries have adopted it, and it’s also much loved in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
We originally thought Chicken Satay hailed from Thailand (which is perhaps because Thai restaurants more easily found in America than Indonesian restaurants). But while this Chicken Satay is influenced by Thai flavors (we use Thai red curry paste in the marinade), Indonesia is where the dish originated.
Apparently, the most authentic street food versions are grilled on a woody piece of coconut palm frond for a true coconutty flavor! We’ll have to go to the source one of these days!
A Classic Peanut Dipping Sauce
The staple of any good Chicken Satay recipe is the dipping sauce. Ours is a simple blend of peanut butter, soy sauce, and fish sauce that really lets the flavor of the chicken shine, with a little twang from freshly minced garlic, ginger, and lime juice.
If you end up with leftover peanut sauce, just boil up some spaghetti or other wheat noodles, and make quick peanut noodles.
It’s perfect for a little afternoon snack! A touch of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil wouldn’t hurt either. You can make something akin to me and Sarah’s “After School Special.”
(We also have a full peanut noodle recipe here!)
The Finishing Touches
We made this recipe the focal point of a family dinner, served with my mom’s Asian Smashed Cucumber Salad and rice on the side (the little yellow flecks are millet, which my mom adds to white rice when she thinks we all need an extra hit of whole grains). But it would be even better with Sarah’s easy coconut rice.
It’s great with extra lime, cilantro, and slices of red chili over the top. If you’re looking for additional Thai sides to go with this classic Chicken Satay, check out our recipes for: Pad See Ew Thai Rice Noodles, Pad Thai, or Thai Basil Shrimp Fried Rice. And for dessert, how about our Thai Black Sticky Rice with Mango?
Can I Use Chicken Breast?
We know that many of you are thinking this! The short answer is yes, you can substitute boneless skinless chicken breast in this recipe. However, you’ll have to be more careful not to overcook it, as chicken breast is drier than boneless thighs.
How to Make Chicken Satay: Recipe Instructions
Before you start, if using bamboo skewers, soak them in a bowl of water for at least 1 hour. This prevents them from burning during the cooking process! For our chicken satay skewers, we’re using the metal kind, which don’t require soaking and are a bit sturdier.
Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes with coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, curry powder, sugar, and lime juice. You can also let it sit overnight if you want to do this in advance!
While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce by combining the peanut butter, hot water, lime juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil. If you want it saltier, you can add more soy sauce or fish sauce.
Skewer the chicken (4-7 pieces of chicken per skewer depending on the length).
You can cook the skewers on the grill (cooking over natural hardwood charcoal would be best), but we cooked them in a skillet set over medium-high with 2 tablespoons of oil.
Make sure to let your skillet preheat first, and when you add the chicken, turn down the heat to medium or medium-low if it’s browning too fast. Cook the chicken evenly for about 10-12 minutes, turning it until golden on all sides.
Because the chicken is irregularly-sized on the skewers, take care to make sure it’s cooked through.
Serve with the peanut sauce, and enjoy!
Excellent sides for this Chicken Satay are coconut rice and our Smashed Asian Cucumber Salad!
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
For the Chicken:
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (680g, cut into chunks)
- 1/4 cup coconut milk (60 ml)
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons oil
For the Peanut Sauce:
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2-3 tablespoons hot water (to your desired consistency)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon ginger (minced or grated)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (can substitute gluten-free soy sauce or tamari to make this gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Before you get started, if you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in a bowl of water for at least an hour––this prevents them from burning during the cooking process!
- Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes with coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, curry powder, sugar, and lime juice. You can also let it sit overnight if you want to do this in advance!
- While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce by combining the peanut butter, hot water, lime juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil. If you want it saltier, you can add more soy sauce or fish sauce.
- Skewer the chicken (4-7 pieces of chicken per skewer depending on the length).
- You can cook the skewers on the grill, but we cooked them in a skillet set over medium-high with 2 tablespoons of oil. Make sure to let your skillet preheat first, and when you add the chicken, turn down the heat to medium or medium-low if it’s browning too fast. Cook the chicken evenly for about 10-12 minutes, turning it until golden on all sides. Because the chicken is irregularly-sized on the skewers, take care to make sure it’s cooked through.
- Serve with the peanut sauce. Enjoy!