Chicken With Cashew Chinese

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Chicken with cashew Chinese is a delicious recipe that I love to cook and eat. In fact, whenever I am not eating at home, I go to the Chicken with cashew Chinese restaurant near my place. Why? Because the food is just great! I enjoy it so much, especially the lovely honey garlic sauce served with it.

CHINESE CASHEW CHICKEN

Easy, quick and delicious. What makes this Chinese cashew chicken truly special is the delicious and flavoursome glaze/coating around each piece of chicken. Not to mention the yummy sauce.

Every bite is as flavoursome as the next, perfect with (and you’ve guessed it) freshly steamed rice! Or, if you’re feeling fancy and keen to visit flavour town, pair this with my fragrant and indulgent Chinese Sausage Fried Rice!

Close up of Chinese cashew chicken in a serving bowl.

Why order takeout when you can easily make it at home at a fraction of the cost!? Honestly, this is what I tell myself every time I feel lazy and tempt myself with a browse on Deliveroo or UberEats.

INGREDIENTS

All ingredients required for this recipe, labeled.
  • Chicken thighs is preferred over chicken breasts as it yields a juicier and more tender result! Having said this, as long as you marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes, chicken breasts are a slightly leaner option!
  • Oyster sauce adds savouriness (umami!) as well as enhancing the flavours of all other ingredients in a dish. Learn more about oyster sauce and how to use it in my Chinese broccoli recipe.
  • Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine (really good quality ones can be consumed as a beverage – but anyone rarely does) that is made with fermented rice. Similar to cooking with red or white wine, Shaoxing wine adds depth, complexity and aroma to a dish. Can be substituted for dry sherry or mirin.
  • Cornstarch is one of the key ingredients here! Not only will it create a delicious glaze around each piece of chicken, it also helps thicken the tasty sauce!
  • Oil best use neutral-tasting oil with a high smoking point such as canola or sunflower oil.

HOW TO MAKE CHINESE CASHEW CHICKEN

This easy stir fry takes just over 10 minutes to cook!

To start, marinate the chicken thighs for at least 15 minutes. The added cornstarch will help create a glossy glaze around each piece of chicken and tenderise the meat!

When ready to cook, brown chicken on high heat, making sure the outter layer caramelises.

When browning, only turn it once every minute or two. Stirring the chicken constantly will result in juices being released from the chicken and thus stops the caramelisation (too much liquid!)

Step by step instructions

When stir-frying, caramelisation is crucial. The more colour you get onto the meats and vegetables, the more delicious it becomes. Not only that, soy sauces and oyster sauces also become more complex and flavourful when it gets a chance to caramelise.

Once the chicken is browned but not yet fully cooked, remove from the pan then add garlic, onions, red and green capsicums (bell peppers). About 4 minutes on high heat.

Then, add chicken back into the pan along with roasted cashew nuts. Continue to saute until chicken is fully cooked. To finish off, pour in thickening sauce mixture.

A little tip here: if you find the sauce a little thick (especially when reheating any leftovers), simply add more cold water into the pan and stir. This will help loosen it up, plus more sauce to have with rice!

Tender chicken with plenty of tasty sauce to drizzle over freshly steamed rice!

Close up, side profile of cashew chicken showing lots of sauces

TIPS FOR MAKING THIS PERFECT EVERY TIME

  • Marinate the chicken even 10 minutes is better than none. This not only will help tenderise the chicken through the salt (soy sauce, oyster sauce and salt) and cornstarch, the extra time will allow the flavours of the marinade to sip into the chicken. This is the key to tasty and flavoursome chicken stir-fries, like this healthy and easy Marinated Chicken Stir Fry with Green Beans!
  • Have all ingredients laid out before you start cooking. Stir-fries are quick recipes and timing is crucial. This means the entire cooking process is on the go so you need to be prepared! Having the sauces within arms reach will make your life so much easier instead of trying to find a particular sauce mid cooking.
  • Use a non-stick pan this recipe uses cornstarch which gets a little sticky. Non-stick pan is particularly important in the first step of sauteeing the marinated chicken thighs. For the outer layer ‘glaze’ (created by cornstarch and sauces) to caramelise, you don’t want it to stick to the bottom of the pan which forms a barrier and prevents the chicken and the ‘glaze’ to brown. Browning the glaze and chicken creates the most amazing flavours and it’d be a shame without it. If you’re using a wok (carbon steel or cast iron), make sure to get the wok really really hot before adding oil. Only add chicken in once the wok starts to smoke a little. This will prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan.
Close up piece of glazed coated chicken held up by a pair of chopsticks

See the lovely glaze/coating around the chicken? It’s all flavour! So delicious.

GOOD TO KNOW (FAQS)

What does cashew chicken taste like?

It’s nutty and savoury with a subtle sweetness from the oyster sauce.

What is cashew chicken sauce made of?

Oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, black pepper and water. The cornstarch and water helps thicken the sauce!

How many calories are in Chinese cashew chicken?

355 calories per serve! This recipe makes enough for 4 servings.

What is the difference between cashew chicken and kung pao chicken?

Kung pao chicken is cooked with lots of chilli so it’s a spicy dish cashew chicken does not have any spice in it. Also, instead of cashew nuts, peanuts are used for that nutty flavour.

A bowl of cashew chicken and a side bowl of freshly steamed rice.

LEFTOVERS/REHEATING

Keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container. When reheating, add a little cold water into the pan so that the sauce will loosen again.

SPICY CASHEW CHICKEN (INDO-CHINESE)

Here’s a quick and easy 25-minute Spicy Cashew Chicken recipe with an Indo-Chinese twist. This recipe includes tips on how to get tender chicken and gives intense, yet balanced flavor! Gluten-free adaptable!

A white bowl with spicy cashew chicken and rice and sesame seeds on the side

I often get requests for more Indo-Chinese and Hakka-style recipes. So I thought why not bring back an old favorite from the blog: Spicy Cashew Chicken.
Along with an extra dose of red chili flakes, this recipe uses a generous amount of aromatics compared to more subtle versions of the stir-fry.

CASHEW CHICKEN ORIGINS

Cashew Chicken is a popular Chinese stir-fry made famous by Chinese-American restaurants. Like many Asian dishes, Cashew Chicken has made its way into Indo-Chinese restaurants, which serve a bolder, more intensely flavored version.

A white bowl with spicy cashew chicken and jasmine rice with chopsticks resting on top

This recipe is loosely adapted from Rasa Malaysia. I love her tip for tenderizing the chicken – simply coat the chicken in baking soda before cooking. This loosens the protein bonds and makes the chicken tender, moist, and almost silky.

SAUCE INGREDIENTS

Here’s what you’ll need to make this brown sauce:

  • Oyster-flavored Sauce – Oyster sauce gives essential flavor and sweetness to this recipe. I use a gluten-free version.
  • Soy sauce, GF soy sauce, or Tamari – Any all-purpose soy sauce will work.
  • Rice vinegar – You can also substitute regular vinegar if you can’t find rice.
  • Sesame oil – I use the toasted kind but in a pinch, I’ve successfully tipped some untoasted sesame oil from my jar of tahini.
  • Red chili flakes – These are essential for the signature Indo-Chinese flavor.
  • Ground black pepper & white pepper.
  • Sugar – I use cane sugar but you can use any kind you like.
  • Kosher salt or sea salt – I love using sea salt in Asian dishes as it gives a bit of MSG flavor without the MSG. Keep in mind that the type of sauces you use will affect the amount of salt you need.

OTHER INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED

You’ll also need standard stir-fry ingredients like garlic, ginger, onions, and bell pepper. Can’t forget the cashews (use any you have on hand) and chicken.

How much chicken?

The older version of this recipe called for 1 chicken breast, which is usually around 0.5-0.7 lb. Back then, I didn’t have a weighing scale so I just eyeballed the amount (#truestory).

I now use (and suggest using) around 1 lb to make this recipe. Using less than 1 lb will increase the sauce and make it more concentrated in flavor.

HOW TO MAKE SPICY CASHEW CHICKEN

1. If you’ve got time, tenderize the chicken in baking soda before rinsing & patting dry. Otherwise, marinate the chicken in salt and cornstarch and set aside.

2. Make the sauce, then stir-fry the chicken.

How not to overcook chicken when stir-frying:

Over high heat, spread the chicken into a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then flip the pieces and continue to cook for another minute before stir-frying for a few more minutes. This works because:

1. Since the chicken is spread out, it doesn’t release too much water. This helps it sear nicely and cook more evenly.
2. The pieces remain slightly raw in the center and finish cooking with the sauce instead of getting overcooked in the final stage.

3. Sauté the garlic and ginger before adding the onion and bell pepper. Stir-fry so they soften but still remain crispy.

Bell peppers and onions in a skillet with a wooden spoon

4. Lastly, add in the chicken and sauce and stir-fry for a minute to thicken the sauce and finish cooking the chicken. Toss in the cashews and stir to coat.

A black skillet with spicy cashew chicken and wooden spoon

HOW TO MAKE THIS CASHEW CHICKEN MORE SAUCY

I’ve tried making this recipe with more water in the sauce but I found that it dilutes some of the intense flavors.

If you still want more sauce, add an extra 1/4 cup water plus a teaspoon of cornstarch to the sauce so it thickens instead of evaporating.

Cooked chicken, bell peppers, cashews sprinkled with sesame seeds served in a bowl with chopsticks laying next to it.

VARIATIONS AND TIPS

  • Onion and green bell pepper are often associated with cashew chicken, but you can use other stir-fry-friendly vegetables too. I’ve loved using celery when I had it on hand.
  • For an extra spicy kick, add a bit of red chili pepper along with the salt when marinating the chicken.
  • As with all stir-fries, have all the ingredients ready to go before you start cooking! A good idea is to prep while you tenderize the chicken.

Cashew Chicken (腰果鸡丁)

Learn how to make restaurant-style cashew chicken with super juicy and tender meat, a rich, thick, gingery, garlicky sauce, crispy peppers, and cashews. {Gluten-free adaptable}

Restaurant style cashew chicken with pepper

On the dinner table of a Chinese family, it’s quite important to serve food that is nutritious, balanced with veggies and grains, bursting with flavor, and beautiful to the eyes. Cashew chicken is no doubt a winner by these metrics.

The chicken breast is briefly marinated, resulting in juicy, tender bites that are very flavorful. The sauce is made from rich oyster sauce, a touch of vinegar, some soy sauce, some sugar, and tons of aromatics, which combine to make the sauce very fragrant, gingery, and garlicky. Then you finish up the dish with colorful peppers and nutty cashews. Scoop a spoonful with some hot steamed rice. Oh my, it’s like an amusement park in your mouth!

Restaurant style cashew chicken served with rice

Cooking notes

1. No wok required!

If you, like me, don’t own a gas stove, the best way to cook this dish is to use a large nonstick pan. Not only does it create juicy chicken with less oil, but the finished dish will taste as great as if you had cooked it in a wok. I wrote a lengthy post (wok vs. stir fry pan) to explain the reasons behind this. Long story short – your home stove usually cannot generate enough heat for wok cooking. So a large flat non-stick pan is your next best choice.

2. What cut of chicken to use

The authentic Chinese version uses chicken breast, and so does the recipe below. But if you like a rich and fattier texture, boneless, skinless chicken thighs work perfectly, too.

3. Marinating

I cannot emphasize this enough. This key step takes an extra three minutes but will make such a difference to your dish. Using Shaoxing wine and salt makes the chicken so much more flavorful. The cornstarch protects the chicken from the hot pan so it won’t be overcooked. It’s especially important for chicken breast because it can dry out so easily if you leave it in the pan a bit too long.

4. The sauce

I believe you should always use high-quality oyster sauce (such as LKK oyster sauce) in this dish instead of hoisin sauce, to create a richer taste. If you cannot find oyster sauce, a good hoisin sauce (such as LKK hoisin sauce) will be the next best choice.

5. How to make the dish gluten-free

Making this dish gluten-free is a bit challenging, but not impossible.

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