Why you’ll love this recipe:
I reserve one night a week for flavorful stir-fries like steak pad Thai or cashew chicken. They check all the boxes for an easy weeknight dinner. This one is packed with colorful veggies, crunchy cashews, and tender chicken thighs, then coated with a sweet and tangy sauce. I’ve been making this cashew chicken stir fry on repeat for the last three weeks because it’s slightly-sweet umami-flavor is addictive. It only takes 20 minutes from start to finish, even less if you pre-chop your veggies.
- Chicken stir fry with cashews
- Made with simple ingredients
- Only 10 minutes of prep time
This cashew chicken recipe is far better than take-out, and comes together in a flash. My family devours it in a hurry, and quickly asks for seconds.
Key Ingredient Notes:
- Chicken thighs – I prefer dark-meat chicken thighs, because they’re forgiving in a hot skillet. It’s hard to overcook a chicken thigh with it’s high fat content, but chicken breasts work fine too. It’s important to cut them into 1-inch strips so they cook quickly without drying out. If you’re chicken breasts are rather thick, pound them first before cutting them into strips.
- Aromatics – Garlic & onion create a depth of flavor you can’t achieve otherwise. They both sweeten and mellow in flavor as they cook.
- Cashews – Don’t skip toasting the cashews. It intensifies their nuttiness and crunch. If possible, use lightly salted or unsalted cashews, so the dish doesn’t get too salty. Don’t be afraid to let them turn a nice golden brown, but stir them so they don’t burn.
- Stir fry sauce – The cashew chicken sauce is made of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Feel free to swap the brown sugar with honey, light agave, regular sugar, or maple syrup. Hoisin is naturally sweeter and thicker than soy sauce with a little bit of heat. It takes the flavor of the sauce up a notch.
- Red pepper flakes – For a nice kick! If you’re sensitive to heat, skip it.
How to make this recipe:
1. Make the sauce:
In a small bowl, whisk the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Set it aside to use later.
2. Make the stir-fry:
- Toast the cashews: In a large wok, add the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Toast the cashews until golden brown, stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Carefully transfer the toasted cashews to a plate, reserving the oil in the hot wok. If you don’t have a wok, a large sauté pan works great too.
- Cook chicken and onions: Add the onion and garlic to the wok, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the sliced chicken and cook until the outside is cooked.
- Add the veggies: Add the sliced bell peppers, green onions, and crushed red pepper. Continue to cook and stir until the red pepper softens and the chicken cooks all the way through – about 3 minutes.
- Add the sauce and cashews: Add the stir fry sauce and toasted cashews to the wok. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce evaporates and thickens. Don’t walk away from the stovetop during this time. It thickens in just 3 minutes and you don’t want it to burn.
Enjoy immediately over fluffy rice and garnish with sliced green onions. White rice is the perfect vehicle to sop up all the delicious sauce!
What to serve with Thai cashew chicken:
There’s no need to get fancy with this flavor-packed dish. A simple side of white rice absorbs all the tangy sauce and delivers it to your mouth! Any type of rice works great, so just use your favorite style. Here are a few good options:
- Brown rice
- Jasmine rice (my favorite!)
- Basmati rice
- Cauliflower rice (low-carb option)
- Sesame noodles
- Prep the chicken, veggies, and sauce beforehand. Cut the chicken thighs into strips, slice the onions & bell peppers, & whisk the sauce together in a small bowl. Refrigerate the elements until ready to use, then the recipe comes together in a snap!
- Store leftover Thai chicken with cashew nuts in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Reheat in the microwave in 30-second increments or in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat.
Yes! This cashew chicken recipe freezes well. Transfer the cooled chicken, veggies, and sauce to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Yes! The two ingredients you need to swap with gluten-free versions are the soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Soy sauce typically contains wheat (gluten), so swap tamari gluten-free soy sauce in its place. Each brand of hoisin sauce is different. Some contain wheat and some don’t, so be sure to check the label.
Both are chicken-based stir fry dishes in a sweet and tangy sauce. Kung pao chicken is typically spicier with a substantial amount of dried chilies cooked directly into the dish. Cashew chicken is always made with toasted cashews, while kung pao chicken can be made with peanuts or cashews.
Yes! Swap the chicken thighs with extra-firm tofu that’s been pressed to remove the excess liquid. Cut the tofu into 1-inch chunks and cook the tofu until browned, before adding the bell pepper and green onions.
Thai Cashew Chicken
- small bowl
- wok or large sauté pan
- measuring cups & spoons
- 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
- ¾ cup cashews
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound chicken thighs boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch strips, Note 1
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper Note 2
- jasmine rice, for serving
- In a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and cornstarch, then set aside.
- In a wok or large sauté pan, add the sesame oil and heat over medium high. Toast the cashews for two minutes, stirring constantly. When done, remove the cashews from the wok and set aside, reserving the oil in the pan.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, add the sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink on the outside, string constantly. Add the red bell pepper, green onion and crushed red pepper, continue cooking over medium high heat until the bell pepper is tender and the chicken has cooked through, about 3 minutes.
- Add the prepared sauce and toasted cashews to the wok. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Serve immediately over jasmine rice and garnish with thinly sliced green onion, enjoy.
– Store leftover Thai chicken with cashew nuts in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
– Reheat in the microwave in 30-second increments or in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat.
* Disclaimer: All nutrition information are estimates only. Read full nutrition disclosure.
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