Super Creamy Cashew Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

White bowl on an orange and blue-flowered tablecloth full of vegetable stir fry topped with cashew butter sauce, chopped fresh basil and cilantro, sambal oelek, and crushed cashews.

When people find out you have a peanut allergy this is what they always say: “You mean you’ve never had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Man, you are missing out!” It’s never any other candy, it’s never a peanut butter sandwich, it’s always Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (which, c’mon guys, are they really that great? Wait, don’t tell me). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, however, so I’ll tell you what I always think I’m missing: Peanut stir-fry sauce topped with plenty of crushed, salty peanuts (my sister assures me that I’m correct, peanut stir-fry sauce is actually incredible). So I took it upon myself to make something close using cashew butter (although you could use something entirely nut-free like SunButter if all nuts are off the table). I’ve made several versions of this sauce, each feeling a bit like trial-and-error, especially when you consider the fact that I’ve never had the original to compare it with. This is the version I’ve been making lately, it’s rich and creamy yet tangy and vibrant, all at the same time. I like to make it in my blender because it turns the cashew butter stir-fry sauce-making into a 2 minutes-or-less type of activity, but you could use an immersion blender or even a whisk to incorporate all of the ingredients together. This recipe is for a vegetable stir fry but feel free to add the protein of your choice, I like to carefully fold in small cubes of creamy tofu towards the end of the cooking time with the vegetables.

super-creamy cashew butter stir-fry sauce:

1/2 cup smooth cashew butter

Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 Tbsp. lime juice, total)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped ginger (use store-bought pre-prepped ginger if desired)

1-2 Tbsp. sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

1/3 cup warm water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth, adding more water to thin if necessary.

vegetable stir-fry:

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

4 cups of your favourite vegetables, thinly sliced (I’ve been on a real sweet pepper, carrot, baby bok choy, and scallion kick lately)

2 cups spiralized zucchini

1 cup basmati rice, steamed

1/2 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, loosely chopped

1/3 cup roasted and salted cashews, crushed (I like to put a handful of cashews into a resealable bag and whack them with the flat-side of kitchen mallet)

Extra sambal oelek and lime slices, for serving

  1. Add the grapeseed oil to a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet and heat until very hot over medium-high heat (the oil will start to look shimmery once it’s hot enough).
  2. Carefully add the vegetables and stir-fry until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. A minute or so before you think the vegetables are done, add the spiralized zucchini and keep cooking until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and pour the cashew butter stir-fry sauce over the vegetable mixture. The cashew butter will thicken quickly, keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Serve the stir-fried cashew butter vegetables with a scoop of rice, plenty of fresh basil and cilantro, a generous sprinkling of crushed cashews, a dollop of sambal oelek, and a lime wedge.

It’s kind of funny that The War on Drugs always makes me think of my dad, considering the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’s ever heard them. They remind me of Neil Young, which reminds me of some of his first “single dad” apartments (children of divorce, you know what I mean). Staying at those apartments every other weekend as a little kid was surreal, in retrospect. Not quite comfortable with just doing nothing with my sister and I, as we would be at my mom’s house, we would always have planned activities to keep everyone from feeling well, under the pressure. We did a lot of painting (my dad loves to paint), I remember once time we tried to make a papier-mâché horse using taped up newspaper and old Penny Savers. My dad’s visiting me in Vancouver for the first time in a couple of years next month and I’ll finally have to play him a War on Drugs album and see if he remembers the oddity of that time in my life the same way that I do.

The War on Drugs – Under the Pressure

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