A Tasty 20-Minute Finger Food: Cilantro-Peanut Pork Skewers

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

Not every weekend needs to be an opportunity to floor your friends with fancy cooking. Sometimes it’s better to go for something casual you can eat with one hand while grasping a drink in the other. The funny thing about most finger foods is, while you can definitely eat them with one hand, you immediately need to set down your drink to clean yourself up with a stack of napkins. These pork skewers allow you to keep the informal attitude without the mess.

About this recipe

cilantro-peanut pork skewers on a white plate with lime wedges

Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

One of the best things about skewers is their ability to adapt to different cooking environments. You can use the grill, a grill pan, skillet, or even your broiler. Grilling delivers the best flavor, but we wanted to create a stovetop recipe that works for those who don’t own the outdoor device so you can make them no matter the season. In order to overcome any shortcomings in taste, we added a cilantro-peanut pesto and made sure to let the meat develop a lot of color in the pan.

It might sound crazy, but the first thing you want to do is preheat your pan. A cast-iron skillet or grill pan is the best choice, but you can use another heavy skillet if you don’t have either of these. If you’re using a regular pan, you’ll want to use a very light coating of oil to prevent sticking. Wait to add it until the second you’re ready to cook the pork.

While your skillet gets hot, make the pesto. Though the ingredients are decidedly not Italian, the method is exactly the same. Once everything is finely chopped, stream in the oil, and it’s ready. This is probably the one instance where we don’t recommend making too many substitutions because the combination of peanuts and herbs gives this a vibrant, Southeast Asian feel. If you despise cilantro, use a combination of mint, basil, and parsley.

Add a heaping tablespoon of pesto to the pork, which should be just enough to coat all the meat, along with a hefty pinch of salt. Thread the pork onto some halved skewers, pop them into your screaming-hot pan, then don’t touch them for a good 3 or 4 minutes so they develop a really nice crust. Flip them once, let them finish cooking, then you’re pretty much ready to serve. We like to add a little more pesto to each and serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

Though this recipe is far from traditional Thai food, it features some of the same flavors. The bad news is it can be a little tricky to find wines that work well with the sour and spice, particularly with reds. According to Serious Eats, a light- to medium-bodied wine with decent acidity is the best option. Try a Pinot Noir or Schiava. The same article got a lot of votes for off-dry whites that have quite a bit of acidity, like Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

For all you beer drinkers, Forbes said you can’t go wrong with a Belgian-style witbier or even something a little bit sour. If you’re a heat seeker, try sipping a pale ale to echo some of the spicy notes. Head to BeerAdvocate for more ideas.

Cocktails are actually really fun to play around with when you’re dealing with foods that feature a lot of acid, spice, and herbs. It’s pretty easy to find other flavors that play well in this environment and some of our favorites are ginger, cucumber, and lemongrass. A Spicy Cucumber Margarita comes together pretty quickly. If you have the time, this gin-based cocktail with lemongrass-ginger syrup is worth the effort.

Cilantro-Peanut Pork Skewers

close up of cilantro-peanut pork skewers

Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

While you could easily make this recipe by cubing boneless pork chops, go for the smallest boneless loin you can find instead. It’s a lot less expensive per pound and you can just cut any extra into chops for dinner tomorrow. These skewers make enough for 4 people.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 serrano chile, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • Salt
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 cups packed cilantro leaves
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch cubes
  • Lime wedges

Directions: Preheat a cast-iron skillet, grill pan, or other heavy pan over medium-high heat. Cut 5 to 6 wooden skewers in half.

Add peanuts, serrano, garlic, a large pinch of salt, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro to the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, stream in olive oil and blend until mixture forms a thick, spoonable sauce. If needed, season with additional salt.

Season pork cubes generously with salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of pesto and toss to coat. Thread two pieces of pork onto each skewer, leaving a bit of space between pieces of meat. You should end up with around 10 total skewers.

Add skewers to pan and cook, turning once, until outside is nicely browned and interior remains a bit rosy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Top skewers with additional pesto and serve with lime wedges.

See you back here next week.

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