This Easy Bourbon Chicken is a copycat of the Chinese mall food classic: tender chicken coated in a tangy, sticky sauce with sweet and savory flavors. It’s an easy weeknight dinner that’s irresistible down to the last bite!
Bourbon Chicken is one of my all-time favorite Asian chicken dinners along with General Tso’s Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken, Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry, Lemon Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan. Tender chicken pieces are coated with an irresistibly sticky sauce with rich bourbon flavor. You get tons of flavor for little effort!
The name Bourbon Chicken apparently came to be when a Chinese restauranteur on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana created the recipe. It’s commonly found in malls everywhere and at Cajun restaurants like Cajun Grill and Asian Chao.
Serve it on rice with a green vegetable for a complete meal. The alcohol boils off during cooking, so consider a family-friendly dish. My kids devour always it to the last bite 🙂
The Bourbon in Bourbon Chicken
So bourbon is a type of whiskey that hails from Kentucky with its closest cousin being Jack Daniels.
Most liquor stores also sell bourbon miniatures for a dollar or two, and they provide what you need for this recipe. Failing that a half-pint is your next size up.
If you want a non-alcoholic substitute, combine one tablespoon vanilla extract with two tablespoons water. Or substitute extra apple juice.
How to Make Bourbon Chicken
To make bourbon chicken, all you need to do is brown the chicken, boil the sauce, combine the two and simmer until thickened.
Step 1: Prepare the Sauce Mixture
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Step 2: Brown the Chicken
You’ll need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Place a wok or large skillet on medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil followed by half the chicken. Then fry undisturbed for two minutes, flip and repeat.
Then remove to a plate and repeat for the remaining chicken pieces.
Step 3: Reduce the Sauce
Add the garlic to the skillet and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant. Then add the sauce mixture and boil for 5 minutes to reduce somewhat.
Step 4: Coat the Chicken
Add the chicken to the reduced sauce and boil for 5 minutes. Then stir in the cornstarch and water mixture, and allow to boil for a minute to thicken stirring constantly.
Don’t worry if it’s not sticky yet. When the pan is removed from the heat, the sauce will thicken further.
How to Make Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken
You can make Bourbon Chicken in a slow cooker too. Simply saute the chicken pieces in a skillet 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 4 hours. Then mix the cornstarch with water and add to the crock pot for the last 15 minutes to thicken.
Ingredients and Equipment for Making the Best Bourbon Chicken
- Frying: Use a wok like this one or a large 14” nonstick skillet. You’ll also find it’s handy to have kitchen tongs for turning the chicken pieces quickly and easily.
- Soy sauce: I suggest using San-J or Kikkoman reduced sodium soy sauce. San-J is a bit pricier, but is gluten-free with no preservatives.
Tips and Secrets for Making Bourbon Chicken
- While the recipe calls for cubed chicken breasts, you can also use chicken thighs. The thighs are juicier although a lot less chunky.
- You can always ask your butcher to cube the chicken for you to save preparation time.
- Pre-mix the cornstarch with 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 tbsp water.
- If the sauce is not clinging to the meat in the pan, remember it’ll thicken as it cools. So keep stirring to coat after you’ve removed from the heat.
Make Ahead Tips
- You can make bourbon chicken ahead of time, and it tastes even better after a day.
- Store it in an airtight container for up to 3 days and reheat in the microwave or a skillet.
- Bourbon chicken is also freezer friendly and can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month.
Easy 20 Minute Bourbon Chicken
This Easy 20 Minute Bourbon Chicken is a copycat of Chinese mall food classic of tender chicken coated in a tangy, sticky sauce with sweet and savory flavors. It's an easy weeknight dinner that’s good down to the last bite!
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2/3 cup soy sauce low sodium
- 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 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed, or chicken thighs
- 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 golden. Then flip the pieces using tongs and cook 2 more minutes on the other side.
Remove chicken pieces 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.
Add the sauce and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken to the sauce and boil for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the cornstarch with 1 tbsp water in a cup to make a slurry. Pour into the pan and stir for a minute until thickened (see note).
Garnish with optional green onions and red pepper flakes. Serve and enjoy!
If the sauce does not seem thick enough or is not clinging to the chicken, it will thicken further when removed from the heat.
Looking for more chicken recipes?
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken
- Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken
- Chicken Pad Thai Meal Prep
- Honey Garlic Chicken
- Baked Chicken Fajitas
- Chicken Pad Thai
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