Versatile Sauce

Peanut butter is good. But what else can you do with that jar of peanuts sitting in your pantry? Aside from just munching them whole, I mean.

How about a very versatile peanut sauce?

We’ve got one we’ve been using for thirty years, give or take. It’s an excellent dip for vegetables, goes well on grilled beef and chicken (try marinading the meat with lemon juice, soy sauce, and ginger), and makes a spectacular pasta sauce (use a noodle with plenty of folds: shells, rotini, or bowties). However, I don’t recommend it in PB&J–unless the J is pepper jelly.

It keeps well in the fridge for several days. Make a big batch and use it on sandwiches with grilled meat and pickled vegetables one night, and over pasta a few days later after the flavors mature.

The recipe is adapted from one in Cynthia Wine’s Hot & Spicy Cooking. The book came out in the mid-80s, so new copies don’t come cheap–that link says they start at $88. After three decades, I don’t think Cynthia would be too offended if you picked it up used.)

Our version has evolved over time; here’s the current version:


  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup shelled, roasted peanuts – depending on your dietary restrictions and mood, you can use salted, unsalted, or flavored. We’ve had excellent results with chipotle- and barbeque-flavored nuts. Err on the side of generosity: the nuts are the star of the dish, after all.
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 to 3 cloves minced garlic – or more, if that’s what floats your boat.
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried red chiles – approximate measure here, and to taste. We’ve found this to be an excellent way to use up those packets of pepper the pizza delivery place insists on bringing.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – yes, fresh. I know I often encourage laziness in cooking. This is not one of those times. Buy a lemon and squeeze it yourself; don’t use the bottled stuff. Ever.
  • 1/2 cup water – tap water is fine, don’t feel you need to use bottled–unless you’re in California, in which case, please use a brand bottled outside the state. There’s a drought on, you know.
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil


  1. Using your favorite blender, grind the peanuts. Don’t try to get it too smooth. Even if you prefer creamy peanut butter, leave a few small chunks of nut to add some texture.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the peanut oil in a small saucepan.
  3. Simmer for at least fifteen minutes. You’ve got a lot of latitude here. It should go long enough for all the ingredients to combine and thicken slightly, but not so long that it turns into a paste.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut oil.

4 thoughts on “Versatile Sauce

  1. Well, okay, but why not just use chunky peanut butter? I make a similar sauce (less the lemon juice; have to try that), but I just shovel in a generous amount of “HS” (see previous posting) chunky, and Bob’s yer uncle. Certainly saves a lot of work, setting up and cleaning the blender is one of my least favorite chores. If you really want to stay on the side of the Angels, so to speak, you can go to Whole Foods and get a tub of freshly ground- either regular or (be still, my heart) sweetened “beer nuts”. Haven’t tried it, but the latter should make one hell of a great batch of peanut sauce!


    • I suppose you could use PB (and in all honesty, if we’re short on whole peanuts, we do stretch it with PB). But chunky usually has a bit too much unground nut. Tastes vary, naturally, but we think the sweet spot is somewhere between chunky and creamy.

      Beer nuts? I don’t know if that much sugar would be good for the flavor. Wouldn’t it be like eating melted peanut brittle?


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