Gai pad med mamuang is a simple Thai cashew chicken recipe made with tender chicken and toasted cashews coated in a simple sauce. It is salty, spicy, easy to make and on the table in under 30 minutes.
What is gai pad med mamuang?
Based on Chinese stir fry cooking methods, this Thai chicken dish is a popular item on menus in Thailand. ‘gai’ means chicken, ‘pad’ means stir fry, and ‘mamuang’ means cashew, so basically it translates as chicken stir fried with cashews.
Why we love this recipe
- Quick and easy – from start to finish you can have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.
- This stir fried chicken recipe serves 2 but can easily be doubled. Or add an extra bell pepper / capsicum and some sugar snaps to bulk it out to serve 3-4.
- The dish is packed with flavour from salty Oyster sauce and spicy dried chillies – and it is easy to adjust these to your personal tastes and make as hot and spicy or mild as you like.
- Chicken with cashew nuts is such a fantastic combination, the juicy chicken and toasted cashew nuts make it one of those dishes I can’t stop eating!
- Many recipes call to coat the chicken in flour or cornflour, but we prefer to omit this step. Not only does it save time (and washing up!) but I find the flour cloying, and making this dish without cornflour it leaves it light and juicy.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
- Chicken breast – you can also use chicken thigh.
- Cashew nuts – try and get raw cashew nuts and then roast them yourself for maximum flavour. Don’t buy roasted and salted cashew nuts as this together with the salty Thai sauce will make the dish far too salty.
- Dried red chillies – I like to leave the dried chillies whole, however if you are wanting to make this a mild Thai stir fry then remove the seeds.
- Spring onion – aka green onions. You can use a small brown onion, finely sliced into wedges, instead, or add sliced onion AND spring onions.
- Soy sauce – a mixture of dark soy sauce and light soy sauce provides colour and rich saltiness. If you only have light soy sauce, see my recipe tips below for how to make this recipe without dark soy sauce.
- Oyster sauce – this thick dark brown liquid is salty, sweet, rich and packed with unami flavour. Not only does it pack some wonderful flavour in to this dish, but oyster sauce makes the chicken stir fry glisten and have a glossy appearance. If you don’t like the taste of oysters don’t worry, it doesn’t really taste of oysters.
- Brown sugar – this helps balance the salty and spicy flavours. Use soft light brown sugar, it you have palm sugar then use that! Dark brown sugar will have an overpowering taste of molasses and be slightly bitter, and demerara sugar won’t dissolve as easily, leaving crunchy sugar crystals in the stir fry. You can also use white sugar which will provide sweetness but not so much flavour.
- Bell pepper / capsicum – I like to use red bell pepper but you can use a green capsicum if you prefer.
How to make this recipe
- Mix the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, soft brown sugar and water together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Fry the cashew nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until golden, shaking the pan every so often.
- Add oil and dried red chilli and fry until the chillies are fragrant.
- Remove the cashews and chilli from the pan and add chopped spring onions and garlic.
- Add diced chicken and fry until the chicken becomes golden.
- Add diced red pepper / capsicum.
- Pour the sauce into the pan and mix well so all the chicken and capsicum is coated.
- Return the toasted cashews and chilli to the pan.
- Stir everything together and cook for another 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Serve topped with spring onions / green onion.
Kung pao chicken is a Chinese chicken dish cooked with roasted peanuts and chillies, whereas Thai cashew chicken is similar but made with cashew nuts.
Pad med mamuang is medium spicy, but when you make it at home you can easily adjust the amount of chilli used to make it as hot or mild as you like.
My recipe tips
- Frying the cashew nuts over a medium heat rather than a high heat means they are less likely to catch and burn. Still keep an eye on them and shake the pan every so often though!
- If you don’t have dark soy sauce, increase the amount of light soy sauce to 1.5 tablespoons.
- Chillies can vary in spice – I have made this dish with 5 dried chillies and 3 dried chillies, and the 3 was hotter than the five!
- Fluffy steamed rice.
- Stir fried noodles.
- In lettuce cups (see variations below).
- In a wrap, flatbread or soft chapati. (It may not be the traditional way to eat Thai cashew chicken, but my family love it served in a wrap!)
Store any leftover Thai chicken stir fry in the fridge for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.
- Chillies – while dried chillies are traditionally used in this Thai stir fry, you can use fresh chillies or, to keep things less spicy (especially popular with younger family members) a sprinkled of dried chilli flakes.
- Spicy – if you like your gai pad mamuang spicy, add 5-6 dried chillies. I have made this recipe moderately spicy to suit the family.
- Gluten free – check your oyster sauce is gluten free and use a gluten free soy sauce or Tamari.
- If you want a carb free way of serving this dish, make Thai chicken cashew lettuce wraps! Spoon the chicken and cashew nuts in to crisp lettuce leaf cups and enjoy!
- Added vegetables – finely slice some green cabbage, carrots, sugar snaps, broccolini or baby corn.
More easy chicken dinner recipes
gai pad med mamuang (Thai cashew chicken)
- 200g (7oz) chicken breast, cut in to bite size pieces ($2.10 /£1.09)
- 1½ tablespoons neutral oil ($0.12 /£0.05p)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.26 /£0.05p)
- 2-3 dried chillies ($0.08 /£0.03p)
- 1 red pepper / capsicum, cubed ($2.98 /£0.48p)
- 75g (½ c) cashews ($1.00 /£0.75p)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce ($0.10 /£0.08p)
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce ($0.09 /£0.02)
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce ($0.11 /£0.07p)
- pinch soft brown sugar ($0.01 /£0.01p)
- 1 tablespoon water ($0 /£0)
- In a small bowl mix the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, soft brown sugar and water together then set aside.
- Fry the cashew but in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until golden, shaking the pan every so often or stirring to enable them to become golden all over.
- When the cashews are lightly golden, add ½ tablespoon oil then add the dried chillies and fry for 2 minutes until the chilli becomes fragrent. Remove the cashews and chillies from the pan.
- Add the rest of the oil, crushed garlic and chopped spring onions / green onions and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the diced chicken to the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drizzle in the sauce with the chopped pepper / capsicum and cook 5 minutes.
- Return the cashews and chilli to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped spring onions.
- Store any leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
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