daring cooks | nut butters + chicken in peanut sauce

July 17, 2010

Filed Under : main courses

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

chicken in thai peanut sauce © karacooks.com

Much to my embarrassment, I missed the posting deadline for my very first challenge with the Daring Cooks.  This post should have been posted on the 14th, but I hadn’t even begun to process the photos.  I can only plead a very busy and stressful month and promise that I’ll be on time next month! So onward.

The challenge was to create a homemade nut butter and then to use that nut butter in a savory (not sweet) recipe.  It’s easy to create desserts and treats with peanut butter or almond butter or hazelnut butter (Nutella, anyone?).  It’s much more difficult to create a savory recipe – at least for our Western culture.   Asian and African cuisine has made use of peanuts and nuts as part of savory dishes and sauces for years.  The Daring Cooks provided several recipes to use, but also gave us leave to interpret them as we wished – or even to pull in other recipes as long as they fit the spirit of the challenge.  I made all but one of the “official” recipes and will be posting those over the next few weeks.  But the one that I loved the most and received the most raves in my house was the one that I created based on a recipe I found in an old cookbook of my mom’s from Singapore.  The MPH Cookbook is impossible to find now but it was my mom’s staple cookbook when she was learning to cook Asian/Indian dishes.

So without further introduction here is my version of Chicken in Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce, heavily adapted from the MPH Cookbook.  (a printable recipe and nutrition info are at the bottom of the post)

The Process – Part 1

The first part of the process was making the peanut butter that I used in the recipe.  It was so incredibly simple – much easier than I ever imagined and I don’t know why I haven’t made my own peanut butter before.

A jar of plain roasted peanuts , emptied into the bowl of my food processor.  Process for 5-6 mins.  That’s it.   Simple, huh?Making Peanut Butter © karacooks.com

All of which gets you this:

Homemade peanut butter © karacooks.com

So now that we’ve got the peanut butter, it’s time for the main course!

The Procedure – Part 2

I stared with a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, which I cut into large pieces and tossed in some salt, pepper, and garam masala.

chicken breast © karacooks.com

In my favorite 12″ cast iron skillet, I cooked the chicken  over medium heat until just done and nice a brown on the outside.  I removed the chicken from the heat and set it aside.

cooked chicken breast © karacooks.com

Then I turned the heat up under the skillet and sauteed a medium onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a couple of shallots.  As you can see they absorbed all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan while they were sauteeing.  Once they were tender, I removed them as well and set them aside in the same bowl with the cooked chicken.

shallots, onions, and garlic sautee © karacooks.com

I let the skillet heat up again and then added a couple of tablespoons of Thai red chili paste.  On top of that I poured 1.5 cups light coconut milk, 1/2 cup of turkey stock (the recipe called for chicken, but I used what I had in the freezer), and 1/2 cup of my homemade peanut butter.

making the peanut sauce © karacooks.com

I brought that to a low boil and stirred like crazy to get the peanut butter nice and creamy.  I finally had to resort to a whisk to get the lumps out.

Finally I lowered the heat, added some fish sauce and some lime juice, then returned the chicken and onion/garlic/shallot mixture to the pan.  I let it simmer in the sauce for about 15 mins or so – just long enough to thicken up and blend the flavors.

chicken in thai peanut sauce © karacooks.com

I served it over rice, garnished with chopped cilantro.  If I’d been smart, I’d have kept back a few peanuts to chop and sprinkle over the top.  Next time!

chicken in thai peanut sauce in red bowl © karacooks.com

This was sooooo good. It received raves at home and requests that I add it to the regular line up, which I will.

Thoughts on the Recipe

I do have a few thoughts on the recipe.

The first thing is that you shouldn’t skip the lime juice in this.  The only lime I could dig up was a bit hard and I thought I’d skip it.  But when I tasted the sauce before serving it, it needed something.  So I nuked the lime a little and actually got quite a bit of juice out of it.  The brightness of the lime juice made all the difference in the world!

The second thing is that the original recipe called for sauteed green beans to be added at the very end.  I didn’t have any on hand (didn’t read the recipe well enough before I went shopping) and so I left them out.  In retrospect having some veg would make this a perfect one dish meal as well as adding a little texture, crunch, and color.  Next time I’ll saute the beans early on until crisp-tender, then add them back at the very end into the sauce.

Overall, however, I have to say that this is a keeper.  I will make this again and now that I know the process, it’ll go a bit faster.

Clean / Healthy Eating

So how does this recipe fit into healthy/clean eating?  Almost every element of this recipe was made from whole foods – including the peanut butter which I ground myself, and the Thai red curry paste which I also made from a recipe I found online (and will blog about later).  The only thing that wasn’t 100% whole was the fish sauce, which I buy from a local chinese market and has a few preservatives in it.  But then again, the whole recipe only calls for 1 tbsp, so it’s not a major component and you could leave it out if you wanted.  The calories are quite reasonable for a dinner – when served over 1/2 cup of rice, it adds 85 cals, 2g of protein, and 19g of carbs to the total.  For the average adult looking to maintain a healthy weight, 600 cals for a dinner is not at all bad.  The only quibble some might have with this meal is that it is high in fat, however the fats here are healthy fats (canola oil, coconut, and peanuts).  If I knew in advance that I was going to eat this for dinner, I would make it a point to cut back on fats earlier in the day to compensate, since 33g of fat is about 40%-50% of the average adult’s intake.

And here’s the printable recipe for those of you who want it.


Chicken in Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp garam masala seasoning
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1.5 cups light coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp fish juice
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (about the juice of one lime)
  • chopped cilantro and a few chopped peanuts for garnish

Toss the chicken and garam masala in a bowl and let sit for a few minutes while the oil heats up in a heavy frying pan over medium heat.  I used my standby 12″ cast iron skillet for this recipe and it was just the right size.

Saute the chicken until cooked through and nicely browned – about 4 mins per side.  Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Saute the garlic, onion, and shallots until tender – about another 5 mins.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up under the skillet and add the Thai red chili paste, coconut milk, and the chicken broth, stir and bring to a low boil. Add peanut butter, stirring until lumps are gone.

Finally add the fish sauce, the lime juice, and stir well, then return the chicken and onion/garlic/shallot mixture to the pan.

Reduce the heat to a simmer for about 15 mins to allow the flavors to blend together.

Serve over rice or noodles and garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts.

Nutrition (4 servings):  Cals: 468 | Fat: 33g | Sat Fat: 5g | Sodium: 358g | Carbs: 8g | Fiber: 1g | Protein: 25g[/print_this]

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12 thoughts on “daring cooks | nut butters + chicken in peanut sauce

  1. Pingback: Chicken with Coconut-Lime Peanut Sauce Recipe: Thai, Asian Inspired — Family Fresh Cooking

  2. Margie

    Your chicken in peanut sauce looks absolutely delicious! Thanx for sharing the recipe. Fabulous photos. That sauce looks irresistible. Welcome to the Daring Cooks. Well done!

  3. Audax Artifex

    You really take very professional food photographs they are so bright and sharp, lovely pixs. Your adapted recipe sounds and looks so intriguing and great you can use your mum’s old cookbook to create a tasty and (relatively) easy dish, I use my mum’s 100+ year cookbook and the recipes are great also, so I know the sentimental value of an old cookbook.

    Wonderful result and fabulous photos. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    1. Kara Post author

      Audax – thank you! I have read back through the earlier postings at DK and I’m always amazed at your creativity with the challenges. So I appreciate your words especially! :)

  4. Lisa

    Kara – Welcome to Daring Cooks nd congrats on a first challenge rocked! Not only does your Chicken in Spicy Thai peanut sauce look AMAZING, but your photos are mouth watering, especially the peanut butter in the food processor, that big, creamy ball just beckoning one to stick a finger in and scoop!

    1. Kara Post author

      Aw Lisa! Thanks! :) I have to admit that I have been nibbling on the leftover peanut butter … a spoonful here, a spoonful there! :)


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