You can put together this delicious Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken in 30 minutes with just a few simple ingredients and it tastes much better than takeout!
Several years ago, when we lived in Raleigh, there was a tiny Asian restaurant, just blocks from us, that specialized in fabulous Thai, Malaysian and Chinese cuisine. Often, after a busy day, Scott and I would have the same idea; “Let’s get takeout!” We’d call the order in and dinner would be on the table in less than 30 minutes. Not so easy anymore. We live fairly remote these days, in the mountains of North Carolina outside of Asheville. Running to get takeout is no longer an easy or quick option. But having recipes like this delicious Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken in my back pocket makes dinner almost as simple as in the old days – and just as delicious!
What is hoisin?
With a name like Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken, you’re right if you surmised that there’s hoisin sauce in the ingredient list for this recipe. If you’re not familiar with hoisin sauce it’s a thick, sweet, salty, readily available Asian condiment sauce that has a delicious, warm, complex flavor. Hoisin sauce is often used for glazing meat, as an addition to stir-fries and as dipping and/or drizzling sauce. It’s a magical condiment to have in your pantry as it can give easy pizzazz to everyday dishes.
Less than 30 minutes, start to finish
I wasn’t kidding when I said that you can have this on the table as quick as you can order and pick up takeout. This is how the simple steps work:
- Heat a splash of both sesame and olive oil in a medium-large saute pan. Add some minced garlic and grated ginger (or ginger paste, see Café Tips below) and stir until fragrant.
- Add chicken broth, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce and a spoonful of chili garlic sauce. Bring all this to a boil and cook for 8-10 minutes until thickened. (While the sauce is simmering, thinly slice a couple of chicken breasts into bite-size pieces.) Finish the sauce off with a bit of butter, stirring until well incorporated.
- Add the sliced chicken and cashews to the simmering sauce, cover and turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes… and voila, dinner is served! See what I mean, so easy so quick!
How to serve this Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken
I like to serve this cashew chicken over steamed jasmine rice but it would also be delicious would Asian noodles. Since there are no veggies in this dish, I often serve it with roasted broccoli or green beans. Steamed or stir-fried snow peas or sugar snap peas are also a nice pairing with this cashew chicken. Lots of fresh herbs are a must!
If it’s summer and your herb garden is overflowing, by all means, garnish this cashew chicken with basil, mint and cilantro leaves but otherwise just pick your favorite or what’s readily available and use that to add lots of fresh, vibrant flavor.
(On a side note, you may have noticed that I use fresh basil quite lavishly, even off-season. I grow it in my sunny dining room window all fall and winter long. I purchase plants (potted in soil) in the produce section at the grocery store and keep them regularly watered and fertilized. They thrive and get lots of new leaves and sprouts. Sometimes though, we go out of town or I forget to water and they quickly let me know by drooping and wilting. If they don’t revive with watering, I just purchase another plant next time I’m shopping and try to be a better nurturer.)
Makes great leftovers!
Because there are no veggies to wilt or get soft, this Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken reheats well and makes great leftovers. It would be a treat to take for work or school lunches although you may have some jealous co-workers (or fellow students) when the delicious aroma fills the lunchroom as your meal is heating.
Although the ingredient list for this recipe is short and simple, the combination of these flavor bombs creates a delicious dinner entree. If you’re missing any of the pantry-friendly ingredients for this delightful cashew chicken, put them on your shopping list along with cashews and boneless skinless chicken breasts. Plan to make it soon and I think you’ll also be wondering, “who needs takeout?” when you can have a meal like this on your table just as quickly!
Cafe Tips for this Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Cashew Chicken
- It’s important to use low sodium soy sauce in this recipe because as the sauce simmers down and thickens, regular soy sauce will make it too salty. I use low sodium soy sauce almost exclusively as I can use more of it, imparting more flavor and deep rich color without a sodium overload. You’ll find low sodium soy sauce right next to the regular soy sauce at the grocery store. It usually has a green cap and label.
- If you’re not familiar with hoisin sauce, it’s a fairly common Asian staple that you can find in most larger grocery stores in the international aisle near the soy sauce, rice vinegar, etc. My favorite brand is Lee Kum Kee. You can also find it online.
- Another Asian ingredient called for in this recipe is chili garlic sauce. This delicious, inexpensive spicy sauce also is stocked by most larger grocers in the Asian area. I like Huy Fong brand which is probably the most widely available option.
- Chili garlic sauce packs a lot of heat in a small amount. I recommend starting with a half teaspoon. You can always add more but can’t take the heat away. We like things mediumly spicy and a half teaspoon is perfect for us.
- This cashew chicken recipe calls for finely grated fresh ginger. I almost always have a tube of ginger paste in my refrigerator or freezer. Ginger paste is simply fresh ginger that’s been finely pureed. It works well in any recipe that calls for fresh ginger and is easy to store. If you don’t use fresh ginger frequently, just keep it in the freezer. When you need a tablespoon or two, remove the tube from the freezer, let it thaw for 1o minutes and you’ll be able to squeeze out what you need and pop the tube back in the freezer for next time. I’ve used this ginger paste for years and hate to be without it. (This isn’t a sponsored post, I just really like it.
- You can find this ginger paste at many larger grocery stores in the produce department, usually near the fresh herbs. Super Walmart and Super Target stores both carry it. It comes in a tube that looks like this.
- Let the sauce simmer until it’s nice and thick. Adding the chicken will thin out the sauce a bit but the cornstarch/soy sauce combo will bring it back to a nice consistency.
- A pat of butter added at the end in 4 small additions may seem strange for an Asian dish. It’s an old chef’s trick to add another layer of fine flavor and a silky smooth texture. Wait until each piece is melted before adding the next.
- If you’re serving this cashew chicken to guests, it’s easy to prep ahead. Make the sauce and simmer it as directed then cover and set aside. Slice the chicken and refrigerate. Right before serving time, bring the sauce back to a boil, add the chicken, cashews, etc., cover and wait as directed. Your dinner will be fresh and perfectly done as you seat your guests around the table.
- If you’re planning to enjoy this as leftovers, wait until just before each serving to add the cashews so they stay nice and crunchy.
If you enjoy Asian-inspired, easy chicken recipes, you will also love this Chicken and Coconut Curry Noodle Salad!
Thought for the day:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
What we’re listening to for inspiration:
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- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves finely minced
- 2 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ⅔ cup hoisin sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce divided
- ½-1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- 1½ teaspoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon cold butter divided into 4 pieces
- 1-1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- ½ cup salted roasted cashews
Heat the sesame and olive oil in a medium-large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and lower the heat slightly. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the chicken broth, hoisin sauce, honey, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and the chili garlic sauce to the pan. Combine the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce and the cornstarch in a separate bowl and set aside.
Bring the broth mixture in the pan to a boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, maintaining a steady boil, until the sauce has thickened nicely and coats the back of a spoon.
While the sauce is simmering prep the chicken. Slice each breast thinly into bite-size pieces. If your chicken breasts are large and thick, cut them in half horizontally by placing your non-dominant hand on top of the breast and slicing it into two fairly equal thinner portions then slice each half thinly into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
When the sauce is thickened, add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring until each piece is melted before adding the next. Add the chicken, cashews and cornstarch mixture and stir to evenly distribute the chicken. Return to a simmer then cover and turn off the heat. Allow the pan to sit (covered) for 5 minutes. (The thin slices of chicken will cook nicely in the residual heat.)
Serve with jasmine rice and fresh basil, mint and/or cilantro leaves.
See Café Tips above in the post for further instructions and more detailed tips.