Whole Nuts Give Your Peanut Sauce A Far Richer And Purer Flavor

From Indonesia with plenty of love comes a sauce that has a bit of every basic taste packed with a little sweetness from brown sugar, a touch of saltiness from sea salt, and a tangy kick from tamarind pulp and lime juice, all blended with some spicy heat from chilies. And it all comes together against a backdrop of earthy, nutty peanuts. This sauce, known under many names from peanut sauce to satay sauce, makes a perfect pair with a wide variety of Southeast Asian dishes, particularly Indonesian classics like spring rolls and Gado-Gado.

In the Western world, many have attempted to recreate this sauce using peanut butter, which works well enough. However, for the most authentic flavor, using whole, freshly roasted peanuts is the way to go. Unlike peanut butter, which often contains added ingredients like hydrogenated oils, whole peanuts simply taste like, well, peanuts — nothing more, nothing less. When you compare a sauce made with fresh peanuts versus one made from peanut butter, you'll immediately notice the difference. The one made with whole, roasted peanuts tastes significantly richer, with a more intense flavor profile that the processed stuff just can't replicate.

Another great advantage of choosing the all-natural approach is having the freedom to adjust the level of nuttiness in your sauce. As you roast and grind your own peanuts, you can experiment with the quantity of salt and sugar, tailoring it precisely to your preferences and personal sauce recipe!

Processing whole peanuts for peanut sauce

Most U.S. stores will sell you Runner peanuts, which are the most popular kind in the country. But while Runner peanuts work well enough for sauce-making, we recommend using Spanish peanuts for a richer flavor due to it having a higher oil content, per research from Cukurova University's Faculty of Agriculture. Roasting will bring a lot more flavor out of it, as a result.

Once you have your peanuts, you have two options: Either fry with a bit of oil in a wok or roast in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes. Both methods should yield nice golden peanuts and a lovely, nutty aroma in your kitchen. Next, it's time to grind. Depending on your desired sauce texture, you can either grind them to a smooth, buttery consistency or leave them slightly chunky for some added texture. For this step, you can use a food processor or go the traditional route with a pestle and mortar. Grind until the peanuts are reduced to small, grain-sized bits for a slightly chunky sauce, or continue grinding until it turns powdery for a smoother one.

And that's it! Now you can blend the ground peanuts with other ingredients like tamarind pulp and soy sauce on the stovetop. Feel free to play around and adjust the sugar and salt proportions as you see fit. Finding that perfect balance might involve a bit of experimentation, but that's all part of the joy of cooking, isn't it?