Peanut Sauce: The South Asian Satay Sauce

Peanut sauce history

Peanut sauce is also known as satay sauce and is most often associated with Thai cooking, at least in the West. Peanut sauce and variants of the satay dish are found throughout South Asian cuisine. Indonesian and Malay cuisine both include versions of it and peanut sauce.

Traditional peanut sauce is made from roasted or fried ground peanuts, not with peanut butter. This is unlike the Western versions that use peanut butter as a substitute. Ground peanuts allow for a better melding of the peanut flavor with the sauce’s other flavors.

Peanuts are from the Americas. More specifically, they are believed to come from the area comprising what is now northern Argentina and Southern Bolivia. They were introduced to the rest of the world by Spaniards who took the legume to Africa and Asia.

There are various origin stories for the satay dish, which is so closely connected to peanut sauce. One story is that it came from Malay and Javanese vendors who were inspired by Arab kebabs.

Peanut sauce flavor profile

Peanut sauce’s flavor varies depending on where it is made. Ingredients in the Thai version of the sauce are different from those in the Malay and Indonesian ones. In all the sauces, the main flavor element will be nuttiness from the roasted or fried peanuts they contain. Along with the nutty flavor, the sauce may be tangy or slightly sweet because of ingredients like tamarind and sugar. Chili peppers will make it somewhat spicy.

Peanut sauce health benefits

Because peanuts are highly nutritious, peanut sauce does contain a high number of beneficial compounds even though the other ingredients will differ depending on the version. You will get a significant portion of your daily nutrition from nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Peanut sauce is a good source of multiple vitamins including vitamin A and several B vitamins like niacin and thiamin. You can also get vitamin E and a small amount of vitamin C from it.
  • Minerals: Like peanuts, peanut sauce contains high concentrations of certain minerals like manganese, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Fiber: Peanut sauce can contain a significant portion of your recommended daily fiber per serving. This is especially noteworthy since the serving size is relatively small.
  • Protein: The peanuts in peanut sauce make it an especially good source of protein. You can get much of your daily protein from a single serving.

By making peanut sauce a regular part of your diet, you may be able to prevent or treat health problems like:

  • Gallstones: There is evidence that consistently eating peanuts like those used to make peanut sauce can lower your gallstone risk.
  • Heart disease: Peanut sauce may help to reduce the risk of heart disease because the peanuts contain heart-healthy nutrients like magnesium and niacin.

Health concerns

Peanut sauce does come with a few significant health concerns that include its sodium content. The high sodium in peanut sauce may cause or exacerbate high blood pressure. Peanut sauce does come with a significant caloric load so you may need to limit your consumption if you are trying to lose weight. Also important is the fact that peanuts are a food allergen for many people and the allergy is often life-threatening.

Common uses

The traditional way to use peanut sauce is as a basting sauce and/or condiment for pork, chicken, or goat satays depending on where you are in South Asia. Other uses for it include as a dipping sauce for vegetables or fried tofu and as a salad dressing.