Easy Thai Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice
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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 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
- 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.
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.
How to Make Perfect Coconut Rice
- Use white Basmati rice or Jasmine rice.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
3/4 cup of the unsweetened coconut milk goes with the rice; the remainder goes into the marinade.
On the left: coconut rice ready to go. One the right: Thai satay marinade ready to go.
Thinly sliced chicken breasts.
30-second slicing video:
Marinating chicken breasts. (This 4-qt Pyrex bowl with lid is so handy for marinating.)
Skewered chicken breasts. These skewers are great.
Cooking the Thai chicken satay.
Cooked Thai chicken satay; cooked coconut rice.
Thai chicken satay ready to be served.
Perfect coconut rice: it’s a beautiful thing.Print
Easy Thai Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 generously
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.
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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve with rice on the side.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Thai
Keywords: easy, Thai, chicken, satay, skewers, stovetop, coconut, rice, brown, sugar, fish, sauce, turmeric
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
61 Comments on “Easy Thai Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice”
It’s like we have dinner esp….did a version of this, coconut rice included, with salmon just last night. The rice was about all my child wanted to eat. Maybe putting the meat on a stick is the trick.
PS, where did you get that very bueno little whisk?
Hey hey! Salmon is hit or miss with my kiddos, too, but now you’re inspiring me to marinade salmon in the same sauce and give it a whirl … I’ll report back. I think meat on the stick is 99% of the appeal 🙂 The whisk: Amazon! Hope you are well! Great to hear from you.
Julia Turshen has an awesome salmon recipe in her book Small Victories. The salmon gets cubed, marinaded with a soy sauce/maple syrup mixture (plus some other simple ingredients) and then quickly roasted in the oven. It’s super easy and my usually-not-fish-eating children really like it.
I really like your recipes, thanks a lot, I’ll surely also try this one.
ohhh I’ll have to check that out! I love Small Victories, but that one has somehow escaped me. So looking forward to trying it!
I can’t wait to make this! I had extra chicken in the fridge, so sliced it your way and stuck it in the freezer for next week. Question – I make your coconut rice all the time, but prefer light coconut milk (it’s just less heavy feeling/tasting) – could I use light coconut milk for the marinade too? Thanks!
Smart! I try (though I’m not always successful) to slice up the chicken right when I get it home, which just eliminates one step but somehow makes this feel 100% easier to get on the table. The marinade is so fast. Hope you like it!
And yes: absolutely re light coconut milk in the marinade.
thank you! Do you use more coconut milk with the rice when using 1/2 cup water, or the same? THANKS!
Adding this to my meal plan next week! Your recipes are always our favorites- I cannot tell you how many times I’ve made your Dragons Love Tacos tacos! As a novice, I really appreciate the quick how to slice the chicken breast video, thank you!!:)
Oh Becca, this makes me so happy! Those tacos are still a staple here as well. Glad the video was helpful. It really makes a difference if you slice the chicken thinly — last night when I cooked up the skewers for my kids, they literally cooked in less than a minute a side, which is so nice when there are hungry beings around the table. Hope you like this one!
Is there a simple way to use this recipe WITHOUT the slicing and skewering? I don’t have little kids anymore, and I hate slicing, etc., so I’m wondering if you have advice for using chunks or whole pieces?
Sure! You could cube the chicken and cook the pieces (depending on the size) for 3 to 4 minutes a side. Are you more of a breast than a thigh fan? If you are not opposed to thighs, I think boneless skinless thighs would do well here — cubing them as opposed to cooking them whole will ensure they cook quickly.
Thank you for the reply!
Well, I love the fact you skipped the aromatics – I confess that even though I don’ t have children around, cooking dinner after work is not always easy – your simple marinade is definitely full of flavor and so easy
I am saving this to my near future – I am actually grilling chicken breasts tonight – very thinly pounded, I left marinading the whole day – if I had seen this post earlier I would have used your recipe.
but, that’s why life is interesting – there is always a next time peeking at us!
Why is slicing garlic or ginger at the end of the day sometimes just too much? And you are smart to have your chicken marinading all day … that has been another revelation with this recipe. Sometimes I don’t cook all the meat on one day, and it makes the following night soooo easy. I hope you like this one!
This recipe looks great but we cannot stand fish sauce. Can I just leave it out or can you recommend a substitute?
Hi Mary! I just did some googling and found a number of ideas, though I can’t vouch for any of them. Some suggest Worcestershire, others suggest more complicated homemade mushroom-seaweed broths. I might suggest doing another tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice … it won’t replicate the fish sauce taste but you’ll get some more salty/sour notes. Hope that helps!
I made this yesterday for myself and husband. I did substitute thai red chilly paste for the curry as I did not have any curry powder. It was easy and will definitely make it again. I actually had chicken tenders which I just cut up in thin strips using my kitchen scissors. I made the rice with 1 C of coconut milk and 1/2 C of water. I served this with steamed broccoli. Excellent and quick dinner…have already replenished my pantry for next time and yes, now I have the madras curry. I skipped the skewers!
*chili paste, not chilly paste….oops.
Karen, so happy to hear this! Thanks so much for writing. Glad you could make it work with chili paste … I feel I should make a note, in fact, so that others, who may want the heat, won’t be deterred. Glad the whole dinner worked out!
thanks for this tip, karen. i used 1 cup of coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water, too, and it came out perfectly.
Another great recipe! We love Thai food, but it’s not so easy to find in the middle of the Adirondack Park. This recipe does the trick, and covers the range from non-adventurous eaters to those of us who love satay. Thanks Ali!
So happy to hear this, Tina!
Round 2 of these delightful sticks had my children swooning tonight. “Mom we should pick one night a week and eat these on that day every week.” “Mom you nailed it.” They were acting about these things like they were brownies! Never seen anything like it. They of course don’t know there’s fish sauce – they told me they like the flavor and the “cooking method.” 5/5 for kids and adults alike. Oh and we cooked 2.5 lbs of chicken and doubled the marinade. Not a piece remained.
Bates! Nothing could make me happier. Love that the “cooking method” got the thumbs up 🙂 🙂 🙂 xoxo
Gobbled up by my kids and husband, who quickly said “Is there more?” Came together very quickly, with simple ingredients and very easy to prep ahead. Total winner for a weeknight meal.
So happy to hear this Liane 🙂 🙂 🙂
This is really good. Made the chicken, rice, and your Thai satay chopped salad. YUM!
Oh fun! Love that menu. Happy it all turned out well. xoxo
This was a delicious meal that received accolades from all four kids and husband alike! Served it with the easy cucumber salad! 10/10
Wonderful to hear this, Antonia! Sounds like a great combo.
Hi! Just saw your piece on Motherly’s live today and putting this on the dinner list – you were great! Could I use a rice maker for the coconut rice instead of doing it over the stovetop? Thanks!
Hi Danielle! Thanks so much … means a lot 🙂 🙂 🙂 I don’t have a rice cooker, but I have an instant pot, and I have made this in the instant pot: high pressure for 4 minutes, release the pressure manually. I hope that might offer some guidance. I am sure a rice cooker would cook the rice beautifully, but I’m just not sure how to advise regarding timing.
Thank you! Didn’t even think about the Instant Pot, but I will try it – much faster 😊.
Wonderful, good luck!
Wonderful live cast, Ali! My kidlet is grown but my husband and I love satay! I prepared cubed rice and thinned peanut sauce to go along side as well as a kani salad with thin strips of cucumbers, apples, and crabmeat tossed in a ginger marinate. Lovely meal.
Oh Hillary, this all sounds amazing. I love peanut sauce and can’t wait till my children do, too. Your kani salad sounds amazing!!
An easier, quicker way of rinsing rice is to put it in a fine mesh sieve and run it under cold water for 2 minutes. Shake it around as it rinses. If you don’t have the faucet on full blast it doesn’t use that much water. I kept losing rice when I drained the bowl and was using a sieve anyway to catch it. And you are right, the water doesn’t have to run perfectly clear for the rice to come out well.
I’m looking forward to trying this recipe, it looks delicious.
Thank you for this, Ryan! I will give that a try next time around. Hope you love the rice!
first off, thanks for this wonderful rice recipe, ali.
secondly, i tried ryan’s method and it worked so well.
So great to hear this, Jude!!
Delightful! A crowd favourite! I had no real curry powder, so used garam masala. Marinated for just an hour. Served with roasted cauliflower and the coconut rice. Smothered everything in a quick peanut sauce: leftover marinade (I swear I boiled it for a loooong time!) plus water, peanut butter, soy sauce and brown sugar. Next time (which will be soon, based on family feedback) I might try thighs with a longer marinade, otherwise wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you so much for this simple, quick, yummy recipe!
Forgot to leave my 5-star rating!
Thank you, Kristin! So nice to hear this. I LOVE that you re-purposed the leftover marinade, because it always feels like a waste to toss it. And I totally hear you on thighs. I’m generally a thigh gal, but the littles in my house are more drawn to breasts right now. I think thighs will be delicious! Thanks for writing 🙂
I read you comments about washing wash and thought you have to get an “Inomata Japanese Rice Washing Bowl”. Rice being a staple in our family we cook rice daily.
It’s basically a plastic 2-4 quart container with a slotted cut out area at the top to pour out the water. You would not lose a grain of rice. I would love to send you one as a thank you for all the wonderful recipes and videos. If you don’t mind sending me your address. Otherwise I notice they are also available on line at Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Milk Street and most Japanese grocery stores like Marukai or Mitsuwa.
Oh my goodness, Brenda, you are the sweetest! I will order one, but I so appreciate your offer, and I so appreciate you sharing all of this. I feel like since I learned to cook rice properly, my kids can’t get enough of it, and I know I’d get great use out of the rice washing bowl. Thank you! Ordering one now 🙂
I wasn’t expecting this to have so much flavor after all you said you took out, but it was fantastic! This is a keeper for sure. My kids loved it!
So great to hear this, Erika! Nothing better than getting kid approval 🙂 🙂 🙂
Delicious! The rice was especially wonderful. I’m curious that you replied to Sally T. that you made it with a cup of water. The recipe calls for 1/4 c. water so I’m confused. Anyway, we loved both the chicken and rice. So nice to have recipes that use up the whole can of coconut milk. Next time, I’ll freeze the chicken for ten minutes to make slicing easier. Wondering if the pieces could be threaded immediately and the marinade poured over the skewers in a baking dish? Might try that too. Yummy!
So nice to hear this, Leslie! And that comment is old … I will edit it so as to not confuse other people. Getting the proportions/timing/technique for the coconut rice is a recent development 🙂
Absolutely re pouring the marinade over the skewered chicken. Keep in mind it will make the handles a little messy, but if that doesn’t bother you, then go for. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do this!!
Finally! A chicken satay recipe that is great! I’ve tried so many over the years to much frustration. The only thing I changed was adding some garlic and ginger puree…I keep jars from the Indian store to make cooking anything a flash for a family of 6. I put sliced zucchini in the leftover marinade after threading the chicken on metal skewers and grilled the zucchini and chicken. Thank you! We’ll be making this often also.
Oh yay! Nisha, I love this. I made this last night, too 🙂 My kiddos just love it. LOVE your zucchini idea. Will definitely try that. It does always seem like such a shame to toss all the leftover marinade. And smart re garlic and ginger purée. So good. Thanks for writing!
We used 2 cups of basmati rice with the coconut milk and water ratio you recommended. The rice was raw when we took off the lid, unfortunately. I think it needed much more water. When we cook rice without coconut milk, we usually use a higher liquid-to-rice ratio.
Oh darn, sorry to hear this! I have successfully doubled the recipe, but I will make a note that times will vary. Did you rinse your rice?
Yes, we always rinse rice. We eat a lot of it with Persian and Indian food!
Could you post a video of threading the chicken onto the skewers? With such thin slices I’m having difficulty, so any tips are appreciated. Thanks.
Hi Alyssa! I will try to at some point soon … in the meantime, you kind of want to thread the skewers through the meat like a needle through thread.
Yes to the skewers! This recipe was such an AMAZING hit with the kiddos – my 5 year old devoured the lot! And it has been renamed as ‘Sunshine Chicken’ – due to the sunny yellow colour from the tumeric (and I’m sure yesterday’s weather – sunny and plus temps!)
Yay 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Nothing makes me happier than when the little ones are happy. Thanks for writing!
I made this for dinner with SK’s new “poolside slaw” recipe – a match made in heaven! I have to admit, I am irrationally against skewering things – “why skewer something just to un-skewer it!” (My husband always laughs at me because I feel so strongly about it haha!) I think I’m just a supremely lazy cook. Or maybe just hungry 😉. But, what I do is lay all of the chicken pieces out on a stainless rack set on top of a cookie sheet and give them a quick broil. These cook in a snap and we just love them!
I totally hear you re skewering … it’s such a pain!!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Love your technique, which I will absolutely try. And I must try that slaw ASAP. Hope all is well! xo