Chicken Cashew Stir Fry

Chicken Cashew Stir Fry with the best sweet and spicy ginger sauce you ever tasted!

This Chicken Cashew Stir Fry is loaded with incredibly tender chicken, stir fried with bell peppers, carrots and snow peas garnished with the sweet crunch of caramelized cashews enveloped in intoxicating sweet, spicy, tangy, ginger sauce AKA the BEST Chicken Cashew Stir Fry you ever tasted!

up close of cashew chicken stir fry with green onions

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WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS CASHEW CHICKEN RECIPE:

My husband said it was better than anything he has had at an Asian restaurant – Sara Ellen (Pinterest)

Made this a few times, everybody loves it. – Denise (Pinterest)

The cashews made all the difference! – Precious (Pinterest)

Most amazing sauce ever.  – John

I made this tonight and it was AMAZING! -Mike

Chicken Cashew Stir Fry Recipe

This sweet and spicy Chicken Cashew Stir Fry is a new recipe to love that requires minimal time and effort while bursting with my two favorite words – flavor and texture – that can be on your table in 30 minutes.  Happy dance commence.

Crunchy Cashews

My goal of this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry was to create an Asian dish that is addictively delicious but quick and easy and still has the satisfying crunch of breaded and baked chicken like my General Tso’s and my Sticky Honey Lemon Ginger Chicken, because, let’s be honest, the best Asian dishes have crunchy chicken OR caramelized cashews!  

These cashews add the beloved crunch to the stir fry that baked/fried chicken usually adds while also adding a sweet, caramelized nutty flavor that is absolutely heavenly.  

I made the cashews using my 5 Minute Perfect Caramelized Nuts recipe and can’t get enough!  I’m so in love with them, they are the crowning crunch in my Tropical Fruit Salad and I can’t wait for you to fall in love too!

The Stir Fry Sauce

Now let’s talk sauce in this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry because a stir fry is only as good as its sauce.  I woke up planning on making Crispy Orange Chicken Tenders but most of my oranges had taken themselves to lunch with my husband which turned out to be a blessing because this sweet and tangy little number was born.  UPDATE: Since posting this recipe, many comments have reported it is the “best sauce” they’ve ever had.

This delectable sauce reminds me of a less “sour” sweet and sour sauce comprised of apricot preserves, orange juice, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, ginger, garlic and sriracha.  Its sweet, spicy and tangy enlivened by the splash of citrus and given a kick with the ginger.  AKA you will be craving this sauce…with this chicken…with these cashews.  Guaranteed. Hello Chicken Cashew Stir Fry.

The Chicken

The chicken for this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry is marinated in buttermilk, soy sauce and orange juice which creates mega tender chicken, but you can definitely skip the marinade if you don’t plan ahead and it will still be delicious.  

Making the chicken is super quick and easy because its not breaded in egg/flour but simply tossed in spiced cornstarch and sauteed.  Super quick, super easy, super healthy, super yum.

As the famous quote states, “all good things take time.”   But sometimes, good things don’t take as much time.   I hope when you take 30 minutes to make this Skinny Caramelized Cashew Ginger Chicken Stir Fry you will emphatically agree “I will DEFINITELY be making this again. Wow!”

cashew chicken stir fry recipe in a white bowl
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Ingredients for Chicken Cashew Stir Fry

This Chicken Cashew Stir Fry is made with:

  • chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this chicken cashew stir fry but you may also use skinless chicken thighs.
  • breading: adds a light texture, insulated the chicken against high heat (keeps it tender) and allows you to add seasonings. The breading is made with cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, salt and pepper.
  • apricot preserves: is one of my favorite secrete ingredients! It adds multidimensional fruity sweetness instead of just using one-note sugar.
  • soy sauce: use low sodium soy sauce so your cashew chicken isn’t too salty.
  • red wine vinegar: please use red wine vinegar as it cannot be evenly swapped with other vinegars.
  • brown sugar: contains molasses for a richer flavor.
  • honey: adds a fruity sweetness.
  • Sriracha/Asian hot red chili sauce: use 1-3 teaspoons to taste.
  • orange juice: you will need the juice of one orange which is on average ¼ cup.
  • salt and pepper: use more or less to taste.
  • cornstarch: thickens the sauce.
  • ginger:  adds a warm spicy, almost pepper taste.  You may substitute with ¾ teaspoon ginger powder.
  • garlic:  You can use more or less garlic depending on your garlic love.  You can substitute the fresh garlic with ¾ teaspoon garlic powder.
side view of healthy cashew chicken stir fry recipe

What Vegetables for Chicken Cashew Stir Fry?

First this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry recipe, I used onions, carrots, bell peppers, and snow peas, but you can make cashew chicken with any of your favorite veggies. Other vegetables for Chicken Cashew Stir Fry include:

  • zucchini
  • celery
  • water chestnuts
  • broccoli
  • mini corn
  • bok choy

If using broccoli, make sure to cut it into smaller florets and stir fry it for 2-3 minutes before adding other veggies.

What Cashews are best for Chicken Cashew Stir Fry?

I LOVE caramelized cashes in this Cashew Chicken recipe which I highly recommend, but you may also use roasted cashews. Take take the cashews or unsalted so the chicken stir fry isn’t too salty.

If you can only find unsalted cashews, and not roasted, then simply toast them in your skillet for a few minutes until golden.

IS CHICKEN CASHEW CHICKEN STIR FRY GLUTEN FREE?

As written, this Cashew Chicken recipe is not gluten free –  but almost!  To make gluten free Cashew Chicken, simply use gluten free soy sauce or tamari. 

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN CASHEW STIR FRY

STEP 1: MARINATE CHICKEN (OPTIONAL)

This Chicken Cashew Stir Fry starts with a simple marinade of buttermilk, soy sauce and orange juice to infuse the chicken morsels themselves with tons of flavor instead of flavor just sitting on the outside of the chicken AND to tenderize the chicken.  You can marinate your chicken for whatever amount of time you have – whether its just while prepping your stir fry veggies and sauce or for up up to 4 hours. If you don’t have the marinade ingredients on hand, you may skip this step.

STEP 2:  MAKE CARAMELIZED CASHEWS

This step literally takes 5 minute and elevates this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry into the BEST you’ve ever had! You simply combine cashews, butter and sugar in a pan and cook until the mixture caramelizes and the cashews are evenly coated in the sugar/butter mixture. You can make the cashews up to a week in advance and store in an airtight container.

showing how to make cashew chicken stir fry by roasting cashews

STEP 3:  MAKE STIR FRY SAUCE

Simply whisk together the stir fry sauce ingredients and set aside. You can make the sauce days in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

STEP 4:  BREAD CHICKEN

The breading for this Chicken Cashew Stir Fry Breading is super light and super easy – no multi-step dredging! Simply add cornstarch, and seasonings to freezer bag, and chicken and toss until evenly coated.

STEP 5:  COOK CHICKEN

Heat 1 tablespoon olive/coconut oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add chicken and saute for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. The chicken does not need to be cooked through because it will cook more in the sauce.

STEP 6:  STIR FRY VEGETABLES

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the now empty skillet and heat over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and saute for 2 minutes. Add red bell peppers, ginger and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

STEP 7:  COMBINE

Stir sauce (to make sure cornstarch has not separated) and add to skillet along with chicken and snow peas; stir to combine. Simmer until sauce is thickened, vegetables are crisp tender, and chicken is cooked through, approximately 1-2 minutes. Garnish skillet or individual servings with green onions, and caramelized cashews.

Add the cashews last so they stay nice and crunchy. If you prefer softer cashews, you can add them to the sauce with the vegetables and simmer 1-2 minutes.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH CHICKEN CASHEW CHICKEN?

We like to serve Chicken Cashew Stir Fry with white or brown rice but you can also serve it in lettuce wraps, with zoodles, or cauliflower rice. If you’re looking to make this cashew more of a feast, pair it with Wontons, Asian SaladPotstickersWonton Soup or Chinese Chicken Egg Rolls.

CAN I FREEZE CASHEW CHICKEN?

Yes! The chicken freezes well but the veggies can loose some of their texture and even turn mushy. If you know you are going tot freeze the chicken, take care to not overcook your veggies initially. You can also freeze the chicken separate from the sauce and combine when ready to eat.

TO FREEZE CASHEW CHICKEN WITHOUT SAUCE:

  1. Cook chicken according to directions.
  2. Line chicken so it isn’t touching on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours or until the chicken is solid. This prevents the chicken from clumping together.
  3. Add chicken to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air and label.
  4. Add stir fry sauce to a separate airtight container.
  5. When ready to use, defrost chicken and sauce in the refrigerator overnight and add fresh vegetables.

TO FREEZE CASHEW CHICKEN IN SAUCE:

  1. Let chicken stir fry cool completely.
  2. Transfer chicken to either a large freezer size bag or divide into smaller size bags.  Alternatively, transfer to airtight container(s).
  3. Press air out of the freezer bag, seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. When ready to eat, defrost in the refrigerator.
  5. Heat on the stove until warmed through.

LOOKING FOR MORE CHINESE CHICKEN RECIPES?

spicy cashew chicken stir fry recipe in a white bowl

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Caramelized Cashew Chicken Stir Fry

Chicken Cashew Stir Fry with the best sweet and spicy ginger sauce you ever tasted! This Chicken Cashew Stir Fry is loaded with incredibly tender chicken, stir fried with bell peppers, carrots and snow peas garnished with the sweet crunch of caramelized cashews enveloped in intoxicating sweet, spicy, tangy, ginger sauce AKA the BEST Chicken Cashew Stir Fry you ever tasted!
Servings: 4 -6
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts pounded thin, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced into strips then chopped in half
  • 2-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping cup Snow peas, ends trimmed

Marinade (optional for more tender/flavorful chicken)

Sweet and Tangy Ginger Sauce

Light Breading

Garnish

Instructions

  • Optional: Combine marinade ingredients and chicken in a large freezer bag. Marinate 30 minutes up to 4 hours.
  • Prepare 5 Minute Caramelized Cashews according to directions. This can be done days in advance and kept in an airtight container/plastic bag.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • Add breading ingredients to a separate freezer bag and mix to combine. Add chicken and toss until evenly coated. Heat 1 tablespoon olive/coconut oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add chicken and saute for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned (chicken does not need to be cooked through). Remove to a plate.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil to the now empty skillet and heat over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and saute for 2 minutes. Add red bell peppers, ginger and garlic and saute 30 seconds. Stir sauce (to make sure cornstarch has not separated) and add to skillet along with chicken and snow peas; stir to combine. Simmer until sauce is thickened, vegetables are crisp tender, and chicken is cooked through, approximately 1-2 minutes.
  • Taste and add additional salt, pepper, sriracha, if desired. Add more sugar if you would like it sweeter, more red wine vinegar for more "sour/tang" to taste.
  • Garnish individual servings with orange zest, cashews and green onions.

Notes

*3 teaspoons is quite a strong ginger kick, how we like it 🙂 Use less if you don't love ginger. **If you aren't sure how much to use, start with less then add more to taste at the end of cooking.

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28 Comments

  1. Emma T says

    Made this today, and it is seriously good. Absolutely delicious…and the nuts are a danger to my diet!

    • Jen says

      Yay! So happy you enjoyed it Emma! And I am there with you on the nuts – I could eat nothing but them for days!

  2. john says

    We made minor modifications to the recipe and loved this stir fry! Most amazing sauce ever. One question… is there a mistake in the ingredient list? Garlic and ginger are listed in the sauce portion of the recipe, but not above with the onion, carrots, and peppers (when they are called for). We used ginger in the sauce and garlic when sautéing the vegetables and it worked great. Just wondered what your intended instructions were, because of that possible error or inconsistency. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi John, I am so happy you loved this stir fry and especially the sauce! Thank you SO much for catching that error – I never would have found it! Yes, the garlic and ginger should have been listed with the vegetables and sauteed for 30 seconds (the instructions were correct). I have made the correction in the recipe. Thanks again for letting me know how much you enjoyed it!

  3. Megan says

    This is wonderful! So quick and easy and the sauce is amazing. I will definitely be making this again and again! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jen says

      You are most welcome Megan! Its always fun to find a new recipe you love for the “rotation” – happy this one made the cut 🙂

  4. Lindsey says

    Have you ever calculated the nutritional info for this recipe? We’re making it tonight!

  5. daricelynn says

    Absolutely AWESOME recipe. I have a tenderfoot here so did not use any sriracha/Asian hot red chili sauce*. I also subbed orange marmalade for the apricot preserves. I also added some Thai rice noodles into the mix when it was done. The sauce is delicious! Looking forward to more of your delicious recipes. Thank you.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome! I am so happy you enjoyed it and excited for you to try more of my recipes as well! Thank you!

  6. Mike says

    I made this tonight and it was AMAZING!
    Thank you so much!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I am so happy you loved it so much especially because it is one of my favorites! Thanks so much Mike!

  7. SW says

    I was wondering can I omit the cashews as there are members of my family who are allergic to nuts. Will this affect the outcome of the recipe? Can’t wait to make this dish for our Sunday family dinner.

    • Jen says

      Yes, you can omit the nuts and it won’t affect the recipe. What a fun family dinner- enjoy!!

  8. Jocelyn says

    This was great – but the only way you’re getting this done in 15 min is if you hire a staff to help you! I am a novice cook – and it took me at least 45 min to get everything chopped! All in all it was an hour and a half before eating. I’m surprised you posted 15 min. That is impossible.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jocelyn, I’m happy you enjoyed the recipe! I’m sorry the prep time was misleading but I’m surprised it took 45 minutes to chop everything. I’ve increased the prep time per your comment but not to 45 minutes 🙂

  9. Steffi says

    This has been on my Pinterest Board for quite a while now and I finally made it today! It is so so good, even though I didn’t have all the ingredients for the sauce. Still delishious!
    Greetings from Germany

    • Jen says

      Hello Steffi, all the way from Germany! My parents are actually living in Frankfurt right now for church service and I can’t wait to visit! Anyway, I am so happy this recipe was a hit! Its always so fun when a pinterest recipe turns out so good :)! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  10. Fatima says

    Can I use mixed fruit jam instead of the apricot preserve?

    • Jen says

      Hi Fatima, the apricot preserves taste quite different than fruit jam so I don’t think it will taste the same – it sill might be delicious – but hard to know without trying it. Sorry!

  11. Haleigh says

    When letting the chicken marinate in the sauce, when you add it to the powder mixture do you drain it or just mix it all together? I just feel like it will be pretty soupy if I mix it all?

    • Jen says

      Hi Haleigh! You will put the breading mixture in one bag and then transfer the chicken from the marinade to the breading mixture. When you do this, you will want to let the excess marinade drip off and even dab the chicken with paper towels if needed. Hope this helps!

  12. trudi says

    where is the ginger in the ginger sauce?

    • Jen says

      It is included with the bell peppers because it is stir fried. Enjoy!

  13. Debbie Milne says

    Hi Jen,
    I found your recipes online last year when I was searching for some new ways to cook chicken. I retired from teaching preschool in Carlsbad last year and was excited to discover some new and yummy recipes to add to my old standbys, now that I have more time on my hands. We loved this one so much that I have made it twice! It is better than takeout!! We also loved the Chicken Fajitas, Honey Lemon chicken, and Teriyaki Salmon. I am always excited to receive a new recipe from you in my inbox. My husband says we can never go back to Rice-a-Roni again! Thanks so much, Debbie

    • Jen says

      What a small world that Debbie! I’m so glad you stumbled upon my blog and have been enjoying my recipes, especially this one! I also love hearing your favorites – it’s always fun to know what readers are loving – you have great taste! I hope you continue enjoy exploring my site!

  14. Karen says

    We loved this cashew chicken! I typically don’t make stir fry but wanted this flavor profile and it was delicious! Prep time was the only surprise as it took me a lot longer to get veges and meat cut up, sauce made, marinade and breading ready for the chicken and caramelizing the cashews. But it was worth it when hubby told me several times how much he enjoyed it. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Karen! This is an oldie but goodie, I’m so pleased you both enjoyed it!