Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce (and a Little Humble Pie)

Thursday, April 1, 2010


There’s a lot of Sandra Lee bashing that goes on in the “Foodie” world.  Come on, admit it.  We’ve all snickered at her cute little outfits that she matches to her kitchen decor in every episode. We’ve giggled at her seemingly unnatural preoccupation with fancy, fruity cocktails. We’ve chortled at her oh, so perfect “tablescapes”, because after all, who has the time to run around collecting all of that flotsam and jetsam, much less arrange it into a cohesive backdrop to show off a bunch of desserts made from store bought angel food cake and pudding cups.  And, most of us have downright sneered at her proclivity for concocting dishes out of boxed, canned, prepackaged food products.  Personally, I absolutely cringe every time I hear her mispronounce mascarpone. (That’s right, Sandra. It’s MASCARPONE, not MARSCAPONE. Got it? Thanks.)

Yes, indeed.  We’ve all had our fun at Sandra’s expense.  Yet I must confess, she kind of fascinates me.  While I’ve never been that kind of cutesy, matchy, crafty person, I secretly wish I could be.  I’d love to be able to whip up a lovely, themed buffet table out of pine cones, plastic flowers and pipe cleaners! And, though I don’t use a lot of processed foods in my own cooking, I can certainly appreciate Sandra’s creative energy and resourcefulness in hers. She fills a pretty wide niche for those who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours in the kitchen.  In fact, I have tried a few of her “Semi-Homemade” recipes, and they were pretty tasty.


Case in point: A few days ago, Sandra did an episode on “tropical food”.  One of the dishes she made was a sort of Thai chicken curry with a peanut sauce, and I have to say, it looked good.  So good, that I decided to try it for myself – with several tweaks.  In her recipe, Sandra uses chunks of chicken breast.  I went with chicken thighs, because they tend to stay moister when cooked in small pieces.  She also relies on frozen vegetables.  I used fresh, because it only takes a few extra minutes to chop up a few peppers and some green beans.  Sandra also omits garlic in her version. I think that is a sin, so I added some.  I included sliced onions, scallions and a splash of fish sauce in the dish as well, because I like them.  I also made this a one pot dish by sautéing the chicken and vegetables separately, removing them, making the sauce in the same pan and then adding it all together.  Oh yes, and I also toasted the red curry paste before adding it to the peanut curry sauce.  I know it sounds like a lot of changes, but it really isn’t.  I used all of the original ingredients in the recipe. I just added a few extra and put them together a little differently.

First, you need to chop up your chicken.


Then, slice up your vegetables.


Heat the oil. (Doesn’t it look like a cute little sea creature?)


Brown the chicken and vegetables.

Peanut Curry Chicken Collage-1

Look at that curry paste sizzle!


Mix up the peanut sauce and toss it all together.


Let me tell you, people, this dish was beyond fabulous!  Seriously! No one was more surprised than I was.  My little family of three ate the whole, entire batch! Mr. SGCC and Mini SGCC were actually fighting over the last few grains of rice left in the bowl!  That peanut curry sauce was so delicious. It had it all – heat, spice, salt and sweet. And, it was ready to eat in under an hour.  I served the chicken with some coconut rice (not instant) and a nice, tossed salad (not frozen).  This is one dish that I know I will make again and again.  My hat is off to Sandra for creating it.  I’ll definitely think twice before I criticize another one of her recipes without trying it first – and I hope you will too.


Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce
very liberally adapted from
Sandra Lee


3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper
1 medium sweet onion, sliced thinly
8 ounces fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
3-4 cloves garlic minced
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced

For sauce:
2 heaping tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth,
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
Lime wedges for garnishing
Cilantro sprigs for garnishing


1.  Toss chicken and cornstarch together in a bowl until well mixed.  Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken sauté until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to another container and set aside.

2.  Add onion, pepper strips and green beans and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.  Remove to the same container as the chicken.

3.  Make the peanut curry sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients except curry paste.until smooth.  Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the frying pan and add curry paste, smushing it into the oil.  Cook curry paste for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients into the pan, mix well and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and vegetables and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in scallions and serve over  steamed rice.

Serves 4.

40 responses to Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce (and a Little Humble Pie)

  1. On April 01, 2010 at 7:17pm, Memoria said...

    It looks yummy! I like the changes you made.

  2. On April 01, 2010 at 7:32pm, The Duo Dishes said...

    She’s still a leeeetle scary, but that doesn’t mean all of her dishes are no good. You can tell which ones are to your liking and which ones may not be. It’s actually pretty surprising that she made this, and it’s awesome that you tried it out…tweaks and all!

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:25am, Susan said...

      Agreed. You definitely have to pick and choose which recipes to try. :)

  3. On April 01, 2010 at 7:39pm, Joanne said...

    I think my main problem with Sandra Lee is that she uses so many jarred and premade ingredients that I just wouldn’t buy or use. I’d rather just spend the time making the real thing.

    That being said, this recipe does sound delicious. A good peanut curry sauce can’t be beat…even in Sandra Lee’s hands.

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:28am, Susan said...

      That is my issue as well. But, her ideas are good. Just as with this recipe, you can eliminate the bad stuff and replace it with good, fresh ingredients for a great dish.

  4. On April 01, 2010 at 7:50pm, Rosa said...

    That looks extremely yummy! I am addicted to such flavors!



  5. On April 01, 2010 at 8:34pm, Heather I. said...

    My mom actually likes her a lot, which always makes me chuckle a bit. But, she does come up with some decent ideas every now and then (like your peanut curry!). I just try to stay away from the processed ingredients she sometimes adds…

  6. On April 01, 2010 at 10:21pm, Raina @ The Garden of Yum said...

    That looks really good. I love curry dishes. That is so funny about Sandra Lee. I have tried a few of her recipes that were okay, but I cannot say I have every did a table setting up quite like her.

  7. On April 01, 2010 at 11:20pm, Mary Corbet said...

    Ooooh. I LOVE peanut curry. (Pretty much the same as panang curry.) Another great addition is thai basil (or if you don’t have thai basil, regular will do)…

    Oh yum. Yum. Yum. YUM.

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:31am, Susan said...

      Thai basil would have been great. If I could have found some, I would have definitely put it in this dish. I should probably try to grow some. :)

  8. On April 02, 2010 at 6:15am, nina said...

    I think we all have our favorite personalities and chefs afteral I am not in Ramsay’s fan club, but I have made 1 or 2 of his recipes…the bottom line there is a place in the sun for all of us. I think we will be amazed at the following she has because so many people do use pre-packed and processed.
    I liked your tweaked version and I love you even more for eating humble pie!!!

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:43am, Susan said...

      So true, Nina. It’s easy to take pot shots at a celeb chef when everyone else does. Too many of us so called “foodies” are a little sanctimonious. What we need to realize is that a)these chefs are real people with feelings that can be hurt; and b)millions of people really do cook and eat this way, and look to personalities like Sandra Lee for inspiration. The reason I decided to feature this recipe was to show that it usually only takes another 5-10 minutes to use fresh ingredients and still come out with a quick, easy and delicious meal.

      And, I love you too! 😀

  9. On April 02, 2010 at 6:30am, bellini valli said...

    I have never seen an episode of Sandra Lee since she is not on the Food Network here but as with all cooks like Rachel Ray you can come up with some real winners in the recipe categories .

  10. On April 02, 2010 at 8:56am, shelly (cookies and cups) said...

    HA! I love how you took a semi-homemade meal and turned it into completely homemade 😉 I am not a huge Sandra Lee fan and never really understood why, until I saw the huge dislike for her in the foodie world…it then sort of made a bit more sense. I have to say, while she is not my fave I do *ahem* own one of her cookbooks! oh, the shame! But I usually end up doing what you did to this recipe and work backwards!
    Great job!

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:52am, Susan said...

      It’s like a snowball effect. A few outspoken sources decided to hate on her, and then others followed because being snarky is the “cool” thing to do. Pretty soon, no one wanted to admit that they liked anything about her for fear of being shunned by the “foodie” community. Peer pressure, pure and simple. I, too, am repulsed by some of her recipes, but there are many that can be transformed into something quite good. I just figure who am I to judge Sandra Lee? She is a multi-millionaire and I am not. She must be doing something right!

  11. On April 02, 2010 at 9:05am, megan said...

    She is creative, that Sandra. This looks delicious, fresh, and pretty quick. Works for me!

    • On April 02, 2010 at 9:53am, Susan said...


  12. On April 02, 2010 at 1:46pm, Nicole said...

    We have a love hate relationship with her.
    We’ve tried a few of her recipes, with our tweeks, and have been happy with them. But we HATE that everything is “Nice and….” Nice and Browned, Nice and sweet, Nice and carmelized….
    I won’t knock her for her cocktails since I think some of them are good and who doesn’t like a drink?!

    My exbf told me that she is kind of a wack though. He does high end stone work and she was telling them all how the green marble that she picked was too green and asked if there was a way for them to make it less green “since Andrew hates green. Like the devil”

  13. On April 02, 2010 at 1:53pm, Faith Kramer said...

    A good recipe (or a good idea) is good no matter the source.
    However, I think all the steps you put in are ones that come with cooking experience and willingness to take a few extra minutes to make the recipe more authentic and flavorful, steps that are lacking in the original. Which is my beef with Sandra Lee.

    This recipe is definitely better than the one I saw the only time I watched her show. She made pastries that had you start with a purchased apple pie which you scraped the filling out and resued the crust.

  14. On April 03, 2010 at 10:39am, Manggy said...

    Sandra Lee is a multi-millionaire and we’re not? Hmm, something’s not right 😉 After all, she did exclude garlic from the recipe 😛 Leave it to you to take one of her recipes and make it appealing for all of us!

  15. On April 03, 2010 at 1:59pm, Anne said...

    I too love curry dishes and this recipe looks fabulous. It’s funny how on Semi Homemade, she uses so many processed foods but on Money Saving Meals, she shows how much money you will save by using fresh ingredients (fresh garlic vs. jarred, etc.). She even made her own “bisquick” on that new show. You’ll never see her do that on Semi. But love her or hate her, Aunt Sandy is laughing all the way to the bank!

  16. On April 03, 2010 at 11:43pm, Margaret said...

    Yes, we all do. But yes, we all do…. This does look fantastic. I may have to fix it just for me cause I know the guys won’t care for it. Wonderful ‘adaptation’ but I prefer to think you saw her idea and made your own recipe from that. You rock.

  17. On April 04, 2010 at 12:03am, Tangled Noodle said...

    I’ve never really watched Sandra Lee, so there’s little bias on my part – I’m all for trying this out! However, I would have to agree with your choice to use fresh, not frozen, vegetables; I have never successfully used the frozen kind in a recipe as the veggies always end up with a soggy texture. Meh.

    Hooray for using fish sauce, the most wonderful, underrated condiment/seasoning on the planet!

  18. On April 04, 2010 at 12:59am, Jamie said...

    Wow! I love dishes like this, chicken and veg in a rich, thick, flavorful sauce, preferably something with these Indian/Indonesian type flavors. Love peanut sauces and this is one fabulous recipe! I must try this! Wow!

  19. On April 04, 2010 at 6:04am, Cooking Foodie said...

    I am not a Sandra fan can watch her… I do use some semi homemade ingredients as it makes life a little easier – like cake mixes… That being said – one of the silliest Sandra recipes was a mousse made from jello pudding and gelatin and I was like what are you doing. I bet many readers think so about ‘box mixes’ so… each one has their own ‘what??’

    I like red curry pastes and I mostly do what you have done with the recipe. Simply cause the Asian market I visit writes everything in their native tongue and at times I have no idea what I am looking at. I remember the first time I went, spending 30 minutes trying to find someone who spoke English so I could get kaffir lime leaves.

  20. On April 05, 2010 at 9:06am, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    I think you just proved exactly what’s wrong with Ms. Lee. What she does can easily be done with fresh ingredients and it tastes better! Trust me, I’d rather eat your version. In fact, I think I’ll have seconds.

  21. On April 05, 2010 at 10:13am, Sweets By Vicky said...

    Oh this is one of those things that get to me. One pot dishes that are spicy, creamy and peanutty. :) Over jasmine rice? YUMMERS!

  22. On April 05, 2010 at 11:39am, Debby said...

    I’m on Day #1 of my vacation, so I can leisurely read blogs I subscribe to (yours is one of them). I was chuckling throughout your delightful comments about Sandra Lee. Too funny! I once saw her “Chefography” and learned about her sad childhood as a kid who lived in near poverty. It made me better understand her TV show. I can’t stand watching her, still, for all the reasons you described. I have to say that I am so impressed with your version of this recipe that it is definitely on my menu this week. I’ve a lover of Thai food, and keep those pantry staples at all times. Who knew you could toast the red curry paste? I love that stuff! Trust me, it’s so going to be made– and I will link it back to you when I do. The sauce is what made me drool, so early in the morning!

  23. On April 05, 2010 at 1:27pm, SMITHBITES said...

    What I love about this recipe Susan, is that you’ve deconstructed it and made it ‘whole food’ friendly! I love Sandra’s back story – but just can’t get into her recipes because of all the pre-packaged/processed stuff. You’ve done a terrific job in taking this recipe and by making a few small tweaks here and there, doesn’t have to add huge amounts of time or money AND can create a dish that’s a bit more healthy!

  24. On April 05, 2010 at 9:24pm, Kevin (Closet Cooking) said...

    That looks so good! I really like dishes that use spicy peanut sauces like this.

  25. On April 12, 2010 at 12:20pm, Karen@Mignardise said...

    Somehow I missed this post the first time around.
    Sounds too good to overlook – just printed it out and having it for dinner tonight. Thank you Susan and thanks Sandra Lee for the inspiration.
    A good idea doesn’t care where it comes from.

  26. On April 19, 2010 at 9:19pm, Suze said...

    I just made this dish for dinner tonight and WOW!!! was it delish! I scaled back on the red curry paste (1.5 T) because of my kids, but next time I will add the full 2 T and possibly more. I used chicken breasts and served it over brown sushi rice. Mmmm, that sauce was so lick-your-plate good!

    I do have a question, though, Susan–where was I supposed to add the scallions? With the garlic? I had them ready to go, and…I never added them because it wasn’t in any of the steps!

    I agree with Mary Corbet that holy basil (Thai basil) would be a nice addition/garnish.

  27. On April 25, 2010 at 7:28pm, FireMom said...


    My friend Sassymonkey gave me this recipe. I made it today, for my birthday dinner, and holy moly, thank you! It was delicious. My husband loved it as well and it will go into rotation on our menu plan!

  28. On July 14, 2010 at 8:50pm, Somethingducky said...

    I just made this recipe for my parents and boyfriend and they all loved it. I didn’t have any fish sauce and ended up using more veggies but it still came out wonderful. It was mildly spicy, a little sweet and very peanut-y. Defiantly something to add to our repertoire.

  29. On April 15, 2011 at 5:17pm, Sasha said...

    Ive never commented before on a recipe ive made but thought it was only right to give praise where its due! Made this tonight for my mum and her partner and they both reallyreally loved it, i normally tamper with recipes merging a couple together to suit my needs, but for the first time just copied yours word for word i think (oh one mini thing is I didnt have chunky peanut butter so chucked in some crushed toasted almonds for texture!) and it was brilliant

    Thank you very much indeed and I will definitely be making this again :)

  30. On November 28, 2011 at 8:15pm, Suze said...

    I would like to add that I just made this using the last 1-1/4 lbs of Thanksgiving turkey meat (both dark and light), and good heavens, it was BEYOND DELISH!!!! I must conclude that this would be just as good using rotisserie chicken, too.

    I changed it up a bit by adding a large carrot, peeled & sliced thin on the diagonal. I also completely forgot the onion. But it was so good no one noticed. Next time I’ll try to remember the onion and carrot, and add a cup of peas as well. I adore veggies, and more veggies helps mitigate all the fat/calories from the peanut butter/coconut milk. Well, at least it does in MY mind! :^)

    LOVE this recipe!

  31. On April 30, 2012 at 4:02pm, brand development said...

    Great stuff.Id like to recommend checking out things like sausages. What do you think?

  32. On October 28, 2012 at 9:33am, Gail said...

    But Susan… Where does one get fish sauce.. Ummmm … What IS fish sauce??? Thanx a mil.

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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