Easy Bourbon Chicken is a takeout-style dinner that everyone loves! It’s sweet and savory chicken thighs cooked in a finger-licking sauce prepared with brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and bourbon!
Sweet and Sticky Bourbon Chicken Recipe
If you want a crowd-pleasing chicken dish, you can’t go wrong with Bourbon Chicken. This mall takeout classic is made with tender chunks of stir-fried chicken coated in a thick, sticky sauce flavored with real bourbon! It’s well-balanced between sweet, salty, and tangy, making it a family favorite, especially when served over your favorite rice recipe. I have fond memories of enjoying Bourbon chicken during my mall outings. It was always a welcome hot meal that broke the monotony of walking and shopping. Now, I’ve come to appreciate it even more as a comforting dinner after a tiring day because it’s quick and simple to prepare at home. You only need to dice the chicken, slice some scallions and garlic, and then whisk together the sauce ingredients.
Why We Love This Chicken Recipe
- Quick and Convenient: From start to finish, it’s a flavorful meal ready in just about 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy days or when you don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen.
- Crispy: Coating the chicken in cornstarch and then frying ensures a crispy exterior while maintaining a juicy and tender interior.
- Rich and Sticky Sauce: The combination of soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, apple juice, and apple cider vinegar results in a deliciously tangy sauce that’s irresistibly sticky and thick.
Why Is It Called Bourbon Chicken?
This recipe is almost certainly called bourbon chicken because of the bourbon in the sauce, but some people also think the dish originated on Bourbon Street in New Orleans! In fact, it may have been invented by a Chinese restaurant cook in New Orleans, explaining its similarity to many Chinese-American stir-fry dishes.
Ingredients For Bourbon Chicken
- Chicken: I prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe, but you can also use chicken breasts.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch gives the chicken a silkier texture and thickens the sauce.
- Salt and Pepper
- Oil: I use vegetable oil, but you could use peanut oil or any other high smoke point oil you like.
- Scallions and Garlic: Thinly slice the scallions, and mince the garlic.
- Broth: Low-sodium chicken broth is my go-to, but you can substitute bone broth or vegetable broth.
- Soy Sauce: I use low-sodium soy sauce, but regular soy sauce is also fine, as are tamari sauce and coconut aminos.
- Bourbon: The alcohol in the bourbon cooks off as the sauce simmers, leaving just the mild bourbon flavor.
- Brown Sugar: Packed light brown sugar sweetens the dish. Honey and maple syrup are also good options.
- Apple Juice: Just a little apple juice adds a slight fruity sweetness.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar are good options here, too.
- Ginger: Ground ginger is fine. If you use fresh ginger, grate or mince it very finely.
- Garnishes: Toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions make lovely optional garnishes.
- Rice: Cooked rice is my usual side for serving.
How to Make Bourbon Chicken
Let’s take a look at the process for making this take-out favorite in your own kitchens. Like many stir-fries, this one is about cooking the chicken quickly and making the sauce in the same skillet or wok.
- Coat the Chicken in Cornstarch, and Cook. Combine your cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl, and add the chicken pieces. Toss them gently to coat. Next, heat the oil in a wok or a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken in batches until it is browned and cooked through, about seven minutes per batch. Don’t stir the chicken too often, or it may stick.
- Cook the Garlic and Scallions: Take the chicken out of the skillet and set it aside. Add a little more oil to the skillet, and set it back on the burner. Add the scallions and cook for 30 seconds, and then the garlic for another 20 seconds. Stir frequently to keep the scallions and garlic from scorching.
- Make the Sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, apple juice, apple cider vinegar and ginger. Pour this mixture into the hot skillet and bring to a steady simmer.
- Cook the Chicken in the Sauce Briefly. Finally, add the chicken back to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the chicken cook in the sauce for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sauce is sticky and thick.
- Enjoy! Serve the chicken over rice, garnished with sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
Tips and Variations
- Make It Spicy: For a little kick, add a touch of Sriracha sauce or cayenne pepper to the sauce while it cooks. Start small, and add more to taste.
- No Bourbon? If you don’t want to use bourbon in your recipe, no worries, any whisky will do. And, if you don’t want to use alcohol at all, you can use extra apple juice or a little water mixed with hoisin sauce. The bourbon chicken will taste slightly different but still amazing.
- Bourbon Popcorn Chicken: For a crunchy twist, make Popcorn Chicken instead of the chicken in this recipe, and coat it in the sweet, sticky bourbon sauce. Talk about tasty!
- Add Pasta: While I usually serve rice, this saucy dish is also fabulous with hot, cooked lo mein (or linguine) stirred right into the skillet at the end of cooking. The pasta absorbs the sauce to create a gorgeous noodle bowl!
- Add Veggies: For extra nutrition, you can definitely stir-fry sliced or chopped onions, mushrooms, and peppers with the chicken – or toss some steamed broccoli right into the skillet at the end of cooking.
- Play with the Proportions: Customize the sauce by adjusting the sugar, vinegar, or bourbon to suit your tastes perfectly.
Rice is a natural partner for bourbon chicken, soaking up all that delicious sauce however, there are lots of other great sides you could make besides, or in addition to, rice!
- Bok Choy: Steamed bok choy is always fantastic. Try my Baby Bok Choy with Warm Garlic Soy Dressing.
- Grilled Zucchini: A light char brings out a hint of warm sweetness in this recipe for Perfect Grilled Zucchini, with simple seasoning and a little sesame oil.
- Fried “Rice”: Turn your dinner into a feast with Kimchi Fried Rice or Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator, in airtight containers or in food storage bags. Use within 4 days.
- To reheat, place the chicken and any sauce in a covered skillet over low heat. Allow to heat until the sauce bubbles and the chicken is steaming hot all the way through, stirring occasionally.
- To freeze before cooking, make the sauce and add the chopped chicken and sauce to a freezer bag. Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
- To freeze cooked bourbon chicken, cool the chicken and sauce completely. Pack the chicken and sauce into a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
More Saucy Chicken Recipes
- Grilled Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar Glaze
- Crockpot Orange Chicken
- Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs
- Stove Top Chicken Thighs
Easy Bourbon Chicken
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (you can also use chicken breasts)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup bourbon
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons apple juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- toasted sesame seeds, for garnish, optional
- sliced green onions, for garnish, optional
- cooked rice, for serving
- In a large mixing bowl toss the chicken pieces with cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
- Set a wok or a large skillet over medium heat and heat it up. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the wok; then add in the chicken pieces. Cook the chicken for about 6 to 8 minutes or until browned and cooked through. If your skillet isn’t big enough to fit all the chicken pieces in one single layer, cook the chicken in batches.
- Remove chicken from skillet; cover and set aside.
- Add the remaining vegetable oil to the skillet and set it back on the burner over medium heat. To the hot oil, add the sliced scallions and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the garlic and cook for 20 seconds, stirring frequently.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, apple juice, apple cider vinegar and ground ginger; whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Pour into the hot wok/skillet; cook for 3 minutes and bring to a steady simmer.
- Add the chicken back to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until sauce is thickened.
- Remove from heat.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions, and serve over rice, noodles, etc.
- Spice It Up: Enhance the heat with a dash of Sriracha or cayenne pepper, adjusting to your spice preference.
- Noodles: Skip the rice and toss hot, cooked lo mein or linguine into the skillet, letting the noodles absorb the rich sauce for an instant noodle bowl.
- Add Veggies: Toss in onions, mushrooms, and peppers with the chicken or add steamed broccoli into the mix.
- Adjust To Taste: Customize the sauce by adjusting the sugar, vinegar, or bourbon to suit your tastes perfectly.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.