Quick and easy Chinese Cashew Chicken recipe made with simple ingredients in just 30 minutes for the perfect go-to weeknight meal!
Looking for more Asian-inspired chicken recipes? I’ve got you covered with these popular posts for Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Sticky Sesame Chicken, and Asian Citrus Chicken Salad.
Why This Recipe Works
Quick & Easy — Less than 30 minutes for this extraordinary tasty cashew chicken dish? It’s true! The ingredients just come right together in the skillet and the sauce is just a little of this, a little of that, whisk together, pour in, and let simmer!
Healthy(er) — While I’m not claiming this easy cashew chicken is going to win any health awards, it is healthier than take out. That’s because this recipe uses less oil and other fats to cook in. Plus, we add fresh veggies and just a bit of cashew for that awesome crunch.
Customizable — Swap out the chicken for beef or pork. Substitute ground for diced chicken. Add in some other veggies to go with or instead of the peppers. Make it yours! Love sauce? Double that up too!
Great for groups — Do you have guests visiting or want to impress your friends? Then you must try this Chinese cashew chicken. It’s easy to double and comes together in under 30 minutes! So crunchy, tasty, saucy, and filling, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made this before.
- Oil — a vegetable oil, canola, or olive oil will work in this cashew chicken dish.
- Oyster Sauce — Don’t be put off by this intimidating-sounding sauce. It’s easily found in any international aisle of your grocery store. It’s key to a delicious, rich taste.
- Cornstarch — You’ll use this to make your slurry to make the sauce thicker. Any cornstarch brand is fine.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts — Your favorite brand of boneless, skinless chicken breasts is great here.
- Red Bell Peppers — If you don’t have two red peppers, don’t sweat it. Use one red, one green. Two yellow…it doesn’t matter. I prefer red and it’s more “true” to takeout but any peppers will be delicious.
- White Onion — You’ll want a nice, mild white onion in this Chinese cashew chicken dish. If you don’t have white, yellow will work.
- Cashews — You can’t have cashew chicken without cashews. I prefer cashew pieces but you can use whole if you like. Salted or unsalted — whichever you have on hand.
- Green Onions — I love to sprinkle green onions on the dish before serving to give it just a little extra bite of onion flavor. You can skip the garnish or use cilantro instead.
- White or Brown Rice, Cooked — Pick your favorite rice here. Brown will be a bit more nutritious if that’s what you’re going for. This dish is a great way to use up leftover rice too!
- Soy Sauce — I use low-sodium soy sauce but you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Rice Vinegar — I prefer the taste of rice vinegar in this dish. But apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar will work as substitutes, too.
- Sugar — Plain, old white sugar goes just fine here.
- Sesame Oil — Just a little bit goes a long way!
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes — Any brand of crushed red pepper flakes is delicious and adds just a bit of heat.
- Minced Fresh Ginger — You can really taste the difference between fresh and ground ginger in this dish. But hey, if all you have is ground, it’ll still be delicious!
- Minced Garlic — I just use a scoop out of a jar of minced garlic but you can mince your own, too.
Here’s How You Make It
- First, whisk together 1/2 tbsp oil, the oyster sauce, and the cornstarch to make a thick paste and then add the chicken pieces to the slurry. Stir the mixture until the chicken is coated and then set it aside.
- Next, whisk together the soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic to make the sauce. (Double up if needed!)
- Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to a large skillet or frying pan and preheat it over high heat. Add the coated chicken and sauté until the pieces are browned and just cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan.
- Now, add the bell pepper, onions and cashews, and cook until the onions are just starting to soften and become fragrant.
- Pour in the sauce in with the veggies and, once the sauce starts to bubble, return the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook the cashew chicken all together, until the sauce has thickened to coat the chicken and vegetables.
- Serve with white or brown rice and garnish with the sliced green onions.
Typically, Chinese cashew chicken sauce is made with cashews (obviously), and a sauce made with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, ginger, and Asian chili garlic sauce.
My version is very similar but I add sugar instead of honey, a bit of sesame oil, ginger, and then combine red pepper flakes with garlic rather than using Asian chili garlic sauce. But if you prefer more of a kick — you could use both!
Although both share similar ingredients, the two Asian dishes do differ. Kung pao chicken is a stir fry made with diced chicken and dried chili peppers. It’s a bit sweeter and also traditionally made to be a very spicy dish. Kung pao chicken also often has peanuts added to the dish.
Cashew chicken is a bit mellower in flavor, with a lightly sweetened brown sauce and with cashews for added texture and crunch.
Both dishes feature bell peppers as their main vegetable.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Two skinless boneless chicken thighs can be substituted for each chicken breast.
- Instead of white sugar, you can also use liquid honey in this Chinese cashew chicken dish.
- Oyster sauce is sometimes sold as “Oyster Flavored Sauce.” Lee Kum Kee Panda is a good brand which is widely available.
- This cashew chicken dish will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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