While Thai Cashew Chicken is not as saucy as Chinese Cashew Chicken, what it lacks in sauciness it makes up for in big flavour. Crunchy golden cashews and chicken are tossed in a simple yet bold Thai stir fry sauce with as much or as little fresh chilli as you want!
This is a great Thai food favourite that’s incredibly quick to make.
Thai Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
Stir fries featuring cashews are a favourite across Asia and the Thai version is one of the best! Unlike Chinese Cashew Chicken which is generous on sauce, the Thai version is a drier style stir fry where the sauce flavour is much more intense. So you don’t need nor do you want a ton of sauce to soak your rice. There’s plenty of flavour coating the stir fry ingredients that stains and flavours the rice when you mix it through.
Honestly, just look at this. No one would see this wok of goodness and think, “It doesn’t look like there’s enough flavour in that,”… Right?
What goes in Thai Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
Here’s what you need for this Thai stir fry with chicken:
Cashews – The nuts are actually the star ingredient in this stir fry! They bring texture, flavour and nutty richness to the party. It’s best to use raw so they get toasted freshly in the wok (or skillet) for maximum flavour development. It only takes around 3 minutes. If you only have roasted cashews, that’s fine too. Just toast them lightly for around 90 seconds, they don’t need to be as fully cooked.
Whichever you use, be sure to use unsalted cashews. Salted cashews will make the dish far too salty;
Chicken – Thigh is best, for the juiciest and most flavoursome chicken pieces. If you prefer to use breast, consider tenderising it the Chinese restaurant way to make it softer and more juicy. If you’ve never done it before, it will blow your mind – it’s a simple trick yet a total game-changer!
Onion and garlic – Essential aromatics. It’s hard to find a stir fry in my world that doesn’t start with these two!
Green onion – For freshness and colour;
Chilli – For a hit of spiciness. 100% optional;
The sauce – Here’s what you need:
Oyster sauce – This packs a ton of umami as well as acting as a the thickener for this Thai Stir Fry Sauce. You can use vegetarian oyster sauce, if you prefer;
Dark soy sauce – The most intensely-flavoured soy in the soy sauce family, and just a tiny amount packs a serious flavour punch. It also stains foods a gorgeously deep mahogany colour;
Fish sauce – Fish sauce is used in Thai cooking like soy sauce is used in Chinese cooking, ie. as a primary seasoning. While it might smell a bit (ok, very!) funky straight out of the bottle, once it’s cooked it is completely transformed. It adds an incomparable complexity and depth of flavour into any dish. No fishy flavours at all in the end result!
How to make Thai Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
As with all stir fries, once you start cooking, things move fast! The key when cooking stir fries is to make sure you have all the ingredients chopped and ready to toss in, including the Thai Stir Fry Sauce. Also cook the jasmine rice beforehand – it takes longer to make than this stir fry!!
Sauce – Mix the sauce in a small dish;
Cashews – Start by cooking off the cashews. If using raw cashews (which I recommend for better flavour), it will take around 3 minutes to cook through on a medium heat. They will change from a pale cream colour to deep golden brown, and they should be crunchy (yep, you’re gonna have to try one to check!).
If you are starting with cashews that are already roasted, then you only need to toast them for around 1 1/2 minutes just to heat them through and bring out the flavour (as opposed to cooking them);
Remove cashews from the wok / skillet. Reserve the oil – we will use that to cook the stir fry;
Stir fry! – As with all stir fries, we add ingredients in the order it takes to cook.
Start with garlic and onion, the aromatics. Just tossed for 30 seconds is all that’s needed to get them started and to flavour the oil. Next toss the chicken in.
Once the chicken is mostly cooked, add the white part of the green onions (ie. the thicker part at the base of the stem) along with the chilli. We add the white part of the green onions before the softer green part because it takes longer to cook. Cook for a further minute, and by this time everything that’s currently in the wok should be almost cooked through.
Sauce – Next, the sauce. Pour in, then continue to cook for another 1 minute or until the sauce reduces and everything in the wok gets stained a beautiful mahogany colour; and
Green onion and cashews – And finally, toss the green part of the green onions in, plus the cashews. Give it a toss for around 20 – 30 seconds which is all that’s needed for the green onion to wilt slightly.
And you’re done! What was that, a grand total of 8 minutes? I told you it was fast!!
What to serve with Thai Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
The traditional rice of Thailand is Jasmine Rice which has a lovely, subtle perfume, making it decidedly more interesting than plain white rice! Though really, any kind of rice will work just fine here – brown, white, basmati, jasmine, and for those of you on a low-carb bender, Cauliflower Rice.
I’d also add a simple side salad just to up the vegetable quota. A quick Asian Side Salad is a staple for me (that’s code for “an easy dressing that goes with any vegetables”), Smashed Cucumbers is another personal favourite I obsessively inhale all year round, along with Chang’s Crunchy Noodle Salad (Australia’s favourite salad!).
Then of course, my fallback that works with literally anything: simple, classic Asian Sesame Dressing. Use this for any vegetables – raw, roasted, steamed, blanched. You just can’t go wrong with it! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Thai Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
Thai Cashew Chicken is a dry-style stir fry so there’s not a ton of sauce like with Chinese Cashew Chicken. But the flavour in this one is much more intense so you don’t need nor do you want more sauce, it will be too salty!
SPICINESS: Nice buzz to it from 1/2 a fresh chilli, not blow-your-head-off spicy.
- 2 tbsp peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews , unsalted (Note 1 for roasted)
- 1 garlic clove , finely minced
- 1/2 onion (brown, yellow, or white), cut into thin wedges
- 200g/7oz chicken thighs , skinless and boneless, sliced into 1cm / 1/3″ thin strips (Note 2)
- 2 green onions , cut into 2.5cm / 1” lengths, white part separated from green part
- 1/2 red cayenne pepper , deseeded and finely sliced on the diagonal (omit or reduce if preferred) (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce (Note 4)
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce (Note 5)
- 2 tsp fish sauce (Note 6)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- Red chilli , finely sliced (optional garnish)
- Jasmine rice , for serving (or other rice of choice)
Sauce: Mix all the Sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Cook cashews: Heat oil over medium heat in a wok or large skillet. Add cashews and cook for 5 minutes until they become a dark golden colour and crunchy (yep, you might have to eat one to check!). Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon.
Garlic & onion: Turn heat up to high. Add garlic and onion. Cook for 30 seconds.
Chicken: Add chicken. Cook for 1 minute until the outside changes from pink to white.
White part of green onion & chilli: Add white part of green onions and chilli. Cook for 1 minute until chicken is just cooked through.
Add Sauce: Cook for 1 minute until it reduces down to a syrup, coating the chicken nicely.
Green onion & cashews: Add green part of green onions and cashews. Toss for 30 seconds.
Do not use salted cashews, it will make the dish too salty.
2. Chicken – Thighs will yield a juicier result than breast. But breast will also work just fine. Consider tenderising the breast the Chinese way. It makes it so much softer and juicier! (No need to do it for thigh).
3. Chilli – A golden rule is the larger the chilli, the less spicy it is (usually!) I’ve used large red cayenne pepper here which is not that spicy but still has a decent kick to it. You can omit or reduce the chilli if you wish. If you want spicier, consider using Thai birds-eye chillis – BOOM!
4. Oyster sauce – This can be substituted with vegetarian oyster sauce, sold in some large grocery stores. It’s actually not bad (no offence to veggo’s)!
5. Dark soy sauce – This soy has a more intense colour and flavour than light soy and all-purpose soy. It stains the chicken an appealing mahogany colour. If you use light or all-purpose soy, the dish colour and flavour will not be as good! More on different soy sauces here, and when you can sub with what.
6. Fish sauce – Fish sauce is a traditional ingredient in Thai cooking, and has more complex flavours than soy sauce. You can sub with more soy sauce, but the flavour will not be quite as good. (The oyster sauce still goes some way to compensate if you don’t use fish sauce, as it too is packed with umami!).
7. More rice options:
8. Storage – Leftover stir fry will keep for 4 days in the fridge. It keeps well! It will also freeze fine too.
9. Nutrition per serving, excluding rice.
Thai Stir Fry and Noodle Favourites
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