That Spicy Chick

Thai Cashew Chicken

This Thai Cashew Chicken stir-fry is super easy to whip up in just 30 minutes, incredibly delicious, and so much better than takeout! Tender chicken pieces, crisp veggies, and roasted cashews get tossed in a lip-smacking tasty umami packed sauce!

Stir-fry chicken dish with bell peppers and cashews in a round serving bowl.

Hooooly Moly!

I kid you not when I say I licked the dish clean the first time I made this Thai Cashew Chicken. And I have shamelessly done so all the times that I’ve made it thereafter.

We have here:

  • Tender and flavorful chicken pieces
  • Roasted crunchy cashews
  • Crisp bell peppers, onion, and spring onion
  • An irresistible, lip-smacking tasty garlicky sauce!

Friends, this one wok wonder is the perfect quick and easy stir-fry for busy weeknights!

There are many versions of Thai Cashew Chicken (known as Gai Pad Med Ma-Muang Himmapan in Thai) out there. It’s a classic dish served in Thai restaurants all over the world. The degree of saltiness, spiciness, sourness, and sweetness varies depending on who’s cooking.

My version is wonderfully spicy, sweet, salty, and just slightly tangy. Most importantly, it’s truly delicious with a bowl of warm steamed rice!

Top view of stir-fry chicken dish with bell peppers and cashews in a serving bowl, and two bowls with rice.

Why This Recipe Works

  • It’s quick and easy to stir-fry. We’re talking just 30 minutes to whip up, inclusive of prep time.
  • The chicken pieces are super tender and flavorful because of a simple 3 ingredient marinade.
  • The sauce is DAMN delicious thanks to soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce bringing their umami game to the wok. Tamarind paste also adds the perfect hint of tang, and balances out the sweet and salty notes in the sauce.
  • It’s slightly healthier than your average takeout cashew chicken. I’ve opted to stir-fry the chicken instead of deep-fry it during the initial chicken cooking stage.
  • Crunchy, toasty, and creamy cashews add a lovely contrasting texture to the tender chicken pieces and crisp bell peppers.
  • It tastes a BILLION GAZILLION times better than takeout!

Ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Thai Cashew Chicken on a wooden board.
Labeled ingredients to make stir-fry sauce. Stir-fry sauce in measuring cup with a spoon.

A couple of quick notes on some of the ingredients first. (Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.)

  • Chicken: I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts. But boneless and skinless thighs or fillets will work too.
  • Tamarind Paste: This sour and sweet Thai paste is also known as tamarind concentrate or puree. You can find this at your local Asian or Thai grocery store or purchase it online. Note that different brands will have varying levels of acidity. If yours is very sour, use less than the amount I’ve indicated. I use Talad Thai Tamarind Paste, which is made up of 70% tamarind and 30% water.
  • Thai Dried Red Chilies: These flavorful chilies are quite spicy. Use as many or as few as you like depending on your heat level preference. You’re also welcome to use large Thai dried red chilies (which are milder) instead of the small hot ones that I’ve used. While you can eat these if you like, I don’t normally and just use them to flavor the dish.
  • Fresh Red Chilies: I’ve used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies you can get your hands on will work. Again, use as many or as few as you like. Or you can omit the chilies entirely to make this dish mild.
  • Unsalted Roasted Cashews: If you only have raw cashews on hand, you can roast them in the oven. Place on a parchment paper lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 350°F/175°C. Alternatively, you can sauté them for 1-2 minutes in a bit of oil before you fry the Thai dried red chilies. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon to drain.
  • Oil: Feel free to use vegetable oil, or any other neutral flavored oil that has a high smoke point.  

How to Make Thai Cashew Chicken

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this easy stir-fry. (Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)

Photo collage of steps to marinate chicken in sweet dark soy sauce, then toss with flour.

Prep:

  1. Marinate the chicken: Thinly the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Then combine with the sweet dark soy sauce in a large bowl and mix. Set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup (for easier pouring) or small bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined, then set aside.
  3. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop the onion, garlic, red chilies, red and yellow bell peppers, and spring onions. Give the Thai dried red chilies a good rinse, then pat-dry and remove the stems.
Photo collage of steps to make Thai Cashew Chicken.

For the Thai Cashew Chicken:

  1. Fry the dried red chilies: In a bit of oil just for a few seconds, until they crisp up and are fragrant. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  2. Cook the chicken: Lightly toss the marinated chicken with the all-purpose flour. Add more oil to the wok. Once hot, add the chicken and quickly spread the pieces out around the pan. Stir-fry constantly, until the chicken pieces have cooked through on both sides. (Note: The pieces will be a bit sticky at first, but they will loosen up as you stir-fry in the oil.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a clean bowl, and wipe out the wok.
  3. Cook aromatics: Heat the remaining oil in the wok over high heat. Then stir-fry the onion, garlic, and red chilies.
  4. Stir-fry bell peppers: Add the red and yellow bell pepper pieces and toss to combine.
  5. Add cashews and dried red chilies: Stir-fry to combine them with everything else in the wok.
  6. Add chicken and sauce: Toss until everything is coated well in the sauce and it has slightly thickened.
  7. Toss through spring onion: Toss briefly to combine, then switch off the heat.
  8. Serve! Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and serve while it’s nice and hot with warm steamed rice.
Top view of stir-fry chicken dish in a round serving bowl, and two bowls of rice.

Cook’s Tips

  • Stir-fry constantly when you first cook the chicken. The flour and sauce will make the chicken pieces quite sticky. But once you stir-fry in the oil, the pieces will “unstick” from each other as they cook.
  • Be careful not to burn the marinated chicken when you stir-fry. The sweet dark soy sauce has molasses in it, so it is prone to burning if cooked in too little oil. Make sure that there’s at least two tablespoons oil in the wok before you add the chicken, and stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
Spoon holding up chicken pieces, bell pepper, and a cashew nut above stir-fry dish.

FAQs

Can I make this vegetarian or vegan?

Use mock chicken or other imitation meat such as Quorn, or crispy pan-fried tofu. Also, use a vegan fish sauce, and a vegetarian mushroom flavored oyster sauce.

Can I make this gluten-free?

Use corn starch instead of all-purpose flour for the chicken. Also use a gluten-free soy sauce, gluten-free oyster sauce (or gluten-free vegetarian oyster sauce if making this veg), and a gluten-free kecap manis in place of the sweet dark soy sauce. Double check that your fish sauce is GF certified.

Can I make this ahead?

You can make the sauce a day in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. However, I recommend preparing everything else just before cooking.

How long will leftovers keep?

This dish tastes best when eaten immediately after (or at least on the day of) cooking. However, leftovers will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days in a sealed airtight container. To reheat, microwave on high for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for another 1-2 minutes until hot throughout.

What to serve with Thai Cashew Chicken?

I serve this with warm steamed white rice. But for a healthier option, you can serve it with brown rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa if you like.

Spoon with chicken, bell pepper, and cashew nut, and close up of stir-fry. Text overlay "Thai Cashew Chicken".

More Easy Weeknight Stir-fry Recipes

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Top view of stir-fry chicken dish with bell peppers and cashews in a round serving bowl.

Thai Cashew Chicken

5 from 1 reviews

A quick and easy stir-fry that’s incredibly delicious! Garlic, chilies, onion, bell peppers, roasted cashews, and tender chicken pieces get tossed in a lip-smacking and tasty garlicky sauce!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Thai
Scale

Ingredients

For the Chicken:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts (about 400 grams / 14 ounces), boneless, skinless – cleaned and pat-dried with paper towels, then thinly sliced
  • 2 TSP Sweet Dark Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBLS All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 TBLS Canola Oil (or vegetable oil, or any other neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point)

For the Sauce:

For the Thai Cashew Chicken:

  • 2 TBLS Canola Oil
  • 510 Thai Dried Red Chilies, to taste – washed, dried, and stems removed
  • ½ Yellow Onion – sliced into ¼-inch thick strips
  • 10 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 416 Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but Holland or any other hot small red chilies will work too), to taste
  • ½ Red Bell Pepper – deseeded and diced
  • ½ Yellow Bell Pepper – deseeded and diced
  • 3 Spring Onions (Scallions) – chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup Unsalted Roasted Cashews

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Marinate the chicken: Clean and pat-dry the chicken breasts, then thinly slice into bite-sized pieces. Combine the chicken and sweet dark soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix until the chicken is fully coated in the sauce, then set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, tamarind paste, brown sugar, corn starch, and water in a measuring cup (for easier pouring) or small bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined, then set aside.
  3. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Prepare/chop the onion, garlic, red chilies, red and yellow bell peppers, and spring onion as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Rinse the Thai dried red chilies and pat-dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems and set aside.

For the Thai Cashew Chicken:

  1. Fry the dried red chilies: Heat ½ tablespoon of canola oil in a large nonstick wok over medium high-heat. Once hot, add the Thai dried red chilies and sauté for 20-40 seconds until they crisp up and are fragrant. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel lined plate to drain. (No need to wipe out the oil in the wok.)
  2. Cook the chicken: Lightly toss the marinated chicken with the all-purpose flour (it will be sticky). Add 1.5 tablespoon of canola oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and quickly spread the pieces out around the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, stir-frying constantly, until the chicken pieces have cooked through on both sides. (Note: The pieces will be a bit sticky at first, but they will loosen up as you stir-fry in the oil.) Switch off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer to a clean bowl. Wipe out the wok with a paper towel.
  3. Cook aromatics: Heat the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of canola oil in the wok over high heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and red chilies. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Stir-fry bell peppers: Add red and yellow bell peppers and toss for 30 seconds to combine.
  5. Add cashews and dried red chilies: Add the cashews and Thai dried red chilies and stir-fry for 30 seconds until everything in the wok is combined well.
  6. Add chicken and sauce: Add the chicken and pour the sauce over everything in the wok. Toss for 1-2 minutes, until everything is coated well in the sauce and it has slightly thickened.
  7. Toss through spring onion: Add the spring onion and toss through for 20 seconds to combine, then switch off the heat.
  8. To Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and serve with warm steamed rice.

Notes

Ingredient Notes, Cook’s Tips, and FAQs

  1. Chicken: Boneless and skinless thighs or fillets will work too.
  2. Tamarind Paste: This sour and sweet Thai paste is also known as tamarind concentrate or puree. You can find this at your local Asian or Thai grocery store or purchase it online. Note that different brands will have varying levels of acidity. If yours is very sour, use less than the amount I’ve indicated. I use Talad Thai Tamarind Paste, which is made up of 70% tamarind and 30% water.
  3. Thai Dried Red Chilies: Use as many or as few as you like of these hot chilies depending on your heat level preference. You could also use large Thai dried red chilies (which are milder) instead of the small hot ones that I’ve used. Omit them (and the fresh red chilies) to make this dish mild. While you can eat these if you like, I don’t normally and just use them to flavor the dish.
  4. Unsalted Roasted Cashews: If you only have raw cashews on hand, you can roast them in the oven. Place on a parchment paper lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 350°F/175°C. Alternatively, you can sauté them for 1-2 minutes in a bit of oil before you fry the Thai dried red chilies. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon to drain.
  5. Be careful not to burn the marinated chicken when you stir-fry. The sweet dark soy sauce has molasses in it, so it is prone to burning if cooked in too little oil. Make sure that there’s at least two tablespoons oil in the wok before you add the chicken, and stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
  6. Can I make it lighter/healthier? Substitute corn starch for the all-purpose flour. Serve with brown rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa instead of steamed white rice.
  7. Can I make it vegetarian/vegan? Use mock chicken or other imitation meat such as Quorn, or crispy pan-fried tofu. Also, use a vegan fish sauce, and a vegetarian mushroom flavored oyster sauce.
  8. Can I make it gluten-free? Use corn starch instead of all-purpose flour for the chicken. Also use a gluten-free soy sauce, gluten-free oyster sauce (or gluten-free vegetarian oyster sauce if making this veg), and a gluten-free kecap manis in place of the sweet dark soy sauce. Double check that your fish sauce is GF certified.
  9. Can I make it ahead? You can make the sauce a day in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. However, I recommend preparing everything else just before cooking.
  10. How long will leftovers keep? This dish tastes best when eaten immediately after (or at least on the day of) cooking. However, leftovers will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days in a sealed airtight container. To reheat, microwave on high for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for another 1-2 minutes until hot throughout.
  11. Recipe adapted from The Complete Thai Cookbook (affiliate link) by Srisamorn Kongpun.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 439
  • Sugar: 13.1g
  • Sodium: 1133.5mg
  • Fat: 21.8g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 17.2g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.8g
  • Fiber: 3.7g
  • Protein: 30.1g
  • Cholesterol: 73mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

2 comments on “Thai Cashew Chicken”

  1. Another delicious recipe that we’ve added to our ‘regular’ list. Thanks Lavina!

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