A quick and easy cashew chicken recipe with loads of crunchy cashews, aromatic seasonings, and huge flavor, all simmered in a glistening sauce.
We're making Cashew Chicken in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends, and I know you're going to love this one. Most Americans know cashew chicken, the flavorful Chinese dish made famous for it's take-out popularity.
I've been known to order up some take-out from the local Chinese restaurant, but with this recipe, you'll never have to run out again. Skip the delivery! Homemade is so much better than take-out.
PLUS! If you're a spicy food lover like I am, you can very easily spice things up with some spicy chili peppers, chili flakes, and an optional ingredient that I feel makes this version unique and better than any other cashew chicken recipe out there.
Such a great recipe. Filing this one under Quick and Easy Meals for sure. I need more of those! It truly is super easy to put together, doesn't take long at all to cook, and it does not disappoint in the flavor department.
What is Cashew Chicken?
Cashew Chicken is a classic Chinese stir fry dish, highly popular in Chinese restaurants, particularly for take-out. It is made with seasoned chicken, cashew nut, and a glistening, flavorful sauce that is slightly sweet and easy to customize. You can stir in noodles, but I like to serve mine over simple white rice, which absorbs that sweet sauce.
Chinese cuisine has given us so many wonderful dishes and I'm very thankful. This is how I make my version. I think it's going to be your new favorite, my spicy food loving friends.
Let's talk about how we make Cashew Chicken, shall we?
Cashew Chicken Ingredients
- Olive Oil. I also like to use sesame oil, sesame oil, or vegetable oil.
- Spicy Chili Peppers. Chopped. I love serrano, Thai peppers, or cayenne here - use bell pepper for a milder version.
- Onion and Garlic.
- Cashew Nuts. Roasted cashews are great for this recipe. Otherwise, use unsalted.
- Boneless Chicken. Chopped. Use chicken breast or chicken thigh.
- Seasonings. Use Chinese 5 spice (optional - it's not traditional, but I love the flavor - give it a try! It's my secret ingredient!), along with salt and pepper.
For the Cashew Chicken Sauce
- Soy Sauce.
- Fish Sauce. Or use oyster sauce.
- Mirin. Or Chinese cooking wine.
- Corn Starch.
- Brown Sugar.
- Sesame Oil.
- Sesame Seeds.
- Fresh Chopped Herbs.
- Green Onion. Or scallions.
- Spicy Chili Flakes.
How to Make Cashew Chicken - the Recipe Method
Season. Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper, and Chinese 5 spice (if using). The Chinese 5 spice adds a unique flavor here, which I greatly enjoy. However, it is not traditional with this recipe. Set the chicken aside until ready to use.
Heat the Oil. Heat a wok or large pan to medium heat and add oil. I use olive oil a lot, but often use sesame oil here and sometimes chili oil as well. The choice is yours.
Onion and Peppers. Add onion and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes to soften. I like to get mine to brown a little bit and caramelize.
Garlic. Add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring, until the garlic becomes fragrant. NOTE: Try adding fresh chopped ginger at this stage as well. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't.
Cashews. Add the cashew nuts and chicken and stir. Cook another 7-8 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through and become a pleasant golden brown.
Make the Cashew Chicken Sauce
Whisk. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl - soy sauce, water, fish sauce (or oyster sauce), mirin, corn starch, brown sugar, and sesame oil, Add to the wok or pan.
Stir. Stir to coat everything and warm the sauce, about 1 minute or longer. The sauce mixture will thicken up rather quickly. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water or chicken broth.
The chicken is cooked through and coated in that wonderful sauce and it is huge on flavor.
Serve with rice and garnish! I prefer simple white rice, though brown rice is a nice choice.
For garnish, sesame seeds are pretty common, though I enjoy fresh chopped parsley, slices of chili pepper, and chili flakes on everything. Water chestnut is popular as well for serving.
Boom! Done! Doesn't it look amazing, my friends! I'm SO ready to dig into another bowl of this. It's pretty filling, but I could eat two bowls. Easy dinner for sure.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my cashew chicken recipe. So delicious! Another one of my favorite recipes. Let me know how you enjoy it.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Chicken. I have made this recipe with both chicken breast and chicken thighs and I love it both ways. If I had to choose, I'd choose chicken thighs, but I also enjoy it with a mix of the two.
- Cashew Nuts. Cashew nuts are traditional, hence the name, but you can make this with other nuts. Try it out with peanuts for a fun and interesting varition.
- The Sauce. Cashew chicken sauce is a pretty simple brown sauce, usually made with soy sauce, stock, fish sauce or oyster sauce, and a thickener. I add a few other ingredients to round it out. Other popular additions include fresh grated ginger, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, or tamari. In fact, you can replace the sauce ingredients in this recipe with this homemade hoisin sauce recipe. Better than anything from the grocery store!
- Heat Factor. Mild, though you can spice things up with hotter peppers and spicy chili flakes. Cashew chicken is not traditionally spicy.
Storage & Leftovers
Storing your Cashew Chicken in an airtight container in the fridge may allow you to store the leftovers for up to 3-4 days. To maximize the storage life, make sure to refrigerate them promptly.
I have to be honest. I've never been a fan of Chinese cuisine. I'm not sure why, even though Mike loves it. Mike has convinced me, however, that we've been missing out on the flavors of an entirely different part of the world. Fair enough. I'm glad he made this. I enjoyed this dish very much and look forward to having it again. With extra peppers, of course. Food like this will convert me.
Try Some of My Other Spicy Chicken Recipes
- Szechuan Chicken
- Hunan Chicken
- Kung Pao Chicken
- General Tso's Chicken
- Dragon Chicken
- Chicken Vindaloo
- Spicy Thai Curry Chicken Soup
- Ghost Pepper Chicken Curry
- Korean Chicken
- Korean Fried Chicken
- Bourbon Chicken
- Spicy Chicken Fried Rice
Try Some of These Other Popular Spicy Recipes
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS.Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Cashew Chicken Recipe
- 1 tablespoons olive oil (or use sesame oil, sesame oil, or vegetable oil)
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1-2 spicy chili peppers chopped (I love serrano, Thai peppers, or cayenne here - use bell pepper for a milder version)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup cashew nuts (or more to taste)
- 1 pound boneless chicken chopped (use chicken breast or chicken thigh)
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (optional - it's not traditional, but I love the flavor)
- Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or use oyster sauce)
- 1 tablespoon mirin (or Chinese cooking wine)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
FOR GARNISH: Sesame seeds; fresh chopped herbs, green onion or scallions; sliced peppers; spicy chili flakes.
- Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper, and Chinese 5 spice (if using). Set aside until ready to use.
- Heat a wok or large pan to medium heat and add oil.
- Add onion and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Add the cashew nuts and chicken and stir. Cook another 7-8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and add to the wok or pan. Stir to coat everything and warm the sauce, about 1 minute or longer. The sauce will thicken up.
- Serve with rice and garnish!
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 3/11/20 to include new photos and information. It was originally published on 11/9/15.