How Do I Choose the Best Peanut Dipping Sauce?

Megan Shoop

Peanut dipping sauce comes in many different styles, for use in many kinds of recipes. Picking just one sauce may seem confusing, but you can narrow down your choices by considering how you’ll be using it. You should typically consider what kinds of foods will be served with it, who will be eating it, and when you’ll be serving it during the meal. After that, you should think about what kinds of flavors you enjoy to help make your final decision.

Soy sauce is used as an ingredient to make a Thai-style peanut dipping sauce.
Soy sauce is used as an ingredient to make a Thai-style peanut dipping sauce.

If you want to serve your peanut dipping sauce as part of an appetizer spread, or as part of an entrée, you should typically look for Thai-style sauces. These are generally spicy, with just a hint of sweetness underscored by the nuttiness of the peanuts. Many people enjoy these spicier dipping sauces with chicken or shrimp. You could serve a spicy peanut sauce with breaded chicken fingers, however, or as part of an Asian-style antipasto platter.

Peanut butter is the key ingredient in peanut sauces.
Peanut butter is the key ingredient in peanut sauces.

A Thai-style sauce typically includes either sweetened or unsweetened peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, hot pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger. Some recipes are extremely spicy and include hot sauce and chopped chilies in addition to the dried peppers. Others are simply savory, leaving the hot peppers out completely. These recipes usually emphasize the use of soy sauce, onions and chives, cumin, and fish sauce.

A Thai peanut dipping sauce that includes coconut milk, honey, and sugar, in addition to hot sauce and spicy pepper flakes, might work well if you enjoy mixing sweet and spicy flavors. These tangy-sweet sauces usually bridge the gap between entrees and dessert by complementing both. Pineapple chunks, pear slices, vegetables, and different kinds of meat might all taste good in this kind of sauce.

Creamy, dessert peanut dipping sauce recipes could be the ticket if you have a major sweet tooth. Dessert sauce recipes don’t usually include anything savory or spicy. Instead, they often feature ingredients like marshmallow fluff, melted chocolate, peanut butter, and brown sugar. This kind of peanut dipping sauce is typically served warm, either in a fondue pot or in a warm baking dish. Sometimes another nut butter, like one made from hazelnuts or almonds, can also be included. Fruit, cinnamon-dusted breads, and salty pretzels typically complement these sweet sauces very well.

Of course, if you just can’t decide, you might try serving one kind of peanut dipping sauce with each course. Not only does this allow you to experiment, it gives the meal a feeling of cohesion. For instance, you might offer an appetizer of coconut shrimp with a spicy peanut sauce. Dinner itself might then feature a salty, savory version of the sauce, and the meal may be topped off with a sweet peanut butter dessert fondue.

Rice cakes can be dipped in peanut chutney.
Rice cakes can be dipped in peanut chutney.

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