Thai Cashew Chicken


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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.

cashew chicken over rice on a white plate

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.

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stirring Thai Cashew Chicken in a wok


  • 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.


What is Thai-style Cashew Chicken?

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.

What is the difference between light soy sauce and dark sweet soy sauce?

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.

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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.

a bottle of Soy sauce for on a white countertop

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.

Thai Cashew Chicken ingredients  in small white bowls on a white table

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.

stirring cashews in a wok

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.

cooking chicken in a wok

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.

cooking vegetables in a wok

Step 6: Simmer with Sauce

Here’s my favorite part. Add the stir fry sauce and let it bubble and thicken.

adding sauce to vegetables in a wok

Step 7: Cook Everything Together

Add chicken and cashews back to pan with green onions. Toss everything to coat in sauce.

overhead image of Thai Cashew Chicken in a wok

More Takeout Fake-Out Meals

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cashew chicken on white plate
4.30 from 131 votes

Thai Cashew Chicken

Thai Cashew Chicken is tender bites of chicken in a savory and slightly sweet sauce. It's better and healthier than take-out, made in 30 minutes, and full of crisp toasted cashews.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • Wok or skillet



  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoons Dark Sweet Soy Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Oyster Sauce
  • 1 teaspoons Cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes (optional – skip if you don't want the dish to be spicy)
  • 1/4 teaspoons Ground White Pepper (optional)

Cashew Chicken:

  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
  • 3 stalks Green Onions, chopped
  • 1 pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, chopped
  • pinch Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Raw Cashews (or use roasted and unsalted cashews)
  • 1/4 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.


I recommend using a Thai brand of light soy sauce as it will give the dish the most authentic flavor (and is what we used to test this recipe), but light soy sauce is closest to the type of Japanese or Chinese soy sauce that you most likely already have in your pantry or fridge. I find that the closest match to Thai light soy sauce is the low sodium version of mainstream brand like Kikkoman.
Dark Sweet Soy Sauce – Don’t have this on hand? Instead of the dark sweet soy sauce, use 1 Tbsp light soy sauce whisked with 1 Tbsp brown sugar.


Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 978mg | Potassium: 631mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 664IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Calories: 377
Keyword: 30-minute meal, fakeout takeout
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

4.30 from 131 votes (107 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    So good! I put 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, but I may do 1/8 next time. Husband said this recipe was a keeper! So easy!

  2. 5 stars
    This was so good! I added cilantro at the end and didn’t have any green onions, although next time I will definitely get some of those too. This recipe is going on my rotation!

  3. 5 stars
    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.

  4. 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?

    1. 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!