Perfect Peanut Sauce

By Andrea Karim on 18 April 2007 (Updated 7 August 2012) 24 comments

I've been trying, almost unsuccessfully, to become a vegan again. It's difficult, especially when you are surrounded by carnivores. Especially dismissive carnivores. But I was vegan once before, and I'd like to try it again, since it was the only time in my life where I truly felt healthy and vibrant. I'm pretty sure that (along with exercise) veganism is the key to being a good diabetic, and to weight loss — at least for me.

One of the things I've noticed about veganism is the importance of getting enough fat in your diet. Oh, sure, there's the protein issue, but I eat lots of tofu and have never had a problem with anemia. Another problem for vegans, especially busy vegans who don't live on organic vegetable farms with their dreadlocked children and professional chef spouse, is making veggies taste really good, good enough to overpower the desire to give up and head to the nearest fast food chain. (See also: 25 Frugal Items for Your Organic Vegan Grocery List)

You can only sautee some kale in olive oil and garlic so many times before you want to scream.

But without fat, you can stuff your face with broccoli until the cows come home, and you'll still be hungry. In fact, you might start eyeing the cows with newfound enthusiasm.

Behold peanut sauce! One of my new tactics is to whip up a bunch of kick-ass vegan sauces that I can just throw on top of whatever it is that I'm planning on eating. I'll be publishing others over the next few weeks. None of the recipes will be limited to vegans, of course. They taste great on fish and chicken, or even other meats. You can throw them on at the last minute, or add broth and stew all kinds of things in them.

Note: People with peanut allergies can substitute other nut butters, or soy butter, in place of the peanut butter.

Perfect Peanut Sauce

My first recipe comes from Cooking with Amy. It's my favorite one, and so easy to make. It's what I use for dipping vegan spring rolls.

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (natural, no sugar added kind)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (lite is fine, if you prefer or substitute water)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • red chili flake to taste
  • chili garlic sauce to taste or 1 clove crushed garlic

Optional

  • sesame oil
  • curry paste
  • grated ginger
  • shallots sauteed till brown in oil
  • Worcestershire sauce (Raedia's idea)* Editor's update - Worcestershire sauce is not vegan

Combine all ingredients with a whisk in a small bowl, adding the water last. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Experiment with this sauce adding a teaspoon at a time of one the optional additions and tasting as you go. Serve hot or cold.

Thai Peanut Sauce

AllRecipes.com offers this great recipe for Thai peanut sauce, which I like best with tofu. I LOVE the cilantro in it.

  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, ginger, and garlic. Mix in the cilantro just before serving.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Indonesian Peanut Sauce

About.com offers this recipe for Indonesian peanut sauce. It's a little tangier, and perfect over salads (like Indonesian specialty salad gado gado — and yes, I know that gado gado isn't technically vegan, but it's close enough for this post). It's a little more labor-intensive, but lip-smackingly good!

Yield: 1 cup

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 12 chiles de arbol or chiles Japones, softened in hot water, dried, seeded, and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced galangal or ginger
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers and green parts removed, minced (1/4 cup)
  • 2 shallots, minced (1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon red miso
  • 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup tamarind juice

Pound the salt and garlic in a mortar with a pestle into a fine paste. Add the chiles and pound to a puree. One at a time, add the galangal, lemongrass, shallots, and red miso, in sequence, adding each one only after the previous ingredient has been completely pureed and incorporated into the paste. Transfer to a bowl or to a glass jar with a right-fitting lid. Refrigerated, the seasoning paste will keep for a month.

Or, if using a blender, add all the above ingredients plus the vegetable oil and puree.

Saute the chile paste in the oil (or the chile paste-oil mixture) in a saucepan over mediium-high heat until it exudes a pleasant aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat and add the sugar, peanut butter, coconut cream and tamarind juice. Stir to mix, and heat until the mixture boils and thickens, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving. Stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator, the sauce will keep for a couple of weeks. If it congeals and thickens, dilute with 2 to 3 tablespoons water and cook over low heat in a saucepan, stirring until smooth.

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Guest's picture
Zachary

I love Peanut Sauce. Thanks for these recipes!

Guest's picture
Guest

Where did you find vegan hard-boiled eggs???

Andrea Karim's picture

People who read the actual blog post will note that the recipes are for peanut sauce, not for gado gado (Indonesian salad with eggs). Gado gado is mentioned in the story, and the non-vegan aspect of it is mentioned. Gado Gado is merely one item that you can slather peanut sauce on top of.

Like, duh.

Guest's picture

Interesting and different.
Thanks.

Paul Michael's picture

My wife recently became vegetarian after visiting goveg.com, which is a very powerful site. And after reading Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma, I feel I will be joining her soon enough. Although I still can't resist a good burger or chicken burrito. Shame on me.

Fitch Hurst's picture

Don't forget that that optional Worcestershire sauce is probably made with anchovies-- decidedly not vegan! I can't find veggie Worcestershire sauce anywhere 'round here in Seattle. Have you?

I can't wait to make Peanut Sauce. 

Guest's picture
veggie and happy

hey there is actually a veg worcestershire sauce. Annies makes it and it's delicious, i use it a lot for making bloody marys! it's a great substitute. you can find it at most health food stores and now usually anywhere that carrys Annies dressing will carry the vegetarian Worcestershire. good luck! and enjoy.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks for pointing that out, Fitch. I don't use the optional ingredients, but I'll add a note.

Paul - It can be a tough transition. But I think you're probably better off if you are at least a part-time vegetarian. Assuming no tainted spinach is consumed or anything. :) I have to go fully vegan or I will end up replacing all of the meat I used to eat with cheese.

Guest's picture
David Scorca

The 'thai peanut sauce' is very good, but it's really heavy. I think next time I make it I'll swap the coconut milk and peanut butter proportions. And definitely use light milk. Tasty stuff.

Guest's picture
Alexis

The recipe is great. I just became a vegetairan last new years as a resolution, and I'm still trying to figure my way around it. I made a little more sauce than I needed for the recipe and I am just wondering how long will it keep for in the fridge, and does it have to be in an air-tight container, or will a small bowl with seran wrap do?

Andrea Karim's picture

I made a big batch of sauce and kept it for two weeks. After that, I didn't want to risk it. :)

Guest's picture
Rogan

I wanted to make the Indonesian version, but I didn't have all the ingredients on hand (no miso, my tamarind paste was moldy). I substituted soy sauce for miso+salt, and I threw in a little more than 1 tablespoon sumac + ~2 tsp lemon juice for the tamarind. I also threw in about 5 green cardamom pods on a whim, and used closer to 3/4 or 1 cup 'lite' coconut milk (rather than cream) and a little over 1/3 a cup of peanut butter, with extra garlic and ginger. I watered it down a bit, then cooked up a bunch of tofu (and chicken, def. not vegan, but not necessary) in it, then poured it over freshly chopped cabbage in bowls, garnished with coriander/cilantro and lime. Totally dope, and hella spicy. Next time I may add spinach or broccoli.

Guest's picture
Guest

I think Annies Natural Worcestershire Sauce is vegan it says vegetarian on the bottle but I can't see anything in it to say its not vegan too. I get it at whole foods here in san francisco. Its ever so nice tasting. Oh yes. Smashing it is.

Guest's picture

I love making the first sauce! I add a little extra brown sugar and it comes out great. I serve it over rice noodles. I might have to try the other two at some point.

Guest's picture
shyspy

Fish sauce is definitely NOT vegan.

Guest's picture
veggie and happy

for most recipes that call for fish sauce you can substitute any wheat free soy sauce and the outcome will be pretty close to the same, you can also add some seaweed if you prefer a fishy flavor without any fish!

Guest's picture
Guest

If you're going to suggest seaweed, you shouldn't leave it so open.
There are tons of kinds, and with plenty of different flavors. :/

Guest's picture
oyun

Annies makes it and it's delicious, i use it a lot for making bloody marys! it's a great substitute. you can find it at most health food stores and now usually anywhere that carrys Annies dressing will carry the vegetarian Worcestershire. good luck! and enjoy.

Guest's picture
wakes

I've added shredded fresh coriander a minute or so to the hot sauce before serving which works well, but sometimes it's a bit too much, and some people don't like it. Instead some freshly chopped basil works really good (about 2t but to your taste).

As a marinade for e.g. tofu or chicken (sorry!) I just use turmeric, sesame oil and soy sauce to get it into a mix. This works great to add that 'something different' to the taste.

Guest's picture
Medyum

Annies makes it and it's delicious, i use it a lot for making bloody marys! it's a great substitute. you can find it at most health food stores and now usually anywhere that carrys Annies dressing will carry the vegetarian Worcestershire. good luck! and enjoy.

Guest's picture
kral oyun

Annies makes it and it's delicious, i use it a lot for making bloody marys! it's a great substitute. you can find it at most health food stores and now usually anywhere that carrys Annies dressing will carry the vegetarian Worcestershire. good luck! and enjoy.

Guest's picture
Correen

Mmm! Tried and tweaked to our taste the Perfect Peanut Sauce with dinner last night...Jasmine rice topped with stir fried shrimp and veggies and a garnish of basil, limes and a drizzle of peanut sauce. This recipe is a keeper for sure!

Guest's picture
Glory

Love these peanut sauce recipes. I use the Indonesian one and tweak it by adding fish sauce and lime juice for a thai/indo combo sauce it is my favorite. I sometimes make baked fries and dip them in it and pretend I am in Amsterdam eating Dutch fries!

Guest's picture
Linzeye

Hey all,

I am living in indonesia at the moment and we all deep fry out peanuts on a *low heat* until golden (with chilli, lesser galangal and garlic slices) until brown. (about 7 mins ish). If you can get it, use coconut oil because it is amazing. Do that instead of using peanut butter and you will taste heaven! :)

Good Luck,

Linzeye