The Fun of Grilled Sticky Rice Skewers with Peanut Sauce

For fans of sticky rice, this is the bomb.
For fans of sticky rice, this is the bomb.

If you are a sucker for the crispy, crackly texture of Persian tahdig or the smoky, charred exterior of Japanese grilled onigiri, then you’re sure to go wild for “Grilled Sticky Rice Skewers with Peanut Sauce.”

I know I sure did.

In fact, this recipe, which supposedly feeds four, was roundly devoured in one fell swoop by just my husband and I.

Because I’m sure two regular people can — and will — easily lay waste to this dish, I changed the number of servings to reflect that in the recipe below.

It comes from “Rice Is Life” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. The cookbook is by Caryl Levine and Ken Lee, the founders of Lotus Foods, the Richmond, CA company that imports rice grown on small family farms in Asia to the United States.

In business since 1995, Lotus Foods definitely knows all things rice after pioneering its black Forbidden Rice in 1995 and introducing the first certified organic jasmine rice in the United States.

The book provides a primer on rice, the edible seed of a grass plant, that’s been eaten since as far back as 11,000 BCE in China, with its many varieties grown around the world. It also offers info on the best methods to cook rice and whether to rinse before cooking or not (Rinsing helps to remove some impurities and to develop more separate grains.)

There are recipes galore, of course, including “Black Rice Porridge with Seven-Minute Eggs and Chili Crisp,” “Carrot Rice with Pistachios and Dried Apricots,” “One-Pot Red Rice with Mussels and Swiss Chard,” and “Horchata Milkshakes.”

Crispy on the outside, chewy, soft, and sticky within.
Crispy on the outside, chewy, soft, and sticky within.

These sticky rice skewers start with soaking white sticky rice at least 8 hours before steaming it.

Admittedly, when it comes to cooking sticky rice, I’ve usually taken the easy route by using a rice cooker.

But this time, I set up my steamer basket on top of the stove and followed the directions in this recipe. It resulted in flawless sticky rice that was plenty sticky, but fluffier and less wet overall as when cooked in a rice cooker.

When the rice has cooled enough to handle, divide it into eight portions and mold cylinder-like shapes on eight wooden skewers that have been pre-soaked in water.

Brown them on a grill or grill pan, turning until both sides get a little crisp. Then, brush on beaten egg, which will add an attractive golden glow when you grill them briefly again.

A delicious, easy-to-make peanut dipping sauce.
A delicious, easy-to-make peanut dipping sauce.

Serve the rice skewers with a thick, creamy, salty-sweet peanut sauce, stirred together easily with coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, and a little chili-garlic sauce for a hint of heat. You’ll likely end up with leftover peanut sauce, but you’ll be glad to have it to dress up cold noodles or a veggie salad the next day.

Dip a rice skewer in the sauce and get ready to smile. The rice is full of crispy bits on the outside that give way to a wonderfully sticky, chewy, starchy interior that is purely irresistible.

In fact, if you happen to end up hoarding all the skewers to yourself, no one will blame you.

The sticky rice picks up all that creamy, sweet-salty-spicy peanut sauce.
The sticky rice picks up all that creamy, sweet-salty-spicy peanut sauce.

Grilled Sticky Rice Skewers with Peanut Sauce

(Serves 2 to 4)

For the peanut sauce:

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce or sambal ulek

For the rice skewers:

1 cup white sticky rice, rinsed, then soaked 8 to 12 hours

Oil, for the grill


1 large egg, lightly beaten

To make the peanut sauce: In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, and chili-garlic sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of water, then taste and add more water as desired to thin out the mixture. Set aside.

To make the rice skewers: In a strainer, drain the soaked rice.

Line a steamer basket or fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth or a thin dish towel so it overhangs the edge and transfer the rice to it. Fill a soup pot that holds the steamer basket or sieve with about 1 inch of water. Set the rice in the steamer basket over the water, cover, and bring to a boil. When the water boils, steam the rice for 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the steamer basket and use the overhang of the cheesecloth to carefully flip the solid disk of sticky rice onto a plate. Return the cheesecloth to the basket and the rice to the cheesecloth so the cooked side is now up, then return to the pot. Steam the rice until cooked through, but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer.

Remove the rice from the heat, uncover, and let cool until just warm. As the rice cools, soak 8 thin wooden skewers in cool water.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat and lightly coat the grates with oil. Using damp hands, break the warm sticky rice into eight chunks (each about 1/4 cup) and form them into cylinders about 3 inches long and 1 inch thick. Thread the cylinders onto the skewers and season lightly with salt.

Grill the rice, turning occasionally, until some of the kernels start to brown, about 2 minutes. Brush the rice with the egg and cook, turning until golden and crisp, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the sticky rice skewers to a platter and serve with the peanut sauce.

Adapted from “Rice Is Life” by Caryl Levine and Ken Lee

More Sticky Rice Recipes to Enjoy: My Version of My Mom’s Sticky Rice

And: Waffled Rice and Miso-Sesame Tofu

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  • I just yesterday read a tutorial on making sticky rice for sushi using brown rice instead of white. Methinks there will be some serious culinary experimentation going on between now and the holidays when I feel sure the kidlets will devour these skewers. “Fun food” is always welcome at a whole-family gathering, right?

  • Hi Carroll: I’m sure kids will go wild for these fun skewers. Let me know how it goes if you experiment with the brown rice. Just know, though, that sushi rice is short-grain rice that is sticky, but glutinous rice is much stickier in texture when cooked. Serious Eats has a great primer on rice:

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