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Poul Ak Nwa (Chicken with Cashews): A Haitian Journey in Every Bite

Chicken with Cashews

Forget the sweet and stir-fried Chicken with Cashews you might be familiar with. Haitian Poul Ak Nwa, literally meaning “chicken with cashews,” is a world-apart, a soul-warming stew that speaks volumes about Haitian culture and flavors.

This dish isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience. It’s the aroma of hot pepper wafting through the air, the vibrant tomato-based sauce, and the perfect marriage with Haitian Epis mingling with the golden hues of the cashews and the intoxicating rhythm of a simmering pot promising comfort and joy.

Origins and Traditions

Poul Ak Nwa hails from the northern region of Haiti, particularly around Cap-Haïtien, where cashews grow plentifully. It’s a Sunday special, a dish reserved for family gatherings and celebrations, its rich flavors mirroring the warmth and vibrancy of Haitian life.

In Haitian households, Poul Ak Nwa isn’t just about the food; it’s about passing down traditions, sharing stories, and weaving memories. The elders patiently show the young ones how to grind the aromatics, the aunties compete for the “spiciest” bite, and laughter fills the air as everyone digs in, fingers sticky with sauce and hearts full of contentment.


A Symphony of Flavors

The beauty of Poul Ak Nwa lies in its simplicity. Chicken is marinated in a symphony of Haitian spices and the ever-present scotch bonnet or habanero pepper – before being simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce. The cashews, toasted to golden perfection, add a creamy richness and a delightful textural contrast.

Each bite is an explosion of savory, sweet, and spicy notes. The heat of the hot pepper is tempered by the earthy sweetness of the tomato and the creaminess of the cashews. The aromatics leave a lingering warmth on the palate, and the whole dish is a testament to the Haitian genius for transforming simple ingredients into something extraordinary.

Beyond the Dish

Poul Ak Nwa is more than just a dish; it’s a symbol of Haitian resilience and resourcefulness. In a land where resources can be scarce, Haitians have perfected the art of making the most of what they have. Poul Ak Nwa is a testament to that spirit, a dish born from tradition, love, and a deep appreciation for the simple pleasures of life.

So, if you’re looking for a culinary adventure, look no further than Poul Ak Nwa. It’s not just a meal; it’s a journey to the heart of Haiti, a taste of its warmth, its vibrancy, and its unyielding spirit. Gather your loved ones, fire up the stove, and let the intoxicating aroma of Poul Ak Nwa fill your kitchen. You’re in for a treat, not just for your taste buds but for your soul.

A Journey in Every Bite with Chicken with Cashews:

  • Marinade Magic: The journey begins hours, or even overnight, as the chicken bathes in a symphony of spices: earthy thyme, warming cloves, fragrant parsley, pungent flavor of garlic and scallions, fiery scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, and the heart of Haitian cuisine – epis.
  • Slow Dance with Steam: Low heat gently coaxed the flavors deeper, the steam carrying their essence into every fiber of the chicken.
  • Sun-Kissed in Tomato: A pan sears the chicken, cloaking it in a golden-brown embrace born from rich tomato paste.
  • The Nutty Grand Finale: Finally, the cashews, pre-cooked in a water waltz, join the party. Their creamy richness and playful crunch are the perfect counterpoint to the savory melody.
How to save money when buying a whole chicken
How to save money when buying a whole chicken

Tips and Variations

  • Feel free to adjust the spice level to your preference. You can add more or less hot pepper or even omit it all-together for a milder dish.
  • If you want a more flavorful sauce, use NouBess hot and spicy sauce.
  • For a vegetarian option, you can replace the chicken with tofu or jackfruit.
  • Poul Ak Nwa is traditionally served with white rice and plantains, but it can also be enjoyed with quinoa, couscous, or your favorite grain.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! Add other vegetables like carrots, green beans, or bell peppers to the dish for additional flavor and texture.

No matter how you prepare it, Poul Ak Nwa is sure to become a favorite in your home. So go ahead, give it a try, and let the rich flavors and warm spices of Haiti transport you to a world of culinary delight.

Chicken with Cashews
Chicken with Cashews

More than Just Spiced Chicken: Sundays in Haiti with Poulet Ak Nwa and Diri Djon Djon

Forget your average roasted chicken with cashews. In Haiti, Sundays are reserved for something far more special, a dish that sings with soul and tradition: Poulet Ak Nwa, meaning “chicken with cashews.”

This isn’t just a meal; it’s a celebration. The aroma of scotch bonnet pepper or habanero pepper tickles your nose, the vibrant sauce shimmers with épis, and golden cashews add a playful crunch. Each bite is a story: the warmth of thyme and cloves, the sweetness of tomato, the earthiness of dried djon djon mushrooms, and the creaminess of cashews harmonize into a symphony of Haitian sunshine.

While there’s no single “right” way to prepare Poulet Ak Nwa, the essence remains the same – well-spiced chicken kissed by fire and cashews adding a delightful textural and nutty counterpoint. But the true magic happens when Poulet Ak Nwa meets its perfect partner: Diri Djon Djon, the soul-stirring black mushroom rice.

This isn’t just any side dish. Diri Djon Djon is a poem whispered in earthy tones. The dried mushrooms, known as djon djon, infuse the rice with a deep, complex umami that dances with the sweetness of cashews and the fiery kiss of hot pepper in the Poulet Ak Nwa. It’s a marriage of flavors so perfect that it leaves you speechless, a feeling I can only describe as pure Haitian warmth.

So, if you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to a Haitian Sunday feast and find this duo on the table, consider it a blessing. Dig in, let the flavors swirl on your tongue, and feel the spirit of Haiti fill your soul. It’s more than just a meal; it’s a journey through tradition, love, and the simple, perfect joy of shared plates and laughter.

Chicken with Cashews

Chicken with Cashews

Chicken with Cashews is usually served with Rice with Djon-Djon, it can also be eaten with other types of rice such as Rice with Green Peas or just a regular rice recipe.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 4 hours
Course Main Course, Main Dishes
Cuisine Caribbean, Haitian Cuisine
Servings 4
Calories 276 kcal


  • 6 pieces of Chicken legs and 3 thighs
  • 1 Lime
  • 4 Tablespoon of Mixed Spices Blend parsley, garlic, thyme, scallion, salt, black pepper, onion
  • 1 cup Raw Cashews
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 -2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Diced Tomato
  • 1 Large Onion white or red
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hot pepper – optional
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Chicken Bouillon Powder low sodium and optional


  • Squeeze lime, reserve juice and clean chicken pieces with lime. Rinse chicken with water and pat dry. In a bowl add cleaned chicken, mixed spices and lemon juice. Marinate overnight or for at leaf 2 – 3 hours. Add chicken to dutch oven pot, or another heavy pan and let simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring. Do not add water. Let the chicken pieces cook in the marinade. Remove chicken from pot with any liquid and set aside. Add oil and tomato paste in same pot. Stirring occasionally, let tomato paste cooked for 2 minutes. Add chicken to pot and brown pieces on all sides about 5 – 7 minutes while stirring gently.
  • Meanwhile, in a small pot/saucepan, add cashews and water and bring to a boil. Let cashews cook hallways. Drain to stop cooking and set aside. Reserve water.
  • Add diced tomatoes, onion and chicken bouillon or salt (which ever you prefer), black pepper, and hot pepper. Let cook of 5 minutes. Add cashews and store. If more water is needed use the water from the boiled cashews. Cook 25 – 30 minutes on low heat until chicken and cashews are fully cooked. Additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.


Serving: 1gramsCalories: 276kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 7gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 0.4mgSodium: 581mgPotassium: 430mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 143IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 3mg

Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.

Keyword chicken recipes, chicken with cashews, Haitian Recipes
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Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.

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Corn Allergy:

Always choose ingredients without corn or corn derivatives.

Originally published on June 2, 2014. Revised and updated.

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