Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

My father first found this Melissa Clark recipe in the New York Times in 2007. We thought the combination of cashews, garlic, cilantro and jalapeños intriguing and worth a try.

When my 9-year old visiting nephew proclaimed, “Hey, this chicken is good!,” we knew we had a keeper.

Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken

I’ve since made this recipe several times, with great results. Note the reader comments. People have subbed almonds and walnuts for the cashews, and parsley for the cilantro. Great for a summer cookout!

Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Taste the jalapeños first, before using. Jalapeños vary in heat and sometimes you need more, sometimes less to get the desired heat level. If you want to take it up a notch in heat, leave in more of the seeds.

Use gloves when handling jalapeños (or a plastic sandwich bag), or coat your hands with a little oil first, before cutting the peppers, and then wash hands with warm soap and water after.


  • 1 cup roasted (salted or unsalted) cashew nuts
  • 6 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1/4 cup canola or olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free for gluten-free version)
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, stems and most seeds discarded, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs


1 Make the spicy cashew paste: In a food processor or blender, add the cashews, cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, jalapeño, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water.

Pulse or blend until the mixture is a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reserve a third of the marinade for serving with the chicken. Use the rest for coating the chicken.

2 Coat chicken with the cashew paste: Sprinkle the chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the marinade.

At this point if you want, you can make ahead, and chill for several hours or overnight until ready to cook. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

spicy-garlic-cashew-chicken-method-1 spicy-garlic-cashew-chicken-method-2

3 Grill or broil the chicken: Preheat broiler or prepare grill (or grill pan) for medium direct heat.

Broil or grill chicken, turning frequently, until golden and crisp and a meat thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (not touching a bone), or when the juices run clear (not pink) when cut into with a knife.

This will take about 25 to 35 minutes for a grill on medium heat, or about 10-20 minutes under a broiler, depending on how far the chicken is from the heat.

Note that as you turn the pieces, some of the coating will fall off. It's to be expected, so don't worry if and when this happens.

Serve with lime wedges, reserved marinade, and cilantro.

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Recipe barely adapted from New York Times Spicy, Garlicky Cashew Chicken published July 11, 2007.


Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken here on Simply Recipes

Roast Chicken with Cilantro and Lime - from Kalyn's Kitchen


Showing 4 of 62 Comments

  • Archana

    May I add to the chorus? This chicken tastes phenomenal. I make it very regularly since the first time I tried it out and it is a big hit every time. I bake the chicken in the oven as I do not have a grill – I don’t think this takes away from the taste. I always leave out the brown sugar as I am not a fan of sweetness in chicken dishes. I also add a lot more garlic after I reserve some of the marinade for the dip – this makes the chicken even more garlicky and delicious. Thanks again for this great recipe!!

  • anandhi

    This was amazing..

  • Azmina

    this recipe looks really yummy and id like to make it..but dnt have jalapenos here( i knw..small country far far away from urs)..is it okei to use capsicum?

    You could use a different fresh chili pepper. Or add some chili powder to the cashew mixture. ~Elise

  • Linda

    THANK YOU for this recipe, Elise. It was wonderful. I had to use a pimiento pepper as that was all I had and that was enough heat for us. This was incredibly easy to make ahead and pop under the broiler for 20 minutes. Served it with a mango/peach/arugula salad with lime dressing. Excellent dinner! I appreciate your sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Tonight was the second time I made this for the family. It is absolutely delicious! Even my little girls ages 3 and 1 loved it. And loved the separate marinade on the side. We used it to dip the steamed broccoli side dish I made. And even mixed it in with the couscous side too. It just goes with everything and is so delish.

    My only issue with this recipe is that both times I made it, the top scorched and burned even though I turned it within 5 minutes of putting it under the broiler. And I turned them frequently too. But the side of the chicken thighs with the marinade spread on just always scorches black. I’m going to try it one more time and this time flip them within 2-3 minutes of putting them in and see if that prevents the scorching. If not, I think I’m just going to cook them without marinade and spread on the marinade afterwards.

    Any ideas on this? Thanks!

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