Forget takeout. When you're craving Chinese takeout, try this 30 minute vegan sweet and spicy cashew chicken and veggie dish instead! It's easy to make, incredibly delicious, and way healthier than the restaurant version!
Plump, succulent soy curls are grilled until crispy on the outside then stir fried with tender crisp veggies and crunchy cashews in an incredibly flavorful salty, sweet and spicy cashew sauce. Totally irresistible served over rice.
Everyone loves this amazing cashew chicken - vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters all request it for dinner time and time again!
We love this irresistible Asian-inspired stir fry recipe. It comes together pretty fast, is super nourishing and colorful, and it's gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and finger lickin' good! Your whole family is going to love it too!
Ingredient Spotlight - Soy Curls
Soy curls are an amazing vegan meat substitute (really authentic crispy vegan chicken tender alternative). They are made from soybeans which are rich in fiber and protein. I use the Butler Brand of soy curls (affiliate link) which are non-GMO soybeans, processed without chemicals, and packaged without additives or preservatives.
Not going to lie, I was SUPER surprised and delighted by the texture the first time I tried them. It's quite similar to chicken! Not even joking one little bit!
How To Cook Soy Curls
Soy curls are sold dry (dehydrated) and must be rehydrated before cooking. That's a simple 6-8 minute process. Then it's time to get cooking.
Oven baking soy curls is easy and produces a slightly crispy, chewy chicken tender. Season them first (like I did for this unbelievable Vegan Shawarma recipe) or bake them plain and add them to sauce after. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a 425º F preheated oven for about 20 minutes stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and use as desired (try them on a salad, rice bowl, appetizer, vegan ginger beef/chicken).
Stir frying or sautéing the soy curls is easy and delicious too. Heat a tablespoonful or two of oil in a large skillet and cook over medium to high heat. This method produces juicy, chewy curls with a bit of color and crust. Perfect texture for adding to stir fries, tacos, quesadillas, and so much more.
Either way you'll get juicy, tender, flavourful results. Try them both and see which you prefer.
Here's what you'll need to make this saucy veggie stir fry.
*Pro Tip: if you can't find soy curls, use another vegan chicken replacement like seitan or tofu. As well, there are lots of brands offering delicious plant-based chicken - Gardein, Beyond Meat, Morning Star, and Lightlife to name a few.
Cashews - toasting nuts enhances their flavour and makes them crunchier.
Vegetables - veggies add flavor, texture and crunch. This combination is pretty traditional (and delicious) for cashew chicken, but use any vegetables you have on hand. Celery and water chestnuts are a great additional as well. Pro Tip: cut the vegetables in a uniform size so that they cook at the same rate. Hold back veggies that are tender (like greens and peas which cook much faster) and add them for the last few minutes only.
The Stir Fry Sauce - The sauce is easily customizable for heat and sweetness. If you don't have mirin on hand, sub with maple syrup or sugar. For the vegetable broth, I use this one - Better than Bouillon (affiliate link).
Rice - Use Basmati or Jasmine for a lovely, fluffy, flavourful rice. I use my Instant Pot (affiliate link) which cooks the rice and keeps it warm until ready to serve. Pro Tip: A nice time saver (with no loss of flavour or texture) is to make a big batch of rice on the weekend and freeze it for use throughout the week.
Managing Your Time
This recipe is easy to manage. There are a few steps but everything is easy and quick. Let's get started . . .
- Hydrate the soy curls.
- Start the rice.
- Prep the vegetables, garlic, and ginger. Keep them handy as this dish comes together quickly!
- Make the cashew stir fry sauce.
- Quick fry the soy curls to crisp up. Set aside.
- Stir fry the onions, garlic and ginger.
- Add the veggies and then the sauce.
- Stir in the cashews and soy curls and heat until bubbly.
- Serve immediately over fluffy rice with more cashews and garnishes.
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Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken Stir Fry (vegan)
The Prep Work
- 4 oz soy curls, dry
- 1 - 1 ½ cups cashews, toasted
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice
The Soy Curls
- soy curls, hydrated
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 1 - 1 ½ tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1 large red pepper, cut into strips or triangles
- 2 medium carrots, sliced thin on diagonal
- 1 - 1 ½ cups broccoli florets
- ½ - 1 cup snow peas, cut in half
- 1-2 handfuls baby spinach or sliced into ribbons
The Sweet and Spicy Cashew Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp oyster sauce, vegan
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
- ¼ - ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½+ cup vegetable broth*
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- sesame seeds, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges (optional)
The Prep Work
- Cover the dry soy curls in water and soak for 6-8 minutes. Drain water and gently squeeze to remove excess water. Set aside.
- Toast the cashews in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Shaking skillet often to toast evenly. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Make the rice as per package directions (either stove top or Instant Pot). I made enough for 2 cups cooked rice (½ cup each serving). Adjust for your family's needs.I like the Instant Pot because it's easy, fuss free, and keeps the rice warm until ready to use.
- Chop onions, mince/grate ginger, mince garlic.
- Cut the red peppers into long thin strips or triangles.
- Wash and peel the carrots and cut into slices on a slight diagonal or coins.
- Top and tail the peas - cut in half if large.
- Break the broccoli into small size florets.
- Use baby spinach or cut large spinach leaves into ribbons.
The Sweet and Spicy Cashew Sauce
- Stir the sauce ingredients together in a bowl or large measuring cup. Set aside.
Cooking - soy curls
- Add oil to wok or large deep skillet over medium to high heat.
- Add soy curls to pan. Let them sit without stirring for about a minute. Flip them and cook uninterrupted for another minute or so (to get a little crust and color on the other side).
- Stir and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes then transfer to paper towel or bowl.
Stir Frying - veggies
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok. Once, shimmering, add onions, Sauté over medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
- Add the veggies (except peas and spinach) - continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes stirring to prevent sticking (add a splash or broth or water if necessary).
- Add the peas, spinach, and soy curls.
- With the wok over moderate heat, add half the sauce to the veggie mixture. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.Add more sauce until desired saucy-ness is achieved.
- If the sauce gets too thick, add another splash or two of water/broth to thin.
- Add half the toasted cashews (leaving the rest for garnish). Stir and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and serve immediately over rice.
- Place a scoop of rice onto 4 plates, divide the cashew chicken and veggies evenly getting all the sauce from the bottom of the pan.
- Garnish with a few toasted cashews, some cilantro or Thai basil leaves, and a wedge of lime.
It stores well in the freezer for a couple months and grates easily when it comes out of the freezer.
Delicious for smoothies, etc. as well.
Alternatively you can sub ginger paste or ginger powder if you are out of fresh. NUTS: toasting the nuts brings out the flavour and crunch. THE SAUCE: change up the sweetness (mirin) or the spiciness (cayenne, ginger) of the sauce by adjusting these ingredients to your taste preference. Swap maple syrup or sugar instead of mirin.
If the sauce gets too thick, reduce the heat and add a splash or two more of water or broth. LEFTOVERS & STORAGE: Leftovers store easily in the fridge for a day or two and are delicious for lunch the next day.
This recipe is from simplyceecee.co food blog. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.
Original recipe post January 2020, updated photos and instructions September 2021