Welcome to yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of “What Will Trader Joe’s ‘Thai’ Their Name To Next?” This time, we’re taste-testing the Thai Peanut Satay Sauce, a concoction that promises to teleport your taste buds to the streets of Bangkok, but let’s be real, you’re more likely to find yourself stranded in the ethnic aisle of a suburban grocery store. This sauce, donning a label that’s as colorful as a Bangkok tuk-tuk, claims to be the secret to all your culinary Thai dreams. But before you start planning your at-home Thai street food festival, let’s dive in and see if this sauce is the real deal or just another passport stamp in Trader Joe’s culinary world tour.
I’ve had a love for Thai food before it was trendy. We were fortunate enough to live in Bangkok when I was in elementary school and my father worked in Thailand. This set my family on a culinary adventure when we got back to the States. Both my parents were avid home chefs and my father tried to recapture all the interesting foods we ate in Thailand but was mostly unsuccessful because the ingredients and knowledge weren’t there. This was before Thai restaurants and Phad Thai were not in every town in North America. Now you walk into every Safeway (and Trader Joe’s) and you can choose from a wide variety of South East Asian foods.
Before we dive into the review, let’s back up and cover a bit of knowledge about what this satay sauce is and isn’t…
What is Satay?
Satay is a popular Southeast Asian dish with roots tracing back to Indonesia, though it’s widely enjoyed across countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and beyond. Essentially, it involves skewered and grilled meat, served with a variety of sauces, the most famous being a rich and flavorful peanut sauce. The meat, typically chicken, beef, or lamb, is marinated in a mixture of spices and coconut milk which tenderizes it and infuses it with flavor. Once grilled, the satay skewers attain a tantalizing char and smokiness. Satay is not just a dish; it’s a cultural experience, often found sizzling at street-side vendors, bustling food markets, and in traditional celebrations. The combination of tender meat, aromatic spices, and the creamy, often spicy peanut sauce creates a symphony of flavors that is quintessentially Southeast Asian and beloved worldwide.
How To Use Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay Sauce
This sauce is very versatile and like any Satay sauce, you can use Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay Sauce for a variety of purposes. Don’t forget this sauce is Vegan! Here I put down ten quick ideas that you might find useful:
- Classic Satay Skewers: Marinate your choice of meat (chicken, beef, or tofu for a vegetarian option) in a blend of soy sauce, lime juice, and a bit of the satay sauce. Skewer the meat and grill until cooked. Serve with a side of the Peanut Satay Sauce for dipping.
- Thai Peanut Noodles: Cook your favorite noodles (Trader Joe’s has some great noodles from Thai noodles to Squiggly Cut Noodles – Toss them with the satay sauce, a splash of soy sauce, some lime juice, and a bit of sriracha if you like heat. Add in some veggies like bell peppers, carrots, and green onions for a crunchy texture.
- Dressing for Salads: Whisk together the satay sauce with a bit of rice vinegar and sesame oil to create a unique salad dressing. It pairs wonderfully with salads that feature ingredients like cabbage, carrots, cilantro, and peanuts.
- Stir-Fry Sauce: Use it as a stir-fry sauce with your choice of protein and vegetables. The rich, nutty flavor of the sauce adds depth to any stir-fry dish.
- Marinade for Grilled Meats: Coat chicken, pork, or beef in the satay sauce before grilling. The sauce will caramelize nicely on the meat, offering a savory and slightly sweet flavor.
- Dip for Spring Rolls: It serves as a fantastic dip for fresh or fried spring rolls, adding a creamy, nutty element to each bite.
- Spread for Sandwiches or Wraps: Spread it on bread for a Thai-inspired sandwich or use it as a flavorful addition to wraps. It pairs well with chicken, vegetables, and fresh herbs.
- Topping for Burgers: Elevate your burgers by using the satay sauce as a topping. It adds an unexpected twist to traditional burger flavors.
- Sauce for Vegetables: Drizzle over steamed or roasted vegetables for an easy side dish with an Asian flair.
- Base for Thai Peanut Soup: Use it as a base for a creamy Thai peanut soup, combined with coconut milk, chicken broth, and your choice of vegetables and protein.
How Does Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay Sauce Taste?
For my taste test, I decided to use it two ways. First I made a quick marinade of for my chicken skewers. I put a couple of heaping tablespoons of the satay sauce in with about 1/2 cup of coconut milk, half a lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, tablespoon of shallots and a splash of fish sauce and cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinated for about a hour. Then I made a stir fry of baby bok choy, green beans and bell pepper and some Trader Joe’s Jasmine Rice for the side dish. I grilled the chicken on the skewers and then put everything in a bowl together and topped with Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay Sauce.
Don’t let the picture above fool you, it’s not very grainy. Once the sauce warms up it melts a bit and turns real smooth and nice.
I have had many Satay sauces over the years and I have to say this has to be one of the best I have had. I am not the heat freak I was in my 20’s when I could seemingly eat Thai hot peppers on everything so I appreciate that it has only a mild burn. The sauce has a great consistency but remember that if you store it in the fridge after you open it, it will solidify like peanut butter so you might want to warm it up in the microwave before you use it.
The aromas from using it on the grill were exactly as I expected. Almost smelled like I was in Thailand eating street food! Using the sauce as a marinade worked exceptionally good. If you want to kick up the heat, I would add some Sriracha to everything.
Trader Joe’s lists lemongrass, shallot, garlic, galangal, and tamarind paste as ingredients and you can tell this stuff is authentic when you taste it. I am going to buy jars of it when I go back and start putting it on everything. I sure hope Trader Joe’s keeps it around for a long time!
I am going to award this sauce 9 out of 10 Bells. I was wishing for a little more heat but all of the rest of the flavors are spot on!
- CONTAINS PEANUT, COCONUT.