Cashew Chicken Recipe

This 30-minute cashew chicken is rich, savory, and just a little spicy — and even more delicious than your favorite take-out! After a quick marinade, just to keep the chicken moist, it’s cooked down with tender stir-fried veggies, toasted cashews, and a thick, sticky sauce.

extreme closeup: cashew chicken with vegetables

Cashew chicken is a perfect example of how mixing different cultures and cuisines can lead to some truly delicious meals! While the flavors and methods in this recipe are characteristically Chinese, it was actually created in Springfield, Missouri by a Chinese American chef in the ‘60s.

And now it’s enjoyed all over the country! The velvet chicken is accompanied by crunchy cashews and stir-fried peppers, onions, and bamboo shoots. There’s a bit of sweetness there, plus plenty of bold flavors in the stir-fry sauce from some chili paste, Hoisin, and chicken stock.

overhead: a large serving plate of my cashew chicken recipe

Stir that sticky, savory sauce in with some steamed rice or lo mein noodles so you don’t waste a single drop! 

All of the textures and flavors we love about Chinese cooking are all right there! It’s a little milder than some, especially compared to spicy Szechuan eggplant stir fry or sweet stir-fried broccoli and beef.

Tip From Kevin

Chicken Breast or Thigh Meat?

This recipe can be made with either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thigh meat.

Chicken breast meat is leaner and lower in fat compared to thigh meat, making it a healthier option for those watching their calorie and fat intake. However, thigh meat offers more flavor and moisture due to its higher fat content, making it a tastier choice for dishes where richness is desired. That said, when diced small like this I prefer the texture of chicken breast meat personally. Use whichever you prefer!

overhead: a hand holding a serving platter of cashew chicken

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

(Be sure to check the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and quantities)

  • Chicken – While usually made with chicken, this cashew chicken recipe can become a beef, pork, or even tofu stir-fry!
  • Marinade The brief, yet effective, marinade of egg white and cornstarch keeps the meat moist. For flavor, I also add soy sauce and white pepper
  • Vegetables My favorite vegetables to throw in with my cashew chicken are green bell pepper, white onion, and green onions. I’m also a big fan of bamboo shoots, which you can substitute with cabbage or asparagus if needed or preferred.
  • Raw Cashews Start with raw cashews and toast them yourself for a beautifully fresh, nutty flavor! Plus, using raw nuts means you get to season exactly the way you like.
  • Hoisin Sauce – It’s a thick sauce that’s almost overwhelmingly salty and tangy, and just a bit sweet. 
  • Chili Paste – This ingredient adds heat — and not a whole lot else. I would avoid substitutes like gochujang, sriracha, or homemade concoctions that might add more sweetness or acidity than you’re looking for. 
  • Chicken Stock Substitute as needed with chicken broth or vegetable broth.
extreme closeup: my cashew chicken recipe with vegetables

How to Make Cashew Chicken

  1. Marinate. Dice the chicken. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl and whisk. Add the chicken, toss to coat, and massage the marinade into the meat. Marinate for 20 minutes. 
  2. Prepare Vegetables. Slice the pepper, onions, ginger, and bamboo shoots and set aside. Whisk together the water, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Stir-fry Cashews. Pre-heat the wok on high heat. After a minute, add the oil and cashews. Fry for a minute, transfer to a paper towel, and salt. 
  4. Stir-fry Meat. Cook the chicken in the wok for a few minutes on each side, then remove from the heat. 
  5. Stir-fry Vegetables. Now, add the onion and fry for one minute. Add the ginger, remaining vegetables, cooked chicken, Hoisin, chili paste, and more oil if needed. Stir fry for another minute. 
  6. Make Sauce. Push everything to the edges of the wok. Pour the chicken stock into the center. Bring to a boil and add the soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Stir everything together. As the sauce thickens, add the cashews to the wok and stir into the mixture.
  7. Serve. Sprinkle the green onions on top of the cashew chicken and serve immediately.
  • Wok – The size and shape of the wok is very advantageous for stir-frying. You can move some ingredients to the cooler, outer edges while quickly cooking new ingredients in the hotter center.

Storing and Reheating

This is a great leftover meal! Add everything to an airtight storage container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. The chicken and vegetables continue to soak up the sauce, so they’re extra tasty as a next-day lunch or dinner.

Reheat in a saucepan if you want a bit of texture on the stir-fry, or microwave in short intervals until warmed through.

extreme closeup: cashew chicken with cashews, green bell peppers, and green onion

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make cashew chicken with chicken thighs?


Absolutely. Feel free to prepare this cashew chicken recipe with any cut, as long as it is boneless, skinless, and cut down to the appropriate size. 

Do note that breast and thigh meat taste a bit different! Dark meat is a little greasier which will add a heavier flavor to the dish.

How long do you need to marinate cashew chicken?


Not too long at all — just 20 minutes! If you wish to prepare it ahead of time, you can marinate for a maximum of 24 hours.

What is “velveting” chicken?


It’s a technique used in Chinese cooking to prepare protein for stir-frying. It both tenderizes the meat and covers it in a thick, cornstarch coating that becomes silky and velvety once fried.

It requires a brief marinade and quick pre-browning before it’s fully cooked. The marinade could be made with cornstarch, baking soda, or egg whites along with other flavoring ingredients. 

I usually opt for cornstarch, and sometimes use it in combination with egg whites — as I do in this cashew chicken recipe! For a deper dice, read more in my post What is Velveting Chicken.

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Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken is a classic stir-fried Chinese-American takeaway with tons of diced chicken, veggies and creamy cashews coated a savory sauce.
Servings: 4
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Total: 36 minutes

Ingredients 

Stir Fry

Instructions 

Marinate Chicken

  • Cut chicken into 1/4-inch pieces. In a small bowl whisk together the egg white, soy sauce, cornstarch and white pepper. Add chicken and massage to coat thoroughly. Cover and set aside 20 minutes.

Prep Veg

  • Cut bell pepper into 3/4-inch pieces. Cut onion in half and each half into 6 pieces. Remove skin from ginger and slice into thin strips. Cut strips into fine dice. If bamboo shoots are not shredded, cut into smaller strips. Chop green onions and set aside. Mix the water, soy sauce and cornstarch. Set aside.

Stir Fry

  • Heat wok over medium high heat for a minute. Add the oil and quickly stir fry the cashews until golden brown, 1 minute. Remove from wok to paper towel lined plate and season with salt.
  • Add the chicken to the wok and stir fry until no longer pink. Remove from wok.
  • Add the onion, stir fry 1 minute and add the ginger. Add tablespoon of oil if needed along with the bamboo shoots, green bell pepper, chicken, Hoisin sauce, chili paste and stir fry another minute.
  • Make a well in the center and add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch mixture and quickly toss to coat. Sauce will thicken. Add fried cashews and toss to mix through. Top with green onions and serve immediately.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 574mg | Potassium: 847mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 168IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): cashew chicken stir fry recipe

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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