If you are like me, you think peanut sauce makes everything better. When I eat spring rolls, I likely consume more peanut sauce than the then spring rolls themselves. I just can’t stop dipping my chicken satay into my peanut sauce! Normally I frown upon double dipping, but I can’t help myself when it comes to peanut sauce.
Food that isn’t even intended to be served with peanut sauce somehow feels perfectly acceptable to be dowsed with a heathy heap of peanut sauce, aka every single Thai dish on the menu. This time of year, pretty much everything that has been cooked on the grill: steak, salmon, mushrooms, heck even corn on the cob tastes great with a little peanut sauce.
There are a million styles of peanut sauce out there, but my very first exposure to peanut sauce was at Charlie's Grill in Cardiff by the Sea, California. I went to work at Charlie’s in 1987, specifically because I had heard there was a female chef there, Debra Carr. I had never worked with a female chef and was eager for that experience. Debra was creative, detailed and even tempered… she brought calm to the kitchen, and I loved it. Several of her recipes I still consider some of my favorites, hearts of palm and hazelnut salad (they still serve a version of this salad at our sister restaurant in Del Mar, CA, Jakes). Jake's Del Mar also has sugar-cured ahi tuna and spicy Hunan peanut sauce, which we served with grilled fish.
It saddens me that I don’t have the actual recipe from Debra, but I have come up with my own version that I feel is a really accurate interpretation. The secret weapon is Hoisin sauce, most recipes for peanut sauce are rather simple but I love this version, chock full of spice, texture and flavors! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Hunan-Style Peanut Sauce
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 2 cups
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 clove garlic
2 green onions, cut into pieces (separate green and white part)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (Note: Basil or mint can be swapped out for the cilantro)
1 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (you can use creamy in a pinch)
3 Tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon sambal oelek
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1/2 to 1/3 cup water
Step 1: Chop the ingredients
I like to do this in the food processor, but you can do it by hand as well. In the food processor, add the garlic clove first and pulse till chopped. Next add the green onion and cilantro and pulse until chopped.
If doing this by hand, finely mince the garlic, green onions and cilantro.
*If using a food processor you should chop garlic first so it chops properly. Once any liquid is introduced, garlic will have a hard time mincing. The green onion and cilantro are added next and before remaining ingredients for the same reason. The cilantro and onion have more moisture so the garlic chops better before you add them, the cilantro and green onion chop better before you add the remaining ingredients.
Step 2: Mix in remaining ingredients
Put all remaining ingredients into the food processor except for the water and pulse until well combined.
Next add the water, thinning to your taste… about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup is generally what I add.
I like to put my peanut sauce in a clean and sanitized mason jar. It will keep for weeks if I don’t eat the whole jar!
If you are looking for more fun summer sauces, check out our upcoming Virtual Cool Summer Sauces class on Saturday, July 23 at 2pm CST. You'll learn how to make a slew of little to no-cook sauces that won't heat up your kitchen this summer:
- Chimichurri (Fresh Herb and Garlic)
- Raita (Cool-Spiced Cucumber and Yogurt)
- Green and Black Olive Tapenade
- Romesco (Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato)
- Mango, Jalapeño and Avocado Salsa