Spicy peanut sauce is made extra creamy with coconut milk and flavorful with chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and lime juice. Perfect as a dip for spring rolls or veggies. Drizzle on baked tofu or your favorite Asian-inspired plant bowl. This creamy peanut butter sauce is restaurant quality, but you can make it easily at home!
Calling all peanut butter lovers – you are going to love this rich and creamy and oh-so-peanut buttery spicy seasoned sauce! Though you will find lots of recipes out there for peanut butter dipping sauce, this one was made for the true peanut butter aficionado. This spicy creamy sauce doesn’t have just a hint of peanut butter but is full-on savory spicy peanut butter flavored.
With vegan food, it’s really all about the sauce! You can dip, drizzle and pour. Vegan sauce is the key to turning bland food into highly flavorful extraordinary food. The yummy savory flavor of this peanut sauce comes from the garlic, ginger, and shallot, and the spicy heat from chili pepper. But this spicy peanut sauce gets its lush creamy texture from coconut milk!
Coconut milk is the perfect lushly rich ingredient to use in vegan recipes that need to be creamy and smooth. If you are looking to substitute heavy cream to make your favorite recipes vegan, look no further than coconut milk or coconut cream
Coconut milk makes savory sauces like this spicy peanut sauce, coconut lime crema, or butternut squash curry sauce nice and smooth. Coconut cream is also what gives creamy vegan soups like butternut squash and red pepper soup, pumpkin black bean soup, or easy corn chowder a rich and creamy base – without the dairy.
Ingredients needed to make your own spicy creamy peanut sauce
For the Stovetop
- shallot – You will be mincing one shallot which is about one-third cup. I love shallot best for this (and almost any) recipe but sub in one-third cup of another onion of your choice.
- bird’s eye chili – Bird’s eye chilis are really super spicy. Read below for some substitute suggestions.
- fresh ginger peeled and minced – You can sub in jarred ginger or ginger paste.
- minced garlic – You can sub in jarred minced garlic.
- avocado oil – You can use another neutral-flavored oil.
- canned coconut milk – I use lite coconut milk for this recipe. I have also used full-fat and can’t tell a difference in texture or flavor. Save yourself the calories and fat and use lite coconut milk.
For the blender –
- unsalted creamy peanut butter – If you use salted peanut butter then don’t add the salt until after it’s blended and you’ve tasted the peanut butter sauce. You can always add more later.
- sesame oil – There are no substitutions for sesame oil. There is hot and not hot sesame oil. I have used both but prefer to use regular sesame oil without heat. If you enjoy it spicy then you can use spicy oil. Today I used spicy oil and WOW it was hot!
- sea salt
- lime juice – Squeeze fresh or used bottled lime juice.
About the coconut milk
Many of my recipes using coconut milk call for skimming the cream from the top of a can of coconut milk. You will be using the whole can of lite coconut milk in this recipe – the creamy top half and the watery remaining portion as well. Just don’t use coconut milk that comes in a carton. That won’t give you the same nice creamy texture that canned coconut does.
Will this peanut sauce taste like coconuts?
I know this is an issue for some people because they don’t like coconuts. But no, I swear I can’t taste any coconut in this peanut butter sauce recipe – despite the use of a full can of coconut milk. It honestly tastes more like a savory spicy peanut buttery peanut butter sauce than anything at all. Perhaps that is because of the amount of peanut butter used, along with the other spices and seasonings and so it overwhelms the coconutty taste.
Full fat or lite coconut milk?
I used to use full-fat coconut milk for this recipe. I thought the full-fat milk would lend the creamiest texture. And then one day I realized I was out of full-fat coconut milk and didn’t want to run to the store for another can. I had a can of lite coconut milk in my cupboard and thought I’d give it a try.
Honestly, there is zero difference in flavor between the lite and full-fat coconut milk. Because (see above), you can’t really taste the coconut flavor. There was the slightest difference in thickness though – but, I liked the new texture better.
The peanut sauce on the left was made with full-fat coconut milk, while the sauce on the right was made with lite. You can see that when I ran a finger through both, the one made with full-fat coconut milk didn’t collapse as quickly because it was a tiny bit more thick and creamy. But truly, when you are dipping veggies into your sauce, a little less thick is just fine…maybe even better!
About the chili pepper – Know your peppers
This recipe calls for Bird’s Eye chili pepper, a fairly spicy pepper used in Thai cooking. This spicy red pepper is what turns this peanut butter-focussed sauce into a yummy spicy dip that is perfect for dipping veggies, tofu, or for drizzling over a plant-based bowl.
But when I make this recipe for my family I don’t use bird’s eye peppers. They are just too hot! There is something called a Scoville scale that rates the heat in peppers. Bird’s eye is 50,000-100,000 units on the scale – which to put it in perspective is just lower than a habanero chili.
What if Bird’s eye peppers are too hot?
Well, like a bell that you can’t unring, it’s really hard to remove the heat from a recipe once it’s already cooked and blended. My recommendation is to know your people. Know how hot they like it and to know your other pepper options.
If you think you’d like it hot but not super hot, remove the seeds and white part in the chili and just cut up the flesh. Or use half a chili. But if you really just want a hint of heat then use a different pepper. When I cook this recipe for my family I use one (or two small) serrano peppers. Serrano peppers are 10,000-25,000 heat units on the Scoville scale – so quite a bit less hot.
But what if you make this spicy peanut sauce and it isn’t spicy at all? Yeah, that’s a concern because you don’t want your sauce to be as bland as spooning out a big scoop from the peanut butter jar. If I make a judgment error and my peanut butter sauce turns out less spicy than I’d like, I add in a little red pepper sauce. Give it a stir, taste, and add more if necessary. Frank’s Redhot is my favorite but you can use yours.
You can also sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes on top. And they look pretty too! So… know your people. Know your peppers. And be willing to start with less heat and add more if needed.
How to make this easy recipe for spicy peanut sauce at home
The exact ingredients with measurements can be found in the recipe card below along with more concise abbreviated instructions. Read on for more details, tips, and tricks so that you will feel confident making this recipe.
Steps one and two: prep and saute the veggies
Peel and mince the shallot, garlic, and ginger. One medium-sized shallot is about one-third cup of minced shallot. If your shallot falls a tiny bit over or under, don’t worry about it. But a one-fourth cup of mined shallot would not be enough.
One shortcut I’m willing to take with this recipe is to use jarred minced garlic and ginger. I have even used ginger paste and it was just as delicious as when I used fresh ginger.
Cut off the stem of the chili and mince it finely. For a less spicy peanut sauce, scrape out some of the seeds first or use a less spicy pepper. Make sure to wash your hands well after cutting the chili pepper and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. They are hot!
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the minced shallot, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring the whole time so that the garlic does not burn. The minced vegetables will begin to soften and a lovely spicy fragrance will permeate your kitchen.
Step three: The coconut milk
Remember to use canned coconut milk and not watery coconut milk from a carton. Open the can of coconut milk and add it to the pan with the sauteed garlic, pepper, ginger, and shallot. Cook, stirring, on medium heat for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes.
Final steps: Blending together
Measure out the creamy unsalted peanut butter and add it to a blender along with the salt, sesame oil, and lime juice. This recipe was developed using unsalted peanut butter. Remember that if you use regular salted peanut butter you will need to wait to add the salt till the end after everything has been blended. Take a taste then and add salt to taste.
You can juice fresh limes or use bottled lime juice in this recipe. I really can’t tell a difference in flavor either way. If you are using fresh limes and they are hard little rocks then roll them around first on the counter with heavy pressure from your palm. This will help to soften the limes and get the juices going.
Pour the (somewhat) cooled coconut milk mixture on top of the peanut butter. Blend for a few minutes until everything is nice and smooth and blended together. You will probably need to scrape the sides down a few times before you are done because the peanut butter tends to stick.
The peanut butter I used in this recipe is “natural” peanut butter, and I think, a little more liquidy. If you use regular peanut butter and find your finished product to be too thick, add a little water one teaspoon at a time.
Storing and serving suggestions
This yummy spicy peanut sauce can be served right away BUT the flavors really meld together after sitting for an hour. Taste it just before serving to see if you need to stir in any extra red pepper sauce (if you have opted for a less spicy chili pepper).
Serve your sauce at room temperature or slightly warmed – not hot. I pop mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds and that’s enough.
Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. Remove the portion you will be using and heat in the microwave in thirty-second increments – stirring after every 30 seconds.
What can you do with creamy spiced peanut sauce?
Make a plant-based bowl with rice, Asian-inspired tofu crumbles, snow pea pods, and veggies. Liberally drizzle spicy peanut sauce on top!
Put together a snacking plate with a mix of vegetables, wonton strips, and tofu nuggets (these are curry nuggets I buy at the store). Put a bowl of peanut sauce in the middle and enjoy.
Make (the best ever) baked tofu and use it as a dipping sauce. Place two small bowls at each place setting. One filled with lite sodium soy sauce, and the other with peanut sauce. Dip your tofu from one bowl to the other. Or make a salad topped with baked tofu. Thin the peanut sauce out with a little rice vinegar and drizzle on top.
Or how about this fun Tiktok trend with “lettuce chips” – literally chopped pieces of Romain lettuce “chips” to dip into the peanut sauce?
The printable recipe card for spicy peanut sauce
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Creamy Spicy Peanut Sauce with Coconut Cream
For the Stovetop
- 1 shallot minced – 1/3 cup
- 1 bird’s eye chili minced. see notes
- 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon avocado oil or other neutral oil
- 13.5 ounces lite coconut milk
For the blender – along with the coconut mixture above
- 1 ¼ cup creamy peanut butter unsalted. see notes
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- Peel and mince the shallot, garlic, and ginger. Cut off the stem of the chili and mince finely. For a less spicy peanut sauce, scrape out some of the seeds first or use a less spicy pepper. I use serrano pepper when I'm making this for my family.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and chili. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring the whole time so that the garlic does not burn, until soft and fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk and cook, stirring, on medium for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
- To a blender add the peanut butter, salt, sesame, oil, and lime juice. Add in the coconut milk mixture/spice mixture.
- Blend on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides and stir as needed until smooth.
- For best results, allow peanut sauce to sit for at least 1 hour before serving for the flavors to blend.
- Serve sauce slightly warm.