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This Bourbon Chicken has tender chunks of chicken coated in a sweet and sticky sauce. Common in Cajun-themed Chinese restaurants, you can easily make this dish at home in 20 minutes. Faster than takeout!
This is one of my all-time favorite American-Chinese dishes along with General Tso’s Chicken and Sweet and Sour Chicken. You get tons of flavor for little effort, and the sticky sauce is totally irresistible with rich bourbon flavors! Serve it on a bed of steamed rice or noodles with a side of broccoli or Chinese vegetables for a complete meal.
Legend has it the name came to be when a Chinese restauranteur on Bourbon Street in New Orleans created the recipe. Today, it’s common in malls and restaurants like Cajun Grill and Asian Chao. While there is a small amount of alcohol, it boils off during cooking to make this dish family-friendly!
The Bourbon in Bourbon Chicken
So bourbon is a type of whiskey hailing from Kentucky with its closest cousin being Jack Daniels. If you don’t have any on hand, most liquor stores sell miniature bottles that will provide enough for this recipe.
What Can I Substitute for Bourbon? To make a non-alcoholic substitute, combine one part vanilla extract with two parts water. Or substitute extra apple juice.
How to Make Bourbon Chicken
To make bourbon chicken, start by combining the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then cube the chicken and fry in a large skillet to brown the outside and enhance the flavor.
Next, sauté minced garlic in the pan until fragrant. Then add the sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly. The last step is adding a cornstarch slurry for thickening purposes. Stir it in just until the sauce coats a spoon.
Don’t worry if it’s not sticky yet. When the pan is removed from the heat, the sauce will thicken further and fully coat the chicken.
In terms of garnishes, I like sprinkling minced green onions and sesame seeds on top, but it’s up to you.
Can I Use Chicken Thighs Instead of Breasts?
Yes! You can substitute chicken thighs, which will be juicier although a lot less chunky.
Can I Make Bourbon Chicken in the Crock Pot?
You can make Bourbon Chicken in a slow cooker too. Sauté the chicken pieces until lightly browned, and add to the crock pot with all the other ingredients except the cornstarch.
Cook on High for 2 hours or Low for 3 hours. Then mix the cornstarch with water and add to the crock pot for the last 15 minutes to thicken.
More Chinese dishes:
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- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2/3 cup soy sauce, low sodium (see note)
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar, or white vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed, or chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
- green onion, minced
- red pepper flakes, optional
- In a medium bowl, mix chicken broth, soy sauce, apple juice, cider vinegar, bourbon, ketchup, brown sugar and ground ginger. Reserve.
- Place a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and half of the cubed chicken in a single layer.
- Fry for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Then use kitchen tongs to flip the pieces and cook 2 more minutes on the other side. Remove to a plate.
- Wipe the pan clean with paper towel. Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and fry the remaining chicken pieces the same way. Then remove to the plate.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Then add the reserved sauce and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the sauce and boil for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water in a cup and pour into the pan.
- Let the sauce thicken stirring constantly for up to a minute or two, just until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Note that the sauce will thicken further off the heat.
- Remove to serving plates and garnish with optional green onions and red pepper flakes.
- Chicken: You can substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs for juicier meat if you prefer.
- Soy sauce: I suggest using Kikkoman or San-J low-sodium (also gluten-free).
- Cornstarch: Pre-mix the cornstarch and water into a slurry to avoid getting lumps in the sauce. If you don’t have cornstarch, you can use ¼ cup flour mixed with 2 tablespoons water but use a small whisk to avoid lumps.
- Make Ahead: You can make this dish up to two days ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the fridge (the flavor actually intensifies with time). You can also freeze for up to one month.
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