Cashew Chicken Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Cashew Chicken

75 reviews / 4.7 average

Saucy, sticky, crispy, sweet and savory Cashew Chicken! Just like your favorite takeout, but made easy at home.

Oh my oh my oh my - saucy, sticky, sweet and savory cashew chicken is here, and it was my favorite recipe I made this month, and this just might be the recipe that will pull you (okay, fine, me) out of the winter slumps with texture, flavor, and a little extra jazziness. It's just a really fun recipe.

My version of cashew chicken is actually based off of this Cheesecake Factory copycat recipe, which is lovely and reminds me that although haters like to hate, I should probably get back to the Cheesecake Factory for a feast ASAP. Great job, Sabrina.

I made it essentially the same as her cashew chicken recipe, but just a little easier, and with a shorter ingredient list.

And what resulted was glorious. We're talking about bite-sized pieces of chicken, breaded and fried into a nice little crisp, tossed with a quick, sticky-sweet, soy-and-garlic sauce, all brought together with a handful of cashews. Ideally this would be served over a pile of hot, steaming rice with a side of something of the vegetable variety (steamed or roasted broccoli is a fave). But more practically, you won't even get that far before you start popping bites of chicken straight out of the hot pan.

There is a 100% chance that anyone who is in a 10-mile radius will come running into your kitchen when they smell the garlic, ginger, and soy in the sauce as it hits the pan. It's a good moment.

In This Post: Everything You Need For Cashew Chicken

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Cashew chicken in a pan with a spoon.

Ingredients To Make Cashew Chicken

While this is somewhat of a clear-the-counters-and-put-on-your-apron kind of recipe, it doesn't take as much effort or ingredients as you'd think.

Here's what you need:

  • Chicken
  • Dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, the usual)
  • Batter (you'll make this, but it's easy! promise!)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Cashews
  • Sauce (soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, ginger, etc.)
  • Green onions to top it off

If you really want to up the sesame flavor, you could even add a swish of toasted sesame oil too!

How To Make Cashew Chicken

First, you'll have to put a little bit of prep work in - cube your chicken, get the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix the batter for frying, and maybe even whisk together your sauce now if you want to really make this seamless.

Then, you're going to start making magic happen.

  1. Coat your chicken in the dry ingredients and get it in the batter to coat.
  2. Heat your oil in a large skillet to get it ready to fry. (You can test it by adding just a drip of batter to see if it sizzles, but if you want to be really exact, the oil should be about 350-375 degrees.)
  3. Fry it up! Add half your chicken, then repeat with the other half.
  4. Remove the oil and put the chicken back in the pan and add your sauce and cashews.
  5. Serve that tender saucy chicken with rice and veggies (if you want). Way to go!

Deep-Fried Vs. Stir-Fried

Traditionally, there are two ways to make cashew chicken: stir-fried in a pan or wok, or deep-fried, the latter of which is happening here.

I love love love the crispy, delicious, deep-fried bits of chicken and how they cling to the sauce here, but if you want to eliminate the deep-frying of this recipe, that is an option.

What I'd do instead: skip the batter and just stir fry the chicken in a pan, and then add the sauce at the end. Easy.

HOWEVER if you are choosing to deep fry, I have a small tip for you to make it a littttttle easier: toss *all your chicken* together into the flour, then stir up *all the floured chicken* together into the batter. From there, I dump about half of it into the pan of hot oil - it's going to stick together and feel very wrong, but you can work quickly and use two forks to break the pieces apart. And repeat with the other half batch.

Cashew Chicken: Frequently Asked Questions

Where is cashew chicken from?

Cashew chicken is a Chinese-American dish that can be either stir-fried or deep-fried - the latter of which (what we're making here), originated in Springfield, Missouri. It was created by a chef named David Leong who moved to the US from China and was looking to create a dish that appealed to the tastes of Americans, which is how it was born. Thank you, David!

Can I stir-fry the chicken instead of frying it?

Absolutely! As I mentioned above, the other version of this dish is stir-fried instead of deep-fried. Just skip the coating and frying step and stir fry your chicken, then add the sauce.

Could I use tofu instead of chicken?

Yup! I'd maybe skip the batter and deep frying and employ one of the crispy tofu ideas in this post. You can also check out this Sesame Apricot Tofu as an equally delicious alternative!

What type of pan is best for this recipe?

Non-stick is best for all the deep-frying fun happening here. Check out all my favorite cookware here!

How does this hold up for leftovers?

There's a little sogginess that happens for leftovers, but I still really enjoyed it. If you want to revive the crispiness, you can heat it in a pan on medium-high heat to get things crisped up again.

Could I add other veggies to this?

Absolutely! Green beans, bell peppers, snow peas, whatever suits your fancy.

Can I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts?

Sure! Though I prefer chicken breasts in this specific recipe (makes it really deliciously tender, and a little less greasy!).

How can I make this cashew chicken healthier?

A few ideas: stir-fry the chicken instead of frying it, use brown rice instead of white rice, increase the veggies, and/or serve up that delicious chicken in lettuce cups instead for a fun lettuce wrap vibe!

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Cashew chicken in a pan with a spoon.

Cashew Chicken


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

Saucy, sticky, crispy, sweet and savory Cashew Chicken! Just like your favorite takeout, but made easy at home. Served with steamy rice and broccoli.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Chicken:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • about 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup cashew halves

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (optional)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, grated
  • a small piece of fresh ginger, grated

Instructions

  1. Make Batter: Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, and paprika. Set aside half of the flour mixture in a small bowl. Mix the other half of the flour mixture with 3/4 cup cold water to form a loose batter.
  2. Make Sauce: Whisk all sauce ingredients together. Set aside.
  3. Fry Chicken: Heat oil over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles across the top. Dredge the chicken pieces in the dry flour mixture, then dip into the batter. Let excess batter drip off. Add battered chicken pieces to the oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel lined plate. Drain out any excess oil from the pan. (SEE NOTES FOR AN EASY SHORTCUT ON THIS STEP.)

  4. Finish: Put chicken back in the pan. Add sauce and cashews. Stir for about 1 minute, until coated and you can start to smell the garlic. Done! Serve with rice and maybe some roasted or steamed broccoli. SO GOOD! 

Notes

Chicken Shortcut: I find dredging, battering, and frying individual pieces of chicken to be kind of tedious. So I tossed *all my chicken* together into the flour, then stirred up *all the floured chicken* together into the batter. From there, I dumped about half of it into the pan of hot oil - it's going to stick together and feel very wrong, but you can work quickly and use two forks to break the pieces apart. And repeat with the other half batch. Done!

Type of Pan: Personally I like to use a nonstick for this to avoid the chicken getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Caramelization and Stickiness Level: If you like extra browning, caramelization, chewiness, and stickiness, let everything cook in the pan together for more like 5 minutes instead of 1 minute. Personally I like the texture of the sauce at 1 minute, but it does look really pretty with that caramelization.

Leftovers: They get a tad bit soggy but I still really enjoyed them. For best results, brown the chicken in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes to get some browning / crisping on the outside.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Fry
  • Cuisine: Chinese-Inspired

Keywords: cashew chicken, takeout chicken, takeout at home, sticky chicken, chicken and rice

Other Necessary Takeout-Style Recipes


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199 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was very good! The chicken was tender and the sauce was perfect! I think I’ll add sliced green onions next time…

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Really tasty, thank you! Athough next time I will use less salt, as it came out too salty for my personal taste. But overall a great recipe.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have been craving this recipe, and I just love it so much. I think I could cut back on the sugar in the sauce, just for personal taste, but it’s so amazing. I know the notes say that it gets soggy, but I thought the leftovers were even better than the night before. Usually I don’t make better than take out recipes, but this is one that I want to make over and over again and is actually completely amazing. I want to eat it weekly!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I didn’t use low sodium soy sauce, and I’m definitely regretting that. It’s WAYYYYY too salty 🙁

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was absolutely delicious. I did have one problem though, my chicken went insane with popping and throwing oil everywhere as it cooked. Not right away, but the longer it cooked. Any thoughts on that? Again, absolutely delicious.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      This happens to be majority of the time I’ve made this! To the point where I wear full sleeves and my blue light glasses for goggles becauae I’ve burned myself or has close calls

      Someone I work with who owns a fish and chip place said it water come into contact with the oil is why it does that. For me I know that’s the case. I’d also recommend maybe keep the temp lower? Might take longer but worth a shot!

      I’m going to attempt to bake this tonight by using a wire rack over a cookie sheet because I literally just did a big clean and don’t feel like possibly burning myself so finger crossed! This is one of ABOSULTE FAVES! So worth the hassle I promise

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Any good substitutions for cornstarch. Can’t have corn products and I’ve tried arrowroot but it it just one big gummy mess. Thoughts?

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    OUTSTANDING!
    I used partially pre-made Haraage from the freezer, so just had to plop the chunks in the fryer.
    I had an issue with my Hoisin Sauce. I live in an extremely rural area where there is exactly ONE brand. Quite bitter. I added melted butter, some heavy cream, honey and some fresh lemon to make it just right. I backed off on the sugar a bit.
    I sauteed yellow and red bell pepper, onion, garlic, peas, and make some rice.
    Long story short, the sauce and the fried chicken make this dish. It will be a regular around this house. Thanks.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    We loved this! I didn’t read the recipe until I started to cook so I didn’t realize it was a fried chicken version but boy was it good! Well worth the trouble of breading and frying the chicken.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    You always see those “better than take out” recipes and eh to me it’s 50/50 on success. This was delightful! Loved the crunch and sauce. We did cut the sugar back to 1 tablespoon and that worked well for us. Will make again for sure!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am generally “scared” to fry because of the mess but this wasn’t bad at all and I’m glad I took the time to do it. Came together quickly. Super yummy! I served with rice and sautéed cabbage.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    10/10 recipe! I sautéed the sauce down a bit before adding the fried chicken, which kept the chicken extra crispy. Will definitely be making this on repeat!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    She has done it again! This was so quick, scrumptious, and flavorful. I loved it and will definitely be adding this to my favorite recipes of all time!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    This recipe is one of our favorites! Our college age son took one bite and declared it the GOAT. 😂 A keeper for sure and in our regular rotation.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Chelsea! Great question. We haven’t tested this in the air fryer. I’m thinking you’d want to stick to traditional frying for this recipe since the batter is pretty liquidy!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this tonight and it was DELISH. Chicken was super tender and I could’ve licked my plate the sauce was so good. I halved the sugar and didn’t have siracha but used sambal oelek and it was great. Took me longer than 30 min for sure but totally worth it.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just made this tonight and it was super delicious! I halved the sugar amount and it was still plenty sweet for me. I also added some green onion with the sauce at the end. Yummy!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I made this last night and both the hubs and I couldn’t stop saying “omg this is so good.” We highly enjoyed this meal and so many from your blog. Thank you so much for sharing these recipes!

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    Cashew chicken is the BEST Chinese dinner I’ve ever had. Better than takeout. Seriously. It’s easy and delicious! Skillful Cook is my favorite blog ❤️

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was really good. I didn’t fry my chicken but just sautéed it with a bunch of onion and then the sauce with cashews. I recommend it.

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love all of Lindsay’s recipes. This one if my and husband and I’s new fav!! It’s soo good and simple. Defiantly loved doing the batter step.

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this the other night without the cashews because my girls don’t like them, but WITH soy curls. Delicious!! I didn’t do the flour/batter steps, just doubled the sauce and mixed the soy curls in once they were rehydrated. Oh, I did add a little cornstarch to the sauce and thickened it a bit on the stove before mixing in the curls. Served with rice and broccoli. Will definitely be making this again!

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    I can’t even believe how good this was. I have never written a review for a recipe before, but I have to express how delicious this was. When I make it again, I will try the tip of frying the chicken in 2 batches to make it less tedious. Wow! Super good.