This cashew chicken recipe is one of my favorites on the site, and not just because it hails from my friend Marc Canter who I don’t see nearly enough. I first posted it several years ago after a raucous and memorable dinner that Marc prepared, accompanied by his wife Lisa and their kids Mimi and Lucy (any dinner with little kids tends to be raucous and memorable, don’t you agree?) Marc had been serenading me with stories of his famous cashew chicken, his trademark dish, tested and perfected over decades of crashing at the homes of old and new friends in exchange for his cooking. One of the things I like so much about Marc’s cashew chicken is that it is a good base recipe from which one can easily expand. Several people suggested the addition of some ginger and onion greens, which I agree works well and I’ve added in this updated version as an option. I’ve also enjoyed it with some fresh chopped pineapple thrown in, giving it some sweetness. Others have added vegetables such as broccoli or snow peas. Note that the amounts are all approximate. Marc doesn’t really measure; like most natural cooks I know, he “eyeballs” it. But with these ingredients, in approximately the right proportions, it’s hard to go wrong.
You can whip this up pretty quickly if you first start with the marinade, then chop the vegetables and cook the cashews while the chicken is marinating. By the way, Marc's original recipe calls for boiling the cashews. We've had better luck and more flavor with toasting them instead of boiling them. They turn out more crunchy that way too. So we've updated the recipe to include the toasting of the cashews.
- 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
- Peanut oil (about 3/4 cup, can substitute other vegetable oil)
- Chili Powder (about 3 Tbsp)
- Tamari (about 1/2 cup) (if you don't have access to tamari you can substitute soy sauce, use Wheat-free tamari or soy sauce if you need to cook gluten-free)
- Honey (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 3 cups roughly chopped onions (about 2 medium large onions)
- 3 cups roughly chopped mushrooms
- 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion greens
1 Marinate the chicken. Place the cubed chicken in a medium bowl. Add the oil. Add the tamari until the marinade turns dark brown (about 2 Tbsp per breast). Sprinkle the chili powder over the chicken pieces while stirring, so that each piece of chicken gets well coated with the chili powder and marinade. Stir in the honey, about 2 tablespoons for each breast. Add chopped ginger if using. Marinate for 1/2 hour to several hours, the longer the better.
2 Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Spread the cashews in a single layer over the bottom of the pan. Stir until lightly browned, remove from heat.
3 Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Working in batches if needed so you don't crowd the pan, use tongs to remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place them in the pan, reserving the extra marinade. Sauté the chicken pieces until just cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside. Place any extra marinade back in the pan and simmer for several minutes (to kill any bacteria). Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of the marinade into a separate bowl and reserve.
4 In the same pan, sauté the onions on medium high to high heat for several minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté until onions are translucent and mushrooms are cooked, several minutes more. Add some reserved marinade to the pan if necessary.
5 Combine chicken, mushrooms, onions, with the cashews. Stir in onion greens (if using) right before serving. Serve over rice.