Simple and quick, you won’t believe how easy it is to create this delicious, one-skillet Chinese Cashew Chicken at home. And, it’s way better than takeout!

30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

Have you ever done that thing where you brag (humbly, of course) to someone about how you and your family rarely get sick, and before the conversation is over, you’ve most certainly been stricken with strep throat?

Yeah, that was me last week.

#pridegoethbeforethefall

I think we’re on the upswing, but a few of us still have tender throats that aren’t sure they want to eat anything but popsicles, Throat Coat (best herbal tea ever for sore throats), and warm broth.

Despite life and schedules being served a memo that I CANNOT GET SICK, life actually has moved forward. It has a way of doing that.

30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

I wish I could say all the forced downtime and snuggles with sick kids (and the fact that I felt like I’d been hit by a semi truck) forced me to reevaluate priorities and slow down a bit, but instead, all I did was dream about what I would eat when my throat was no longer revolting against my body.

Enter this Chinese Cashew Chicken. Definitely at the top of my list for quick, healthy, delicious meals I could dream about forever.

If you have my eCookbook, you’ll already know that I included a cashew chicken recipe in there, as well. It’s delicious (have you made it?).

But the world can’t exist with only one tasty variation of cashew chicken! At least, not my world.

Today’s recipe is tweaked a little bit with a key change being the first step that “velvets” the chicken.

30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

If that term “velvet” combined with “chicken” confuses and kind of scares you, don’t worry, I promise it’s safe and ethical.

Basically, the chicken pieces rest in a bath of cornstarch and baking soda for about 15 minutes prior to cooking wherein some kind of food science happens.

A quick rinse and pop in the ultra-hot skillet, and you’re about to meet the most tender, juicy chicken of your life.

A 9-year old child in this family, who shall remain nameless but who absolutely, positively despises tough meat (don’t we all? he just likes to make it very clear when I’ve overcooked anything), exclaims every time we make this:

mom, this chicken is SOOOOO tender! can we eat this every night?
{implied, of course, that he’d rather not see the tough, stringy beef number from Sunday night reappear}

That velveting step really does take this cashew chicken up several notches. While it rests, chop up the peppers, whisk the sauce together, and get the rice cooking.

It may be a 30-minute meal, but you are going to have to work for it a little bit.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

One other tip for success is to get that skillet hotter than you feel comfortable. I know some of you may not want to crank the temperature up above medium, but I’m asking you to take a few steps out of your comfort zone, breathe deeply, and do it.

Probably one of the main reasons you and I love restaurant-style Chinese food so much is because the real deal Chinese restaurants don’t mess around when it comes to cooking.

Most of those dishes are called stir-fry for a reason. The pan and oil are so hot, the meat and veggies fry up up quick while the ingredients are stirred around to prevent burning.

While I don’t have a wok (my trusty 12-inch skillet does the job just fine), this dish benefits from flash-in-the-pan cooking. Tender, delicious chicken awaits you.

If you’ve been searching for a knockoff, homemade Chinese Cashew Chicken recipe, this should definitely pop itself onto your weekly meal lineup.

And if you want a stellar combination, try serving it with the Coconut Ginger Rice from the eCookbook. So, so heavenly.

30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

Hot, cooked rice
Fresh, seasonal fruit or this Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Steamed or roasted broccoli

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30-Minute Chinese Cashew Chicken

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Chinese Cashew Chicken {30-Minute Meal}

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 6 servings

I highly recommend using low-sodium soy sauce and low-sodium chicken broth (both of which I keep on hand vs their saltier counterparts) for this recipe so the finished dish isn't too salty. 

A note about ginger, that fresh pop of flavor really adds to this dish, but if you don't like the taste or don't have it, you can probably leave it out. I always grab large knobs of ginger from the produce section, chop into 1-inch pieces and pop into a freezer ziploc bag. When I need it, I pull a piece straight from the freezer and grate it on the small holes of a box grater or a rasp grater. Works perfectly!

I like using unsalted cashews as well, but if you only have salted, try rinsing them and patting dry before using. I find unsalted, roasted cashews at my local grocery store's bulk bins, sometimes even in the snack aisle, or at Trader Joe's. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped fresh ginger (or ginger paste from a tube)
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded, cored and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups roasted cashews (I prefer unsalted)

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the diced chicken in a medium bowl and toss with the 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
  3. Rinse the chicken in a colander and pat dry (I leave the rinsed chicken in the colander, grab a bunch of paper towels and dab all over the surface, kind of turning the chicken as I pat dry). 
  4. In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. You want the skillet very hot.
  5. Add the chicken in a single layer and stir constantly; the chicken should turn white as it cooks - but not get overly brown. Let it cook for 1-2 minutes (it's ok if it isn't fully cooked yet; it will cook more in the next few steps). 
  6. Scoot the chicken to the edges of the pan. Add another drizzle (a teaspoon or so) of olive oil to the center of the skillet.
  7. Add the garlic and ginger to the center of the skillet and mash gently as it cooks, about 30 seconds. 
  8. Add the green peppers; stir to combine the chicken, garlic/ginger, and peppers. 
  9. Whisk the sauce to recombine, and add it to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened, the chicken is cooked through, and the peppers are crisp-tender. 
  10. Remove from the heat, add the cashews, and serve over hot, cooked rice (if desired). 

Recipe Source: adapted from Recipe Tin Eats (changed up the sauce and the ingredients for velveting the chicken, eliminated onions, and a few other things)


60 Responses to Chinese Cashew Chicken {30-Minute Meal}

  1. Ashlee says:

    So good! Especially with that coconut ginger rice from your cookbook!!!

  2. Lara says:

    This recipe is delicious! I’ve made it 3x for dinner now (and considering I have a pretty short attention span when it comes to recipes, that’s saying something)! The 3 yr old also loves it and gives it two thumbs up! When my husband asked where I got the recipe, I said, “do you really even need to ask?” To which he rolled his eyes and replied, “Of course…. Mel”.

  3. Heidi says:

    So good and so easy!

  4. Jayne says:

    Once again, Mel hit one out of the park ( and perhaps out of the city and soaring internationally). Great dinner. I added broccoli, baby corn, red onion, and carrots and my kids ate it all! Awesome sauce! I am bummed that I hesitated to make this recipe. It is worth buying the rice vinegar, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Yum! Wow.

  5. Alison says:

    This was great. I made the sauce, ‘velveted’ the chicken, and then got creative with the other stir fry ingredients. This velveting technique was a great way of preventing the chicken from going dry and we all really liked the sauce. So glad to have learned something new! Thanks Mel!

  6. Jane says:

    Hi Mel! I really love your recipes! I have this on my menu this week to try – maybe on Sunday? My only hesitation was the green pepper – hubby hates it! I think I’ll try celery or maybe broccoli as a substitute. I was reading all the reviews and saw the comments about the cashew chicken meatball dish and checked it out. It looks good too but yours wins for ease of prep and cooking time! LOL

  7. Sarah says:

    My whole family loved this. I appreciated that chicken didn’t need to be marinaded ahead of time.

  8. Laura says:

    So this is a weird, slightly gross topic. I notice in your pics of chicken dishes you don’t get that white goo that comes out when I cook chicken. I’ve done some research–it’s called spume. Sounds awful but is totally harmless. It just really makes chicken dishes look so unappetizing. I’ve read about a brine bath for salmon to help prevent it. Just wondering what your experience is with, er…chicken spume.

    • Mel says:

      I think I know what you are talking about, Laura, and I thought it was more present when I didn’t pat the chicken dry before adding it to the skillet…but maybe I’m thinking of the wrong thing?

  9. Ess says:

    My husband thinks I am a total rock star after making this..,! Thanks Mel
    Have tried many of your recipes… Haven’t contributed, but after reading your heart felt note I had to let you know how I’ve appreciated you,.

  10. Alexis says:

    Dear Mel, I made this the day you first posted and it was absolutely delicious! The chicken was so tender and my teens loved and it! I told my husband before he arrived home that is was as good as something we would have ordered at one of our favorite LA restaurants when we lived out there. When he got home and had dinner he totally agreed! Great dinner that led to talk of great memories. Thank you!

  11. Viktoria says:

    Absolutely tender and delicious! My oldest son said: “compliments to the chef”. Even if I used chicken thighs instead of breast and broccoli in place of the green pepper… Thank you, Mel!

  12. Shalise says:

    I made this for dinner this week and it was a hit with the young and old! Thanks for all of your fabulous recipes.

  13. Sheree L says:

    Delicious! Instead of 2 green bell peppers, I used one red bell pepper and a pound of chopped asparagus. Served it on top of cauliflower “rice” for a low carb meal. It’s a keeper!

  14. Sheena says:

    Made this a couple of nights ago, but with asparagus instead of green peppers. It was great! I was out of low-sodium soy sauce and used regular, so it was a little on the salty side. I bet with the recommended low-sodium soy sauce it would have been perfect.

  15. Abbie says:

    I made this last night for supper. I love the texture that velveting gives the chicken. I will be trying this technique with all my chicken stirfrys from now on. I used brown sugar in place of honey as I didn’t have any so I’m not sure how much this changed the taste/thickness of the sauce. I will be making this again. Thanks for another great recipe!!

  16. Becky says:

    I made this for dinner and totally anticipated my picky eaters being dramatic about it, but everyone ate it!!! I loved it (the food and a relatively drama free meal)!

    Yep, totally worth buying the oyster sauce!

  17. Sarah says:

    This was so good!! Thanks Mel for another fabulous recipe that will become a regular in our dinner rotation!

  18. Joyce says:

    Hi Mel,
    Can I substitute the rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar (because that’s all I have on hand)?

  19. April says:

    Made it last night and it was perfect!!! I didn’t have oyster sauce on hand so I used fish sauce. Delicious! Can’t wait to try it with all the right ingredients! Thank you for rescuing dinner once again!

  20. Ruth says:

    I thought I had oyster sauce, but turns out it’s clam juice…that probably won’t work huh? Too fishy?

  21. Tiffany S says:

    I made this for dinner last night, but forgot to add the cashews until we had all eaten so I added some to the leftovers. It was very yummy, my kids all liked it too!

  22. Teri S says:

    Good work, Mel!! Homemade Chinese is the best! Please put crispy Mongolian beef on your need-to-perfect list. I’ve tried it a couple times with decent results but I’ve yet to produce a real winner. Glad you’ve returned to the land of the living!

  23. Lennie-Leigh says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was DELICIOUS! The chicken is exactly as you describe – “velvet”, and the sauce is a perfect balance of flavors. I followed the recipe as written and it turned out perfect. Thank you so much for your many wonderful recipes!

  24. Bella says:

    It looks so delicious! And your story behind it is amazing. I have a wok and I am ready to try it! Thanks!

  25. Mandy says:

    This looks amazing and my family loves stir frys! Unfortunately, my husband is allergic to cashews (not nuts in general, just cashews. Weird, I know.), any ideas for substitutions?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Mandy – I think you could leave them out and up the vegetables (like green peppers or add broccolis) or even try slivered almonds for crunch?

    • Dori says:

      Peanuts would be delicious as well! That’s what we do at my house since my hubby is allergic to cashews as well.

  26. I’ve been cooking a long time and have never heard of this velvet process. I am” all in” though, and can’t wait to try it! As far as health, I skated through fall and winter with nary a runny nose…then got pummeled last week with a stomach bug that’s been going around that my family somehow had escaped up until last week. I couldn’t look at food or bear the smell food for three days, which just works out “perfectly” if you blog about food :/ Hope you’re feeling better!

  27. Becky says:

    I believe in velveting and I believe in your recipe prowess and I believe in coconut rice enough to buy the oyster sauce for this recipe! Can’t wait to try this!

    Glad you’re feeling better!

  28. Paige says:

    This chicken looks amazing! Totally making this for dinner tonight!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  29. Emily Marie says:

    I love the sound of this meal, but no one in my family likes green peppers very much. Any good substitute? Thanks Mel!!

  30. Bryn says:

    Did you and Nagi plan this? You referenced her recipe and today she posted cashew chicken meatballs. Your site and hers are my two very favorite recipe blogs for family meals. Love them both and trust that if either of you have posted it…it’s gonna be amazing!

  31. Sharon says:

    When do you add the green peppers? Can’t wait to try!

  32. Stephanie says:

    Woah! Nagi just posted a meatball version today! I was reading it when your email came in! You ladies know what you are doing!
    http://www.recipetineats.com/cashew-chicken-meatballs-recipe/

  33. Gina says:

    This looks delicious and I want to make it this week! Is it just me.. I don’t see when the bell peppers are cooked. Thanks!!!
    BTW.. we made your banana oat bars and power muffins last week and they were both awesome!!
    This is my new favorite website!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Gina, sorry about that; the recipe was fixed earlier this morning. I add them after the garlic/ginger. Sorry for the omission! I’m blaming it on a rough last week. 🙂

  34. Teresa says:

    Hi Mel,
    When do you add the peppers – with the chicken or with the sauce?

  35. Val Herd says:

    May I assume you put in the peppers with/after the ginger and garlic?

  36. Jessica says:

    Do you know if there is an alternative to the oyster sauce? My small town market doesn’t have any of these fancy ingredients. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hey Jessica, darn! I remember our super small town grocery store in Minnesota carried it, but when they didn’t restock it one time, I had to request it. Does your grocery store take requests? In the meantime, you could try subbing in hoisin sauce (if they have that) or even BBQ sauce or ketchup (maybe two tablespoons of one of those subs + 2 tablespoons additional soy sauce). It would take on a totally different flavor, but might be worth a try.

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