This amazingly easy (and just plain amazing) Cashew Chicken is a favorite weeknight dinner! Made from juicy chicken stir-fried with tender veggies in a tangy, savory Asian-inspired sauce. This 25-minute homemade recipe is a million times better than takeout.
We’re no strangers to takeout in this family. I’m a sucker for the convenience of a hot and ready meal from our favorite local take out spot, but I also know there’s nothing better than homemade! For the days when a craving strikes, this easy cashew chicken recipe has all the familiar Asian-style flavors that I love, made right at home (in the time it would take to have it delivered, too!). Like my Orange Chicken, this is a restaurant-quality chicken dinner that anyone can make with a few basic ingredients and a skillet.
The spicy and tangy cashew chicken sauce is just next-level delicious, and you can make this recipe as mild or as hot as your family prefers. If you’re on the go all week long, my cashew chicken is your new best friend. This is the type of dinner you need in your life, trust me.
What Is Cashew Chicken?
Cashew Chicken is always my go-to order when we grab Chinese take-out. It’s a popular dish made from chicken and vegetables, stir-fried with cashew nuts in a combination of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The flavors are savory, a little tangy, and a bit spicy (depending on how much chili is involved).
Fun fact: You’ll find different variations, including Chinese-style, like this one, and Thai cashew chicken, but cashew chicken was actually invented in Missouri! It’s more of an American dish that’s Chinese-inspired, created at a restaurant called Leong’s Tea House.
What You’ll Need
There are two parts to this cashew chicken recipe: the flavorful stir-fry sauce, plus the chicken and other add-ins. Below is an overview of the various ingredients you’ll need for both. Remember to refer to the recipe card for the full ingredient amounts!
For the Sauce
Hoisin Sauce and Soy Sauce: Both of these traditional Asian condiments pack in loads of umami flavor. Like soy sauce, hoisin sauce is made from soybeans, with additional spices, garlic, and chilies. It’s mostly mild, so you’ll notice I spice it up with chili sauce later on. You’ll find hoisin sauce in the condiment aisle of most major supermarkets.
Chicken Broth: I recommend using low-sodium chicken broth since ingredients like soy sauce already contain high amounts of sodium. You don’t want your sauce to come out overly salty.
Honey: For a hint of natural sweetness. If you don’t have honey on hand, brown sugar can be used instead.
Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar is the best for seasoning and flavoring Asian-style recipes. If you don’t have it, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar are good substitutes.
Sesame Oil: You’ll want to get your hands on some. Sesame oil has a distinctive flavor that really can’t be substituted in Chinese-style cooking!
Ginger: I highly recommend using freshly grated ginger in this cashew chicken stir fry sauce. It’s easy to grate using a zester, and you’ll find fresh ginger root in most grocery stores or markets. Ground ginger works in a pinch, but the flavor just doesn’t compare!
Cornstarch: To thicken the sauce.
Sriracha and Crushed Red Pepper: To beef up the spiciness of the sauce. I use sriracha for its slightly sweet chili flavor. Another similar chili sauce will also work. If you’d prefer a more mild sauce, feel free to adapt the amount of chili or leave it out altogether.
For the Chicken
Chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips. Some people prefer to use boneless chicken thighs, which is totally fine also! You’ll also need canola oil or vegetable oil for sautéing the chicken.
Vegetables: I use a combination of snow peas, thinly-sliced carrots (julienne-style is best), and crispy water chestnuts in my cashew nut chicken, along with garlic for aromatics. You can definitely adapt this recipe with any vegetables you’d like. See later on for easy variation ideas.
Cashews: Everyone thinks the chicken is the star of the show here, but really, it’s the cashew nuts! Cashews become rich and nutty as they cook, lending loads of flavor to the stir fry. Be sure to use unsalted cashews so that you don’t wind up with a dish that’s too salty.
Jasmine Rice: I serve my cashew chicken over a bed of fluffy jasmine rice. Of course, you can serve your stir fry however you’d like! Check out the section below for more tasty serving suggestions and side dish ideas.
How to Make Cashew Chicken
Don’t be surprised if this cashew chicken is the most ridiculously easy dish you’ll make this week! Once you whisk up your stir-fry sauce, just 20 minutes is all you need to sauté the ingredients in a skillet.
Prepare the Sauce: This part is super easy. Simply whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a bowl, and set this aside for now.
Brown the Chicken: If you have a wok, now’s the opportunity to use it! Otherwise, heat a bit of oil in a non-stick skillet on the stovetop. Give your chicken strips a sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then toss those into the skillet to sear on each side. I recommend working in batches, so as to not overcrowd the chicken pieces. Over medium-high heat, the chicken should brown pretty quickly.
Cook the Veggies: Transfer the seared chicken pieces out of the pan and onto a plate. Next, lower the heat and add the carrots and snow peas to the skillet to cook until they’re crisp-tender. Afterward, stir in the garlic and water chestnuts.
Combine: Now, it’s time to bring it all together. Add the cooked chicken back to the skillet, and over low heat, pour in the stir fry sauce. Sprinkle in the cashews, and then stir everything to coat while the sauce thickens and cooks. Dish up your homemade cashew chicken over rice or noodles, and dig in!
Tips for Success
Below are some final recipe notes to help your cashew chicken come out exactly to your liking:
Adapt the heat levels. If you’re catering to milder palates, you can adapt the amount of chili in this recipe as needed. Use more or less hot sauce, or omit the chili altogether.
Toast the cashews. If you have the time, lightly toasting the cashews in a pan with some oil brings out an even more nutty flavor. You can also use pre-roasted cashews.
Make it vegetarian. You can easily swap out the chicken for tofu if you’re making a vegetarian stir-fry. Or, just replace the chicken with more veggies! See below for easy variation ideas.
Easy Recipe Variations
I love meals like cashew nut chicken because I hardly ever run out of ways to customize the ingredients. A stir fry is a perfect way to use up just about any leftover veggies, etc. you may have kicking around in the fridge. Here are some easy cashew chicken variations to try:
Different Protein: Why not try cashew beef? Or tofu with cashew nuts? Chicken is a classic, but go ahead and mix it up with any protein you’d like.
Different Veggies: This recipe works with just about any vegetable. Try it with broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, sweet corn, onions, green beans, mushrooms, cabbage, or bok choy. Keep in mind that different vegetables may have different cook times.
Easy Add-Ins: Dress up this simple stir-fry recipe with bean sprouts, edamame, chives, or green onions.
What to Serve with Cashew Chicken
All it takes is a side of rice or Spicy Sesame Noodles to turn your cashew chicken into a well-rounded meal. Just one more reason to love this recipe! Of course, if you’re looking for more easy dishes to serve alongside a delicious plate of chicken with cashew nuts, below are some of our favorites.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Refrigerate leftover cashew chicken airtight for up to 3 days. Leftovers are easy to reheat in the microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop. You can add a little water to help loosen up the sauce if needed.
Can I Freeze Cashew Chicken?
Yes! This chicken stir fry freezes well. Store it airtight in a freezer-safe container or resealable bag, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw the cashew chicken in the fridge before reheating.
This 25-minute Cashew Chicken recipe is an easy takeout-inspired meal! A family-friendly dinner idea made from juicy chicken cooked with tender-crisp veggies in a flavorful sauce.
For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1½ teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
½–1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
For the Chicken:
1– 2 teaspoons canola oil
1½ pounds boneless chicken breasts, sliced thinly into 2-inch strips
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced very thin
8 ounces snow peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) can of sliced water chestnuts
1 cup cashews
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups cooked Jasmine Rice
Sauce: Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl until smooth and set it aside.
Chicken: Heat the canola oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
Season the sliced chicken with salt and pepper and when the oil is hot place the chicken into the skillet in batches, browning on each side. Make sure not to over-crowd the skillet. The chicken will cook quickly, 2- 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and continue until all the chicken is cooked.
Reduce the heat to medium and add in the carrots and snow peas, sauteing until they are soft, but left with a slight bite, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and water chestnuts and cook for 1 minute.
Reduce the heat to low and return the chicken back to the pan. Add the reserved sauce and the cashews, then stir to combine. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
Serve hot over jasmine rice.
Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Keywords: chicken with cashews recipes, chicken with cashew nuts, cashew chicken stir fry
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