Golden brown juicy chicken satay with charred smoky edges served up with a creamy nutty sauce for drizzling and dipping. Satay is life.

Chicken satay has got to be one of my all time favorite grilled foods. I feel like I could eat 20 sticks, just by myself. Just give me a vat of no-peanut peanut sauce, all the satay, and maybe a roti or two and I’m the happiest you’ve ever seen. These golden little sticks are pure juicy chicken goodness with a huge burst of balanced flavors.

chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

What is chicken satay?

If you haven’t had chicken satay I’m here to tell you they are probably the best chicken skewer you will ever eat! Smoky, juicy, savory, spiced (but not spicy) meat on a stick. Satay is a Southeast Asian skewer of grilled marinated meat served with sauce. They’re popular in Indonesia, Malaysian, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Satay is most commonly chicken but you can get beef, pork, lamb, seafood, or tofu too. The protein is marinated in a variety of spices then grilled over a wood or charcoal fire for a smoky touch. The skewers are served with sauce, the most popular being peanut sauce.

Satay is classic street food and you’ll often see satay vendors or hawkers over smoky charcoal grilling and selling skewers and skewers of satay. People make them at home too, for parties and gatherings.

How to make chicken satay

  1. Make the marinade. In a bowl, combine minced lemongrass, shallots, and garlic along with oil, fish sauce, sugar, turmeric, coriander, and cumin. If you have a food processor, you can chop all the ingredients together. If you want to be super authentic, you can use a mortar and pestle to pound the lemongrass, shallot, and garlic before stirring in the oil, fish sauce, and spices.
  2. Cut the chicken and marinate. Cut the chicken into small even 1 inch pieces and combine throughly with the marinade. Make sure all the pieces are covered. Marinate for minimum 1 hour, overnight is best!
  3. Soak the skewers. Bamboo skewers are perfect for satay. I like to use the 6 inch sticks which fit about 4 to 6 pieces of chicken. Soak for about 30 minutes. Any longer, and they’ll start to warp and loose their structural integrity.
  4. Skewer. Skewer 4-6 pieces on to each skewer, nestling the pieces right next to each other so they are touching. Use gloves if you have them otherwise your hands will smell like cumin and be stained with turmeric!
  5. Grill. Grill the skewers over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until they are golden, juicy, charred, and cooked though. Enjoy!

skewers of uncooked chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

Chicken satay marinade

The magic of satay is in the marinade so you want to marinate as long as you can. Here’s what’s in the marinade:

  • Lemongrass – herby, bright, lemongrass gives satay a fragrant, aromatic citrus hit, adding zing, tartness, and a hint of mint. The pale green and white parts are what we want, and it’s best if they’re finely chopped. If you have a food processor, give them a chop to start them off then process until fine.
  • Shallots – shallots are like onions, but better! Sweeter, more mild and delicate, but with more flavor. They add a mild spiciness and sweetness to the marinate.
  • Garlic – garlic makes everything better.
  • Oil – this helps with even cooking and prevents the chicken from sticking to the grill. Use a neutral oil like canola, grapeseed, safflower, or sunflower.
  • Fish sauce – fish sauce is what is going to be the main source of saltiness as well as adding umami. Learn more about fish sauce here.
  • Sugar – Just a touch of sugar adds sweetness and helps the chicken caramelize on the grill.
  • Turmeric – adds a hint of ginger and that lovely golden color that is associated with good chicken satay.
  • Coriander – ground coriander adds pepper, mint, and citrus flavors with a bit of sweetness.
  • Cumin – ground cumin adds a hint of what most people think of as curry flavor. It’s warming, and earthy, and smells amazing.

grilling chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

Other kinds of satay

Chicken satay is my favorite but I love all meats on sticks and there are so many possibilities! You can also skewer:

  • Beef – thinly sliced steak
  • Pork – thinly sliced pork shoulder
  • Lamb – thinly sliced lamb shoulder
  • Chicken – I like using chicken thighs because they are incredibly juicy and full of flavor but chicken breast works too, you just need to cook it for a shorter period of time.
  • Seafood – fish cut into 1 inch pieces, prawns, shrimp, scallops, squid
  • Tofu – use pressed firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch by 4 inch strips

What other ways can I cook satay?

The beauty of satay is the smoky char you get from cooking it over charcoal or a grill, but of course you can cook or inside by pan frying, in the oven, or air fryer.

  • Pan-fried satay: Lightly drizzle some oil in a non-stick pan and cook the satay over medium heat, flipping as needed, until golden and cooked through.
  • Oven baked satay: Lay the satay on a lightly oiled wire rack and bake in a 400°F oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden and cooked through.
  • Air fryer satay: Lightly oil the air fryer basket (if you have a rack, use the rack) and air fry for 8 minutes at 400°F. Flip and air fry for an additional 8 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

Where is satay from?

Meat on a stick is nothing new and satay, at its core, is meat on a stick. Like most popular foods that have a long history, many countries claim it as their own. Satay was originally inspired by kebabs from the Middle East. The spices and way the skewers were made changed with what was available and satay was born. Both Thailand and Malaysia claim satay as their own and it’s also considered the national dish of Indonesia.

chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

Tips and tricks

  • Use chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are straight up more flavorful than chicken breast. Plus, they have the much needed fat content you want when grilling. The fat keeps the meat moist and also adds texture and smokiness to the satay.
  • Cut the chicken into evenly sized pieces. Cutting the chicken into evenly sized small pieces has three benefits: the meat cooks evenly, the small pieces have more surface area to let the marinate penetrate the meat, and when you grill the satay will cook faster.
  • Soak the skewers. This stops them from burning when on the grill. There’s nothing sadder than a satay with no stick!
  • Skewer the chicken close together. Push the skewers right in the middle of the meat, there’s no reason to thread it through. Make sure the tip of the skewer isn’t exposed as it’ll have a tendency to burn. Keeping the chicken pieces close together/touching each other helps them stay juicy.
  • Use medium heat. Satay pros use high heat to grill because they’re constantly moving around and fanning the flames, controlling the heat. For home cooks, it’s easier to cook on medium. If you want to add a bit more char, have a section of your grill on high and flame kiss the satay for a second or two after they’re cooked through.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Sauce! Satay isn’t complete without sauce, so here are two sauces for you, a traditional peanut sauce and a no-peanut peanut sauce!

peanut sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Peanut sauce

Most peanut sauces are made with peanut butter, but I like it when it’s made from whole roasted peanuts that are blended so you get some nutty whole peanut bits. To make a quick and easy peanut sauce: blend or food process the following ingredients until blended, but not completely smooth: 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup roasted skinless peanuts, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste, lime juice to taste.

No peanut peanut sauce

This is a variation I came up with because Mike is allergic to peanuts. I love it so much that between the two, I wouldn’t go for peanut sauce even if it was there. The roasted cashews add a deep creamy nuttiness, the Thai red curry paste (this is the brand I use) adds just the right amount of kick, and the coconut milk brings everything together. I feel like I could just use a spoon and eat it, it’s that good. Blend or food process the following ingredients until blended, but not completely smooth: 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup roasted cashews, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste, lime juice to taste.

Larb Moo Pork Larb Recipe - Thai Pork Salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

What to serve with satay

Satay is usually served on its own, sometimes with crunchy vegetables like cucumbers or carrots. Here are a couple of dishes that you can make if you’re looking for a South East Asian feast:

  • Roti Canai – a flaky, golden, tender, crispy flat bread that’s perfect with satay and curry.
  • Thai sticky rice – I like to shape Thai sticky rice into little rice balls to eat alongside with satay.
  • Larb Moo Pork – Fresh herbs, juicy pork, and savory fish sauce served up with lettuce cups.
  • Mee Goreng – The BEST EVER fried noodles. I love these so much: sweet and savory fried noodles.
chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

Chicken Satay Recipe

Gorgeously charred juicy authentic Malaysian chicken satay
Serves 4
4.92 from 12 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 stalk lemongrass finely minced, white parts only
  • 2 shallots finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Special Equipment

  • skewers

Instructions

  • Make the marinade: combine all ingredients and marinate for minimum 1 hour. If you can, marinate overnight.
    marinating chicken for kung pao chicken | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Soak wooden skewers in water so they don’t burn when you’re grilling. After the chicken is finished marinating, skewer on to wooden skewers.
    skewers of uncooked chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Grill over medium heat, turning as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred. Enjoy hot!
    grilling chicken satay | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

No-Peanut Peanut Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup roasted cashews
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
lime juice, to taste
Combine all ingredients until blended but not completely smooth. Taste and add lime juice to your preference.

Peanut Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup roasted skinless peanuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
lime juice to taste
Combine all ingredients until blended but not completely smooth. Taste and add lime juice to your preference.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Chicken Satay Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 302 Calories from Fat 138
% Daily Value*
Fat 15.3g24%
Saturated Fat 3.2g20%
Cholesterol 101mg34%
Sodium 447mg19%
Potassium 355mg10%
Carbohydrates 6.1g2%
Fiber 0.2g1%
Sugar 3.2g4%
Protein 33.5g67%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

5 Comments

  1. Kristi says:

    5 stars
    Thank you for this! I’m always looking for a no peanut peanut sauce because I am unfortunately allergic…

  2. Rachel says:

    5 stars
    Thank you! I hate peanuts but always feel like I’m missing out with satay – can’t wait to try this!

  3. Anna says:

    5 stars
    Can’t wait to try this! Especially the no peanut peanut sauce! I’m allergic to peanuts too so I’m super stoked for this yummy sounding alternative. Side question: is that a mini grill you can use inside your house? I don’t have a yard or patio so no BBQ equipment and would love to get a mini grill of sorts if that’s what’s in the photos!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi anna,
      yes it’s a mini grill! we plug it in and use it outdoors. i’m not sure if you can use it indoors, but here’s a link to a similar one. we love it so much :)

  4. William says:

    5 stars
    I made this last Sunday for my guests and it turned out perfect! My family and friends were impressed and started eating them even before I had the chance to serve them out! This was BOMB and I had so many requests for the recipe. Thank you, Stephanie, for posting this wonderful recipe!

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