Thai Cashew Chicken is tender bites of chicken in a savory and slightly sweet sauce. It's better and healthier than takeout, made in 30 minutes, and full of crisp toasted cashews.
Okay, so I totally know what you're thinking of when I mention Cashew Chicken. A Chinese food buffet version, right? Good but not great. This, my friends, is NOT that buffet cashew chicken. This is the Cashew Chicken of Thailand. In the world of stir fry dishes, this one is tops (perhaps only matched by the delicious Honey Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry). It is packed with flavor, full of sweet peppers and onions, tender chicken, and a sauce that will make you go back for seconds...and thirds...and look forward to leftovers at lunch. I'm certain you're going to love this recipe as much as I do.
- Chicken Breast - Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss it with salt and flour. Chicken thighs would work well here too.
- Onion and Bell Peppers - Onion and bell peppers add flavor and color to the dish.
- Green Onions - Chop the green onions and add them in for fresh flavor.
- Cashews - Raw cashews work best here because you'll toast them in oil before cooking. But roasted and unsalted cashews will also work.
- Cooking Oil - I like vegetable or peanut oil here for the high temperatures used during cooking.
- Stir Fry Sauce - This simple, savory sauce comes together fast. Check out the notes below and the recipe card for tips on light and dark sweet soy sauce which are both used in this recipe. This sauce does not use fish sauce, but like many Thai dishes, fish sauce would add a delicious savory flavor.
In Thailand, cashew chicken is still considered a Chinese-style dish but it is so common there that it's become Thai food in its own right. The most noticeable difference in the Thai version is that the sauce is more complex - it is savory, slightly sweet, and with a little bit of tart flavor. Spice is optional, but as with most Thai chicken stir-fry recipes, a little heat is always welcome.
Light soy sauce (also called thin soy sauce) is the most common soy sauce used in Thai cooking. This is not the same as low-sodium, but it has a light color and more delicate flavor than Japanese or Chinese soy sauces that many of us have in our pantries. Dark sweet soy sauce has a thicker texture and color and a more rich flavor. It is a must-have ingredient for the beloved Thai noodle dish, Pad See Ew.
Check out my Guide to Essential Thai Ingredients for more details.
Like most stir-fry dishes, this is a weeknight favorite. A few minutes of prep means all of the ingredients are ready to go and the dish can be finished in the wok in 15 minutes or less. Cooking everything in the right order is key. Here we go!
How to Make Thai Cashew Chicken
Step 1: Make Sauce
Garlic, soy sauce, water, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes (optional) are things you probably already have in your pantry. You'll also need Oyster Sauce. Don't be afraid of it! You've surely had oyster sauce if you've had Thai or Chinese take-out. The finished dish won't taste like oysters, but will have a savory flavor that shouldn't be missed. You'll also need Dark Sweet Soy Sauce. It's inexpensive and available at any Asian market. This is the brand we keep in our pantry.
Step 2: Prep Ingredients
The ingredients list is short and sweet. Slice peppers, yellow onions, and green onions. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss with a bit of salt and all-purpose flour (to help it brown in the pan). Get everything ready before you start. This will cook FAST.
Step 3: Fry Cashews
Since cashews are the key ingredient of cashew chicken you really want them to shine. Add cashews to some hot oil over medium-high heat and cook for about a minute until they are golden brown. You'll be amazed at how much toasty flavor and crunch this step gives the finished dish. It also gives the cooking oil some cashew flavor. Set cashews aside.
Step 4: Fry Chicken
Leave the oil from the cashews in the pan and add the chicken. Saute until golden brown and cooked through (6 to 7 minutes). Set chicken aside with cashews.
Step 5: Cook Peppers and Onions
To the hot pan, add those peppers and onions and saute until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a splash of water if the pan starts to look dry.
Step 6: Simmer with Sauce
Here's my favorite part. Add the stir fry sauce and let it bubble and thicken.
Step 7: Cook Everything Together
Add chicken and cashews back to pan with green onions. Toss everything to coat in sauce.
Dinner is served!
More Takeout Fake-Out Meals
- Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)
- Instant Pot General Tso's Chicken
- Honey Garlic Chicken Fried Rice
- Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Blackened Chicken
Favorite Tools for Asian-Inspired Recipes
- Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok - This affordable wok is the only one I use. I’ve had it for 10+ years and the only care it needs is to be washed out, dried well, and rubbed with oil before storing.
- Wok Spatula - This spatula fits perfectly around the curved edges of a wok.
- Splatter Screen - Perfect for keeping your stovetop (reasonably) clean.
Thai Cashew Chicken
- Wok or skillet
- 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
- ½ cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dark Sweet Soy Sauce
- 2 teaspoon Oyster Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional - skip if you don't want the dish to be spicy)
- ¼ teaspoon Ground White Pepper (optional)
- ½ Yellow Onion, sliced
- ½ Red Bell Pepper, sliced
- 3 stalks Green Onions, chopped
- 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, chopped
- pinch Salt
- 1 tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
- ½ cup Raw Cashews (or use roasted and unsalted cashews)
- ¼ cup Cooking Oil (like vegetable or peanut oil)
- Rice, for serving
- Make sauce:Whisk together garlic, water, light soy sauce, dark sweet soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Whisk in cornstarch. Add red pepper flakes and white pepper (if using). Set aside.
- Prep ingredients:Slice onion and bell pepper and combine. Chop green onions. Dice chicken and toss with a pinch of salt and flour.
- Set onions / peppers, green onions, chicken, sauce, and cashews near the stove. Place a paper towel on top of a plate and set that near the stove.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat.
- When oil is hot, add cashews and saute until golden brown and toasted, 1 to 2 minutes (watch carefully to prevent them from burning). Set cashews on paper-towel lined plate. Leave oil in the wok.
- To remaining oil in wok, add chicken. Let chicken cook for 2 minutes without stirring (this will help it to brown on the bottom).
- Continue cooking, turning occasionally, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes total.
- Transfer chicken to the plate with the cashews and return wok to heat.
- To any remaining oil in the wok, add onions and bell peppers.
- Saute until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. (Add a splash of water if the pan starts to look dry.)
- Pour sauce over onions and peppers.
- Simmer until sauce starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add green onions, chicken, and cashews to pan. Cook everything together for 1 minute to coat in sauce.
- Serve over rice.
Delicious Recipe. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe. Will try it at my home as soon as possible.
You're so welcome! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
hmmm..mouth-watering food!!! I would cook this for my family. I bet they will love it.
This looks really delicious. I am actually looking for something light but filling and I believe this Thai Cashew Chicken is just perfect. Thank you for sharing the recipe.
Too bad I missed your giveaway. Looking forward to your other posts.
I plan to make this tonight, however in place of the peppers I’d like to do carrots. When do you recommend adding those? I assume right where the onions and peppers would go in together but wanted your opinion first. Thanks for this amazing recipe. We have a great Thai restaurant in our town but it would be so nice to make something similar at home for less money!
Hi Alexis - I think carrots would be a great addition. I'd chop them fairly small, use pre-shredded or just plan to cook them a bit longer - they'll take longer to cook to tender than the peppers. Enjoy!
Delicious Recipe. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe. Will try it at my home as soon as possible.
Delicious! Substituted broccoli florets for bell pepper as I didn't have any on hand. Also didn't have any sweet soy sauce so added brown sugar for the sweetness. Definitely a keeper!
So glad you liked it Vicki, and I'm so happy to hear that the brown sugar sub worked out - good to know for others who don't have sweet soy sauce on hand.
Thank you very much! This is now my son’s favorite dish, I’ve made it four times in a few weeks! My son says it has the ‘magic sauce’ referring to authentic Thai dishes he has tasted.
I’ve taken the shortcut of adding the peppers and onion to the chicken after the chicken has been quickly browned.
That's so great to hear! And thanks for the tip on the shortcut - I'm sure others will appreciate that, Eva!
If you don’t have a wok will it work with a skillet pan as well?
A skillet would work great, Tina! Use the largest skillet you have to prevent crowding - the chicken and other ingredients will cook most evenly in a large pan.
Made this last night for dinner and it came out perfectly. Have had so many Pinterest stir-fry fails but this recipe worked great so thank you so much for posting and also for the great directions. I can always use another "no fail" recipe in my rotation! Really delicious and the whole family enjoyed it a lot!
p.s. Meant to give this five starts, not four. Also, appreciated the substitution advice for the dark sweet soy sauce, which I could not find 🙂
Great! Glad the sub worked. Dark sweet soy sauce is delicious, but it is a bit more difficult to find. 😉
Wonderful Cathy! We work really hard to test and re-test our recipes before publishing them. (We've had more than a few Pinterest fails from other sites too!)
I think this might be the first time I have left a review for a recipe I found on Pinterest. I just needed to drop by and say DANG this was sooo GOOD! My entire family finished their plates and asked for seconds. My favorite dish to order at Thai restaurants is cashew chicken and this did not disappoint. I was also able to whip it up really quick on a week night, served with Thai style jasmine rice on the side. One tip, really watch the cashews and keep stirring while they are cooking in the oil. I stepped away from mine for less than a minute and they had already started to burn. Luckily the sauce covered up any too-brown taste that was left. I also didn't have any of the sweet soy sauce on hand so I just added the brown sugar as suggested. I luckily doubled the recipe so I have some for lunch at work today, looking forward to it!
Thanks so much for leaving a note, Sarah! I'm glad and this was a hit with the family and that the brown sugar sub worked! Good point about the cashews - they do have to be watched so carefully, but that toasty flavor is worth the effort.
Cashew chicken is my favorite, I used to eat it almost everyday til I got sick of it lmao. Gave your recipe a shot at home and it turned out amazing 👌
Awesome! So glad you liked it Chris. I've definitely been through the too-much-cashew-chicken phase myself - I used to eat it SO much too!
This is one of my favorite dishes and it turned out fantastic. I did double the garlic, because I always at least double the garlic (haha!), but otherwise stuck with the recipe. Next time I think I will up the veggies a bit (maybe just need larger veggies), and maybe add carrot, but otherwise don't think I'd change it. Thank you for sharing!
This did not taste like the Thai restaurant version whatsoever. All it tasted of was soy sauce for us. Really no discernible flavor. Only change was tofu for chicken and we added extra veggies. Bummer because we were looking forward to the sweet, garlicky dish at home. Back to the search for a good home made version.
Hi Bevin - I'm so sorry that this didn't turn out the way you expected. I ate this dish many, many times in my years of living in Bangkok, so I found the flavor to match my memory. Did you use Thai brands of the sweet and light soy sauce? (A Japanese or Chinese version of regular soy sauce would give you a very different result - one that would likely taste much more of soy sauce than the Thai version of the dish.)
I agree. I don't think this person used Thai brands for the recipe. And, that would definitely make it taste way different (to soy like in flavor). I personally think this is one of the better Thai Cashew Nut Chicken recipes here on the Web. Truly matches what I grew up with at the "Bangkok West" Thai food restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA.
I appreciate you posting this recipe!
Do you think that I could replace the sauce with a tamarind concentrate? Curious because I just bought tamarind to try to replicate a spicy/savory thai cashew dish that I recently tried.
I think that would be delicious! Definitely taste it as you go though and add a bit of soy sauce and / or pinch of sugar to balance the tart flavor of the tamarind.
Fantastic! I added a yellow pepper and also used chicken thighs and breast meat. Turned out really good. Will definitely be making again. Next time I will double the sauce part of the recipe.
Awesome - thanks for letting us know, Mike! Good call on the sauce - I always love extra sauce!
Sooooooo close to a genuine restaurant taste, and I attribute the difference to the fact that I only had Japanese Soy Sauce. I substituted chicken thighs for chicken breasts because I have some weird aversion to breasts, but it was so. Dang. Good. I added a dash of brown sugar at the end because I felt it needed just a touch more sweetness and used half the oil because I was using a fattier chicken cut. Would recommend to anyone. (:
Awesome - thanks so much for the note Mariah and thanks for sharing those substitution / variation tips!
Jess, can I substitute low sodium soy sauce without having a negative impact on the recipe?
Anne - absolutely! I’ve made it with low sodium soy sauce and the result is delicious. I like to add a small amount of additional sweetener (sugar or honey) to balance it out if using regular low sodium soy sauce.
Thanks for an excellent recipe and the easy to follow cooking instruction. I made this on Friday evening, adding carrots, green beans and some noodles. The meal was very well received.
Looking very forward to trying this Amazing recipe! It looks awesome 😊 thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much Vickie! Enjoy!
Hi there! I’m wondering how you make the dark sweet soy sauce if you don’t have it, like how much brown sugar do you add? Thanks so much! Can’t wait to make this!
I really enjoyed this recipe. The one thing I added was 1/4c of dark brown sugar. That would have given this a 5 star all the way! I added a full bell pepper, and added sugar snap peas! Will definitely make this again with my one modification! Ty!!
Really enjoyed it! Used pork instead of chicken and added broccoli, mushrooms and basil, otherwise I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out amazing! Better than my local Thai restaurant! Thank you!
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I love gathering useful information, this post has got me even more info!
I have many really good oriental cookbooks I came
Across this recipe as I love chik8en and cashews I must say I'm really proud of my effort
It was amazing honestly this young lady knows how to cook
I'll be making this again trust me
Well done jess
ss and thank you
So glad you liked it, Paul!
This is a great recipe and will try it soon as I love cashews! Is there a substitute for the oyster sauce? Or can it be omitted from the recipe?
Hi Meeshu. You can definitely omit the oyster sauce, but you won't get quite as much depth of flavor or the same thick texture. Have you ever tried vegetarian oyster sauce? It's made with mushrooms and is available at every Asian / international grocery store that I've been too. We often use it in place of the classic version - it's delicious!
Hello, i made this dish 3 times and the more i make it the better it tasted. Absolutely little more sauce need it. I added a bit of sugar and cut out the corn starch, the little bit of flour in the chicken gave it that bit of thickness.
Thank you for sharing this recipe.
A 5 star dish!!!
Thank you! So glad you liked it Carmen!
I got inspired by our local Thai restaurant and wanted to chef up a dish like that. Next time I will twist the light soy with the sweet soy sauce - I like it a bit sweeter.
And I added a ton more veggies! Very fun dish, thank you Jess 🙂
Tried it tonight and put it on our staples list, so good, a keeper! Thank you so much for a very nice post: yummieh, comprehensive, and helpful tips. 👍
Fantastic! So glad you liked it!!
Simply wonderful. My wife and daughters who do not like "Thai Food" loved this. If fact, next time I make this I will double the recipe so that we have leftovers. We served this over Jasmin rice and it was perfect! I followed the recipe exactly and total time from start to finish was less than 30 mins.
Thanks so much for publishing this!
Yay! So glad this was a hit!
I have made this dish and love it. I now am going to make it for 10 people. How much should I plan on making?
I would probably make a triple batch and serve it with lots of rice. Also! When I've made this for a larger group, I saute the chicken in a couple of rounds, adding more liquid each time because it really helps to encourage browning. Then add it all back to the pan at the end together with the sauce. Hope that helps!
This was so good! Easy and flavorful. The whole family loved it. Thanks!
Made this recipe tonight. I used Hoison sauce instead of oyster sauce because I don’t like oyster sauce and this was amazing. But I don’t know how you make this in 30 minutes. It took me that long to cut everything up. The prep time is misleading. We will definitely put this in the rotation.
So glad you liked it! We'll definitely take another look at the prep time estimates.