Satay lovers rejoice! This is the stuff food dreams are made of – chicken marinated in an authentic homemade Satay Seasoning, then simmered in an incredible Satay Peanut Sauce (Malaysian restaurant recipe). No hard to find ingredients, simple to make, guaranteed to blow your mind!
Satay Chicken Curry (Malaysian)
“I rarely leave comments on blogs…but I am going OUT OF MY MIND about this recipe. Seriously, it’s the best thing I’ve ever cooked. My partner actually thinks I ordered it from a restaurant and am trying to pretend like I cooked it!”
– Kellie, 22 May 2017
As you can see from the date stamp of the above reader feedback, this Satay Chicken Curry is a recipe I published years ago. 9 May 2016, to be exact. Way back before I taught myself to make recipe videos.
So I’m giving it a total makeover – new photos, new video, tidying up some writing. But I promise I have not touched the recipe. I wouldn’t dare – too many people are obsessed with it!!
Different types of satay
Real Satay Chicken is skewered chicken marinated with satay seasonings, seared over charcoal and served with a peanut sauce. Many South East Asian countries have their own version, with most well known being Thai, Indonesian (Bali) and Malaysian (this recipe).
All are slightly different, but have similar undertones. Thai Chicken Satay (pictured below, left) is sweeter, more coconut-y and has a mild red curry flavour (the secret ingredient). Indonesian Satay (below right) is the simplest and most peanutty.
Malaysian Satay is said to be the king of all Satays, with the most complex, deep flavours. Stronger satay seasoning, less peanutty and less coconutty than Thai and Indonesian.
What this tastes like (and why it’s not on skewers)
As far as I know, Chicken Satay in this curry-like form is not authentic Asian. But I love making it this way because it’s so much more satisfying to eat (compared to tiny little skewers!) and so much easier to make large volumes (again – no skewering!).
But while the form of this Satay Chicken Curry might not be an authentic Asian recipe, I can promise you this: it tastes 100% authentic. Because I’ve used a Chef recipe for the homemade satay seasoning and a Restaurant recipe for the Peanut Sauce (this recipe from Chinta Ria in Sydney).
I think you will be surprised when you see the ingredients for the Satay Seasoning. All spices that you might already have in your pantry!
Ingredients in Satay Seasoning
The foundation of this recipe is the homemade Satay Seasoning which is used for both marinating the chicken AND in the satay sauce. Here are the spices required: coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, chilli, curry powder (any brand is fine), sugar and salt.
US readers note: the “chilli powder” in this recipe is not what you call “Chili Powder” (with one “l”) which is a spice mix that is not very spicy. This recipe calls for real chilli powder which is pure ground dried chillies and it is spicy!
With the Satay Seasoning, the chicken is absolutely divine by itself. I could honestly eat it straight out of the pan, without the peanut sauce.
But with the peanut curry sauce….it just takes it to a whole new level……
Ingredients in Satay Curry Sauce
And here’s what goes into the sauce:
- Chicken – thighs are best for the juiciest pieces of chicken, but breast and tenderloin work fine too. Other proteins: pork and beef work too, but it needs to be slow cooking cuts simmered for an hour or so until fall-apart tender. I’ve popped tips in the recipe notes;
- Peanuts – roasted, unsalted. Some for blitzing into the sauce, some added later for a bit of crunch in the sauce;
- Peanut butter – NATURAL is best (ie no added sugar or oil) because it has the most intense peanut flavour and is thinner than sweetened peanut butter spread. But ordinary peanut butter spreads will work fine too – the peanut flavour is slightly less intense;
- Fresh red chilli – I’ve used birds eye chilli here (a common type Australia). 6 chilli = noticeable spiciness but won’t blow your head off. Dial it down if you can’t handle the heat. If you can’t find these specific chillies, don’t worry – use any red chilli you can find, remembering the rule that the smaller the chilli, the spicier it is. You can also leave it out, or take the safe route and start with less then use chilli powder at the end to dial up the spice. Some alternatives: Thai Red Chillies are around the same spiciness. Cayenne is much less spicy (and larger). Habanero is spicier so use 1/2 of 1 (about 1/2 tsp);
- Kecap Manis – this is a sweet soy sauce with a consistency like syrup. Here in Australia, kecap manis is available in major supermarkets, in the soy sauce section. And if you can’t find it at your supermarket, don’t worry! It is SO easy to make – just reduce soy sauce and brown sugar. Seriously. I’ve included directions in the recipe for you;
- Dark soy sauce – the intense colour of this soy sauce is what darkens the sauce colour from a pale yellow colour to a deeper orangey reddy colour. Read more about different soy sauces here. Don’t have it or can’t find it? That’s ok – you can use normal or light soy sauce, just know your sauce colour will be lighter. Won’t affect flavour that much;
- Coconut milk – full fat, for best flavour (because coconut flavour is in the fat);
- Chicken stock/broth – to thin about the sauce. Much tastier than using water;
- Lime juice – for a touch of sour, to balance out the flavour. Not the end of the world to substitute with a vinegar (it’s not a major flavour component in this recipe);
- Garlic and onion – essential aromatics;
- Lemongrass OR kaffir limes leaves – plonking either of these into the sauce as it simmers adds a special extra touch of flavour that really elevates it to “real restaurant” flavour. It is still mighty tasty without (I’ve made this plenty of times without either of them) but with, it really is that little bit more special. They both add similar flavour – so use whichever is easier for you to find.
Kaffir lime leaves – sold in small packets at fruit & veg stores, Asian stores and most large grocery stores in Australia. Leftovers freeze perfectly, and it’s used in most authentic Thai dishes (like red curry, Tom Yum Soup) as well as other South East Asian dishes like Beef Rendang and Coconut Rice.
Lemongrass – using a fresh stalk is best if you can get it (bashed to release flavour), otherwise a dab of paste from a tube will works wonders too.
How to make Chicken Satay Curry
And here’s how to make it – very straightforward!
- Mix the Satay Seasoning ingredients together;
- Marinate the chicken in the Seasoning with some grated onion for extra flavour;
- Sear the chicken just to get some nice colour on it – no need to cook the chicken through;
- Saute aromatics – onion, garlic, chilli;
- Transfer to blender (or Nutribullet, in my case) with most of the peanuts and chicken broth;
- Blitz until smooth;
- Pour back into the skillet along with the coconut milk, and lemongrass or Kaffir Lime leave;
- Add chicken back in then simmer until it reduces and thickens, your mouth is watering and it looks like THIS ↓↓↓:
Food euphoria. Food so good it makes you want to cry. And to think this is made from scratch, no jar pastes…just incredible.
This peanut curry sauce is so good it’s nuts. Go on – groan at the terrible pun!!! That might distract you for a mere moment of lusting after this sauce!!! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Satay Chicken Curry (Malaysian)
Adapted from a Satay recipe by a Malaysian chef and the Satay Sauce from Chinta Ria, a popular Sydney Asian restaurant – refer Note 10.
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or normal, not smoked or spicy)
- 1 1/4 tsp chilli powder , adjust to taste (not US “Chili Powder”, Note 1)
- 3 1/2 tsp curry powder , not HOT (any, Malaysian, generic, Clives of India, Keens)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt , cooking / kosher (or 1 tsp table salt)
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 750g / 1.5 lb chicken thigh fillets , cut into bite size pieces (Note 2)
- 1/2 onion (brown, white or yellow), grated
- 2 tbsp oil , separated
- 3 – 6 birds eye chillies or other small hot red chillies , finely chopped (Note 3)
- 1/4 cup onion (brown, white or yellow), finely diced (~ 1/4 onion)
- 4 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 cup chicken broth / stock
- 3/4 cup peanuts, roasted unsalted, , chopped, separated
- 2 tsp kecap manis (Note 4)
- 3 tsp dark soy sauce (Note 5)
- 400g / 14oz coconut milk (preferably full fat but light will be ok)
- 2 tbsp peanut butter , pure best but spread ok too, crunchy or smooth
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp lime juice , to taste
Flavour Infusion – choose ONE:
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 lemongrass stalk , white part only, smashed to burst open (Note 6)
- Peanuts , chopped
- Cilantro / coriander leaves
- Fresh chilli, finely chopped
Combine Satay Seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.
Marinate & Cook Chicken:
Marinate – Combine chicken with 3 TABLESPOONS Satay Seasoning and onion in a bowl. Marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, minimum 20 minutes (Note 6)
Cook – Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick skillet over high heat (Note 7). Cook chicken in 2 batches until browned all over but still raw inside. Transfer to bowl, cover and keep warm.
Saute aromatics – Using the same skillet, turn heat down to medium and heat 1 tbsp oil. Add chill, onion and garlic cloves. Sauté until onion is translucent – around 2 minutes.
Satay Seasoning – Add remaining Satay Seasoning and cook for 1 minute.
Blitz – Transfer to a blender or small food processor (I use a Nutribullet). Add chicken stock and 1/2 cup of the peanuts (rest gets added later). Puree until pretty smooth – some peanut chunks can remain. Pour mixture back into the skillet.
Add remaining ingredients into sauce – Add remaining 1/4 cup peanuts, kecap manis, dark soy sauce, coconut milk and peanut butter. Stir to combine.
Add kaffir lime or lemongrass – Crush kaffir lime leaf in hand a bit (to break leaf to release the flavour). Add kaffir lime leaf OR lemongrass and chicken to sauce.
Simmer – Bring to simmer, turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened.
2. Chicken – best made with thigh fillets. Breast and tenderloin ok but add them 10 minutes until sauce simmer time ie only simmer for 5 minutes (lean = dry if overcooked).
3. Chilli – Use as much chilli as you think you can handle! I use 6 birds eye chillis (small red chillis, about the same heat as Thai red chillis) and it’s a bit spicy, but not “blow your head off” spicy. Use 3 for mild heat. Remember there is quite a lot of sauce!
Leave it out if you’re worried about spiciness then just add chilli powder right at the end, to taste.
4. Kecap Manis (Ketjap Manis) is a dark sweet soy sauce with the consistency of syrup. It can be purchased in the soy sauce section of most supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths in Australia).
Also easy to make your own! Just combine 1/4 cup ordinary soy sauce (I use Kikkoman) and 1/4 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce until it becomes a maple syrup consistency. It will thicken more when it cools.
5. Dark soy sauce has a more intense day colour than all purpose soy sauce or light soy sauce. I use dark to deepen the colour of the satay sauce. You can substitute with all purpose or light soy sauce but sauce colour will be paler (not much impact on flavour). Read more about Different Soy Sauces.
6. Kaffir lime leaves and/or lemongrass are the secret to peanut sauces that taste truly like what you get at (good) restaurants. When making a dipping sauce, it is usually sauted with the spices. To make a curry sauce, it works great to simmer it with the sauce to infuse the flavour into it. Most recipes use lemongrass, some use kaffir lime leaves.
I like using kaffir lime leaves because I always have them in the freezer – fresh leaves freeze brilliantly. I stand firmly in my position that using either is great!
HOW TO PREPARE LEMONGRASS: Cut the top 3/4 reedy green part off and keep the white part at the bottom. Use the side of your knife or anything heavy to smash it to split it open to release flavours. Plonk it in to simmer, then take it out prior to serving.
7. Marinating: 3 hrs – overnight ideal, but even 20 minutes is enough because there is so much flavour packed into the seasoning!
8. Pan type – Strongly recommend using non stick because of the chunky paste on the chicken.
9. Serve this with:
- white, jasmine or brown rice
- fresh slices of cucumber and tomato wedges, no dressing – very Asian, pairs great with rich mains like this
- Smashed Cucumbers (personal favourite), Asian Slaw, leafy greens or any garden salad with Asian Sesame Dressing or this Vermicelli Noodle Salad.
10. Storage – will keep for 4 to 5 days in the fridge, or freeze it (thaw, reheat, mix well, if too thick add a touch of water).
11. Recipe Source: The satay seasoning is adapted from this recipe from Christine’s Chinese Recipes which is from a Malaysian chef (!!!) and the Satay Sauce is adapted from this Food Safari recipe by the very popular Chinta Ria restaurant in Sydney.
The key changes I made were:
i). Make one common seasoning (because the ingredients are very similar); and
ii) Converted the sauce into a curry sauce rather than dipping sauce, but keeping the flavour; and
iii) Change the Satay Sauce steps to avoid grinding the peanuts with a mortar and pestle a) for convenience; b) because the sauce for this recipe should be silkier than chunky satay peanut dipping sauces for satay on sticks; and c) because depending on the quality of the peanuts, sometimes it can make the sauce a bit gritty. Also because of the vast volume of the sauce compared to making a dipping sauce, I added a small amount of peanut butter to help create a thick smooth curry sauce as well as adding a touch of sweet rather than using sugar.
12. Nutrition per serving, curry only no rice. Sauce is rich, coconut, peanutty, heavily spiced!
Originally published May 2016. Updated September 2020 with brand new photos, process photos, brand new recipe video. No change to recipe!
Life of Dozer
No satay for Dozer – too spicy!
So he chewed his toy octopus instead.
And from the original publication date:
The only reason there’s no photo of Dozer drooling over Satay along with you (and me) is because he’s outside gnawing on a bone. He always splays his front legs out like this when he’s munching on a bone – is this normal?? Looks awkward!