Recipe: Indonesian Peanut Sauce

Makes 2 1/2 cups

I’ve discovered the secret to a happy belly.

Indonesian Peanut Sauce.

This is not just any peanut sauce. This is the kind of peanut sauce that leaves you wondering. Hoping. Dreaming. Wishing for more. This sauce is complex. Interesting. Mysterious – full of wonderful flavors you can’t quite identify.

Flavors that’ll make you nibble and nibble – until, eventually, you give up trying to figure everything out all the time and simply enjoy.

NOTE: Vegetarians and vegans can also enjoy this sauce by simply leaving out the shrimp paste.


1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 candle nut*, grated
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
chili pepper (to taste), seeded
1 tsp shrimp paste (sweet or hot)*, optional
5.5 oz can of coconut milk
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup roasted peanuts
2/3 cup water

Season with:

2 Tbsp kecap manis*
1-2 limes juiced

*available at most Asian markets.


There are so many ways to make this peanut sauce. Your best bet is to pull up a chair and have a chat with a few locals. Learn from them. Laugh with them.

The chair is optional.

Communal Kitchen in Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Midori

When you’ve learned all you can and you’re ready to get started, grab your ingredients and dance a little Indonesian dance.

In the cups: candle nut, garlic, shrimp paste

When you’re good and tired out, grate the candle nut into candle nut snow. Fluffy. Pretty.┬áCandle nuts used to be used to make candles. They also add a creamy texture to sauces and curries.

Now, let’s build that mysterious flavor. First, saute the shallots in peanut oil with the garlic and chili pepper until browning and fragrant. I used half a serrano. Once the shallot mixture softens and begins to brown, stir in the ground coriander, candle nut, and shrimp paste, if using it. Cook about 30 seconds, or until the house smells so good you can hardly stand it.

Deglaze with the water (Stir to get all the browned bits off the pan and into the sauce. That’s where all the flavor is).

Next, add the mixture to your blender. Pour on the coconut milk and the kecap manis.

Squeeze on the lime juice. I used the juice of 1 whole lime, but you might want more or less.

Add the peanuts and blend away! (Speaking of which, do you see the blender box?)

An Indonesian kitchen. Photo by Rollan Budi


You’re done when a creamy, smooth sauce forms. You can stir in a few extra chopped peanuts if you want some crunch.

Serve warm or room temperature with satay [recipe will be up tomorrow] or over gado gado [recipe].

Or, even better, pack some up for a friend. What a nice housewarming gift this would be!

Amazing goodness awaits you!

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  1. christine says:

    When do you add the peanuts? During sauteeing or just to the blender?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Just in the blender is fine – and you can make it a coarse sauce or as smooth as you’d like. Enjoy :)

  2. Brian S. says:

    This is just wonderful. I’ve always wonders what makes that satay sauce so good. But I STILL don’t know because I suspect that even the best restaurants don’t take the time to make it as well as you do.

  3. Looks so flavourful!! A great dip for satay!! I am craving for both now. lol! ;)

  4. elisa waller says:


  5. is it coriander or cardamom?

  6. i figured it was coriander from the photo.. :) So I tried this and mine was…. a DISASTER. Think it was a lot to do with the fact I used raw peanuts.. :) Also dont have kecap manis but found a sweet soy sauce which has the same consistency if not quite the same flavour. Didnt use shrimp paste.

    it just tasted too raw peanutty even with 2.5 times the sweet soy sauce your recipe calls for. And colour wasnt as nice as yours

    so… one to re-try…

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh no! I can see how raw peanuts would taste grassy and strange. You could roast them briefly in a dry skillet until lightly toasted. The shrimp paste just add dimension, but shouldn’t make or break the sauce. Also, the color would be better if the peanuts were roasted and depends on how long you brown your shallot and other ingredients. Sounds like you know what to do when you retry it though – good for you for being willing to persevere. :)


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