An easy chicken satay served with a Thai inspired peanut sauce. The chicken is soaked in a coconut milk marinade before baking in the oven or grilling.
Chicken satay is a popular Southeast Asian dish with chopped chicken that’s seasoned, skewered, and typically grilled — although you can cook them in the oven as I do. It’s served with various sauces, most commonly with a peanut sauce that uses soy sauce and peanut butter. This dish originally hails from Indonesia, but it has become a local staple in many nearby countries including Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
My easy homemade version of chicken satay involves marinating chicken chunks in a coconut milk based marinade with aromatic spices, followed by threading onto skewers. The chicken is then baked in the oven, while I simultaneously make the peanut sauce in a small saucepan. Once the chicken is done, I serve it on a large platter, brushed with delicious peanut sauce and topped with scallions.
The end result? Tender morsels of marinated oven-baked chicken, with a silky smooth and flavorful peanut sauce. It’s also healthy and keto friendly — there’s only about 1g of net carbs per chicken skewer!
Marination of Chicken Satay
- Boneless and skinless chicken breasts are used, about 2 large breasts or 1 pound total. If you use frozen chicken, simply thaw overnight and pat dry with paper towels beforehand.
- The first step is to chop up the chicken into roughly 1 inch cubes and to let them soak in the marinade for at least 6 hours. The marinade includes coconut milk, curry powder, minced garlic, and other seasonings.
- Make sure to buy coconut milk that has full fat and is unsweetened. I use a 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk from Trader Joe’s, which is more than you’ll need for this recipe. There will likely be some separation in coconut milk when the can is first opened, so you’ll want to transfer it into a heat proof bowl and briefly microwave to melt the fat. Don’t microwave too long — you don’t want to end up with a really hot mixture for the marinade.
- For a smooth marinade, add all of the dry ingredients first and mix well, then add the coconut milk last.
Making of Peanut Sauce
- Peanut sauce is often called satay sauce because it’s so frequently paired with chicken satay skewers. I’ve experimented with about 5 different versions of homemade peanut sauce and I’ve found that sauces without water or coconut milk work best.
- When you add water to peanut butter and heat it, the mixture seizes. It tastes great, but looks ugly.
- Peanut butter mixes best with oil, producing that smooth and clump-free appearance. I use two different kinds of oil (sesame oil and olive oil) so that neither can overpower the peanut butter.
- I use peanut butter typically sold as “natural,” meaning that it only contains peanuts and salt, without other additives like sugar. I prefer the salted and creamy (not crunchy) version. When you open a new jar of peanut butter, make sure to thoroughly mix before using since there will be some separation.
- I use low sodium soy sauce, but the regular kind of soy sauce will work fine as well.
Tips for Cooking Chicken Satay Skewers
- Skewers anywhere from 6 to 10 inches in length will work fine for this recipe. I have extra long wooden skewers and I use shears to snip them to the appropriate length.
- If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water about 30 minutes before using. Wooden skewers can easily burn on a grill or in the oven, so soaking them beforehand will help.
- Don’t overfill the skewers. I usually leave about half of each skewer empty, which makes it easy to handle and turn the skewers while cooking.
- You can cook these chicken skewers however you like — grilling, baking, and broiling are all good options. I typically bake because that’s easiest for me.
- If you use the oven to cook the chicken, you can use a roaster pan or similar setup so that when the chicken cooks, its exuded liquid can drop below to the pan. If you don’t mind the extra liquid collecting around the chicken skewers, you can just use a flat baking sheet, which is what I usually do.
- Depending on your cooking method, equipment, and thickness of chicken chunks, your cooking time may vary. Cut open one of your chicken skewers to check for doneness.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (3/4 to 1 pound total)
- 10 wooden skewers soaked for about 30 minutes before using
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Marinating the chicken: In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and stir until well-mixed. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch chunks and add them to the marinade, stirring to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Cooking the chicken: Thread chicken chunks onto the skewers, leaving about half of each skewer empty for handling. Place them in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, flip the skewers, and then bake another 5 minutes or until cooked through. Alternatively, you can grill the chicken skewers.
Making the sauce: While waiting for the chicken to cook, add all peanut sauce ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk together over medium-low heat until smooth, a few minutes. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Serving: Transfer chicken skewers onto a serving plate. Brush peanut sauce over the chicken. Top with sliced scallions and optionally black pepper. Serve while warm.