Peanut Butter Chicken is one of the easiest dinners ever bursting with intoxicating Thai flavors made with pantry friendly ingredients and on your table in 20 minutes (aka chicken satay skillet)!
This easy Peanut Butter Chicken recipe is a QUICK one-skillet dinner that’s huge on flavor, low on effort and belongs in your easy weeknight dinner arsenal. It’s loaded with tender, juicy chicken swimming in the most intoxicating, lusciously creamy, wonderfully fragrant, comforting peanut sauce infused with garlic, ginger, basil, lime juice and coconut milk. This Peanut Sauce Chicken also earns major points because it’s made with 100% pantry friendly ingredients – even the aromatics are powders! You can enjoy this Peanut Butter Chicken plain or add in any desired veggies you have on hand. Serve Peanut Butter Chicken over rice, cauliflower rice, zoodles, sweet potatoes, etc. loaded with contrasting mangos or pineapple and let your eyes roll back with each sublimely satisfying bite.
THAI PEANUT CHICKEN
Peanut Butter Chicken = chicken satay + peanut sauce all in one skillet!
People often ask me what my favorite type of food is. Although I LOVE so many cuisines, my answer is always Thai food. The layers of complex flavors create an adept balance of savory, salty, sweet and sour in every bite. I’m a fan. HUGE fan. In fact, we have celebrated every major event at a Thai restaurant from my college graduation, to our wedding engagement to lung transplant anniversaries.
As a fan, I love creating Thai food at home from Red Curry Chicken, Chicken Pad Thai, Panang Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry, Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, Coconut Curry and Tom Kha Gai, just to name a few, but perhaps my most favorite of all is Chicken Satay!
And of course, Chicken Satay is all about the creamy peanut sauce exploding with layers of complex, multi-dimensional flavor – don’t you just want to inhale the sauce?! And now you can! This Peanut Sauce Chicken is everything you love about peanut butter in all its nutty, luscious glory and Thai food infused with ginger, garlic, coconut and lime. The resulting Peanut Butter Chicken is creamy, tangy, salty, savory and as spicy as you like it. It is LIFE.
I love peanut sauce so much I’ve used it in chicken lettuce wraps, skillet chicken thighs, Thai chicken pizza, pineapple chicken satay and chicken stir fries but now it’s time for the EASIEST version of peanut sauce – this wickedly addicting, intoxicatingly creamy Peanut Butter Chicken! Every since I used in my Thai Chicken Tacos six years ago, I’ve been wanting adapt it to a skillet version – and this Thai Peanut Chicken was worth the wait!
To make this Peanut Butter Chicken, bite size pieces of chicken are coated in ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander and turmeric, then browned in a skillet. At this point, you can add any veggies your heart desires. Next, a simple sauce of coconut milk, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, Asian chili sauce and basil is added. Then prepare to fall in love!
REASONS TO LOVE THAI PEANUT CHICKEN:
- Family friendly: everyone LOVES peanut butter! Please the kiddos with family friendly peanut butter and please the adults with the multi-dimensional, hypnotic sauce.
- QUICK and easy: chop your chicken and toss in seasonings, whisk your sauce together and cook!
- Simple ingredients: this Thai Peanut Chicken uses pantry staples so you can make it any time – you probably have everything you need right now!
- Customizable: add veggies, add more or less heat, add or top with fruit such as pineapple or mangos, and serve over anything your heart desires – or your pantry allows. You can even create Peanut Chicken Bowls or serve in tacos with mango salsa or pineapple salsa.
- FLAVOR! the chicken is first seasoned to perfection with hand-picked seasonings then simmered in the sauce so it soaks up the symphony of flavor before the crowning creamy, nutty, addition of peanut butter.
INGREDIENTS FOR PEANUT SAUCE CHICKEN
The ingredients for Peanut Sauce Chicken should be pantry staples if you do much Asian cooking. If not, they can easily be found at your grocery store. The list might seem lengthy, but all the ingredients are just whisked together – easy, peasy!
FOR THE CHICKEN:
You can use either chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this Peanut Butter Chicken but I suggest chicken thighs for the juiciest results.
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs: are dark meat and therefore inherently juicier and hard to overcook. Thighs are the best option for maximum flavor and tenderness.
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: are leaner than chicken thighs but still will work, the only problem is I find the flavor remains on the outside of the breasts. If you really want flavorful chicken breasts, season the chicken as instructed then add 1/3 cup of the sauce to the chicken and let marinate 30 minutes or so at room temperature. When ready to cook, simply dump the chicken with the marinade and all the sauce into the skillet and cook through.
- Rotisserie chicken and leftover chicken: to use leftover chicken, add the chicken rub seasonings directly to the sauce and simmer the sauce until thickened. Sir in peanut butter, followed by chicken and warm through.
FOR THE PEANUT SAUCE:
The star of this Thai Peanut Chicken is undoubtably the peanut sauce. Thai food is all about the balance of sweet, savory, salty and sour and this sauce is perfection. You will need:
- peanut butter: adds a nutty earthiness and creaminess that marries all the ingredients together. You can use smooth OR crunchy peanut butter.
- coconut milk: if you want to instantly elevate your Thai food, use Chaokoh coconut milk – my absolute favorite brand (Not a paid endorsement)! I love it so much that when my grocery store stopped carrying it, I started purchasing it on Amazon. Chaokoh is creamier than any other brand I’ve tried by FAR and therefore results in the most lusciously creamy, comforting sauces ever.
- soy sauce: grounds the sauce. Please use low sodium soy sauce so your sauce isn’t too salty.
- brown sugar: adds sweetness to balance the soy, lime juice and fish sauce. You may need more or less brown sugar depending on your personal preferences and your brand of peanut butter.
- fish sauce: I promise fish sauce will not be detectable or make your Peanut Butter Chicken taste fishy! It simply adds the balance of savory and salty flavor. You may substitute fish sauce with soy sauce if you don’t keep it stocked – but you will want to pick some up if you plan on doing more Thai cooking in the future.
- lime juice: you may use fresh or bottled lime juice but go fresh if you can. I will freeze lime juice in cubes so I always have some on hand.
- garlic: most of the seasonings are used as a rub and added to the chicken directly before it is seared, so all you need are powders! Use more or less garlic powder depending on your garlic love or you can stir in more garlic powder into the sauce at the end of cooking.
- ginger: adds a warm spicy, almost pepper taste.
- ground coriander: adds a toasty, lemony citrus flavor that I use to mimic lemongrass.
- turmeric: adds gingery, punchy, earthy undertones.
- basil: dried basil is added to the sauce and not to the chicken so it doesn’t burn when browning the chicken. Basil adds a layer of savory, peppery and slightly minty flavor. I used dried basil for convenience but you are welcome to use fresh, chopped basil (about ¼ cup) and add it the last few minutes of cooking.
- Asian chili sauce: adds a little heat and rounds out the flavors. You can customize the spice level by adding additional chili sauce to taste. If you aren’t sure how much to add, you can start with less then stir in more at the end if needed. If your Peanut Chicken is missing something, it is probably heat/
- cornstarch: is my secret to gorgeously thick Peanut Butter Chicken. While cornstarch definitely isn’t authentic to curry, it is a fabulous trick I’ve discovered and use in all of my curry recipes to create a creamier sauce – it will BLOW YOUR MIND how creamy it gets!
WHAT Peanut Butter is BEST?
While natural peanut butter has a stronger peanut flavor, commercial peanut butter such as Jif or Skippy contain sugar and other additives that add more flavor and create a creamier, more cohesive sauce.
Due to the differences in peanut butter consistency and flavor, you may need more or less to taste.
DO YOU HAVE TO USE FULL-FAT COCONUT MILK?
I HIGHLY recommend full fat coconut milk if you would like delightfully creamy, flavorful Peanut Butter Chicken. Light coconut milk simply isn’t as thick or flavorful so you’re missing out on both flavor and texture. If you do use light coconut milk, I suggest adding an additional 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch to help thicken it up.
IS PEANUT CHICKEN GLUTEN FREE?
This Thai Peanut Chicken is not gluten free as written due to the soy sauce. You can easily make it gluten free by substituting the soy with tamari or gluten free soy sauce. Also, double check that your peanut butter is gluten free.
IS PEANUT SAUCE CHICKEN DAIRY FREE?
Yes! The Peanut Butter Chicken is dairy free.
CAN I ADD VEGETABLES TO PEANUT SAUCE CHICKEN?
Absolutely! This Peanut Butter Chicken is luxuriously saucy so there is plenty of sauce to accommodate vegetables. That being said, I prefer stir-frying veggies on the side so they remain contrastingly fresh and don’t get lost in the sauce.
HOW TO MAKE PEANUT BUTTER CHICKEN
This Thai Peanut Butter Chicken comes together in minutes! Here’s how to make it:
- Season chicken. Add chicken seasonings to a large bowl and whisk to combine; add chicken and stir to evenly coat; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the sauce ingredients together; set aside.
- Cook chicken. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot and rippling. Add chicken and cook until opaque. Browning the chicken that’s coated in spices blooms the spices and unlocks the flavor.
- Simmer sauce. Add Sauce and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thickened, 3-5 minutes.
- Add peanut butter. Stir in peanut butter until melted.
- Garnish! Taste and season with additional chili sauce or lime juice. Garnish with plenty of cilantro and crushed peanuts and serve with refreshing fruit such as mango or pineapple.
HOW DO I THICKEN PEANUT SAUCE?
The cornstarch in the peanut butter sauce will thicken the sauce as it simmers; the peanut butter will also thicken the sauce. If you still would like an even thicker sauce, make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water then adding to the simmering sauce. Repeat this as step as desired.
HOW DO I THIN PEANUT SAUCE?
The peanut butter sauce will thicken more the longer it is simmers. If it simmers to the point of too thick, don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in additional coconut milk or water.
PEANUT SAUCE CHICKEN VARIATIONS
You can customize the Peanut Butter Chicken to suit your personal tastes. You can can make it spicier, sweeter, savorier, tangier, less tangy, etc. Here’s how:
- For sweeter: Add more brown sugar
- For saltier: Add more fish sauce or soy sauce
- For tangier: Add more lime juice
- For spicier: Add chili sauce
- For thinner: Add coconut milk or water
- For thicker: Add a cornstarch slurry
TIPS for best Thai peanut chicken
This Peanut Butter Sauce Chicken is pretty straightforward but here is a summary of helpful tips:
- Don’t overcook chicken. For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook! Brown it in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
- Use chicken thighs. Are juicier and more flavorful than chicken thighs. If you use chicken breasts, marinate per tips in post.
- Use commercial peanut butter. While natural peanut butter has a stronger peanut flavor, commercial peanut butter such as Jif or Skippy contain sugar and other additives that add more flavor and create a creamier, more cohesive sauce.
- Add peanut butter to taste. You can use 1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter depending on your personal preference.
CAN I PREP THAI PEANUT CHICKEN IN ADVANCE?
Yes! While this Thai Peanut Chicken doesn’t require much prep, you can still prep everything in advance so your dinner can come together in minutes.
- Prep chicken: trim chicken thighs and chop into large bite size pieces. Toss with seasonings and store in an airtight container.
- Sauce: whisk the sauce ingredients together (aside from peanut butter) and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in advance. Make sure to whisk the sauce again before using.
- Within the next 48 hours, proceed with the Peanut Butter Chicken recipe without any of the prep!
CAN I MAKE PEANUT CHICKEN AHEAD OF TIME?
Absolutely! This Peanut Chicken tastes even better the next day as the flavors have time to build and meld which makes it fabulous for make ahead dinners, meal prep or on-the-go lunches.
For meal prep lunches, simply divide Peanut Butter Chicken between desired number of airtight containers, top with rice and cover and refrigerate until ready to use. I like to put the rice on top so it doesn’t get wet. You can also add stir-fried vegetables with the rice or top with a separate bag or airtight container with fresh mangos or pineapple.
HOW TO STORE PEANUT SAUCE CHICKEN
This Peanut Butter Chicken makes exceptional leftovers and reheats wonderfully for lunches or dinners.
- How to store: Peanut Sauce Chicken should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When stored properly, it is good for up to five days.
- Microwave: transfer a portion to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals.
- Stove: For larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often. You may need to add additional coconut milk or water to thin. You can microwave the rice as you’re warming the Peanut Butter Chicken on the stove.
WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH peanut sauce CHICKEN?
This Peanut Butter Chicken is fabulous served with rice to soak up the flavorful, creamy sauce and for a neutral textural component. You can keep the veggies simple with stir-fried veggies or roasted veggies. I also LOVE and highly encourage you to serve Peanut Sauce Chicken with either chopped mangos or pineapple. The bright, refreshing fruit cuts through the rich, creamy, savory, salty chicken.
- Rice. I prefer jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep. Pineapple Rice is also fabulous!
- Noodles. Rice vermicelli, ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up!
- Low carb. Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
FRUIT AND VEGGIES:
- Fruit: The fresh, bright, juicy sweetness of mangos and/or pineapple is the bright ying to the robust creamy peanut sauce’s yang. You can also serve fruit salad such as Summer Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, and Pina Colada Fruit Salad.
- Veggies. You can stir fry any veggies your heart desires from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc. You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies. You can also serve with roasted veggies such as Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Broccolini, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, or Roasted Squash.
- Salad. Peanut Butter Chicken is delectable with Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Turn Peanut Sauce Chicken into a feast with Asian appetizers such as Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, Pork Egg Rolls, Sesame Chicken Egg Rolls or Sweet and Sour Chicken Egg Rolls (my husband is obsessed with all three!), Crab Rangoons, Potstickers, Korean Meatballs or Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
CAN I FREEZE THAI PEANUT CHICKEN?
Yes! This Thai Peanut Chicken freezes very well:
- Let the Peanut Butter Chicken cool.
- Transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air.
- Label and freeze for 2 to 3 months.
- Defrost in the refrigerator before using.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE Peanut Butter Chicken Recipe
- Cast iron skillet: A quality cast iron skillet is a must in your cooking arsenal! It is perfect for searing and creating a deeply golden exterior on everything from roast, to pork to chicken and seamlessly transitions from the stove to the oven. I love my super high quality Staub and Le Creuset. You can also go with a more economical, trusty skillet like this one which also works very well.
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far! Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
LOOKING FOR MORE THAI RECIPES?
- Thai Peanut Dressing
- Thai Peanut Orange Chicken
- Thai Peanut Beef and Broccoli
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Thai Coconut Chicken Rice Soup
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