Chicken Satay Recipe (Thai)
with Peanut Sauce
The best way to bring Southeast Asian flavors to your kitchen is to make these Thai Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce! Marinated chicken thighs seasoned with lemongrass, shallot, and chili are threaded onto skewers and grilled to juicy perfection. It makes a perfect appetizer or main dish when paired with Thai Cucumber Salad!
What is Chicken Satay
Authentic chicken satay is basically just chicken – the fattier the better, I like chicken thighs – chopped into chunks, marinated in traditional Thai flavors, threaded onto skewers, and grilled to perfection. It is a traditional street food in Thailand. The fatty, greasy, flavorful chicken is conveniently chopped and easy to eat right off the stick, no utensils required. Dip it in the (required) Peanut Sauce –recipe below–, and cleanse your palate with vinegary bites of Thai Cucumber Salad. Top it off with some toasty white bread, and you are on your way to food vendor heaven.
Chicken Satay Recipe (Thai), Ingredients
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!
For the chicken skewers:
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Lemongrass (fresh or Garden Gourmet paste)
- Fresh red chili pepper (Bird’s Eye or Fresno)
- Fresh ginger
- Ground turmeric
- Ground coriander
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Brown sugar
- Vegetable oil
For the Thai peanut sauce (not optional!):
- Creamy peanut butter (natural is ok!)
- Coconut milk
- Thai red curry paste
- Apple cider vinegar
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Chicken Satay Ingredient Notes
- Lemongrass can be tough to find. You can use Gourmet Gardens Lemongrass that comes in a tube. Fresh is always best, of course, but use what you can find. If you use real lemongrass, you will need to crush it with a meat mallet or hammer before chopping. This releases all the flavor!
- Shallot is very classic for Thai cooking. It has the perfect mild flavor you want. Red onion can be substituted in a pinch.
- Red chili. In Thailand they use Birds Eye chiles, which are tiny, red, and flaming hot. I couldn’t find any; I used a red Fresno pepper in it’s place. A jalapeno will do.
- Ginger: don’t use too much. If we were in Thailand, we would be using galangal, which is similar to ginger but more mild. So just use a little bit.
- Fish Sauce is basically blended up fermented anchovies. Yum, right? Don’t be deterred. Fish sauce is an AMAZING powerhouse of flavor. It’s essential in Thai cooking. I mean, I wouldn’t drink the stuff, but it does amazing umami-things to your satay marinade. Don’t skip it. You should be able to find it on the Asian aisle of your grocery store.
- Brown sugar: in Thailand, they use palm sugar a lot of the time. Brown sugar is a decent substitute. White sugar will work fine too.
How to make Chicken Satay Skewers
Here’s a brief overview of how to make chicken satay skewers, with photos below. Scroll down to the recipe card below for complete instructions!
- Freeze the chicken thighs, then cut into pieces and place in a ziplock bag.
- Add all the other ingredients to the ziplock bag, seal, and refrigerate for 2-48 hours, turning the bag over once or twice.
- Preheat your grill to high heat. Mine was at about 550 degrees F.
- Place the chicken pieces onto the skewers (if you are using wooden skewers, soak them first), brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt.
- Clean and grease the grill grates, then turn the heat down to medium. Turn off one of your grill burners, or arrange coals off to one side. Arrange the “stick end” of your satay over indirect heat.
- Grill the satay skewers over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, then turn them over and grill for another 5-8 minutes until about 160 degrees F.
- Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and let rest for about 4-5 minutes.
First we start out by chopping up the chicken. You don’t want the pieces to be too big. They should be pleasantly bite sized, so that you don’t have to do any gnawing. (Satay is meant to be eaten directly from the stick.)
I like to start with partially frozen chicken thighs; it’s so much easier to slice when it’s firm. Chicken breasts will of course work, but your result will be much less flavorful. Chicken thighs are full of fat, and fat = flavor.
here is the brand of lemongrass I used. Use fresh if you can find it. Red Boat is my favorite fish sauce.
Place all the chicken pieces in a ziplock bag with all the other marinade ingredients: lemongrass, shallot, garlic, red chili, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and oil.
Once you have all the ingredients in the ziplock, seal it and place in a bowl. Marinate for several hours, turning occasionally. I like to marinate for 24 hours, but even 4 hours is going to taste amazing.
In Thailand, peanut sauce is served on a plate rather than in a bowl, the better to dip the edge of your satay in.
How to skewer Thai Chicken Satay
Now, about this skewering situation. This is SATAY, not a chicken kebab. Chicken satay features small bites of chicken that are all bunched together on one end of the stick, not spaced out. The stick is meant to act as an eating utensil (it is a street food after all; who has an extra hand for forks?)
When the chicken is compacted together on one end of the stick, it cooks a bit more like a whole piece of chicken, giving you that juicy, tender center, while still being easy to bite off the stick easily. If you separate tiny chicken pieces all across the skewer, it’s easy to end up with dry, overcooked chicken. Also, when the meat is pressed together, it’s harder to burn the wooden skewer itself.
Thai Chicken Skewers FAQ
What is the taste of satay?
Chicken satay tastes like juicy, flavorful, fatty grilled chicken (we’re using thighs for a reason!) with some classic Thai flavors. If you’re never had them before, it’s hard to describe them! Thai chicken satay is sweet, spicy, tangy, and umami. If you add the peanut sauce (and you definitely should), you’re going to experience even more of those classic Thai flavors. It’s savory AND sweet, and totally craveable.
Is Chicken Satay Thai or Indian?
Chicken satay has its origins in Indonesia, but it’s enormously popular (and very traditional) in Thailand, and the way it’s made there is what inspires this recipe. It’s also loved in Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore (and probably anywhere else people are lucky enough to try it). In India, you’re more likely to find lamb or beef skewered on a stick, and there it’s called a kebab.
What do you eat with satay chicken sticks?
First, peanut sauce (it’s not optional). I love using this crunchy Thai cucumber salad as a relish. Grilled, buttered bread completes the meal (a loaf of French or Italian works great). Of course you’re welcome to bust out the steamed rice, or grilled veggies, or anything you like. Anything tastes better with that peanut sauce on top.
How long should chicken skewers cook?
Chicken skewers need to be cooked to 160 degrees. This will take about 12-16 minutes to cook on a nice hot grill (preheated to 550 degrees). You may need to move your skewers to indirect heat if the outside is getting burned and the inside is still raw. As with any meat, the exact length of time you’ll need depends on the temperature of your grill, the size of your chicken pieces, and the position of the skewers on your grill. Just temp them to be sure!
Is peanut satay sauce the same as Thai peanut sauce?
Yes, they’re the same thing. The Thai peanut sauce made for chicken satay isn’t just good on satay though – it’s good on everything. There is no meat or vegetable that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of this sauce my friends. It’s an ideal dip for potstickers, dumplings, spring rolls, fresh vegetables, your child’s leftover quesadilla, and your bare hands.
Thai Chicken Satay Skewers
The best way to bring Southeast Asian flavors to your kitchen is to make these Thai Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce! Marinated chicken thighs seasoned with lemongrass, shallot, and chili are threaded onto skewers and grilled to juicy perfection. It makes a perfect appetizer or main dish when paired with this Thai Cucumber Salad!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Marinating time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass* smashed and minced
- 1 large shallot chopped
- 2 cloves garlic smashed and minced
- 1 red chili pepper ** chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger grated or minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce***
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- wooden or metal skewers
- salt for seasoning chicken before grilling
- more oil for grilling
- Place the 6 chicken thighs in the freezer for about 20 minutes so that they are easier to chop. Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken thighs into bite size pieces, about 1-2 inches (see photos). Place all the chicken pieces into a large ziplock bag.
- Add all the other ingredients to the ziplock bag: 2 tablespoons lemongrass*, 1 chopped shallot, 2 cloves garlic, 1 red chili pepper**, 2 teaspoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
- Seal the bag and place in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I usually prepare this the day beforehand for a full 24 hour marinade. The longer the better, to bring in all that flavor! Marinate for a maximum as 48 hours. Turn the bag over once or twice, to make sure all the pieces of chicken get nice and flavorful.
- If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for a couple hours (or at least 20 minutes) so they don’t get burned and charred on the grill.
- Preheat your grill to high heat. Mine was at about 550 degrees F.
- Place the chicken pieces onto the skewers. See photos. Instead of spacing out the chicken on the whole skewer as you would for normal kebabs, we are packing them together tightly on one end, as is traditional for satay.
- Brush each satay lightly with oil so that it doesn’t stick to the grill. Sprinkle liberally with salt.
- Carefully grease the grill grates. When the grill is very hot, scrub the grates with a grill brush to make sure they are clean. Pour a small amount of vegetable oil into a small bowl. Wad up a paper towel and dip it into the oil with tongs. Use the tongs to brush the grill grates with the oiled paper towel, making sure the paper towel is not so saturated that oil drips into the fire. Close the lid and let it heat up again for another couple minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium, about 375 degrees. Turn off one of your grill burners, or arrange coals off to one side. Arrange the “stick end” of your satay over indirect heat. If the thin wood is placed directly over the flame, it will burn up.
- Grill the satay skewers over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes.
- Use tongs to flip each satay skewer over. Continue grilling for another 5-8 minutes. If the outside of the chicken is getting overdone but the center is raw, move the chicken to indirect heat.****
- Check the meat with a meat thermometer. Take it off the grill when the center of the chicken is at about 160 degrees F.
- Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for about 4-5 minutes.
- Serve with Thai Peanut Sauce, (not optional!) and also this Thai Cucumber Salad, for a true Thai experience. Toasted or grilled bread is the other side dish you are going to want! See note.
*You can use 2 tablespoons Gourmet Gardens Lemongrass that comes in a tube, sold in the refrigerated section of the produce department. However, we recommend trying an Asian market for fresh lemongrass. If you use fresh lemongrass, make sure you smash it with a meat mallet or a hammer before mincing. This breaks down the cell walls and releases flavor.
**In Thai cooking, Bird’s Eye chili peppers are most common. They are very spicy! A red Fresno chili pepper is a decent substitute, or a jalapeno. If you can’t find a suitable pepper, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
*** Fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies. Don’t let this turn you off! It is the secret ingredient in so many Asian dishes. It brings in tons of unique umami flavor. Don’t skip it! You can usually find this in the Asian section at the grocery store.
**** Another tip for grilling: if the ends of your satay skewers are burning, turn off one side of your grill so that the chicken is over direct heat but the ends of the sticks are not.
Grilled Bread: Butter both sides of thick slices of Italian bread or white bread. When the satay is done cooking, place the bread on the grill over indirect heat for about 10-20 seconds, until grill marks appear and they get a little crispy. Flip and toast the other side. Serve with chicken satay and peanut sauce.
Cooking for a crowd: If you want to skip the skewers, here’s how to grill the whole chicken pieces:
- Preheat your grill to high heat. If you are using wood or coals, make sure you leave an area of the grill with fewer coals. After the initial sear you will be cooking the chicken over indirect heat.
- When it’s hot, place the chicken pieces over direct heat. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes, or until the outside is as crisp as you want it.
- Use tongs to flip the chicken and place over the low-heat part of the grill. I have a gas grill, so I just turn off one of the burners. (The chicken should be over the half of the grill that is turned off). Reduce the heat on the other half of the grill to medium-low heat, between 250-275 degrees F.
- Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken, until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F.
Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 827mg | Potassium: 387mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 104IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg
Thai Penut Sauce
Thai Peanut Sauce
This easy recipe for Thai Peanut Sauce has fabulous authentic flavor thanks to a jar of red curry paste! This is the BEST recipe I have ever tried. Peanut butter and coconut milk combined with lime juice, garlic, vinegar, and subtle Thai spices (from the curry paste) come together to make the most amazing dipping sauce. Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce can be made as an appetizer, or served as a main dish with this Thai Cucumber Salad!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time10 mins
Cuisine: Eastern European
- 3/4 cup peanut butter*
- 1 (13-oz) can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 clove garlic smashed and minced
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1/2 cup water optional
- In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients: 3/4 cup peanut butter*, 1 can coconut milk, 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 clove minced garlic, the zest of 1 lime plus all the juice, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. If you would like a thinner sauce (for drizzling consistency) add up to 1/2 cup water. (I left the water out entirely, and you can see from the photos that the consistency is thicker, the better to dip into.)
- Whisk it all together over medium heat, breaking up the peanut butter.
- Once the mixture reaches a low boil, turn the heat down to low and let simmer lightly for 3-4 minutes, until thickened some. Remove from heat and let cool. Peanut sauce is traditionally served at room temperature.
- Serve with Chicken Satay Or
- Store leftover sauce in the fridge. It will keep for up to two weeks. The leftover sauce with solidify in the fridge; gently heat on low (or microwave it) and add small amounts of water to reach the consistency you want.
*Authentic Thai peanut sauce is made with ground up roasted peanuts. Use natural peanut butter (the kind with no sugar, where the oil separates) if you want to get this authentic texture (the result won’t be as smooth). Instead of adding 1/4 sugar, increase it to 1/2 cup sugar, or even up to 3/4 cup sugar. Taste it to see what you like.
Serving: 1g | Calories: 215kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 444mg | Potassium: 218mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 911IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg