This easy Thai chicken satay has become my family’s most requested meal. The 6-ingredient chicken marinade, which requires no chopping, comes together in a snap. The chicken can be sliced and marinated 48 hours or more in advance, so don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time. I always serve it with coconut rice, which my children devour.

A plate of easy Thai chicken satay.

A few months ago, I discovered my children love Thai food. If you are wondering: How could children not love Thai food? Chicken on a stick! Dumplings! Rice! Noodles! Peanut sauce! What’s not to love?

I hear you.

But if I know anything it’s that you never know with these fickle little beings, and this recent discovery is a welcomed one. Dining out with four little ones is about as much fun as it sounds, but knowing the food will not be a challenge — knowing I can relish a spicy green papaya salad while the children jump from one platter to the next — changes everything.

A night at Celadon, newly opened just down the road, leaves us all incredibly happy.

Celadon’s Thai chicken satay in particular is what my children devour about as quickly as it arrives on the table. After a few visits, I set out to recreate the satay at home, consulting a few recipes, which ran the gamut from including Thai red curry paste and coconut milk in the marinade to excluding both, opting for dried spices and aromatics instead.

The recipe below is the result of several experiments, and it has become one of my children’s most-requested meals. Here are the details:

Easy Thai Chicken Satay

Thought process:

  • To keep the marinade simple, I omitted aromatics. There’s no garlic, ginger, lemongrass, etc. here. Mentally knowing I don’t need to chop anything for the marinade makes it feel doable any night of the week.
  • To keep it geared toward children, I omitted spicy pastes and sauces.

What I included:

  • Brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, coconut milk, turmeric, and curry powder. It’s a little sweet, a little salty, and it’s got warm spice without heat. It comes together in a snap.
  • Coconut rice goes nicely with satay, and I now always make the two together to make the most of that one can of unsweetened coconut milk: 3/4 cup of it goes into the rice; the remainder goes into the marinade.

A few tips:

  • Thinly sliced chicken breasts. Celadon uses chicken breasts that are sliced thinly and threaded onto skewers (as opposed to using cubed meat), so I’ve done the same here. What I love about using the thinly sliced breasts is that they cook incredibly quickly on the stovetop. So while threading the breasts onto skewers may feel a bit too much like hard work on a Tuesday night, know that the chicken will cook in about 4 minutes total. (30-second slicing video included below.)
  • Skewers. I have no doubt that part of the appeal of this chicken for children is that it arrives on a stick. Small 6-inch skewers are key for ensuring the stovetop cooking process is as painless as possible — larger ones won’t fit into the pan. If you only have large ones, break them.
  • Medium-high heat. The first time I made the chicken, I made the mistake of using a screaming hot pan to get that char I love so much. But children (mine at least) don’t love char. There is no need to get your pans smoking hot here. Medium to medium-high heat should cook the chicken quickly without caramelizing it too much.
  • Peanut sauce: Where is it? Shockingly, my kids don’t eat the peanut sauce with the satay. At first I found myself pushing it on them, and then I thought: what am I doing? If they eat the chicken without it, that’s one less thing to worry about. If you, however, are looking to serve this satay with a peanut sauce, this one is excellent: All-Purpose Thai Peanut Sauce. 

Final note:

This recipe was designed with children in mind, but this is a meal the whole family can enjoy. You can always make it spicier by squirting some Sriracha or other prepared hot sauce over the cooked chicken or into the peanut sauce. I made this recently for a dear friend and her four children, and my friend took one bite and said: Al, you should put this on your blog. Music to my ears.

A bowl of coconut rice.

How to Make Perfect Coconut Rice

  1. Use white Basmati rice or Jasmine rice.
  2. Rinse the rice. Rinsing rice is one of my least favorite kitchen tasks, but more and more, I find it makes a difference. To rinse rice: place it in a large bowl, fill it with cold water, swoosh the rice around a little bit; then tip the bowl to dump out the cloudy water. Repeat this process 3 to 4 more times.
  3. Use a ratio of 1 part liquid to 1 part rice, and with the liquid use a ratio of 3 parts coconut milk to 1 part water. So, for this recipe, for 1 cup of rice, I use 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup water. For 2 cups of rice, use 1 1/2 cups coconut milk and 1/2 cup water.
  4. Cook the rice covered over low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and do not remove the lid for at least 10 minutes. Then, uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

Here’s the play-by-play: Stir together the satay marinade.

A large bowl filled with the easy Thai chicken satay marinade ingredients.

3/4 cup of the unsweetened coconut milk goes with the rice; the remainder goes into the marinade.

The ingredients for the coconut rice and easy Thai chicken satay marinade on a counter.

On the left: coconut rice ready to go. One the right: Thai satay marinade ready to go.

A pot of uncooked coconut rice beside a bowl of easy Thai chicken satay marinade.

Thinly sliced chicken breasts.

A board of thinly sliced chicken breast.

30-second slicing video:


Marinating chicken breasts. (This 4-qt Pyrex bowl with lid is so handy for marinating.)

A bowl of thinly sliced chicken breast marinating in easy Thai chicken satay marinade.

Skewered chicken breasts. These skewers are great.

A square glass pan holding skewers of easy Thai chicken satay.

Cooking the Thai chicken satay.

Two cast iron skillets on a stovetop cooking easy Thai chicken satay.

Cooked Thai chicken satay; cooked coconut rice.

A plate of easy Thai chicken satay aside a pot of coconut rice.

Thai chicken satay ready to be served.

Easy Thai chicken satay skewers on a plate.

Happy eater.

Tig, my daughter, eating her Thai chicken satay and coconut rice.

Happy mother.

Four empty plates of easy Thai chicken satay with coconut rice.

Perfect coconut rice: it’s a beautiful thing.

Coconut rice in a pot.
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A plate of easy Thai chicken satay.

Easy Thai Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice


  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 generously
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Description

A Few Notes:

  • This marinade yields enough for 4 chicken breasts. I always use 2, but don’t be afraid to slice up 4.
  • 6-inch skewers make the cooking process painless — large skewers won’t fit into the pan, and they’ll burn if propped against the edge of the pan for too long. If you only have large skewers, break them.
  • To rinse rice: place it in a large bowl, fill it with cold water, swoosh the rice around a little bit; then tip the bowl to dump out the cloudy water. Repeat this process 3 to 4 more times. You don’t have to rinse it until the water runs clear, but rinsing 4 to 5 times will make a difference. Drain the rice by placing it in a fine-meshed colander, and letting it hang over a bowl for a few minutes to allow the excess water to drain out. 

Ingredients

For the satay marinade:

  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (you’ll use some for the rice — if you’re not making the rice, use about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder, such as Madras
  • 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, very thinly sliced, see video below
  • grapeseed oil or other neutral oil for cooking the chicken

For the coconut rice:

  • 1 cup white basmati rice, rinsed and drained, see notes above
  • 3/4 cup well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken. Open the can of coconut milk and stir it well. Measure 3/4 cup and set it aside for the rice. Dump the remaining coconut milk (it’s about 3/4 cup)  into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, turmeric, and curry powder. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for at least an hour and up to 24 hours (or longer).
  2. Get the rice ready: Combine the rinsed and drained rice, 3/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir. You can mix this several hours before cooking just to get it out of the way. When ready to cook: bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn heat to low. Cover. Cook 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Don’t uncover for at least 10 more minutes.
  3. Cook the chicken. Thread the chicken breasts onto small (6-inch) skewers. Heat one or two large skillets over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil (or so) into each skillet. Add the skewers, alternating them head to toe to fit as many as possible into the pan at one time. Cook for about a minute a side — if you cut them more thickly than I have here, you may need to cook them a little bit longer. Transfer skewers to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  4. Serve with rice on the side.
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai

Keywords: easy, Thai, chicken, satay, skewers, stovetop, coconut, rice, brown, sugar, fish, sauce, turmeric