This Spicy Peanut Sauce and Shirataki Noodles dish is actually two recipes in one. The sauce is a creamy and versatile low carb version of a classic satay peanut sauce, with complex flavors and a bit of spice. Shirataki noodles are a handy low carb substitute that pair wonderfully with this Southeast Asian-style sauce.
I was first introduced to peanut sauce, along with satay skewers, while living in Singapore in the late 1980’s. At the time, it seemed liked a very exotic blend of unfamiliar flavors and spices combined with the very familiar flavor of peanut butter, an American childhood classic. Twenty-five years later, food in the U.S. has been transformed due to the huge global influence. Now, satay and spicy peanut sauce are not so uncommon here.
I’ve yet to find a purchased peanut/satay sauce that doesn’t have sugar added (and usually gluten), which is why I make my own. The first time I tried peanut sauce in the U.S., I was shocked at how sweet it was compared with what I knew from Southeast Asia. I prefer just a touch of sweetness to balance the spicy-salty-sour flavors, which I achieve with a small amount of xylitol. Of course, you could substitute another low carb natural sweetener, such as liquid stevia. My Spicy Peanut Sauce has 1 net carb per 1 tablespoon serving.
When I first prepared satay sauce in Singpore using a traditional recipe, the list of ingredients was a mile long (seriously, more than 30), with many I had never heard of. This recipe uses some handy shortcuts, such as an excellent Thai red curry paste that incorporates some of the unusual ingredients and brings complex flavors without having to source them individually. There are a number of great Thai red curry pastes out there, but my current favorite is actually a product made in Oregon by Thai & True. In addition to dried red chiles, it contains lemongrass, shallot, galangal, kaffir lime zest, and other seasonings such as garlic, coriander, cumin, and lemon juice. Thai Kitchen brand also has a good red curry paste that is more widely available in many grocery stores.
Regarding spiciness, the Thai & True Red Curry Paste I use is not particularly spicy, but if you’re concerned, you can always start with less than 3 tablespoons and add more to taste. If you like it extra-spicy, as my husband does, you can add extra curry paste or simply serve it with sriracha or chile sauce on the side for those who want to kick up the heat.
Another shortcut is the use of peanut butter, rather than the peanuts that the traditional recipes use. I use natural, no-sugar-added, smooth peanut butter, but chunky would be fine if that’s what you have, although the sauce will have a less-creamy consistency. Despite the shortcuts and relatively short ingredient list, this sauce tastes pretty darned authentic, not “westernized.”
The rest of the ingredients are pretty straightfoward, and they all play important roles. Fresh lime zest and juice, as well as fish sauce, are two ingredients I would not skip because they add so much of the flavor that makes this sauce taste authentic. If you’re not familiar with fish sauce, don’t be nervous. It doesn’t add a fishy taste — it simply brings a unique depth of savory, umami flavor.
This sauce comes together nearly as quickly as you can measure the ingredients. Simply throw everything in a blender and whir, or put it all in a saucepan over low heat and stir for a few minutes until blended. Speaking of measuring, as you may know, I prefer to weigh most of my ingredients on a digital scale. It’s faster, more accurate, and it doesn’t mess up a bunch of measuring cups and spoons. Who wants to measure peanut butter in a measuring cup?! I place the saucepan or blender container directly on the scale, tare it, and add each ingredient, taring in between. (Taring is re-setting the scale to zero.) Only one dish to clean at the end!
One of the fun things about the Spicy Peanut Sauce is how many different ways you can use it. Of course, it’s a great dipping sauce for skewers of satay or just about anything else. I also use it as a sauce for stir-fry, as well as a base for salad dressing and soup.
While I will share those recipes in future posts, today I’m going to give you the simplest peanut noodle dish ever. It uses low carb shirataki noodles, which you may have heard of if you’ve been low carb eating for a while.
Japanese shirataki noodles are made from glucomannan starch, which comes from the root of an Asian yam-like plant called konjac. One of the unique properties of glucomannan starch is that it is comprised of nearly entirely of soluble dietary fiber, which is indigestible. That means shirataki noodles are essentially net zero carbs and no calories. They are translucent, reminding me a bit of rice noodles, although they have a more slippery, ‘al dente’ (firm) texture. Unlike rice and wheat-based noodles, however, they are not starchy. They can’t be overcooked and break down like traditional noodles, nor will they add starchiness to soups and sauces. In fact, they come already cooked and packaged in a liquid, which makes them easier and faster to prepare than traditional starchy noodles.
You’ll find two kinds of shirataki noodles on the market. The classic shirataki is made of entirely glucommanan and water. There is another variety called tofu shirataki and is made from a combination of glucommanan, tofu, and water. This type has a more familar opaque appearance and a slightly less firm texture. Because of the tofu, they have a small amount of net carbs, require refrigeration, and don’t keep for as long.
I prefer the traditional shirataki without tofu. I use a brand called Miracle Noodles, which is shelf-stable, so they don’t need to be refrigerated and keep for about a year (unopened). I have found them at a local natural grocer with the dried pasta, but I have often seen shirataki (both versions) in the refrigerated section. I usually order mine on Amazon, because they’re less expensive and there is a greater selection of “shapes”.” I use the fettucine, angel hair, and rice shapes the most, but there are other choices available.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open a package of shirataki noodles is the odd, slightly fishly odor. Don’t be put off because it will go away when prepared properly. I put them in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with running cold water for about 15 seconds. I then transfer them to a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 60 seconds on high. Back into the strainer to drain the liquid, then to the bowl to heat for another 60 seconds, and drain. While the noodles are already cooked, this process seems to squeeze more of the package liquid out of the noodles. It also enables the noodles to soak up more of whatever sauce or broth you put them in. In the case of my Spicy Peanut Sauce, I simply add 2 tablespoons of sauce for each bag of the prepared noodles, toss, garnish, and eat. I serve it as a side dish or add bits of leftover chicken or seafood for a main dish. So quick, easy, healthy, and delicious!
Do you have a favorite dish that uses peanut sauce or shirataki noodles? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section!
- Spicy Peanut Sauce
- 14 ounces / 1¾ cups coconut milk, canned, regular not light
- 12 ounces / 1½ cups peanut butter, natural, no sugar added, smooth (chunky OK)
- 1½ ounces / 3 tablespoons tamari
- zest of 1 lime
- 1½ ounces / 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
- 2 ounces / 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, more or less to taste
- 1 ounce / 2 tablespoons xylitol, or equivalent sweetener, more or less to taste
- 14 grams / 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 14 grams / 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (unseasoned, without sugar)
- 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 clove / 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Shirataki Noodles
- 1 package (7 ounce) shirataki noodles
- 2 tablespoons Spicy Peanut Sauce
- Optional garnishes: lime wedge, mung bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, green onions, cilantro, sriracha sauce
- For Spicy Peanut Sauce: place all ingredients in a blender and whir until combined. Or, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, whisking until melted and well-blended.
- Keeps in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Sauce may be frozen for up to 3 months. Gently reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop before serving. If consistency is thicker than you prefer, add a little water.
- For Shirataki Noodles: Place noodles in a strainer and rinse for 15 seconds under cold, running water. Transfer noodles to microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 60 seconds. Return noodles to strainer to drain liquid, then back to bowl, heat for another 60 seconds, and drain again.
- Add 2 tablespoons of sauce to hot noodles and toss to blend. Garnish as desired and serve.
Shirataki Noodles will have trace amount of net carbs and calories, depending on the brand you use.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.
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Shirataki Noodles: The Zero-Calorie “Miracle Noodles (article published the same day as our post!)