Thai-Style Chicken Satay With Peanut-Tamarind Dipping Sauce Recipe

J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Using a mortar and pestle gets more flavor out of the fresh marinade ingredients.
  • Making the marinade slightly salty and letting the chicken rest in it helps keep the meat juicy.
  • The tamarind-peanut dipping sauce perfectly complements the smoky char of the chicken.

I recently tested a whole slew of skewers to find the best ones for grilling, and since then, this has been the summer of grilled-things-on-a-stick. And I'm not through poking-and-grilling yet. This time, it's sweet-and-savory Thai-style chicken satay with a tamarind-peanut dipping sauce. It's a staple dish of Thai restaurants in the US, but so, so much better if you make your own.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 1 teaspoon (4g) coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) whole white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) palm sugar, plus more to taste (see note)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 12g)
  • 1 (1/4-inch) disk of ginger (about 12g), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped (about 1 ounce; 25g), plus more sliced shallot for garnish
  • 1 (1-inch) knob fresh turmeric, peeled, or 1 teaspoon (4g) dried turmeric powder
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, bottom 4 inches only, finely sliced (remove dry outer leaves before slicing)
  • 1 (15-ounce; 425g) can coconut milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) Asian fish sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g) boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 recipe Peanut-Tamarind Dipping Sauce, for serving
  • 1 small cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces


  1. Toast coriander and white pepper in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Alternatively, place on a heatproof plate in the microwave and microwave at 15-second intervals until fragrant. Transfer to mortar and crush to a powder with pestle. Add palm sugar, garlic, ginger, shallot, turmeric, and lemongrass and crush to a paste. Transfer paste to a medium bowl and stir in half of coconut milk, all of fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon (4g) salt. Taste and add more salt or sugar as desired. The mixture should be quite sweet and salty.

  2. Add chicken and turn to coat. Transfer to a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag, remove as much air as possible (you can use the water displacement method for this) and refrigerate for at least 1 and up to 8 hours.

  3. Remove chicken from bag and thread onto bamboo or metal skewers, using an onion or potato to help you do so faster and more safely. Pack chicken in tightly on skewers as you go.

  4. Light 2/3 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the medium-high heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

  5. Place chicken directly over hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally and brushing with remaining coconut milk every minute, until chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes total.

  6. Remove from grill and serve immediately with peanut-tamarind sauce, cucumber, and sliced shallot.

Special equipment

Skewers, mortar and pestle, grill


If you don't have palm sugar, you can substitute white or brown sugar.

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