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Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

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Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce is one of my favourite dishes and I have been making this recipes for decades. Whether you spell it satay, sate or saté, people love this Indonesian specialty. Delightful little skewers of juicy cooked meat served with a creamy peanut sauce. If you think the skewers are too much effort here are my hacks for an everyday version of this satay recipe.

Memories of Chicken Satay in Bali

Indonesian Chicken Satay from Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet
Indonesian Chicken Satay from Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet

I have fond memories of eating chicken satay with peanut sauce on the island of Bali many years ago. Every day was a sunny 32°C with a warm ocean breeze and the narrow streets were dotted with food vendors fanning the grill on their satay carts to keep the heat at the perfect cooking temperature. Each vendor, like the one pictured here, had their own variation of satay and their own style of serving it. The most memorable one was watching the vendor swiftly blob peanut butter in the center of brown butcher paper, squirt hot sauce  onto it then mix the sauce right before my eyes with two skewers of meat hot off the grill. He folded the paper around the meat and handed me a package of the most delicious, succulent chicken satay I had ever tasted. All these years later I think of that moment every time I make this recipe.

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The Asian Pantry – Kecap Manis and a Substitution

There are two specialty ingredients in this recipe, kecap manis and tamarind.

Kecap manis, sometimes spelled ketjap manis, is a sweet, thick Indonesian soy sauce. Any purchased kecap manis I have seen contains wheat so you have two choices. Make it from scratch using gluten free soy sauce or substitute. I wrote this substitute in the recipe although I have never tried it. The suggestion is to replace the full amount of kecap manis with gluten free soy sauce then and a bit of brown sugar.

Making homemade is the other choice and that’s what I do. When I started to cook gluten free I pulled out this old recipe for homemade kecap manis and just made it. It lasts in the cupboard forever but the idea is to use it so I’ve given you two more recipes to do that at the bottom of this post.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis
Gluten Free Kecap Manis -photo credit Jim Little

Indonesian Specialty Ingredients – Tamarind

Tamarind refers to the pod of the tamarind tree which contains seeds covered by a fleshy pulp. It adds a unique fruity sourness to many dishes and is naturally gluten free. It is available in Asian and Indian specialty shops sold as tamarind concentrate, a thick dark paste in small plastic tubs or as tamarind pulp, a pliable block wrapped in plastic. For more details on using tamarind have a look at my post titled Tamarind Concentrate vs Tamarind Paste.

Tamarind Concentrate vs Tamarind Paste
Tamarind Concentrate vs Tamarind Paste -photo credit Jim Little

Everyday Hacks for Chicken Satay

At home where there are no street vendors I make my own chicken, beef or pork satay. When I am in a hurry these are the hacks:

  • -use whole, boneless chicken thighs or chicken filets
  • -skip the skewers or use sturdy metal skewers
  • -skip the marinade altogether (because it’s always about the sauce for me anyway)

Everyday to Gourmet – Chicken Satay

When I am entertaining I don’t take shortcuts. I like to choose tried-and-true recipes when planning a menu for company because I know the recipe works so I’m not adding pressure wondering if everything will turn out. I know if I just allow time to follow the steps this recipe will turn out perfectly. So for these occasions I’ll follow all the steps:

  • -cut the meat into small pieces and marinate it overnight
  • -use homemade kecap manis for the most authentic taste
  • -soak the bamboo skewers for thirty minutes or longer
  • -take care not to let the skewers burn by keeping them away from the heat or covering them with tin foil
  • -create a stunning presentation on a beautiful platter with colourful flowers when I can

In the comments below I’d love to hear what you did with your satay.

A Travel Tale – Bali

From time to time I write a guest post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. This is one I wrote about our trip to Bali.

Indonesian Chicken Satay Recipe – Bali

Recipes Using Kecap Manis

Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

A paper plate with gluten free Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs
Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs -photo credit Jim Little

Indonesian’s premiere salad, Gado Gado

Gado Gado, the premiere Indonesian salad with peanut sauce.
Indonesian Gado Gado Salad -photo credit Jim Little


2 lb boneless chicken, beef or pork
1/4 cup tamarind paste (OR 1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate and 2 Tbsp boiling water)
2 tsp cumin
4 shallots, sliced (or 1/4 cup chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp GF soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup peanut butter
¼ cup kecap manis (OR 3½ Tbsp GF soy sauce and ½ Tbsp brown sugar)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½-1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
¾ cup boiling water


Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 4 hours.
Cut meat into small pieces and place in large container or bag for marinating.
Using a food processor or immersion blender combine all marinade ingredients and process to a smooth paste. Pour over meat and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
Thread meat on skewers. Cook on the barbecue or under the broiler until done, approximately 6 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Serve with peanut sauce.
In a large glass measuring cup combine peanut butter, kecap manis, garlic, brown sugar, lemon juice and hot pepper. Add the boiling water and whisk until smooth.Keeps in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.


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