This cashew chicken stir-fry with savory hoisin sauce is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Searing, tender pieces of marinated meat with crisp vegetables in a hot wok make for a fast one-pot meal. Ready in just 30-minutes!
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You don’t need to order takeout to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal at home! Cashew chicken is an easy-to-prepare stir fry. Let your pan or wok do the hard work in minutes. I’ll show you how to master the cooking technique for a delicious protein-packed meal.
The pieces of lean meat briefly marinate to infuse a more savory taste into each bite. It’s paired with crisp bell peppers and toasted cashews for a pleasing crunch! The chicken simmers in a simple soy-based sauce that clings to the food for maximum flavor. Pair with your favorite Chinese sides like chow mein or fried rice.
Use boneless skinless chicken breast for a lean protein option. Cut the breasts into about 1-inch thick cubes. The protein will shrink as it cooks. This size ensures hearty bites that don’t dry out.
Alternatively, you can slice it against the grain about ½-inch thick into strips. The meat cooks very quickly, so adjust the cooking time as needed. Thighs can also be used if you prefer dark meat.
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Marinate the chicken
I use a simple combination of soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, and black pepper to season the meat. Just 15 minutes helps the fermented soy flavor enhance the umami taste of the bland chicken. The cornstarch mixture creates a coating on the surface, developing a gorgeous golden brown crust as it sears.
If you don’t have time to marinate the chicken, you can season it with salt, pepper, and cornstarch. But believe me, a quick marinade is worth the extra few minutes!
Toast the cashews
Cashew nuts add a wonderfully nutty flavor and creamy texture to the dish. Purchase whole cashews so that they hold their shape when stir-frying. I recommend ones already roasted, but raw works well too.
Toast them in the dry pan to warm up the oils, and lightly brown the surface, making the flavor more intense. Raw nuts will need a few extra minutes to become golden in hue.
Searing the meat
A wok is my pan of choice, as the rounded bottom and tall sides quickly heat up and retain warmth, maximizing the cooking area of the pan. However, a large nonstick skillet also works well. The meat will be wet, so carefully add it to the hot vegetable oil in a single layer.
Use medium-high heat to sear the chicken. I let the meat sit for at least a minute before stir-frying. This duration allows browning on the surface for more flavor—Cook, the chicken until it’s just about fully cooked, about 4 minutes.
Cook the vegetables and aromatics
Crisp pieces of red bell pepper are added straight to the pan for a quick toss. You want the vegetables to be crisp-tender and not mushy. Freshly minced ginger and garlic is stir-fried until aromatic, just 30 seconds. You don’t want them to burn!
They add a spicy, pungent taste that makes the dish more exciting. Add dried red chili flakes to the pan for a hint of lingering heat. You can also drizzle in chili oil or chili sauce like sriracha for a spicier taste. Other vegetables like water chestnuts, sugar snap peas, broccoli, or green beans would be great additions to the stir-fry.
Make the stir-fry sauce
The sauce is a simple combination of hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and chicken stock. This creates a balanced sauce that clings to the meat. The fermented soy products add an intense savory taste to the dish. The red pepper flakes added with the vegetables will infuse into the sauce.
Cornstarch adds a glossy sheen and makes it sticky, so it clings to the food. Add the mixture straight to the pan and immediately stir! The agitation helps to distribute the heat to help the starches gelatinize and thicken in under a minute. Stir the toasted cashews and green onions into the pan with the heat off to gently wilt the alliums.
Serve this with
A savory Chinese stir-fry with lean chicken breast or chicken thighs. Whole cashews are toasted or fried to bring out their nutty flavor. The dish is simmered with a hoisin sauce mixture until the sauce is thick and glossy.
If you prefer thigh meat, use boneless skinless chicken thighs. Trim off the excess fat so that the stir-fry doesn’t get greasy.
Roasted peanuts are the best substitute for cashews. They are high in fat, so they have a creamy texture. Walnut halves are also a good option for a delicate crunch.
Add cornstarch to the marinade and sauce
When the cornstarch is added to the marinade, it creates a protective layer on the chicken so that the surface doesn’t become tough and dry. It also helps to develop a beautiful golden crust in the hot oil. When added to the sauce, the starches thicken when boiled. The thin sauce becomes a glossy, rich consistency in less than a minute!
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- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine, dry sherry or mirin (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅓ cup cup hoisin sauce
- ⅓ cup unsalted chicken broth, stock or water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cashew Chicken Stir-fry
- 1 cup whole cashews, roasted
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup red bell pepper, ¾" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes, optional
- ¾ cup sliced green onions, white and green parts, divided
- Marinate the Chicken – In a medium bowl, combine diced chicken, soy sauce, rice wine (if using), cornstarch, sesame oil, and black pepper. Marinate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
- Make the Stir-fry Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and cornstarch until no lumps remain.
- Toast the Cashews – Heat a wok, large nonstick, or stainless steel pan over medium heat. Add the cashews, occasionally stir, toasting until fragrant and lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat the same pan used to toast the cashews over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, carefully add the chicken in a single layer. Sear without moving until browned, about 1 minute. Stir-fry until no longer pink, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Cook the Vegetables – Add the bell peppers, stir-fry until crisp-tender, 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Thicken the Sauce – Add the stir-fry sauce, bring to a boil, stir and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the cashews and ½ cup of green onions.
- To Serve – Garnish the with some of the remaining green onions. Serve with steamed rice or desired side dishes.
- Wok Spatula
- Recipe Yield: About 4 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Storing: Cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high heat in 15 to 30-second intervals until hot.
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2 Comments Leave a comment or review
Maria T. says
Winner winner chicken cashew dinner!
At first I felt like I had a lot to do. Not really, I think it was just all the words surrounding ingredients. The dish came together pretty fast. Make a marinade, make a sauce, cut a few things up, cook a few things. Boom! I really liked the flavor of the toasted cashews instead of just throwing them in as they are. Delicious sauce. It was pretty too. Shiny and a rich dark color that clung to the ingredients. Husband enjoyed seconds and thirds. My wok is earning it’s keep. I did sneak in a little bok choy and carrots because I had them……..shhhhhh.
Jessica Gavin says
I love that you added extra veggies to the cashew chicken. Great job, Maria!