Harness the Power of Peanut (or Not!) Sauce

My son and I have a rather intense relationship with peanut butter.

Because we (thankfully!) have no peanut allergies, we have embraced peanut butter in so many ways – both savory and sweet – that we tend to consume it at a rather alarming rate. Several jars a week is not unusual.

We eat it on graham crackers. We make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We make peanut butter and banana and bacon sandwiches. We smear it on apples. We make peanut butter and jelly “quiche.” We make peanut marinades for grilled chicken. We bake cookies. We eat it straight up by the spoon.

But one of the most versatile ways we’ve found to enjoy peanut butter – spicy peanut sauce! – also happens to be lunch box-friendly. Even if your school is peanut-free.

Spicy peanut sauce not only is a delicious, rich and savory sauce that can be paired with so many foods, it also is easy to make, keeps well and is easily adapted to your preferences.

And don’t worry about the spicy part. While you certainly can crank up the heat, my version is more zippy and tangy than hot.

As for the peanut part? I’ve found that a totally delicious version can be made using peanut alternatives, particularly sunflower seed butter.

Kid-Friendly Spicy Peanut (Or Not!) Sauce

Start to finish: 5 minutes


1/2 cup peanut butter or sunflower seed butter

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. For a thicker sandwich spread, the water can be reduced to 2 tablespoons.

2. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Now that you have the sauce, what to do with it?

– Spread it on bread as you would mayonnaise, then top with leftover roasted chicken or deli meat.

– Pack cold, leftover breaded chicken tenders with the sauce on the side for dipping.

– Toss leftover cooked pasta and some chopped vegetables with the sauce for a “peanut” noodle salad.

– Pair the sauce with a medley of cut raw vegetables for dipping.

– Use it as an alternative to soy sauce for dunking sushi.

– Thin the sauce with a bit of additional water, then use as a fantastic salad dressing for a robust salad, such as a chef’s salad with meat, cheese and eggs. (Pack on the side and drizzle over the salad just before eating.)

– Use as a dip for pretzels or crisp breads.

– Smear a thin coat of it over a whole-wheat tortilla, then add chopped vegetables and roll up. A hearty, portable take on the vegetarian spring roll!

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