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Chicken with cashews

Dan Toombs / 18 April 2021

Stir-fried chicken with cashews is a popular recipe in Thai and Chinese restaurants, but it's worth making at home.

Chicken with cashews from The Curry Guy Thai
Chicken with cashews from The Curry Guy Thai by Dan Toombs

Preparation time

20 minutes

Cooking time

10 minutes




For the chicken with cashew nuts

  • 250ml (1 cup) rapeseed oil, plus an extra 3 tbsp
  • 20–30 cashews
  • 20 dried red bird’s eye chillies
  • 450g (1lb) skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into small cashew-size pieces
  • 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 red spur chillies, thinly sliced
  • 2 green bird’s eye chillies, cut into thin rings
  • 4 spring onions, sliced

For the sauce

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp Thai seasoning sauce (optional)
  • 70ml (1⁄4 cup) water or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp palm sugar, grated and finely chopped


Chicken with cashews is a hugely popular dish at Thai restaurants and takeaways, and my family love it. It is important to cut the chicken pieces so that they are about the same size as the cashews (although this is more for presentation as large chunks also work fine). You can mix the sauce and fry the cashews, chillies and chicken a day or so in advance, making this a dish you can cook up very quickly after work with little mess.

The first time I tried making this recipe, I burnt the cashews and chillies. Don’t make the same mistake or you’ll have to start all over again. They don’t take long to colour in the oil and cashews aren’t cheap, so keep an eye on them. Although there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, the dried and fried chillies are not meant to be eaten.

I like to serve this curry with jasmine rice.

To make the chicken with cashews

Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together and taste it. Add more sugar if you like a sweeter flavour and then set aside.

Heat 250ml (1 cup) of rapeseed (canola) oil in a wok or saucepan until shimmering hot. Add one cashew. It should sizzle on contact but not brown too quickly. If that cashew looks like it is happy in the oil, add the rest and cook for about a minute until light golden brown in colour. Transfer to a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. Do the same with the chillies, checking the oil temperature first. You want them to still be a nice deep red colour. If the oil is too hot, they will quickly burn and turn brown.

Dust the chicken pieces with the cornflour (cornstarch) and add it in small batches to the hot oil. Fry for 3–5 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.

Now heat a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the wok and stir in the garlic, onion, spur chillies and green bird’s eye chillies. Fry until the garlic is turning soft and a very light brown colour but be very careful not to burn it. Stir in the sauce mixture and simmer for about 30–60 seconds to thicken and then add the chicken, cashews and dried and fried chillies, stirring well to combine.

Continue cooking for a minute or two until the sauce is sticking to the meat and cashews and then taste it, adjusting the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately sprinkled with the chopped spring onions (scallions) to garnish.

To make the Thai chicken stock

Makes: 1.5 litres (6 cups)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours

  • 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) meaty chicken bones
  • 10 coriander (cilantro) stalks
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2.5cm (1in) piece of galangal, thinly sliced and lightly smashed
  • 1 whole lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns (or black peppercorns if you must)

Add the chicken bones to a large saucepan and cover with 2 litres (8 cups) of water. Bring to a simmer, making sure to skim off any foam that floats to the top. Once all the foam is skimmed add the remaining ingredients. Allow to simmer for about 2 hours.

Strain through a fine sieve. This stock can be used immediately but it also freezes really well. If storing in the fridge or freezer, it is important to cool it down as quickly as possible. To do this, I place the bowl of stock in an ice bath in the sink.

Note: You could add more water and a few pork bones to this stock for a delicious chicken and pork stock, popular in Thai cooking. This can be used whenever chicken stock is called for in a recipe.

The Curry Guy Thai

Extracted from The Curry Guy Thai by Dan Toombs, Quadrille, £15

Try one of our other Thai recipes, including massaman yellow Thai curry, vegetable Thai curry, pad Thai and more


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.