Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken

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.

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


  • 1 cup roasted (salted or unsalted) cashew nuts
  • 6 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin 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, olive 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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  • Jane

    Would love to make this marinade – has anyone used it in a vegetarian dish? Thanks in advance for any vegetarian uses. A friend has become vegetarian and want to cook for her.

    • Summer Miller

      Hi, Jane! While this is intended for chicken, you could try it to dress roasted vegetables served over couscous, you may also try it with firm tofu or seitan, both are common meat substitutions for vegetarians. If you want something more familiar try this mushroom stir fry. Good Luck!

  • Natalie

    This has been a favorite in our house for a while now, my husband actually said if he could pick only one things for his last meal it would be this chicken haha. I use boneless skinless chicken breasts though and bake them in the oven, mostly because we love the sauce and don’t want lose any of it on the grill :) Thank you for this wonderful recipe


  • Liza Sklar

    I am constantly trying to re-invent the wheel when it comes to making dinners that please everyone in the house. This was a HUGE HIT!!! So Delicious! I was eating fingersful of the paste (which I made several days before I made the chicken…which cut my prep time after work drastically) out of the container! I used thighs as instructed, but may use bonelessd thighs next time.

  • 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!!

  • Janice

    Made this last night and it was fantastic! Your recipes never fail me, Elise!

    It’s a Melissa Clark recipe, it’s a keeper! ~Elise

  • 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!

  • Tina

    I love this recipe. I have made it three times so far. The last time I baked the chicken in a glass baking dish until cooked through. It worked wonderfully and didn’t start on fire like it did on the grill for me.

  • Mona

    Great recipe! We loved it! I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and we grilled them. Turned out fantastic, loved the grilled on coating of the marinade that was all over the chicken, slightly charred. Even my picky kids loved it. They ate more than we did. I served it with couscous, spinach and mango salsa+chips. I ended up using half a jalapeno because it was very powerful, it had the perfect amount of kick (and we eat spicy food). I can’t stop eating the marinade I kept on the side, I think I need to hide it somewhere.

  • The Food Digest

    Since cashews are my favorite nut and I love to cook with garlic, I must admit I had never tried the two together in a recipe. I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. It was delicious!

    Thanks for educating me.


  • Hydra

    So good! thanks for the recipe. I used bone-in chicken thighs, and deskinned them. (they were really easy to pull the skin off of.) Grilled them, and they were amazing. Perfect blend of sweet, spice, and flavor.

  • Jess

    This recipe is great even though I used raw cashew nuts, will try roasted next time. I think it will be a very good marinade for bbq chicken skewer too.

  • cindy

    this turned out wonderful served it with coconut infused rice and sesame green beans

  • Scott

    This was FANTASTIC! We did, however, cook it in a counter-top convection oven for 40 minutes, turning them at 15 and 30 minutes. The flavor was nicely complex even though our marinating only lasted 6 hours. Next time, I will do it overnight, maybe add a touch more garlic…and make a heckuva lot more of it!

  • Sheeijan

    This was delicious, but I couldn’t turn the chicken because the paste came off all over the place when I tried. Kind of scratching my head on that, but it was yummy and so easy nevertheless. Different too, from the same boring chicken dishes. Thanks for a new weeknight dish!

  • Sheeijan

    This was delicious, but I couldn’t turn the chicken because the paste came off all over the place when I tried. Kind of scratching my head on that, but it was yummy and so easy nevertheless. Different too, from the same boring chicken dishes. Thanks for a new weeknight dish!

    Yes, it’s a bit messy and difficult to turn because of the paste. But tastes great. ~Elise

  • KariVery

    We made this the other night and it was delicious! We grilled the marinaded chicken and served it with Japanese noodles – we used the reserved marinade as the sauce for those, too – it was fab. I did change a couple things – I used half sesame oil and half olive oil, I doubled the cilantro (because it is sooo good) and instead of brown sugar to sweeten it, I threw in a dash of lemonade. I actually missed that ingredient in the recipe when i read it, and when I tasted it, it needed something sweet, so I came up with lemonade :-) I’ll try using brown sugar next time to see which I like better.

  • Rhoni

    This is totally weird…but I literally made this 2 days ago from my Essential New York Times cookbook! I loved it so much I typed up the recipe and sent it to my mom and my aunt. So in conclusion: anyone reading this who hasn’t made it yet…make it immediately! Yum.

  • agnespterry

    Hi! I used your recipe last night to make this chicken. I changed around a few things, though. I used almond flour since I had it on hand instead of the cashews, I upped the cilantro and lime and some of the soy sauce (figured it couldn’t hurt) and baked it instead of grilling. Essentially I had a “cilantro pesto.” Since we were running late with supper I simply served basmati rice and green beans as a side. Anyway, this was excellent. I want to make it again and grill it, now, possibly using both jalapenos!

  • spirulina

    This looks very ‘Malaysian’ with the combination of flavours and use of nuts. I’m sure it will taste great.

  • Todd G.

    Try this with flavored almonds too. I like Blue Diamond habernaro BBQ flavor, aand their chili/lime is good too.

  • KariVery

    Was wondering if anyone has ever used sea bass or tuna with this marinade? Seems like it would be good, but I am not sure it would work without that yummy chicken skin.

  • Meg

    I’m on a stupid diet. Do you have any guesstimation of how many calories are in this recipe?

    No idea. ~Elise

  • CJ

    This looks like an amazing recipe, and I love the idea of mint instead of cilantro (although I do love cilantro). I’ll most likely be making this tonight. Funny story about getting pepper in your eye. I love spicy food and I stock up on dried ghost chili. I was making something Indian one night and got in a hurry and didn’t use gloves when I chopped my chili. Hours later I was cutting up an onion and my eyes started to water. I rubbed my eye and… OOOOHHHH GOD!!!!!! It was horrible. We had company and I was screaming and cursing in the kitchen. It was akin to getting maced in the face. Wear your gloves.

  • Rachel

    Yum! The boyfriend cooks the same chicken (tasty, but boring) most nights for dinner, so I tried this to switch it up. The sauce is absolutely delicious–I think I mixed up the proportions a bit and added too much garlic, but it’s tasty all the same. Thanks!

  • Nat

    This recipe is absolutely delicious! Used boneless, skinless chicken breast in the broiler, 10 minutes on each side, and it came out magnificently! Thank you for the wonderful recipe :)

  • Kristen

    I just wanted to say that I made this for my fiance and my family this past weekend, along with fresh green beans and your spicy corn fritters, and everyone would not stop gushing about how delicious it was. What an amazing flavor combination! I love cooking meals that my family appreciates and exclaims over. Your site is one I come back to again and again — thank you so much for your dedicated (and delicious) posts.


  • Nancy

    My new favorite! I used almonds instead and it was delicious.

  • RD

    I love grilled chicken! It is one of my favorite foods. Especially cooked on my Big Green Egg (BGE) smoker/grill over lump charcoal. And this is one of the best grilled chicken recipes I’ve tried in a long time! I let the chicken marinate in the fridge for about 4 hours before grilling. As stated in the recipe, be sure to save about a third of the marinade to serve with the chicken (you might want to thin it with a bit of water). It tastes so good! It was worth standing outside in my backyard the other night in sub 50 degree weather – with a couple of glasses of red wine to take the chill off – to cook this. I served it with another recipe from this site, Baby Bok Choy with Cashews, and steamed white rice. Excellent!

  • Robbo the Yobbo

    I went bonkers over the marinade, which is really more of a pesto. The thing is, in my opinion the cashew/cilantro pesto is so delicious, that it seemed like a bit of a waste, in retrospect, to slather most of it on the chicken.

    In the future, I plan to make the pesto, mix it into pasta or rice, and then serve that along with baked chicken.

    Btw, the jalepenos really made the marinade/pesto. I used two, seeded, and I wouldn’t recommend leaving them out.

  • Kim

    Excellent Recipe! I can’t wait to show it off! I skinned the thighs before cooking and carved the meat off the bones to reserve for my chicken stock before serving. I expect the flavor from the marinade to contribute to an exceptional chicken stock. Indeed this recipe is a keeper. Next time, I want shred the cooked chicken and serve the finished result (including reserved marinade, lime, cilantro) with large pieces of romaine lettuce as as Lettuce Wrap dish. I may even add more garlic just because. Well done, Elise. Keep up the good work.

  • Tina

    Okay, this is so good that I simply HAD to make it for my brother when I got home…but this time we grilled it rather than bake it. WOW! It’s even better grilled! I will definitely double the sauce recipe next time, as my brother, our friend, and I ate ALL of it before we even finished the chicken! This ranks up there as one of the best recipes I’ve EVER tried! :)

  • Tina

    Delicious! I baked instead of broiling, only because I wanted to include roasted potatoes as part of our menu. I set the oven to 425, baked for 50 minutes, and it came out perfect! The sauce is amazing, and since I LOVE spicy foods, I kept the seeds in the jalapenos. Will definitely make this again!

  • Heathercicle

    I made this dish earlier this week and I was really impressed! I admit to being skeptical when I saw that my marinade was green (I hope it was supposed to be!) and I knew that my boyfriend was NOT going to eat green chicken. That being said, I was ecstatic when he tells me, “Now, don’t let this go to your head but.. this is amazing. Where is the real Heather?” Anyway, I was short on time so I didn’t bother marinading. I covered my chicken with the stuff and baked it for the normal time. It did not look like yours but it surely was not green and it was delicious! I’m definitely keeping this recipe around for a long time to come. Also, in response to Lizzi’s comment: I do not like cilantro either but do not substitute! You won’t regret it!

  • Kell

    I love this recipe! I have made it on chicken, but tonight I’m going to make lamb cutlets the same way. We think the marinade is like a spicy Asian pesto. It would be really nice paired with grilled sea scallops, I think, or even as a dip with grilled meats.

  • Kay

    I am a very inexperienced cook and would like to clarify what exactly should be done with the marinade that is set aside. Is it used “as-is” straight from the blender or does it need to be cooked?

    As is. The marinade is raw, not cooked. ~Elise

  • KAJ

    I finally made this tonight, after having the recipe saved for a while, and wow, was it wonderful (and a total hit with my housemates). The chicken didn’t actually get crispy, because I had the pieces too crowded on the convection-oven tray, but it was wonderfully tasty anyway. (Next time, when it is not *January*, I’ll do it on the grill outdoors.)

    I would encourage anyone cooking this to save the recommended portion of the marinade to use as a sauce with the chicken; it was so delicious we also used it as a spread on the popovers we had with the dinner, and I think I’m going to make up a separate batch of the marinade to use as a condiment for various dishes, because it’s wonderful. Thanks so much for the recipe, Elise!

  • Amity

    Tried this out on Friday after having the recipe in my stack for months. Great flavor! I marinated it overnight, and that didn’t seem to be a problem. Like others, I had problems with the sauce falling through the grill grates, but ahh well… I didn’t reserve any of the marinate either, but I didn’t think it needed any extra after cooking.

  • Dev

    I made this recipe this past weekend and had a bit of trouble with it. The marinade tasted amazing right out of the blender but even after marinating the chicken overnight (I used chicken legs), when the chicken was grilled, I could barely taste the spices. Part of the problem is definitely my inexperience at using a grill — a lot of the marinade fell between the grates and, because I had the heat too high, the chicken burned on the outside before cooking through. Any suggestions? Would an indoor grillpan yield better results? Should the heat stay low? The recipe was yet another cooking disaster in front of my in-laws — noone helped me with the grill (except my well-meaning but even more clueless husband). Seems I can only cook anything decent when no in-laws are within 10 miles of me!

  • Carolyn T

    We made this last night. It was fantastic. I hate to eat all the chicken skin (although that’s where the marinade was adhering), so next time I think I’d try boneless skinless thighs. That marinade and sauce is really tasty. We used jalapeno AND poblano and it was great. I wish we had a cup of that sauce leftover to use as a garnish on other things. Next time I will make more sauce/marinade. Thanks, Elise, for a great recipe. I also may try using some panko crumbs on the top of the thighs also, if I bake it in the oven rather than grill it.

  • Jenna Woodul

    I’ve made this twice already; everyone loves it. Great for company. The second time, I didn’t have fresh jalapeno, so used the bottled slices I usually keep around. Still great. Elise, I don’t think I’ve taken a recipe from your site yet that my crowd didn’t rave about :-)

  • Joseph M

    Made this dish last night and it was wonderful. Salt and pepper were not necessary in the marinade and skin-on chicken thighs tended to take up more flavor than skinless chicken breasts. Fresh jalepenos seemed plenty hot even without the seeds in one.

    Make an extra batch of marinade, it’s a great sauce and you want to have enough! The marinade seems like it would make a good pesto or chip dip.

  • Karl

    For those who can’t take the heat (or think they can’t take the heat of a seeded/deveined jalapeño)… don’t skip the chile! It ads an earthiness and balance to the acid of the limes and sweetness of the nuts.

    Use a poblano instead. Poblanos are sometimes incorrectly labeled as a pasilla in the grocery. They are only slightly hotter than a green pepper, but add a wonderful depth and unique flavor without the heat.

  • sue

    Made this just as specified in the recipe and everyone loved it. Used 1 1/2 large jalapenos, seeded, and it wasn’t too spicy at all. For those of you concerned about the jalapenos or the cilantro, they are really not noticeable separately, as this is all blended together quite well. When cooked, cilantro’s flavor changes drastically and is very mild. I think the combination is fantastic and will make it again, for sure.

  • Sara

    Great dinner last night, Elise! I made it just like the recipe called – except I halved it as I knew my young children wouldn’t eat anything so spicey. They were thrilled with a thigh patted with EVOO, kosher salt and pepper.

    Nothing wrong with skinned and boned chicken thighs if you limit yourself to one! So juicy and flavorfull – and dark meat is much more nutrional than white due to the increased blood flow to that area of the chicken.

    Slaw, corn on the cob and a baguette on the side. I couldn’t resist the extra marinade – kept dipping my bread and slaw into it. Yum!

  • Pam

    I made this dish last night for dinner. Yum! One of the best dish I’ve made in a long time. I did make a change though — just eliminated the jalepeno peppers completely since I’m not keen on spicy stuff. Also had to add a bit of water as the mixture was too thick for my blender. Also baked the chicken breasts in the oven rather than grilling. Very good!

  • Lala

    We made this last night, using the sauce on a grilled pork tenderloin and then tossing some of the extra sauce with egg noodles and a little of the cooking water to make a pasta salad to go along with it. It was so good!

  • Heather

    Made this last night and it was wonderful! I used walnuts insead of cashews and made a paste with a mortar & pestle insead of blending. Fantastic! Thank you Elise! Keep them coming!

  • Grillonator

    We tested this recipe yesterday, first I was a bit sceptical about the combination of cashew nuts and garlic, but it’s absolutely great. Thanks !

  • Audrey

    This was wonderful! Both of us loved it. I reserved some of the marinade as suggested, but next time – and there WILL be a next time – I will put all of it on the chicken. I used canned jalapenos with seeds, not fresh. A couple of days later, I had some of the leftovers with some leftover pasta that I heated up in a skillet with a little olive oil and the marinade was wonderful with that, too. Almost like a pesto sauce.

    Thanks for a great recipe. This one is a keeper.

  • Kathleen

    Word of caution with the jalapenos. I use the thin plastic bag from the grocery to hold the jalapeno while cutting. If you wear contacs you’ll burn your eye the next day even after washing with soap and water.

    This is on the menu for tomorrow. I know it will be good. We have a pecan tree so I’ll be trying that.

  • Julie

    This is was awesome! I did use almonds as that is what I had on hand. DD and DH first saw me making it and thought gross, but then they had seconds. I will definitely be making this again.

  • ThinGuy

    This was fantastic! I tried to make it a bit healthier by using skinless chicken breasts. Broiled them on a cookie sheet as I was worried about the paste falling through the grill (or standard broiler pan), about 10 minutes per side. So much flavor, this one is indeed a keeper. Quite possibly the best chicken breasts I’ve ever had.

  • B

    I made this recipe last night and both my husband and I loved it! I used boneless skinless chicken breast and threw them on the bbq. They turned out fantastic! The flavors in the marinade were perfect..no need for salt or pepper. I served it with a chilled cucumber salad (just white balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper) which was a great balance for the heat of the jalapenos.

  • Debbie

    I made this tonight and it was a hit. I put it under the broiler on a cookie sheet lined with foil, for 15 mins.(boneless and skinless)worked fine. I served steamed rice and just before serving I added minced cilanto and green onion. yumm.


    Grilled this with parsley (one of us never learned to appreciate cilantro) and used quartered chicken breasts. Very good. Served with polenta but the boarder who disdains polenta had leftover potato salad and another boarder, who may be asked to leave if he keeps making suggestions after the meal is on the table, said couscous would be tasty. This being TX we threw in the jalapeno seeds too.

  • Sarah

    For the Jalapenos…I would recommend trying the pickled ones they sell in a jar. They tend to have a lot of heat (if you like that) and are easy to use since they are prechopped. I would add a little bit of the pickling juice to the sauce also for some extra flavor!

  • Gregrie

    Almost all of these bake/broil type meals can be made in a convection toaster oven without heating up the kitchen. The hot air blowing over the food gives it a nice crisp texture on the outside, and seals in the juice on the inside. This dish would be great in one. Be careful with the pepper not to breathe the fumes, or touch your eyes while using.

  • Kelly C

    Do you suppose this would be tastey without the jalapenos? That’s definately not up my alley! Or could something still a little spicey but more mild than jalapenos be used? This looks tastey but my tastebuds would scream at that spice. I know, it’s sad.

    You could try a poblano, it’s typically milder than jalapeno. ~Elise

  • Paul Shipman

    Elise, this looks tasty. I assume you’re talking about fresh, not canned or proceessed, Jalapeno Peppers?


    Yes, fresh jalapenos, though canned would work too. ~Elise

  • LDubs

    Can this be baked in the oven, instead of grilled or broiled? Or would it work on a grill pan?

    I use a grill pan frequently, should work just fine. Baking should work too, if you bake at a high enough temperature to brown the skins (450°F). ~Elise

  • Lizzi

    If you happen to be one of those individuals who doesn’t enjoy cilantro, what other herb would you recommend that would balance well with the cashews and the soy sauce?

    I might try mint, parsley, or skip it all together. ~Elise