Cashew Chicken (In 20 Minutes!)

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This saucy Cashew Chicken is ready in a hurry — 15-20 minutes and you’ll be enjoying this tasty stir fry. No actual frying is required, though — we toss leftover cooked chicken with sautéed red peppers and roasted cashews in an irresistible savory sauce!

Overhead image of Cashew Chicken in a bowl

This Cashew Chicken is part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series! 

A Quick Cashew Chicken Recipe

It doesn’t get much quicker than this recipe and you’ll feel like a total rockstar serving it. The flavors are so complex it will seem like hours were spent on this meal, but between you and me, it was whipped together in about 15-20 minutes — score!

Here are some of the shortcuts we employ to ensure ultra-quick prep:

SHORTCUTS

Shortcut Ideas

  • Quick garlic and ginger. We use refrigerated garlic paste and refrigerated minced garlic in the sauce. See “quick tip” below.
  • Dry-roasted cashews. These nuts are roasted beforehand so they’ll deliver more flavor without any extra effort on your part. 
  • Pre-cooked and seasoned chicken–You can purchase rotisserie chicken meat already pulled from the bones and shredded or diced. Or, make this grilled chicken and save some leftovers for this recipe (our personal favorite!).
  • Ready Rice® or Microwaveable Packaged Rice. Ready rice is a type of rice that is already cooked and just needs to be heated to warm it through — so easy, quick, and convenient! This type of packaged rice is typically found among other packets of rice and grains in the grocery store and is a trade-marked product of Uncle Ben’s Rice/Mars Foods.

QUICK TIP

Another quick option for garlic and ginger in this easy Cashew Chicken recipe is to use Dorot® cubes. This brand sells frozen cubes of crushed garlic and crushed ginger that you can keep handy in the freezer and pop into these (and other) recipes when needed. (Check if your local store carries them; they’re typically found with frozen veggies in the grocery store.)

Ingredient shot-- image of the ingredients used in this dish

What Is Cashew Chicken Made Of?

Besides the sauce (which we break down below), there are four main ingredients that make up the bulk of this recipe:

  • Chicken: As mentioned above, we’re using rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken. One of the best things about this recipe is that you don’t need to re-warm the leftover chicken in a microwave; simply throw it in the skillet and let the sauce heat it through!
  • Red pepper: We thinly slice miniature red peppers, but 1 large red bell pepper works great too!
  • Cashews: It’s hard to beat chicken with cashew nuts! That said, if some don’t enjoy them, feel free to add the cashews to individual portions at the end.
  • Sesame oil: If you can find toasted sesame oil, even better — this really delivers a great authentic flavor. Sesame oil is typically found with Asian ingredients, not near the other oils in the grocery store.

What Is Cashew Chicken Sauce Made Of?

  • Corn starch: Corn starch is what thickens the sauce and flavors every bite.
  • Rice vinegar: This balances the sauce and adds a subtle tang. If you see a label saying rice wine vinegar, it’s the same thing.
  • Hoisin sauce: This is a thick and fragrant sauce with a sweet, taste; it’s the “secret” to the delicious and complex flavor in this dish. 
  • Soy sauce: We like using regular soy sauce (not lite/low-sodium) in this sauce. Lite soy sauce doesn’t offer enough seasoning (saltiness).
  • Brown sugar: The sugar helps to offset the spice of the sriracha sauce. If you’re worried about this dish being too sweet, I’d recommend starting with less. You can always add more if you’re craving more sweetness.
  • Sriracha sauce: Use this to add heat and flavor. You can, of course, reduce (or even omit it entirely) if you’re not a fan of heat. Alternatively, add more or drizzle extra on your bowl of Cashew Chicken if you love the heat! 
  • Garlic and ginger–These are essential flavor elements to many Asian dishes, including this one. 

Process shots of Cashew Chicken-- images of the sauce being mixed together and the peppers being sautéed

How To Make Cashew Chicken

While this isn’t a baked recipe, it doesn’t require any frying either! Instead, we sauté everything in a skillet. This not only makes it more nutritious, but it’s also way faster than frying or baking! Here are a few recipe tips:

  • Prep the sauce first. This dish comes together so fast, you’ll want the sauce ready to add in!
  • Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. If using a rotisserie chicken, it may be second nature to shred it, but this recipe is best with the chunked chicken. Shredded chicken tends to get stringy when tossed with the sauce.
  • Garnish. While the garnishes are optional, if you have an extra minute, they add a nice vibrancy and “finishing touch” to the dish. 

How To Make Cashew Sauce For Cashew Chicken

The sauce is truly as easy as adding everything to a bowl and whisking it together! We start by combining the corn starch and rice vinegar first. Once the two are smooth, it’s time to add in the remaining sauce ingredients. We want to ensure the corn starch is fully dissolved first, so it will properly thicken when added to the skillet. Otherwise, it could cause lumps and not thicken the sauce.

QUICK TIP

Restir the sauce just before adding it to the skillet;  it separates as it sits!

Process shots-- images of the chicken and cashews being added and it all being cooked together

Cashew Chicken FAQs

1What does Cashew Chicken taste like?

Cashew Chicken has an amazing texture and wonderful flavor. Tender chicken and crunchy cashew nuts are paired together with ginger, garlic, and the best tangy and savory sauce.

2What Is Cashew Chicken?

Cashew chicken is an American-Asian dish that combines chicken, cashews, and a thick sauce made from soy sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, and a few other ingredients.

3What is the origin of Cashew Chicken?

The deep-fried version of cashew chicken is associated with the city of Springfield, Missouri. It is said that this dish was first served in 1963 at the Grove Supper Club in Springfield.

4Is Cashew Chicken good for you?

The particular cashew chicken stir fry is much more nutritious than most, primarily because we aren’t frying the chicken in oil. We’re also adding in some veggies, garlic, and ginger which all help to make it even more nutritious.

5Where was Cashew Chicken invented?

Springfield, Missouri is the home of Cashew Chicken!

6What is hoisin sauce made of?

We love adding hoisin to this homemade Cashew Chicken — it truly delivers a restaurant feel! Hoisin sauce typically contains some combination of the following ingredients:

  • Fermented soybeans
  • Garlic
  • Red chili peppers
  • Sugar
  • 5-spice powder

7What's the difference between Cashew Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao Chicken is typically cooked with chilies and roasted peanuts. It’s typically intended to be quite spicy.

On the other-hand, Cashew Nut Chicken (or Chicken with Cashew Nuts) is made with cashews and has a sweeter sauce to compliment the savoriness of the chicken and nuts.

Up close overhead image of the cashew chicken

More Tasty Chicken Recipes

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Cashew Chicken

5 from 2 votes
This saucy Cashew Chicken is ready in a hurry -- 15-20 minutes and you'll be enjoying this tasty stir fry. No actual frying is required -- we toss leftover cooked chicken with sautéed red peppers and roasted cashews in an irresistible savory sauce!
Print Recipe

Cashew Chicken

5 from 2 votes
This saucy Cashew Chicken is ready in a hurry -- 15-20 minutes and you'll be enjoying this tasty stir fry. No actual frying is required -- we toss leftover cooked chicken with sautéed red peppers and roasted cashews in an irresistible savory sauce!
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Asian
Keyword cashew chicken, cashew chicken recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 3 -4 servings
Calories 379kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $8.42

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons each: regular (not lite/low sodium) soy sauce, light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons each: minced ginger, garlic paste Note 1

Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, separated
  • 1-1/4 cup thinly sliced red pepper Note 2
  • 3 packed cups (1 pound) cooked cubed chicken Note 3
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashew halves
  • Optional: thinly sliced green onions, sesame seeds, serve over Ready Rice Note 4

Instructions

  • SAUCE: Combine cornstarch and rice vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until smooth then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir until smooth and set aside for now. (Stir this sauce once more right before adding to skillet.)
  • PREP: Cube chicken into 1-inch pieces and set aside. Thinly slice bell pepper(s).
  • COOK: Heat 2/3 tablespoon sesame oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. Once the oil is hot, add in the thinly sliced pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes or until crisp tender. Add in the cubed chicken, cashew halves, and scrape every bit of sauce on top. Cook, stirring gently and constantly for about 1-2 minutes or until the sauce nicely thickens and coats everything and chicken is warmed through (Note 5). Remove from heat and drizzle the remaining 1/3 tablespoon sesame oil over everything.
  • SERVE: Serve right off the stovetop over cooked rice and garnish with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds (if desired).

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Quick ginger and garlic: Keep things quick by using refrigerated minced garlic and refrigerated ginger paste.
Note 2: Red pepper: Use one large bell pepper or about six or seven mini peppers. In the picture and video we are using mini red bell peppers and thinly sliced the whole peppers on a diagonal.
Note 3: Chicken: Use leftover grilled chicken breasts, already grilled chicken breasts from the store, or a rotisserie chicken. I don't recommend shredding the chicken; it's best when cut into larger cubes.
Note 4: Ready Rice® or microwaveable packaged rice. For a quick rice base use Ready Rice which is already cooked and just needs to be heated to warm it through. Follow directions to heat through in microwave — so easy and convenient! This type of packaged rice is typically found among other packets of rice and grains in the grocery store.
Note 5: Cooking: Since the chicken is already cooked, we don't want to cook it too long here or it will dry it out. We just want to warm through the chicken and ensure the sauce thickens nicely!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.8g | Protein: 32.2g | Fat: 14.1g | Cholesterol: 83.2mg | Sodium: 558.8mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 10.3g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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