This easy Cashew Chicken stir fry is a wholesome lunch or dinner that’s easy to make in advance. Tender chunks of chicken are covered in a flavorful sesame garlic sauce, stir-fried with succulent veggies and crunchy cashews, then served over rice or noodles. Gluten-free, paleo, Whole30, refined sugar-free with low carb and keto-friendly options.
Updated May 2022
Quick & Easy Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
My family absolutely adores any dish that involves cashews. They request this cashew chicken stir fry more times than I could count – and whenever they mention it, everyone is instantly on board. Everyone practically drools at the thought of the nutty, sweet and tangy sauce mingling with the juicy chicken, the tender veggies and of course, the crunchy roasted cashews.
No matter what kind of rice, veggies or noodles you serve it over, you’re going to be a happy camper as soon as you take your first bite. Ordering cashew chicken from your local Chinese restaurant will likely become a thing of the past. You just can’t beat a guilt-free homemade version that nails your favorite flavors with very little effort required!
Is Cashew Chicken Good for You?
Cashew chicken is considered one of the healthier options in the realm of Chinese takeout. packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, but the chicken is usually battered and deep-fried in a bunch of oil. This recipe skips the batter and uses minimal oil to fry the chicken, which lightens up the dish a great deal.
On top of that, this stir fry caters to a variety of special diets. It’s paleo and gluten-free with zero refined sugars included. Make it keto and low-carb with just a few simple swaps!
What You’ll Need
Here’s everything you need to know about the ingredients that make this meal possible. You’ll find the required quantities in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
For the Sesame Garlic Sauce
- Coconut aminos: You can use gluten-free tamari or low sodium soy sauce if there are no dietary restrictions.
- Fish Sauce: Make sure to use a high-quality fish sauce like Red Boat. You can also sub with gluten-free hoisin sauce if there are no dietary restrictions.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: This incredibly healthy vinegar adds a lovely tang.
- Honey: Or your preferred low-carb sweetener (such as erythritol, stevia or monk fruit).
- Toasted Sesame Oil: This provides a nice nuttiness to complement the cashews.
- Arrowroot Starch: Or cornstarch. Use xanthan gum for low-carb/keto.
- Fresh Minced Ginger: Don’t try to substitute this for ground ginger, which is more potent and doesn’t taste quite the same.
- Garlic: Freshly minced.
- Water: To thin out the sauce as needed.
For the Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts: Cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Salt & Pepper: Added to taste.
- Tapioca Starch: Arrowroot starch or cornstarch would work as well.
- Coconut Oil: Or olive oil.
- Broccoli Florets: Rinsed and thoroughly dried.
- Red Bell Pepper: Washed, dried and cut into bite-sized chunks.
- Unsalted Cashews: You can buy pre-roasted cashews or roast them yourself.
- Red Pepper Chili Flakes: Optional, for a kick of heat.
For Serving (Optional)
- Toasted Sesame Seeds: These enhance the nutty goodness even more.
- Green Onion: Sliced thinly.
- Lunch Containers: If I’m making this dish for meal prep, I like to store each serving in its own airtight container.
- Rice or Noodles: You can serve your stir fry over cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, jasmine rice, brown rice or any other base of your choice.
How to Make Cashew Chicken
Making cashew chicken from scratch is so much quicker than grabbing takeout. You’ll have it on the table in about 20 minutes – and you don’t even have to leave the house!
- Mix the Sauce: Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Set the mixture aside.
- Season Chicken: Season the chicken with salt, pepper, tapioca starch and a tablespoon of the stir fry sauce.
- Cook: Add the oil to a wok or a large nonstick skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Let it sit on the burner for a minute or two, then add in the chicken and stir fry it for 5-6 minutes, or until it starts to brown.
- Add Veggies: Toss in the broccoli and bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender-crisp and the chicken is cooked through.
- Pour in Sauce & Add Cashews: Pour in the remaining sauce and add the cashews.
- Toss & Continue Cooking: Toss everything together and allow the sauce to bubble and thicken. Season the stir fry with salt, pepper or red pepper chili flakes as needed.
- Garnish & Serve: Remove your stir fry from the heat and sprinkle it with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions if desired. Serve it warm on a large platter or over rice or noodles.
Can I Prep This Dish Ahead of Time?
Yes! Cut up the chicken and refrigerate it in an airtight container or a resealable storage bag. Do the same with the veggies. Mix together the sauce and store it in a small glass container. The rice or noodles can be cooked in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container once cooled.
Alternatively, you can make the entire dish ahead of time. Let the stir fry and the cooked rice or noodles cool completely. Refrigerate everything in one big airtight container or isolate individual servings.
Warm up your stir fry over medium heat, stirring frequently until it’s heated through. Another option is you can microwave individual servings in 30-second intervals, stirring well after each one.
Tips for Success
Utilize these tips and techniques to ensure that your homemade cashew chicken is indeed more delicious than takeout.
- Avoid Salted Cashews: You’re definitely going to want to make this stir fry with unsalted cashews. Salted ones would add unnecessary sodium and make the dish taste overly salty.
- Do I Have to Roast the Nuts? I highly recommend roasting your cashews as it really enhances their flavor. In the event you can’t find pre-roasted ones, spread the raw cashews out on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350°F for about 5 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you start to smell that wonderful nutty aroma.
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken: Once the chicken is just starting to brown, go ahead and toss in the veggies. The chicken will continue to cook as you proceed with the recipe – if you fry it for too long at the beginning, it may become dry and rubbery. Cutting the chicken into even-sized pieces helps it cook nice and evenly.
It’s always fun to switch things up every once in a while. This recipe can easily be customized to suit your cravings!
- Swap Out the Fish Sauce: If you want to taste more of that umami flavor, you can always substitute the fish sauce with gluten-free hoisin sauce, gluten-free oyster sauce or vegetarian mushroom sauce. Take your pick!
- Use Thighs Instead of Breasts: As long as they’re boneless and skinless, you can totally make this stir fry with chicken thighs instead of breasts. Just keep in mind that this dark-meat cut requires a longer cook time.
- Switch Up the Veggies: Whether you want to use different bell peppers or substitute the broccoli for zucchini slices, go right ahead! If you choose to alter these ingredients, try to stick with vegetables that cook at similar rates.
Want to add a side dish to the mix? You can’t go wrong with this simple Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry, which comes together in 15 minutes or less. Stir-Fried Bok Choy is another Chinese classic that’ll complement the flavors of the cashew chicken and add an extra boost of nutrition to your meal.
Storage and Reheating
Lucky enough to have leftovers? Refrigerate the cooled stir fry in an airtight container along with the cooled rice or noodles. Enjoy your leftovers within 4 days for the best results.
Reheat your stir fry over medium heat until it’s warmed through, stirring frequently. Alternatively, reheat individual servings in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval.
Does This Freeze Well?
Cashew chicken does quite well in the freezer. Freeze the cooled stir fry in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Thaw it out in the fridge overnight before you reheat it.
More Healthy Chicken Stir Fries to Try
Everybody loves a good stir fry. Especially when it’s one of these!
This easy Cashew Chicken stir fry is a wholesome lunch or dinner that's easy to make in advance. Tender chunks of chicken are covered in a flavorful sesame garlic sauce, stir-fried with succulent veggies and crunchy cashews, then served over rice or noodles. Gluten-free, paleo, Whole30, refined sugar-free with low carb and keto-friendly options.
- 6 tbsps coconut aminos can sub with gluten-free tamari or low sodium-soy sauce if there are no dietary restrictions
- 1 tsp fish sauce , may sub with 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce if there are no dietary restrictions
- 3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey , you can sub with a low carb / keto sweetener like Lakanto sugar-free maple syrup, erythritol, stevia or monk fruit
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp arrowroot starch or cornstarch (or 1 teaspoon xanthum gum for low carb)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup water plus more as needed to thin out sauce
- 3/4 lb chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
- sea salt and black pepper as needed
- 1 tbsp tapioca or arrowroot starch or cornstarch (sub with 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for low carb / keto)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large red bell pepper cut into bite-sized chunks
- 3/4 cup roasted unsalted cashews
- red pepper chili flakes
- toasted sesame seeds
- 1 green onion sliced thinly
- cauliflower rice, hearts of palm noodles or preferred rice or noodles of choice
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
Season chicken with salt, pepper, tapioca starch and 1 tablespoon of sauce/marinade.
Add oil to a wok or a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken and stir fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the chicken is starting to brown.
- Toss in the broccoli and bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the chicken is cooked through. Pour in the remaining sauce and add the cashews. Toss everything together and allow the sauce to bubble and thicken. Season with salt, pepper or red pepper chili flakes as needed.
- Remove from heat and serve warm on a large platter or over zoodles, cauliflower rice(paleo), quinoa or regular rice or noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions if desired.
- To Make Ahead: Cut chicken and refrigerate in an airtight container. Do the same with the veggies. Make sauce and store in a small glass container. The rice or noodles can be cooked in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container once cooled. Alternatively, make the entire dish ahead of time and refrigerate everything in airtight containers once cooled.
- To Store: Refrigerate cooled stir fry in an airtight container along with cooled rice or noodles. Enjoy leftovers within 4 days.
- To Reheat: Warm up stir fry over medium heat, stirring frequently until heated through. If preferred, microwave individual servings in 30-second intervals, stirring well after each one.
- To Freeze: Freeze cooled stir fry in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.