Easy Thai Cashew Chicken (Better Than Take-out!)
An easy and delicious Thai Cashew Chicken recipe that the whole family will love. Cashew chicken has tons of tender veggies, and lots of umami flavor and is downright addicting!
Would you believe it took me 33 years of existence to try Thai Cashew Chicken?
We have a local Thai spot that is famous in Houston. When you’re getting together for Thai food with friends, it’s never a question of where because this place I’m talking about it downright legen-wait for it-dary. I’ve pretty much tried all they have to offer. All of the curries at least once, and our regular order most certainly consists of at least one dish of noodles. We take turns; I’m partial to the drunken noodles while hubby loves the Pad Thai. We enjoy eating family-style when we go out because we both love trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that. So one evening when Anees and I went for dinner, he suggested trying one of the only things on the menu we hadn’t made our way to yet… Thai Cashew Chicken.
It still amazes me that after what’s at least ten years of going to this restaurant, I hadn’t tried the cashew chicken there. We’re talking an umami flavor bomb of toasted sesame, cashews, tender chicken, al-dente veggies, and the most delicious golden brown sauce that I could seriously slurp with a straw for days.
I know I’m a complete noob when it comes to Thai cashew chicken, but I’ve made plenty of black pepper tofu, beef pepper steak, and Thai basil chicken to be able to dissect all the flavors in the dish. Truth: I don’t always make the best dinner companion when I get in the zone and try to break apart a dish ingredient by ingredient so that I can recreate it at home. Bless my husband, he sits through it all and even offers ingredients he thinks are likely to be in Thai food just so that the constant questions would stop.
I can honestly say that my take on cashew chicken is like nothing you’ve ever had before. The recipe starts with roasted cashews sauteéd in a hint of sesame oil to give them a unique flavor. The toasted sesame oil is what makes this dish!
What do you need to make the Thai cashew chicken sauce?
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Sesame oil
- Golden Mountain sauce (aka seasoning sauce)
What is golden mountain sauce, and do I have to use it in the Thai cashew chicken?
Golden Mountain sauce is a condiment very commonly used in Thai cuisine. It is often called ‘seasoning sauce,’ and Golden Mountain is a popular brand. There are other brands available as well, such as Maggi sauce, and I found that it is much more readily available in most grocery stores and works just the same!
How to make the Thai cashew chicken sauce:
In a small bowl, stir together the cold water, soy sauce, and cornstarch. When the cornstarch mixes in with the sauce, add fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and the golden mountain sauce. Then, just set it aside until we’re ready to use it.
What do you need to make Thai cashew chicken?
- white onions
How to make the Thai cashew chicken:
- The first step in this recipe is to marinate the chicken. You can allow for it to marinate for as little as 10 minutes and up to 24 hours. I find the longer the chicken has a chance to mingle with the garlic, seasoning sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch, the more flavor it develops.
- When you’re ready to cook cashew chicken, start by sautéing the cashews in a dash of sesame oil. Once they’re golden, remove them to a bowl for later. Then, add the oil to the skillet and cook the chicken for a couple of minutes. If your pan is large enough to hold the veggies as well, you can add them in when the chicken is halfway done. If you have a smaller pan, cook the chicken all the way through and remove it to a plate before browning the veggies. Then, add the chicken back to the pan and toss with the cashews, scallion greens, and that addicting cashew chicken sauce. Serve over a bed of freshly made jasmine rice (recipe below)
Do I have to use mushrooms?
My local Thai joint always uses mushrooms in the Thai cashew chicken, and to me, it’s perfect that way. If you aren’t a fan or have an allergy, you can try replacing the mushrooms with green or red bell pepper cubes or broccoli.
Why doesn’t my cashew chicken have a red tint like my Thai takeout?
Some takeout joints use a Thai red chili paste (also known as Nam Prik Pao) in their Thai cashew chicken preparation, which gives it that red tone. Not all places do, and my Thai restaurant doesn’t, so I opted not to use it in this recipe. The red pepper flakes give it that perfect touch of heat, and you can easily omit it from the recipe if you want it to be mild. Alternately, you can add more for a spicier kick!
How do you make the jasmine rice to serve with this recipe?
It’s always a hit or a miss when I make jasmine rice on the stove, so in recent years, I’ve started making it in my instant pot.
The ratio for jasmine rice is 1:1. So that’s 1 part rice to 1 part water.
You’ll also need ½ teaspoon of salt + 2 teaspoons of oil for every cup of rice you make.
Then, just rinse the jasmine rice under running water for at least 1-2 minutes or until the water runs clear under the sieve. Then, place all the ingredients in the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes with a 10-minute natural pressure release. Then, fluff with a fork and let stand for 1 minute before scooping into your bowl!
How long do the leftovers last?
I find that Thai cashew chicken can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days after preparation.
- 1 lb. boneless chicken (cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 4 teaspoons EACH: toasted sesame oil, sugar, AND golden mountain sauce (see notes for sub)
- ½ cup roasted unsalted cashews
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ large white onions, cut into thick slices
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch scallions, just green cut into 4 pieces each
- 2 tablespoons EACH: oil (such as avocado, sunflower, grapeseed, etc.) AND low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- CHICKEN: In a small bowl, combine the chicken with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of cold water, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons golden mountain sauce, and set aside to marinate while you prepare the sauce. See notes for make-ahead option.
- SAUCE: In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons cold water, soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. When combined, add the fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil and 2 teaspoons golden mountain sauce; set aside for later.
- COOK: Add the last teaspoon of toasted sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Then, add the cashews and roast the nuts for roughly 1-2 minutes or until toasted; remove to a bowl, and set aside for later. Kick the heat up to medium-high, add the 2 tablespoons of oil, when heated through, add the marinated chicken and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cook the chicken for 1-2 minutes or until about halfway done. Then, add the mushrooms, carrots, white onions and continue to cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the veggies are cooked. Drizzle with the prepared sauce, stir to combine. When the sauce has thickened, add the scallions and the cashews to the skillet. Serve warm over jasmine rice.
- If you cannot find the golden mountain sauce (affiliate link) you can also use seasoning sauce (affiliate link.) If you cannot find either of these ingredients, replace it with additional soy sauce where it's called for.
- You can marinate the chicken up to 24 hours in advance, just be sure to cover and keep refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking.