Is Satay Sauce Vegan?

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Satay sauce is a popular Chinese sauce made with peanuts. But is it suitable for vegans and vegetarians? Or does it contain animal-derived ingredients?

Green Wakame Seaweed Salad with Satay Sauce

This article explores the ingredients you’ll find in satay sauce. We’ll look at what ingredients are sometimes added to satay sauce that aren’t vegan-friendly. I’ll look also suggest a couple of vegan satay sauce recipes that you might like to try.

Can vegans eat satay sauce?

Satay sauce is usually vegan-friendly, but sometimes it may contain animal-derived ingredients such as fish sauce, cows’ milk or honey from bees. Therefore, if you’re ordering a dish that includes satay sauce, you should always ask whether it’s suitable for vegans or not.

What non-vegan ingredients may be added to satay sauce?

Traditional Chinese satay sauce is made with peanuts, coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic, cumin, coriander and tamarind. However, depending on whether you order satay sauce in a Chinese or Thai restaurant or buy it from a supermarket, other ingredients may be included.

1. Fish sauce

Fish sauce is one ingredient you may encounter in satay sauce that is neither vegan nor vegetarian-friendly. Traditional fish sauce is made from anchovies and sea salt. As fish are animals, fish sauce is something that vegans should be aware of when ordering Chinese food.

Suggested read: 7 Vegan Alternatives to Fish Sauce

2. Cows’ milk

While satay sauce should be made with coconut milk, some shop-bought satay sauces contain cows’ milk. Unfortunately for vegans and people who follow a dairy-free diet, cows’ milk makes its way into many processed foods as it’s a cheap ingredient that manufacturers use to bulk things out so they can make more money.

3. Honey

Some satay sauce recipes include honey to add sweetness. Fish and milk are easy to spot on food labels as they are highlighted in capital letters or bold. But, as honey is not one of the common allergens that must be highlighted by law in the UK, it can be a little trickier to spot when skim-reading labels.

takeaway satay sauce

Does satay sauce contain meat?

Satay sauce does not contain meat, but the satay itself usually does. Satay is small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer. While satay sauce is made to complement the meat flavours, vegans and vegetarians can order mushroom satay or tofu satay as an alternative.

Does satay sauce contain fish?

Some satay sauces contain fish and some do not, it depends on the recipe that was used. When ordering or buying satay sauce, vegans and vegetarians should always be sure to check the ingredients, looking out for fish.

What is Chinese satay sauce made of?

Chinese takeaway satay sauce is usually made with peanut butter, lime, honey, coconut milk, soy sauce, curry powder, and water. However the exact ingredients may be different in each restaurant, so if you have special dietary requirements you should always check.

What is vegan satay made of?

Vegan satay may be made of tofu cubes or mushrooms. The tofu or mushrooms are marinated in something like lemongrass and baked before serving with peanut sauce. Vegan satay will be served with a vegan-friendly satay sauce that doesn’t contain animal ingredients like fish, honey or milk.

mushroom satay
Mushroom satay

Vegan Satay Sauce Recipes

You can make satay sauce with vegan-friendly ingredients. It’s really easy as you just throw things into a pan and heat them up.

Here are two recipes you can try at home…

Chinese-Style Satay Sauce

  • 4 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 1 small minced onion
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 250g peanut butter
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 75ml of sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons of brown sugar

Saute the onion in a pan with heated sesame oil. Once the onion is softened, add garlic. Whisk in the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, chilli sauce and brown sugar. Mix until smooth. Allow mixture to simmer. Decrease heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Vegan Thai Peanut Sauce

  • 100g of peanut butter
  • 250ml of water
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Add and mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat. Stir the sauce until all ingredients are well mixed. Look for a creamy and smooth consistency. Serve warm.

Where to buy vegan satay sauce

When it comes to buying the ingredients for Chinese-style cooking in the supermarket, many people look to Amoy as a popular brand. Unfortunately, Amoy satay sauce isn’t suitable for vegans as it contains milk proteins.

Instead, it would be better to head to the Asian section or to a dedicated Asian supermarket and look out for a real Chinese, Thai or Malaysian brand such as Ayam. Ayam satay sauce is 100% natural and vegan-friendly.

To conclude

Many satay sauces are vegan-friendly, but there are some ingredients that you’ll need to watch out for. Be sure to check the labels of pre-packaged sauces to make sure none of the ingredients come from animals. You can also make your own vegan satay sauce with one of the recipes listed above.

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