Marc’s Cashew Chicken

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.

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Marc’s Cashew Chicken Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Salt
  • 3 cups roughly chopped onions (about 2 medium large onions)
  • 3 cups roughly chopped mushrooms

Optional

  • 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion greens

Method

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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.

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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.

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Marc and his daughter Mimi, helping in the kitchen.

Links:
Stir-fry chicken with almonds, and shiitake mushrooms Connie's spin on Marc's recipe using almonds and shiitake

53 Comments

  1. Lauren

    I think this sounds fabulous, and not too much trouble for a weeknight meal. I wonder, would marinating the chicken overnight be too much?

    I think you could easily marinate the chicken overnight if you wanted to. ~Elise

  2. dave

    Cashew chicken always reminds me of my wife and my cross-country move of a couple years ago. We stayed the night in Springfield, MO and went out for dinner to some brewery/restaurant. The waiter arrived and told us the specials, ending with “and, of course, cashew chicken”. He left and we were left to wonder what the heck that meant. Come to find out, the dish was first served in springfield in 1963 at Leong’s Tea House. It’s the unofficial “national” dish of the city!

  3. Shal

    Elise, I made this last night and it was great. Thank you! (and Marc)

  4. Annie

    Made this for dinner tonight. It’s EXCELLENT. My only regret is that I made half the sauce amount hinking the full amount might be too much. Won’t do that again! I added veggies too, which I stir-fried separately then tossed in at the end. This recipe is a perfect example of a few simple ingredients creating a wonderful, flavourful dish. Yum. Yum.

  5. Laura

    Just wanted to thank you for the great recipe! I’ve made it several times since first seeing it a few weeks ago, and wanted to tell you how much my boyfriend and I enjoy it.
    Thanks again!

  6. Sarah

    After the Thanksgiving turkey, roast beef, meatloaf, chicken potpie, ginger snaps and carrot cake (for his birthday), this dish finally prompted my bf to tell me I need to post a comment on your site to show how much we enjoy the recipes. :)So thank you.

    Being Korean, I’m picky about all types of Asian food. The chili powder didn’t stand out at all for me but I did add some ginger in the marinade. I also made slight modifications:

    * Made the marinade separately (all liquid ingredients only, put chilli powder directly on the chicken) and cooked veggies first, set aside, cooked the chicken and added cooked veggies later

    * Added 1 teaspon minced fresh ginger in the marinade

    * Added 1 green pepper cut into 1 inch cubes to onions and mushrooms

    * Added constarch mixture at the end to thicken the sauce

    I would definitely make this many times over again! Thanks again.

  7. Susan

    Thanks so much for sharing this easy and delicious recipe! My roasted cashews were begging to be included in a tempting meal so I decided to be creative and use what I had on hand. This is the “quick as you can” modification to this great recipe:

    Replace raw chicken breasts with roasted chicken picked up in the deli section of the supermarket. Slice breast meat, etc into cubes.

    Substitute roasted and salted cashews instead of uncooked. Boil as in original recipe.

    Substitute sesame oil & a little olive oil if you don’t have peanut oil. (Would this be a healthier option?)

    No need to worry about contamination since chicken is already cooked!

    If I had green onions I might add along with the ginger others have mentioned.

    One word- YUM!

  8. eastmeetswestkitchen

    Just tried your cashew chicken recipe and LOVE it! Thanks! :)

  9. Stacy Bice

    This recipe is incredible. I am newly-wed and was searching online for a recipe to use in our new wok. My husband and I absolutely loved it and it is easy to make. with plenty of left-overs. Just a note. I wasnt able to find raw cashews, so I used roasted and salted ones. and I substituted olive oil for the peanut oil. But it all worked just the same. This will be a regular in my kitchen. Thanks so much.
    Stacy

  10. Leif Madsen

    Made this tonight as I was looking for a cashew chicken that didn’t require flour or corn starch (since I didn’t have any). Ended up still having to run to the store to get some mushrooms and another onion, but I love it!

    I agree with everyone who suggested additional ingredients, but as a base this was absolutely fabulous. Just learning to cook, and while this might have taken a regular cook only 30-45 mins, I thought the 2 hours (including walk to the store) wasn’t all that bad (I’m very casual when I cook lately as I find it relaxing).

    The recommended spice was just the right amount for me (I like things at at a medium hotness), and I added a little bit of sriracha chili sauce for the rice (I only had white rice), and it sweetened it a bit (worked for me).

    Used 2 large chicken breasts, and cut half a cup of onions and mushrooms from the recipe — and I now have food for probably another 2-3 hefty meals :)

    Thanks to Marc and Elise!

  11. Missy

    This recipe was great! I couldn’t find peanut oil so I used a premade peanut sauce. Still added the soy sauce, chili powder, and honey. It was great! I like how simple it was yet flavorful. Thanks for posting this!

  12. Espahan

    OMG! This looks so good, and so what I am in the mood to make. It is almost midnight so I can only drool. I plan to run out tomorrow to buy the ingredients. I will use grape seed oil which stands up to high heat in stir fry dishes, and it’s cheaper than peanut oil. I buy mine at Trader Joes. Like Sarah, I will add the cornstarch mixture at the end.

  13. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    The mushrooms are a bit of an unusual addition to the traditional versions of this dish, I think, but they add that umami-ness (is that a word?). I love how the honey creates a laquer on the chicken.

  14. mel

    I would definitely add garlic!!!

  15. Martijn

    Loved the recipe except for the raw/boiled cashews. I’m going to go for roasted or fried cashews next time. The marinade was awesome. Thanks!

    Great idea. I think roasted cashews would work great in this. ~Elise

  16. Laurie

    What purpose does boiling the cashews serve?

    The recipe looks good, just wondering if I could skip a step since I have a new baby soon to come home from the hospital.

    If you like the taste of raw cashews you can skip that step. You can also toast the cashews quickly in a hot pan, or toast them first, before cooking the chicken. ~Elise

  17. Scott

    Great marinade. Just marinate and cook the chicken as directed, but just skip all most of the rest. The raw cashews are bland and soft, not worth the money spent on them. Remove the chicken, simmer all of the remaining marinade to kill the bad stuff and cook some fresh vegetables in the sauce, including sauteed onions and sliced mushrooms, whatever you like. Then add the chicken to just reheat and serve.

  18. Momcat

    This looks great, going to make it on Monday since I seldom cook on weekends. I’m going to add some celery with the onions since the Prince loves celery. Question – is that regular chili powder as is used in Tex-Mex chili, or something Asian? Would hate to ruin the dish with the wrong thing.

    Marc used just regular chili powder, but you could use whatever your favorite chili powder mixture is. ~Elise

  19. Connie

    Ah, inspiration! I’m doing this with slivered almonds and shiitake mushrooms for lunch today!

  20. Anna

    This looks delicious, but who needs rice? I’d bump up the non-starchy veggies instead of filling up with empty starch.

    Maybe I’ll try this tonight – I have wheat-free raw tamari, chicken thigh meat (more flavor than chicken breast meat) and lots of kale, carrots, and leeks from my recent CSA box.

    I’d also sub out the peanut oil and use a more saturated fat like ghee from pastured cows – it holds up well to heat and isn’t full full of omega 6 fatty acids like peanut oil. Plus grass-fed ghee is a good source of Vitamin K2.

  21. Ellie

    I made this last night and it was easy and fabulous. Thanks so much for posting it again.

  22. Jen

    My boyfriend made this Sunday night. It was absolutely to die for ! My store was out of green onions but we will definitely be making this again so will put them in next time. I also added some sliced water chestnuts at the end because I love the crunch!

    Thank You !

  23. Praj

    Elise! This recipe is so amazingly simple and tasty! I added celery, Green peppers and onions to it and it turned out really awesome. Its a staple for me now :)

  24. Sara

    Overall, a very good dish. I could not find tamari at my local grocery store, so substituted soy sauce. Also, I did not want to go through the hassle of toasting or boiling raw cashews, so I used salted roasted ones (I picked them out of a nut mix I had at home). I added ginger and broccoli. Next time, I would cut back on the onions (as much as I love them, I thought there were a little too many) and add more broccoli and/or snap peas, as well as scallions. I thought the recipe could also use a little more heat. I added a little chili garlic sauce, but it could have used more. Perhaps next time, I will add some cayene. I will definitely make this again!

  25. Jennifer

    I’ve been enjoying your site for a long time now–THANK YOU! I really appreciate the pictures that go with each recipe, and I love the introductions and background info that you provide for the dishes.

    I’m excited about trying this particular dish, but I’m a newbie cook and have a question. I’m unfamiliar with raw cashews and was curious about why they were recommended over the canned/jarred versions that I’m used to seeing. Also, are raw cashews edible before roasting or boiling?

    Hmm, do you mean the jarred roasted cashews? Those tend to be rather salty. Regarding raw cashews, the raw cashews that we get at the store supposedly have been pre-steamed to release any toxins, so they are safe to eat. Marc boils raw cashews for this recipe, but you could easily roast them, or even used roasted cashews (just don’t boil those, no need). ~Elise

  26. Geoff

    Hi, I made this dish last night, and WOW. It was full of flavor and looked great. I added a red pepper and celery. This is a keeper. Thanks Elise.

  27. Becky

    We have just moved into a new home and when it came to Chili Powder – Uhoh, none in the house. I looked in my spices and chose Garam Masala instead. Wow, really wonderful. My husband is still oohing and aahing. Fabulous.

  28. Milena

    I prepared this meal yesterday and it was delicious! Thanks for the great recipes!

  29. Peachy

    In regard to the first comment…I marinated the chicken overnight, and the taste was a little much for me. Of course, I also used soy sauce instead of tamari, so maybe that was the problem. Next time I think I’ll cut down on the soy sauce, and marinate for a few hours at most.

  30. Michelle

    This recipe is delicious! I made it last night and had it for lunch tonight. We will be making this again and again!

  31. Erica

    This a great recipe – it went over real well last night at our house – and so easy to make-grain free. I used gluten-free soy sauce. I love recipes with honey :). Also, I might try roasting the cashews instead of boiling them next time. We tend to prefer the crunch of a roasted nut. All in all, fabulous! Thanks!

  32. Kiley

    I tried this last night. It was excellent. I added about 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns and briefly heated them in about 1Tbs of the oil before making the marinade to release the flavor. It gave the dish a subtle spicy but not too hot flavor. Will definitely make it again. Also agree with other posters that if using soy sauce, a long marinade might overwhelm the dish.

  33. Sheetal G

    I’ve made this twice in the last 4 days and it’s a big hit with the family. Loved it with the roasted cashews and added one jalapeno pepper with the onions to give it a bit of spice (to suit the Indian taste!)

    So quick and interesting! Absolutely LOVE it! Thanks guys :).

  34. Elise Lafosse

    I made this last night for dinner and it was terrific. Just when I boiled the cashews, the water did not get frothy. But that was fine. Also can anyone tell me the difference between Tamari and Soy Sauce? Just curious. I did find Tamari at Whole Foods.

    Tamari is more intense than soy sauce. You can find a discussion here on the Wikipedia. ~Elise

  35. Erin

    I made this tonight, and it was delicious! We didn’t have any Tamari on hand, so we substituted Soy Sauce. I also added ginger, green onions, and some corn starch to thicken the sauce a bit. We let the chicken marinate overnight and didn’t think the marinade was too strong at all! We’ll definitely be making this again and again… thanks for sharing the recipe!

  36. RD

    I made this a couple of nights ago and it was delicious. I used canola oil instead of peanut, and also included the fresh ginger and green onions. These should not be optional in my opinion. I over cooked the chicken breasts a little bit but it was still great. The next time I will use thigh meat instead. I may also toast the cashews instead of boiling them. Anyway, I served it with steamed white rice and sauteed Swiss chard with garlic, red pepper flakes, and dark sesame oil. Yum!

  37. Eliza

    I made this last night, and it came out awesome. It def. is a keeper. Variations were: Chicken thighs; and I added carrots and sweet pepper, plus a mix of shitake mushrooms with the crimini mushrooms. The only change for next time might be to use toasted cashews vs. boiled. I think the roasty crunch would be a nice textural contrast. I wasn’t too keen on the soft nuts.

  38. AskthatGirl

    This is a great recipe. I did make some adjustments though to suit my Latina and my husbands Filipino tastes. We love spice so before I cooked the chicken, I cooked about 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes in a little oil until the flakes got black, then I cooked the chicken in that. Also, you can use jarred/canned cashews. I just gave them a good rinse to take the salt out. I toasted the cashews instead of boiling them, and it does bring out the flavor and gives the meal a lot of crunch, which I think is much better than a soft nut texture. Instead of mushrooms, I added a can of cubed pineapple to compliment the spiciness. Oh my gosh, this came out soooo delicious. The mixture of flavors and textures is definitely a party in your mouth! We made white rice to go with it, but the next day, we still had some left, so I kept it cold, mixed in some mayo and turned it into an AWESOME chicken salad! :) Lastly, I wouldn’t marinate it for more than an hour or so. You don’t want the flavor of the chicken to take away from all the other great things you are putting in there. Happy Cooking!

  39. Chris Lewis

    This is the most awesome recipe I’ve acquired in years. I ate it three days straight. I’m allergic to soy and substitute Bistro gravy powder whenever soy is called for and no one knows the difference. Used canola oil instead of peanut oil. Fresh ginger and green onions, a MUST in my book. Thank you for sharing Marc’s recipe.

  40. Inna

    Made it with roasted cashews – it was delicious! Thank you for posting this recipe.

  41. Marc Canter

    Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year from snowy Cleveland, where I revcently moved.

    And salutations to teh 40 commenters and fans of this recipe.

    What Elise forgot to mention is that not only do I NOT measure, but I also do this recipe by ‘touch’.

    The viscosity of the oil, tamari and honey – add up to a unique blend which (when done right) balances the pungent, sweet and spice of the chili powder.

    To be honest I usually measure the chili powder by sight – each chicken chunk should have it’s own ‘schmear’ (coating) on it.

  42. Donna Maxwell

    I am in love with cashew chicken! I had printed out the recipe some time ago and was waiting for the opportunity to make it. I am so glad I finally found the night to make it as it was perfect on a cold winter day. Sweet with a little spice and salt from the cashew and when reheated the next day it was even better. Thanks Elise and of course thanks to Marc for sharing….

  43. Jeffrey

    This is a fantastic and easy recipe. There are two things I do different and in addition to this recipe.

    I make up a batch of the marinade ahead of time because 1.) I fall into the do-not-reuse your marinade crowd and 2.) I like to play with the spiciness and sweetness each time. I also toss in some pineapple.

  44. Katalina

    This was a great dish and really simple to make! I just tried it myself for the first time tonight and it was a hit with my other half. I decided to add 2 medium zucchini along with the mushrooms for more veggies. Thank you so much for putting this up!

  45. Carly

    thanks for helping me convince my parents, that at 24 I’ve finally learned how to cook! I make this recipe every time we have someone new over, and it continues to impress.

  46. Juliette

    Tried this yesterday, lovely taste! Ginger definitively makes this recipe special…

  47. Jessica

    This was delicious, and made a ton of leftovers. I didn’t have fresh ginger so I used powdered. I also added a few cloves of garlic and reduced the oil to 1/3 Cup. I could have probably used even less oil to lighten this otherwise calorie-dense meal up a bit. Served over brown rice, this was a flavorful comfort dish for a weeknight. Boyfriend also enjoyed it.

  48. JMK9310

    I used this recipe as a guide and used ingredients that I had in my cupboard…. Kikkoman’s low sodium soy sauce instead of Tamari; Canola oil and a little sesame oil instead of peanut oil; pickled sushi ginger; white granulated sugar instead of honey; a package of frozen broccoli instead of mushrooms; both yellow and red onions since I didn’t have quite enough yellow. I also chopped up a couple cloves of garlic and added it to the marinade. Toward the end (right before I threw the chicken and cashews back in the pan with the veggies), I added a little more chili powder and some crushed red pepper. Even substituting nearly everything except the cashews and the chicken, it was AMAZING. I AM looking forward to trying it again with honey though… I love honey, just didn’t have any!

  49. Bobbi

    We added minced garlic in olive oil……delicious…..then we added curry powder and it changed the flavor of this dish to an Indian flair!

    soooo..it can be 3 recipes!! the original cashew chicken ala Mark..
    or
    cashew chicken with garlic
    or
    cashew chicken with curry

  50. David

    I forgot the honey, and it was still great!

  51. Julie Ross Godar

    Yay! I didn’t know you guys knew each other :)

    I miss cooking with Marc Canter.

    -Julie

    Mark is “da best”! We’ve lost him to Ohio. :-( ~Elise

  52. Steve Southard

    I too tried this recipe just last night. OMG! When I saw the honey and tamari I knew it was going to be good. Just had leftovers for lunch at work and tossed the plate. Embarrassed to say I’m looking longingly at the plate in my cubicle trash can wishing I had licked off the sauce before tossing. LOL! I added a pound of chopped asparagus and it went really well with it. Thanks Marc and Elise! I’ve made Cashew Chicken many times over the years concocting my own creation but have always opted for a lighter sauce. When I saw the picture I though, “Ooo, that looks good!” Glad I tried it.

    Steve

  53. Jennifer Farley

    I need to make this immediately.

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