This cashew chicken recipe is one of my favorites on the site, and not just because it hails from my friend Marc.
Marc loves sharing 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.
What Is Cashew Chicken?
Cashew Chicken is a takeout standby that you can easily make at home. The chicken is marinated in a sauce with peanut oil, tamari (or soy sauce, if you can't find tamari), honey, and chili powder. It's cooked with mushrooms, onions, and, of course, cashews.
How to Make Cashew Chicken
The chicken marinates for at least a half hour while you toast cashews in a skillet. Then, the cashews cool and you cook the chicken, remove it from the pan, and then cook the onions and mushrooms together. Then, everything gets combined in the pan. It's great served with rice.
Ways to Adapt This Cashew Chicken
One of the things I like so much about this 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 specified in the recipe are all approximate. But with these ingredients, in approximately the right proportions, it's hard to go wrong.
Steps to Make This Cashew Chicken Ahead
You can marinate the chicken the night before you are going to make it if you would like, or at least a few hours ahead of time. The minimum it needs is a half an hour.
More Takeout Faves to Make at Home!
- Ginger Beef Stir Fry
- Korean Spicy Cold Noodles
- Easy Vegetable Fried Rice
- Moo Goo Gai Pan
- Chicken Pad Thai
Easy Cashew Chicken
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.
- For the chicken:
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 cup peanut oil or other vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 cup tamari (or soy sauce; use wheat-free tamari or soy sauce if you need to cook gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 3 cups roughly chopped onions (about 2 medium large onions)
- 3 cups roughly chopped mushrooms
- For garnish, optional:
- 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions or green onions, green parts only
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 tablespoons 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.
Toast the cashews:
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.
Sauté the chicken:
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 tablespoon of the marinade into a separate bowl and reserve.
Sauté onions and mushrooms:
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.
Combine all the ingredients:
Add the chicken and cashews back to the pan with the mushrooms and onions. Stir to combine.
Stir in onion greens (if using) right before serving. Serve over rice. This will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator, covered.