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 often serve it with coconut rice and steamed broccoli on the side. 

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: a 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.

Here’s the play-by-play: Stir together the satay marinade.
A large bowl filled with the easy Thai chicken satay marinade ingredients.

One 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.

[tasty-recipe id=”65577″]