Chinese Cashew Chicken {30-Minute Meal}

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 Chinese 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

One Year Ago: Double Chocolate Quick Bread
Two Years Ago: Healthier Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Snack Bars
Three Years Ago: Family Style Shrimp Scampi {20-Minute Meal}

Chinese Cashew Chicken {30-Minute Meal}

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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)

Directions:

  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).

Notes:

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. 

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Follow @melskitchencafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

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)