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noodles with vegetables and peanut sauce

Dinner 911: Easy Peanut Sauce Recipe Beats Takeout

I don’t know about your family, but in mine, everyone’s happiest with a build-it-yourself meal. When there are choices and everyone gets to “create” their own dinner composition.

And no one is forced to eat cooked carrots, heaven forbid!

All I have to do is provide the building blocks. That’s just one of the reasons this easy peanut sauce recipe is in my emergency dinner bag of tricks.

peanut sauce closeup with sesame seeds

Especially on a night like tonight when I have several writing deadlines, plus a night class for ski patrol and a new series of cooking workshops I’m launching this weekend at The Jennings Hotel in Joseph.

Yup, this is a dinner 911 situation!

So long as I take 10-minutes to make this peanut sauce, dinner’s going to happen, and then I breathe easier.

Peanut Sauce Possibilities

There are so many ways to go with a tasty, balanced (I have to leave out all spice for the kids, but you can make it four stars if you like) peanut sauce.

assembled plate of vegetables, noodles, peanut sauce

Our standard is a pot of boiled soba noodles (or, in a pinch, thin whole wheat spaghetti), steamed vegetables for us and raw for the kids (yes, this also doubles as a way to clean out the vegetable bins. Hello, broccoli stems!).

Add some fresh herbs, lettuce leaves and limes for garnish, plus the omitted sambal oelek for the grownups.

Sometimes, I include a protein, like broiled marinated tofu, leftover sliced beef, pork or chicken. But honestly, this is a meal that centers on the peanut sauce as the organizing principle and doesn’t demand much more than a vehicle for delivering it to your mouth.

peanut sauce noodles and chopsticks

Lettuce bundles of cooked ground pork, spring rolls, raw or steamed broccoli… It’s a treat drizzled over steamed rice for lunch, and I love to dip wedges of roasted sweet potatoes in this sauce, too.

Flavor & Texture Balancing

Peanut sauce is simple, but a good one hinges on balancing the flavors and offering a rich sauce that isn’t heavy. I find a lot of peanut sauces are too sweet and others are too thick.

peanut sauce overhead with chopsticks

This is rich, tangy and mildly sweet and you control the heat factor. It also has just enough body for dipping but also coats noodles without becoming leaden.

I can’t tell you how many evenings it’s saved me with the peace of mind that when the kids ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” I get all smiles and happy sounds in return.

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Easy Peanut Sauce

This peanut sauce recipe is one I've memorized to handle ordinary dinner emergencies. It's mild and kid-friendly. (I serve the spicy sauces at the table for parents!) It also works just as well with other nut butters for those who can't have peanuts for one reason or another.

Once you have it made, you can take dinner in so many different directions--from steamed vegetables to chicken skewers. Make a batch as a dip for your next party for spring rolls, grilled shrimp skewers or roasted sweet potato wedges.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 292 kcal
Author Lynne

Ingredients

  • 1-13.5- ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or almond or cashew butter
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or agave
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sambal oelek or another fresh chili paste optional
  • pinch salt optional

Instructions

  1. Scoop the coconut cream from the top of the can into a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook just until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  2. Add the peanut butter and whisk until it is melted and smooth. Add the fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, and brown sugar and whisk to blend. If using the sambal oelek, add the amount that suits your taste. 

  3. Allow the sauce to simmer and taste for a balance of acidity and sweetness. I find a pinch of salt pulls all the flavors together.

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes 2 cups peanut sauce. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Comments

  1. i normally make peanut sauce with just water and other ingredients but adding coconut milk sounds like a fabulous idea!!!

    1. I think you’ll find it to be extremely flavorful and smooth with the coconut milk. Plus, I don’t need to use very much peanut butter. I hope you’ll let me know how you like it, Dixya.

  2. Thank you for such a simple and easy to make sauce. Lately, I have been trying to make as many sauces at home as possible and this certainly helps. I think I’ve got Pesto right and hummus is usually good, so this will be a new challenge.

    1. What a great idea to nail down great sauces and accompaniments like hummus and pesto. It’s what the pros do! I hope you enjoy this peanut sauce, Raghav.

  3. Peanut sauce is one of my favorites and I make it at home often. Your recipe sounds great, always like to switch things up!

    1. I’d love to hear how this peanut sauce differs from yours, Erica. I love variety, too.

  4. We love Thai food and make a great deal of peanut sauce. Will have to give your version a shot! Sounds YUMMM!

    1. I can never get enough Thai food either, Jacquee. Hope you’ll let me know how you like this kid-friendly recipe.

  5. Love the look of this recipe Lynne. Yummy!

    1. Thanks, Fred. I saw that you made a peanut soup recently. Bet you’d like this, too!

  6. I totally agree. Making takeout food at home is ALWAYS better than buying. This sauce sounds delicious…and it one of our favourites.

    1. Thanks, Gloria.

  7. I love peanut sauce! I like to add a little spice to mine with sriracha!

    1. This is the kid-friendly version! Sriracha or sambal oelek provides parental control over the heat at the table.

  8. Those peanut sauce looks yum. Gotta try the recipe.

    1. Hope you do and let me know what you think, Aish.

  9. coco+peanut+ginger=JACKPOT!

    1. Winning formula right there 😉

  10. Peanut sauce in a salad? I NEED to try it really soon!

    1. This is really a dipping sauce for vegetables (cooked or raw) or a sauce for noodles (rice, buckwheat or wheat). Hope you try it, Ilaria. It’s addicting if you like Asian flavors.

  11. Peanut sauce is a fav in our house! Will have to try your recipe!

    1. Hope you try it and let me know what you think, Sarah.

  12. What a gorgeous sounding sauce! I’ll have to try this with my kids to see what they think. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Hope it gets the thumbs up from your kids, too. And the grownups as well.

  13. What a delicious sauce and I love how many foods it goes with. I fancy the noodles and steamed vegetables option, thanks for sharing.

    1. It’s a staple in our house, so I hope you give it a try.

  14. Nice sauce, I’d definitely have this with noodles!

    1. Thanks. It’s great when this sauce and noodles make a quick and simple meal!

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