Hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs are all summer barbecue essentials, but there is one grilling food group that will forever have my heart: skewers. From kefta kebabs and tandoori chicken skewers to lamb souvlaki, Thai moo ping and negima yakitori, my hand will always gravitate to anything grilled on a stick.
The common practice of skewering proteins and vegetables on the same stick, however, can result in uneven cooking, so what if, instead, we pair hot skewered protein with crispy, crunchy, cooling vegetables? And, of course, if there are raw vegetables, you need a highly dippable sauce. Put those things together — skewers, veggies and dip — and you have a platter built for a party.
The workhorse of this recipe is a punchy sauce — made with coconut cream, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, serrano peppers and coconut sugar to balance the heat — that does double duty as a marinade and dip. First, the ingredients are blended and a portion is used to coat cut-up chicken thighs. (You could also use chicken breasts, but thighs are more moist and flavorful.) The lime juice in the marinade paired with the smaller size of the chicken means it only takes a few hours for the flavor to permeate the meat, cutting out overnight marinating.
Then, the remaining base is blended with avocado, transforming it into a creamy, verdant dipping sauce that highlights the fresh herbs. Plus, the lip-smacking heat from serrano peppers and the subtle umami funk of the fish sauce pair particularly well with raw vegetables. Just make sure to press a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce while the chicken is marinating to prevent oxidation and preserve the dip’s luscious green color.
When it comes to the vegetables — or crudités, if you’re feeling fancy — there are no hard-and-fast rules. I often use platters like these as an opportunity to go wild at the farmers market or use up odds and ends from my crisper. Combine crunchy vegetables — think carrots, cucumbers and radishes — with leafy ones, such as cabbage or little gems, and a few seasonal dippers, such as cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Another great thing about this platter is that so much of it can be prepped ahead of time. Start by making the marinade and skewering the chicken the morning of your cookout. You can prep most of your vegetables a day ahead, as well. (Pro-tip: Toss any crunchy veggies in ice water just before serving to liven them up.) Then, come party time, all that’s left to do is to grill and assemble.
Herby Coconut Chicken Skewers Platter
This platter of herbaceous chicken skewers and crunchy vegetables is built for sun-filled barbecues and leisurely grazing long into the evening. The star of the show is a punchy sauce of coconut cream, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, garlic, lime and serrano pepper that does double duty as both marinade for the chicken thighs and dip for the crunchy vegetables.
Use the suggestions below or any mix of crunchy, leafy, dippable vegetables.
For 6 to 8 people, you’ll want about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of mixed produce. You’ll also need wooden skewers.
Make Ahead: The wooden skewers need to be soaked in water for at least 20 minutes before grilling.
Storage: Refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 days, and any leftover chicken skewers and vegetables, in separate containers, for up to 5 days.
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For the chicken and dip
- 3/4 cup coconut cream
- 3 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons fine salt, divided
- Finely grated zest of 2 to 3 limes (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 to 2 serrano peppers, roughly chopped
- 4 cups fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
- 2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 medium avocado (5 ounces), halved and pitted
- 2 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- Neutral oil, such as canola, for greasing the grill
For the platter
- 1 bunch small carrots (8 ounces total), green tops trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 English cucumber, cut into spears
- 1 to 2 watermelon radishes (6 ounces total), thinly sliced (may substitute 1 small bunch red radishes)
- 6 ounces snap peas
- 1 cup (6 ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved if large
- 1/4 medium head red or green cabbage (6 ounces total), cut into big chunks
Make the chicken and dip: In a blender, combine the coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, lime zest and juice, garlic, and serrano peppers. Blend on high until smooth. Add the cilantro and mint, in batches, and blend on high until smooth, being careful not to overblend and heat the sauce, 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer 1 cup of the sauce to a large bowl and set aside.
Scoop out the avocado flesh and add it to the remaining sauce in the blender; process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Transfer to an airtight container, and place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to prevent discoloration (if using parchment, cut the circle to fit inside the container). Cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add the chicken and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to the bowl with the reserved marinade, and toss until evenly coated. Thread 3 or 4 pieces of chicken onto each of the soaked wooden skewers, and set on a rimmed baking sheet or plate. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare the grill for direct medium heat (about 400 degrees; see NOTE).
Lightly oil your grill. Working in batches if necessary, place the skewers on the grill and cook without moving them, until the chicken develops grill marks, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If grilling in batches, transfer the cooked skewers to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Assemble the platter: Transfer the creamy herb-coconut sauce to a small bowl. Stack the skewers on a large serving platter and arrange the vegetables on the rest of the platter.
NOTE: To prepare the grill: If using a gas grill, set it to 400 degrees. If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter with charcoal, light it and when the coals are red hot, pour them into the grill. Scatter more charcoal over, as needed. When all the coals have ashed over and are gray but are still very hot, about 15 minutes, your grill should be medium-hot. (Use a grill thermometer or test the heat by holding your hand, palm-down, about 4 inches from the grill. If you can hold it there for about 5 seconds, the heat should be at medium heat, or 375 to 425 degrees.)
If using charcoal, this dish may take about 15 minutes longer to prepare.
Due to variability of marinade absorption, an accurate analysis is unavailable.
From food writer Asha Loupy.
Tested by Hattie Ulan; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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