Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce is a favourite Indonesian dish that I've been making for decades. With one small tweak it's gluten free and that tweak was making my own kecap manis. More on that in a moment.
Whether you spell it satay, sate or saté; people love this Indonesian specialty made out of chicken, beef, pork or a vegetarian version. Typically served as delightful little skewers of juicy meat, topped with or accompanied by a creamy, dreamy peanut sauce.
For me it's all about the sauce so I'll take any of those options if someone's serving it to me.
If you're thinking skewers sound like too much work, read on and I'll share my hacks for the everyday version of this satay recipe.
Memories of Chicken Satay in Bali
I probably already knew how to make satay before I went to Indonesia but after that vacation, eating satay brings back fond memories of visiting the island of Bali.
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. We had our fair share of chicken satay with peanut sauce and loved every bite.
My most memorable satay was watching one vendor swiftly blob peanut butter onto brown butcher paper, squirt hot sauce onto it then mix the sauce right before our eyes using 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've ever tasted. All these years later I think of that moment every time I make this recipe.
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The Gluten Free Asian Pantry
I love Asian food so as soon as I started cooking gluten free I made sure I had a safe version of all the items I needed to make anything I wanted. That eventually turned into this lengthy blog post; Gluten Free Asian Pantry.
In this post I'll just give you my quick notes for the two specialty ingredients to make this recipe; tamarind and kecap manis. For the long version click on the text in the images below to go to those specific posts.
Tamarind Concentrate or Paste
The pod of the tamarind tree contains seeds covered by a fleshy pulp. I've seen boxes of tamarind pods in the grocery store and have never (I hate to admit it), never been inspired to buy it.
Tamarind adds a unique fruity sourness to many dishes and is naturally gluten free. It's 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. The concentrate is easier so that's what I use.
Substitute for Kecap Manis
Kecap manis, sometimes spelled ketjap manis, is a sweet, thick Indonesian soy sauce. There may be a gluten free version to purchase somewhere but I couldn't find one so I just made it.
I made an old recipe using gluten free soy sauce and it was perfect. It keeps at room temperature indefinitely.
Of course there's a substitution if you're not quite ready to make it.
The suggestion is to replace the full amount of kecap manis with gluten free soy sauce then add a bit of brown sugar.
I wrote this substitute in the recipe but I've never tried it. If you try it let me know what you think of the recipe.
Kitchen Hacks for Satay
At home where there are no street vendors to buy satay and no friends coming for dinner I take all the shortcuts and make no apologies for that.
- I use whole, boneless chicken thighs, chicken filets or even pork chops.
- If I'm going to cut it up I skip the cute bamboo skewers and use my decades old, slightly bent metal skewers.
- If I happen to have peanut sauce in the fridge I might skip the marinade altogether and serve it on grilled chicken. (The peanut sauce is so good I would eat it on plain rice but that just doesn't seem like a proper meal.)
Get The Tools
When I'm entertaining I don't take shortcuts. I choose tried-and-true recipes to plan my menu to avoid the stress of not knowing how a recipe will turn out. I allow time to follow all the steps and know it will be awesome. This is what I mean by following the steps:
- Take care to cut the meat into similar small pieces and marinate it overnight.
- Soak the bamboo skewers overnight.
- Use homemade kecap manis for the most authentic taste.
- Take care not to let the skewers burn by keeping them away from the heat or even covering them with tin foil.
- Create a stunning presentation on a beautiful platter with a colourful garnish.
A Travel Tale - Chicken Satay in Bali
From time to time I write a guest post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. You can read my tale of our trip to Bali here - Indonesian Chicken Satay Recipe - Bali.
In the comments below I'd love to hear if you have a satay story our how the recipe turned out for you.
Originally posted 2015, updated February 2022.
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More Recipes Using Kecap Manis
Click on the text on the image(s) to go to the recipe/blog post.
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- 2 lbs boneless chicken, beef or pork cut into cubes
- ¼ cup tamarind paste (or 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate + 2 tablespoon boiling water)
- 2 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 4 shallots, sliced (or ¼ cup chopped onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup kecap manis (or 3½ tablespoon GF soy sauce + ½ tablespoon brown sugar)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1½ tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½-1 teaspoon red chile flakes
- ¾ cup boiling water
- Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Combine all marinade ingredients in a tall cup. Blend to a smooth paste using an immersion blender.
- Pour over meat in a large container or bag and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight.
- In a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup combine peanut butter, kecap manis, garlic, brown sugar, lemon juice and hot pepper flakes.
- Add the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Microwave to soften peanut butter if needed.
- Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Line baking sheet with foil and set metal rack on top.
- Thread meat on skewers and lay on rack.
- Preheat broiler. Broil for approximately 6 minutes turning once. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your meat cubes.
- Serve with peanut sauce and enjoy!