Authentic Thai peanut sauce is savory, sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once ~ with a creamy texture that makes it one of the world’s great sauces for chicken satay, Thai salads, and more.
Thai peanut sauce (aka satay sauce)
Everybody loves it, and it’s incredibly easy to make ~ this classic Indonesian sauce has become popular in so many cuisines around the world. The creamy sauce is made with roasted peanuts, coconut milk, and a variety of Thai spices and seasonings, and is used as a dip for vegetables, grilled meats, or as a sauce for stir-fries or noodles. My Thai peanut sauce recipe is absolutely perfect. The complex flavors marry together in the most brilliant way ~ and to think it all starts with a jar of peanut butter!
ingredients for Thai peanut sauce
The ingredients in Thai peanut sauce can vary depending on the specific recipe or regional variation. My recipe includes the most common ingredients that are typically used in Thai peanut sauce: these are mostly pantry staples that are easily bought at your supermarket.
- roasted peanuts are the key ingredient in peanut sauce and give it its distinctive nutty flavor. We’re using peanut butter for convenience, but you can certainly grind your own roasted peanuts if you like.
- coconut milk
- coconut milk adds creaminess to the sauce and helps to balance the strong flavor of the peanuts.
- chili paste
- adds a background heat.
- fish sauce*
- this savory sauce is a staple of Thai cuisine, it’s made from fermented fish and adds a salty umami flavor to the sauce. Break down and buy a bottle, it will keep forever in the fridge and it makes or breaks great recipes like this one.
- brown sugar
- brown sugar is added to the sauce to balance the spiciness and add sweetness. It also brings out the flavors. Palm sugar would be used in Thailand and has a similar caramel flavor.
- lime juice
- fresh lime juice adds acidity and brightness to the sauce.
- garlic adds flavor and depth to the sauce.
- a flavor brightener that pierces through the heavier flavors.
- soy sauce
- soy sauce adds a salty umami element to the sauce.
- rice wine vinegar
- adds an acidic tang
- toasted sesame oil
- emphasizes the toasted nutty flavor of the peanuts.
- water is added to thin out the sauce and create a more pourable consistency, if needed.
other ingredients sometimes found in peanut sauce
- tamarind paste: Tamarind is a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine, and the paste is used to add a sour and tangy flavor to food. Here it helps to balance the sweetness and saltiness.
- red curry paste: This spicy paste is made from red chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, and other ingredients, and it adds heat and flavor to the sauce.
This is as easy as blending the ingredients together. That’s it!
- You simply need to combine the ingredients for your sauce. They are typically blended together in a food processor or blender until smooth, creating a thick and creamy sauce. But a bowl and a whisk will work as well.
- For a warm sauce, heat it gently in a saucepan or in the microwave.
how peanut sauce is used in Thailand
- As a dipping sauce: Peanut sauce can be used as a dipping sauce for a variety of foods, such as spring and summer rolls, satay, and grilled meats.
- In noodle dishes: Peanut sauce is often used as a key ingredient in noodle dishes, such as Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles, to add flavor and texture.
- In salad dressings: Peanut sauce can be used as a base for salad dressings to add a nutty and creamy flavor to the dish.
- In curries: Peanut sauce can be added to Thai curries, such as Massaman curry, to enhance the flavor and add richness to the dish.
- As a marinade: Peanut sauce can be used as a marinade for meats, tofu, or vegetables before grilling or roasting to add flavor and tenderness.
how to turn Thai peanut sauce into a salad dressing
Simply stir in a little water or a neutral oil to thin your sauce down to a consistency more like a thick dressing. If it has thickened after being chilled, warm it gently to bring it to room temperature before attempting to thin it down.
To prolong the shelf life of Thai peanut sauce, it’s important to store it properly in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated. It will thicken in the fridge because of the peanut butter and coconut milk, so you’ll want to bring it to room temp or warm it slightly before using.
Thai peanut sauce FAQS and variations
- What does Thai peanut sauce taste like? Thai peanut sauce has a creamy and slightly sweet taste with a hint of spiciness. The combination of peanut butter, coconut milk, and soy sauce creates a rich and savory flavor that complements the spiciness of the chili peppers.
- Is Thai peanut sauce spicy? Thai peanut sauce can be spicy, depending on the amount of chili peppers or chili sauce used in the recipe. Adjust as you like. For a mild sauce substitute Thai red curry paste for the chili paste.
- How long does Thai peanut sauce last? Thai peanut sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 10 days (possibly more.) Make sure to give it a good stir before using it again, as the ingredients may separate over time.
- Does peanut sauce have to be refrigerated? Yes, and you’ll need to bring it to room temperature or heat briefly before using because it will solidify as it chills.
- Is Thai peanut sauce vegan? Thai peanut sauce can be made vegan by using soy sauce instead of fish sauce, or using a vegetable based vegan ‘fish sauce.’*
- Is Thai peanut sauce gluten-free? Thai peanut sauce can be gluten-free if made with gluten-free soy sauce like Tamari brand. Some brands of soy sauce contain wheat, which is not gluten-free.
- Is there a nut-free version of peanut sauce? Yes, you can use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter. You can also use tahini (sesame seed paste.)
more Thai inspired recipes to try
- Sweet Chili Sauce Recipe
- Thai Salad
- How to Make Summer Rolls
- Thai Beef Salad
- Thai Coconut Soup (tom kha)
- Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
- How to Make Coconut Rice
- Thai Chicken Salad
- Thai Chicken Satay Bowls with Peanut Sauce
- Steak Pad Thai Salad
Authentic Thai Peanut Sauce
- Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. You can do this with a whisk, or in a food processor or blender. I like to put everything into a saucepan and just warm it enough to melt the peanut butter.
- Be sure to give the sauce a taste to adjust it to your liking. There are so many flavor elements to play with to get it just the way you want it.
- The sauce can be used warm, cold, or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. The sauce will solidify in the refrigerator, so gently warm it to bring it back to room temperature when ready to use.
*Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai peanut sauce and it can be difficult to substitute because of its unique flavor. Here are some possible ingredient substitutions:
- Soy sauce: soy sauce is a popular substitute for fish sauce because it has a similar saltiness and umami flavor. However, soy sauce is not as pungent as fish sauce, so you may need to add a bit more to achieve the desired flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce is another option because it has a strong umami flavor. However, it also contains anchovies, which may not be suitable for vegetarians or those with seafood allergies.
- Oyster sauce: oyster sauce has a similar savory flavor to fish sauce, and it is often used in Chinese cuisine. However, it also contains oysters, which may not be suitable for vegetarians or those with seafood allergies.
- Mushroom sauce: mushroom sauce can be used as a vegetarian substitute for fish sauce. It has a similar umami flavor and can be found in many Asian grocery stores.
- Salt and lime juice: if you’re in a pinch, you can use a mixture of salt and lime juice to add some saltiness and tanginess to your dish. However, this won’t give you the same depth of flavor as fish sauce.
- Seaweed: nori and kombu seaweeds are good fish sauce substitutes. Of course seaweed is not in liquid form so you’ll need to make an infusion to use it.
- Vegan fish sauce: one of the commercially produced vegan fish sauces that have come onto the market lately.