Thai Chicken Satay

6 people
12 hr 10 min

If you ever take a road trip in Thailand, you will quickly learn that gas stations there are very different from gas stations in the US. Aside from gas being more expensive and sold by the liter, gas stations in Thailand have a bunch of hawkers stands serving delicious, hot, and fresh food. My absolute favorite is gai yang (grilled chicken) and gai satay (chicken satay). They are usually served with a small bag of sticky rice, or in my case 4 bags because I can eat my weight in sticky rice.

This Thai chicken satay is high on the list of best dishes from my childhood. Summer was always the best time because I could smell this chicken being grilled from a mile away.

Prepping the Thai Chicken Satay

The common way to cook this chicken is to slide the chicken onto skewers and grill. You can go about this a variety of ways. You can use long or short skewers to grill, but also you can stick it under the broiler. Once we were camping and were hit with a downpour, so we ended up just pan-frying them. However way you want to cook it, you can’t go wrong. The marinade will taste delicious either way.

First, you’ll need to slice up your chicken. I like to butterfly the chicken thighs. To do this, flip the chicken so the shiny smooth side is facing down. With the knife parallel to the cutting board, slice the thicker parts of the chicken right down the middle, but stop before you’re about to slice the chunk off completely. This gives you an even foundation to cut the chicken into strips.

For the next steps of preparing the marinade, you’ll want a mortar and pestle. I know not many people have one of these laying around. If you don’t have one, just roughly chop your ingredients (in this case, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass) and add them to a blender. However, the act of pounding in the pestle releases the natural juices and oils inside of the ingredients and releases the flavor better. If you toast up the ingredients prior to pounding it makes them even better. Although this is what I do for curries, you do not have to do it for this recipe.

You will, however, be toasting the coriander seed. If you compare store-bought ground coriander and freshly ground toasted coriander seed, you will be amazed by the difference. Freshly toasted coriander has a beautiful floral, citrusy, nutty kind of smell. If you don’t have coriander seed you can just use 1 1/4 teaspoons of ground coriander.

A note on the skewers

If you will be grilling with skewers, soak them in water for 10-30 minutes prior to grilling to prevent them from catching fire and breaking.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

And finally, the peanut dipping sauce. This sauce is really easy to whip up. One of the ingredients it uses that may be hard to find (I couldn’t find it until I moved to Boston!) is chili paste. If you can’t find it, the sauce will still taste really good without it.

Looking for more Asian recipes?
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  • Chinese braised spare rib soup
  • Yellow curry noodle soup

Or see all savory Asian recipes here.

Recipe details

  • 6  people
  • Prep time: 12 Hours Cook time: 10 Minutes Total time: 12 hr 10 min
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  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed*, toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4" thick disc of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (just the base with the outer leaves removed, sliced into 1/2 inch long pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste (red or massaman)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste


Slice the chicken thighs into 1 inch by 2 inch strips.
In a skillet on medium heat, toast the coriander seed for about 8 minutes or until fragrant. Put the coriander seed in a mortar and pestle and crush into a powder.
Add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and pound until paste has formed. Add the paste to a blender along with the white pepper powder, sugar, turmeric powder, curry powder, coconut milk, and fish sauce. Blend until smooth. Taste and add salt if needed. It’s ok if it’s on the salty side. Place the sliced chicken and marinade in a bag. Marinade for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight. When ready to cook, put the chicken onto skewers. Grill on medium high heat or broil on high on the top rack of the oven until the thighs measure 180F.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

For the peanut sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve at room temperature.


  • Coriander seed: If you don’t have coriander seed, you can use 1 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander.

Elle Marcus
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