Kitchn Love Letters

The No-Cook, All-Purpose Peanut Sauce That Has a Permanent Place in My Fridge

published Jun 22, 2020
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Credit: Christine Gallary

Let me admit something right off the bat: The main reason I order fresh spring rolls is for the peanut sauce. The rolls, however light and tasty they may be, are merely vehicles for getting that sauce into my system as fast as possible. Peanut sauce is so delicious that I find myself it putting on everything I can, and it never lasts very long in my house.

For such a simple-sounding condiment, peanut sauce has a lot to offer: It’s somehow creamy, rich, savory, sweet, tart, and a tiny bit spicy all at the same time. It’s thick enough for dunking yet easy to thin out with water as a salad dressing. Can we just call it magic sauce instead? One of my favorite versions is flavored with rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, and a little spoonful of chile-garlic paste for a nice kick. It’s also no-cook, so all that’s required is a little chopping and shaking or whisking.

Even with its mostly pantry-friendly ingredients, peanut sauce can easily be made with substitutions, which I appreciate at this time when grocery shopping is no longer a simple errand. No lime juice? Use more rice vinegar. Want to keep it vegan? Use brown sugar instead of honey. I promise you that all of it will come together beautifully. And while you can certainly use natural peanut butter, I reach for mass-market brands like Skippy, which has the ultra-smooth texture I love and grew up with. But if you lean towards chunky peanut butter, by all means go for it.

An All-Purpose Sauce for Sandwiches, Stir-Fries, and Leftovers, Too

While my obsession with peanut sauce may have started with spring rolls, that’s certainly not where it ends. It’s great in hot dishes, like this stir-fried Napa cabbage, which has a peanut sauce with a coconut milk base (although you can use the one linked here, too). Dip grilled shrimp or chicken skewers in peanut sauce to immediately perk them up, or spread it on bread to add zip to a tofu or veggie sandwich. Happy hour with crudités and hummus? No thank you — I’ll dunk my veggies in peanut sauce instead.

This week, my peanut sauce went on a cold udon and shrimp salad that used up all the random bits of vegetables I had kicking around in the crisper drawer. It also dressed a chopped salad with leftover chicken for lunch the next day. During this time when I try extra hard not to waste food, tossing leftovers with peanut sauce makes them taste 100 percent better, and the protein in the peanut butter makes it more substantial and filling than a light vinaigrette. Take a peek in my fridge and you’ll most likely see peanut sauce in its designated spot of honor on the top shelf, ready to add its magic to whatever I choose to pour it on.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.