Chicken With Cashews Recipe is a classic appetizer recipe that tastes amazing and is packed with nutrients. The cashews and the chicken go great together – this dish will be a hit at any party.
This recipe is our most recent addition to our arsenal of Chinese recipes. We’ve had it so many times I’m starting to think it’s boring. So I’m doing a little research to spice things up and make the chicken with cashews recipe even better!
- SERVES: 4
- PREP TIME: 10 min
- COOK TIME: 20 min
- CALORIES: 579
- 30 MINUTES
- KID FRIENDLY
You may think you love cashew chicken, but you have no idea how delicious it can truly be until you’ve made this Chinese takeout favorite at home!
Fall (Even More) In Love With Cashew Chicken
Takeout definitely has its moments but homemade is always better—if not quite as easy. Homemade cashew chicken is always going to be healthier than takeout, that goes without saying. But we also love that you can control how much oil and salt are in the cashew chicken recipe, or even up the veggies if you’re hoping to make it a little healthier still. Even without worrying about health, making cashew chicken from scratch is a great idea because it’s always, always going to be more fresh than takeout—straight from the skillet (no wok needed) into your bowl. YUM!
Cashew Chicken Sauce
Tender, succulent pieces of chicken in a lightly sweet hoisin sauce—while it may seem like this Chinese-American recipe is all about the combination of chicken and cashew nuts, we actually think that our love for it began with that savory sauce. There’s no real trick to making it, and nothing fussy—you’ll just need a few basic Asian condiments and cornstarch, which makes the sauce just a bit sticky and helps it cling to the chicken, veggies and cashews:
- Hoisin sauce
- Sesame oil
- Low sodium soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Brown sugar
Everything You’ll Need To Make Cashew Chicken at Home
OK, so you’ve got the cashew chicken sauce down! Now it’s time to gather everything you’ll need to make this easy stir-fry:
- Chicken breast
- Soy sauce
- Roasted cashews
- Vegetable oil
- Red bell pepper
- Fresh ginger
- Canned water chestnuts (P.S. these are optional, but add a really nice additional layer of crunch that plays off the peppers and cashews really nicely!)
- Green onions
How To Make Cashew Chicken
- Toss the chicken pieces with soy sauce and cornstarch. This will give them a wonderful light outer crispness—not like a batter, but just a hint of a delicate outer layer that holds in all that juicy, moist chicken goodness.
- Toast the cashews in a dry skillet.
- Whisk together the cashew chicken sauce.
- Brown the chicken in a skillet, taking care not to crowd the pan. You want a good sear on each piece.
- Toss in the bell pepper once all the chicken pieces are browned. Stir-fry until the peppers soften (but still have crunch) and the chicken is all cooked, and add the garlic and ginger.
- Add green onions, water chestnuts and pour in that lovely hoisin-based sauce.
- Bring the whole pan to a gentle simmer, then stir in the cashews.
- When everything is coated with sauce and the sauce has reduced to your liking, serve!
Saucy, sticky, crispy, sweet and savory Cashew Chicken! Just like your favorite takeout, but made easy at home
Oh my oh my oh my – saucy, sticky, sweet and savory cashew chicken is here, and it was my favorite recipe I made this month, and this just might be the recipe that will pull you (okay, fine, me) out of the winter slumps with texture, flavor, and a little extra jazziness. It’s just a really fun recipe.
I made this last week and it was SO good! I followed your easy non dredging tip and it worked perfectly. Thanks for another great recipe!
My version of cashew chicken is actually based off of this Cheesecake Factory copycat recipe, which is lovely and reminds me that although haters like to hate, I should probably get back to the Cheesecake Factory for a feast ASAP. Great job, Sabrina.
I made it essentially the same as her cashew chicken recipe, but just a little easier, and with a shorter ingredient list.
And what resulted was glorious. We’re talking about bite-sized pieces of chicken, breaded and fried into a nice little crisp, tossed with a quick, sticky-sweet, soy-and-garlic sauce, all brought together with a handful of cashews. Ideally this would be served over a pile of hot, steaming rice with a side of something of the vegetable variety (steamed or roasted broccoli is a fave). But more practically, you won’t even get that far before you start popping bites of chicken straight out of the hot pan.
There is a 100% chance that anyone who is in a 10-mile radius will come running into your kitchen when they smell the garlic, ginger, and soy in the sauce as it hits the pan. It’s a good moment.
Prefer To Watch Instead Of Read?
What You Need To Make Cashew Chicken
While this is somewhat of a clear-the-counters-and-put-on-your-apron kind of recipe, it doesn’t take as much effort or ingredients as you’d think.
Here’s what you need:
- Dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, the usual)
- Batter (you’ll make this, but it’s easy! promise!)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Sauce (soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, ginger, etc.)
- Green onions to top it off
How To Make Cashew Chicken
First, you’ll have to put a little bit of prep work in – cube your chicken, get the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix the batter for frying, and maybe even whisk together your sauce now if you want to really make this seamless.
Then, you’re going to start making magic happen.
- Coat your chicken in the dry ingredients and get it in the batter to coat.
- Heat your oil in a large skillet to get it ready to fry. (You can test it by adding just a drip of batter to see if it sizzles, but if you want to be really exact, the oil should be about 350-375 degrees.)
- Fry it up! Add half your chicken, then repeat with the other half.
- Remove the oil and put the chicken back in the pan and add your sauce and cashews.
- Serve with rice. Way to go!
Deep-Fried Vs. Stir-Fried
Traditionally, there are two ways to make cashew chicken: stir-fried in a pan or wok, or deep-fried, the latter of which is happening here.
I love love love the crispy, delicious, deep-fried bits of chicken and how they cling to the sauce here, but if you want to eliminate the deep-frying of this recipe, that is an option.
What I’d do instead: skip the batter and just stir fry the chicken in a pan, and then add the sauce at the end. Easy.
HOWEVER if you are choosing to deep fry, I have a small tip for you to make it a littttttle easier: toss *all your chicken* together into the flour, then stir up *all the floured chicken* together into the batter. From there, I dump about half of it into the pan of hot oil – it’s going to stick together and feel very wrong, but you can work quickly and use two forks to break the pieces apart. And repeat with the other half batch.
CASHEW CHICKEN: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the origin of cashew chicken?
Cashew chicken is a Chinese-American dish that can be either stir-fried or deep-fried – the latter of which (what we’re making here), originated in Springfield, Missouri. It was created by a chef named David Leong who moved to the US from China and was looking to create a dish that appealed to the tastes of Americans, which is how it was born. Thank you, David!
Can I stir fry the chicken instead of frying it?
Absolutely! As I mentioned above, the other version of this dish is stir-fried instead of deep-fried. Just skip the coating and frying step and stir fry your chicken, then add the sauce.
Could I use tofu instead of chicken?
Yup! I’d maybe skip the batter and deep frying and employ one of the crispy tofu ideas in this post.
What type of pan is best for this recipe?
Non-stick is best for all the deep-frying fun happening here.
How does this hold up for leftovers?
There’s a little sogginess that happens for leftovers, but I still really enjoyed it. If you want to revive the crispiness, you can heat it in a pan on medium-high heat to get things crisped up again.
Thai Cashew Chicken Recipe
If you want to learn how to make the best possible cashew chicken stir fry at home, get ready. This is my “ultimate guide” to this popular takeout dish. I’m giving you all the tips and tricks that I know, (even some surprising ones), to maximize the flavour. It’s also very quick to make; a perfect weeknight dinner. This is my husband’s all-time-fave Thai dish, and he wanted to let you know that this version is awesome 😉.
What is Cashew Chicken? Is it Chinese or Thai?
Cashew chicken is simply a stir fry of chicken and cashews with a sauce that’s got a salty-sweet flavour profile. Many people might think of cashew chicken as a Chinese dish, and indeed China is where this dish originated. You can tell by the presence of sesame oil, which we don’t use very much of in Thai cooking.
But Thai cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese food, and this is one dish that has become a mainstay in Thailand, and in Thai it’s called gai pad med mamuang himmapan ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์ . (I swear that whole thing just says “cashew chicken stir fry”!)
But as usual, no matter where dishes come from, once they arrive in Thailand, Thai people put our own spin on it. So the flavours are a little different in predictable ways; a little lighter, a little spicier, and with a little more fish sauce 😉.
Here are all the ingredients for Thai cashew chicken. It looks like a lot, but many of these you probably already have on hand. And if anything looks unfamiliar, not to worry – I’ll explain everything you need to know!
- Dried chilies
- Extra-roasted cashews
- Green onions
- Chicken thigh or breast
- A mix of green, red and yellow bell peppers (or you can do green and red only)
- Soy sauce
- Golden Mountain Sauce (sub Maggi seasoning or more fish sauce)
- Fish sauce
- Thai chili paste, store bought or homemade
- Oyster sauce
- Toasted sesame oil
How to Make Cashew Chicken
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the steps. But to ensure success I highly recommend watching the video tutorial before you start, as I often include extra tips; and for a very fast-cooking dish like this it’s always good to see the whole process ahead of time, as you won’t have time to read the recipe once the stove is on!
- Marinade chicken in soy sauce. If using breast, add a little water.
- Combine all sauce ingredients together.
- Heat oil in a wok until very hot and spread the chicken in one layer and allow to sear.
- Once browned, toss the chicken until fully cooked. Remove from the pan.
- In the same wok, add the garlic and cook till golden.
- Add the onions and cook briefly.
- Add bell peppers, chicken, and the sauce mixture.
- Toss on high heat for about a minute until everything is well combined and heated through.
- Turn off the heat, then toss in the cashews and green onions.
- Enjoy with some jasmine rice!
Pro Tips: Why This Recipe Works
- Double-roasting cashews make them crunchier and nuttier, and that makes then pop. Some brands of commercially roasted cashews are quite light in colour, and aren’t that crunchy. Stick them on a baking sheet and roast them again at 350°F for another 8-10 minutes, and you’ll get crunchier and nuttier-tasting cashews that will be well worth the extra time.
- Marinating the chicken while you prep makes it flavourful inside and out. The sauce is super flavourful, but it’s only sitting on the outside. For the best result your chicken should also be flavourful inside.
- Browning chicken adds flavour without the need to fry. Restaurants often dredge the chicken in flour and then deep fry them before tossing them into the stir fry. But if you just let the chicken brown in the wok, you’ll develop that deeper “fried chicken” flavour, no frying required!
- Adding onions after the garlic keeps them crisper. You might be tempted to cook onions first along with the garlic to get them soft and sweet, but here, the sauce is already sweet, and the chicken is tender, so minimally-cooked onion can better provide balance.
How to Make Cashew Chicken Faster
If you love cashew chicken and, like my husband, want to eat it again and again but don’t want to do all the prep every time, I got you. Here are a couple of ways you can prep ahead and save time when the urge for cashew chicken strikes:
Make a big batch of cashew chicken sauce
- Make 3, 4 or even 10 times the amount of sauce in this recipe. Be sure to scale all ingredients proportionally. Because sugar doesn’t dissolve well in the thick sauce, I would first dissolve it in just a little bit of hot water before adding it to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir to mix well.
- Measure the final volume of the sauce before you put it away, and divide it by the number of batches to get the volume that you need per batch. Write this amount on a piece of tape and tape it to the jar so you don’t forget. Keep it in the fridge, it’ll last indefinitely. Stir the sauce well before using.
OR..Start with my Universal Stir Fry Sauce
- If you don’t want cashew chicken THAT often, make a jar of my universal stir fry sauce, which is super useful for all sorts of things, including this recipe.
- For the recipe given below, use 3 Tbsp of the universal sauce instead of the oyster sauce, soy sauce, Golden Mountain Sauce, and fish sauce. When you cook, you’ll just need to add the chili paste, sugar and sesame oil.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is better to use chicken breast or thighs?
I prefer chicken thighs in most dishes, cashew chicken included, because it’s fattier, more flavourful, and much less likely to be overcooked and dry. If you prefer chicken breast though, not a problem, it works quite well here in this flavourful sauce. But if using breasts, add a little extra water to the marinade to give it a little extra juiciness – especially if you overcook them, which is easy to do with chicken breast.
What is Thai chili paste? Is there a substitute?
Thai chili paste is a sweet-savoury thick paste that is loaded with umami. It’s made mainly from dried chilies, shallots, garlic and dried shrimp.
Some people do not add Thai chili paste to cashew chicken, but my strong preference is for versions with. It adds a rich, sweet-savoury flavour that makes it truly stand out. If you don’t add it, it’ll taste like a generic chicken stir fry – just with cashews. Nothing wrong with that, but to me a Thai cashew chicken really needs it.
If you can’t find it in stores or online, you can make it at home using this recipe here. It’s also really useful to have on hand for our famous tom yum goong soup as well!
You can also try adding Korean gochujang plus a teaspoon of extra sugar, but know that the flavours between Thai and Korean chili pastes are very different, so it won’t taste the same. I think the Korean version will still be tasty regardless, so if you do try it let me know how it goes!
What kind of dried chilies do I need? Do I even need them?
The dried chilies are completely optional for this, as they serve more as a garnish than an integral part of the dish, and not everyone eats them. But they’re an iconic “look” for Thai cashew chicken, so I have to include them here. You can also add dried chili flakes instead for some heat without having to deal with whole chilies.
If using whole chilies, they need to be fried so they become crispy and can be easily broken and incorporated into the stir fry for those who want to eat them. (See video for how I eat the chilis).
You can use any kind of dried chilies that are about medium spicy. So chile de arbol are great, or I’ve used generic ones you can find at Chinese stores. Avoid ones that are large though, as I find it harder to get them crispy without burning them