Bourbon Chicken Recipe
This Bourbon Chicken recipe is quick, easy, and delicious! Everyone will love the tender chicken with slightly crisp edges — and fight for extra spoonfuls of the sweet and savory pan sauce. Best of all, it’s done in 25 minutes.
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I know, superlatives are a tired trick, but I happen to actually believe this is the best bourbon chicken recipe, and I’m positive it’s the perfect addition to your menu any especially busy week.
Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, the cooking process is dead simple, and the whole affair takes less than 30 minutes. Add some broccoli, snow peas, or any other steamed veggie you like. Serve everything over your favorite type of rice. This is what winning dinner looks like.
What is Bourbon Chicken?
Bourbon chicken is a dish consisting of bite-sized pieces of chicken seared, then coated in a sweet, sticky sauce with hints of vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.
Although some consider it Cajun, Asian, or a fusion dish, the historical record linking it to these cultures is scant. What seems more clear is that it’s an Americanized hybrid of flavors, a staple of old school mall food courts — and pure delicious comfort food.
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
Here is a visual overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities!
- Chicken: I use roughly 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts per batch. This recipe is flexible if you have a slightly smaller or larger package. You can also use boneless chicken thighs, just be prepared to cook the chicken slightly longer.
- Corn starch: This is what makes the chicken edges crispy and thickens the sauce. It’s a great pantry staple – a box lasts forever – that you can find in the baking section of any grocery store.
- Brown sugar: Adds a signature sweetness to the sauce. You can use light or dark brown sugar. Substitute honey or agave syrup if you prefer, or even apple juice!
- Chicken broth, soy sauce (low sodium preferred), ketchup, and apple cider vinegar.
- Garlic powder, ground ginger, and red pepper flakes. Ground spices make this so quick and easy, without a significant compromise in flavor. If you happen to have fresh garlic and ginger on hand, by all means, use them, but when you’re busy and just trying to get dinner done without fuss, garlic powder and ground ginger work very well here.
- Cooking oil. Canola, vegetable, or any other high-heat cooking oil.
- Green onions and sesame seeds: For a nice garnish.
Does bourbon chicken have bourbon in it?
Fun fact: many recipes for “bourbon chicken” do not include actual bourbon! Why the moniker, then? Rather than referring to the ingredient, it’s commonly said that the namesake dish was originally conjured on New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street. Then again, there’s little concrete evidence for this. As noted above, bourbon chicken’s true beginnings might be a mystery.
Whatever its origin, the sauce is enticingly sweet, tangy, and sticky — and even more flavorful with a splash of bourbon mixed in. I personally wouldn’t make a special trip to buy bourbon for this recipe, but if it’s around, you can bet I’m adding a splash.
Is it safe to add bourbon to bourbon chicken?
Yes! If you choose to add 1-2 Tablespoons bourbon to this sauce recipe, it will reduce sufficiently that the alcohol content should not pose a problem for the average diner. I personally feed this to my kids without issue.
If you choose to add a much larger quantity of bourbon to the sauce, use your best judgment on serving, of course.
How To Make Bourbon Chicken
This recipe has just a few basic steps:
- Prep. Toss the chicken with corn starch, and whisk together sauce ingredients.
- Brown the Chicken. Cook the coated bites of chicken in oil just until golden brown on the outside.
- Cook the Sauce. Pour sauce ingredients into the same pan, with chicken removed, and bring to a simmer.
- Finish. Add chicken back in and let everything simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened to taste. Garnish and serve!
Ingredient Tip–Why use Corn Starch? Much as in this easy Mongolian beef recipe, we toss the meat for bourbon chicken with a bit of corn starch before browning it. Corn starch is a natural crisping and thickening agent, so it helps the chicken develop a subtly golden, crisp exterior even as it remains tender inside. It also thickens the sauce more than would be possible by reduction alone.
While the chicken browns, whisk together the sauce ingredients. You can do this right in a liquid measuring cup or in a small or medium bowl.
Then the browned chicken comes out of the pan, the sauce mixture goes in, and you’ll bring the sauce to a simmer.
Once you see gentle bubbles, return the chicken and stir. Let the sauce thicken while the chicken finishes cooking and absorbs all that incredible flavor.
Sprinkle with a few sesame seeds and thinly-sliced green onions if you’re feeling fancy.
Scoop out generous spoonfuls to serve over grains or veggies, and you’re done!
Next time you’re in a pinch, confidently skip the takeout and whip up this instead. You’ll have a delicious meal on the table in 30 minutes, and you can bet there will be requests to see it again.
What To Serve with Bourbon Chicken
Our go-to pairing is bourbon chicken with rice and steamed broccoli. You can use white, brown, or cauliflower rice. Steamed snow peas, green beans, or even roasted baby carrots make a nice substitute for the vegetable.
Storage and Reheating
Bourbon chicken reheats very well if you have extra for lunch or dinner the next day, or plan this as a meal prep to get ahead for the week.
- To refrigerate, package leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- To reheat, add a tiny splash of water or broth to loosen the sauce and warm over low heat on the stovetop, or use reheat at 50% power in the microwave until warmed through. Warming chicken at half-power significantly reduces the likelihood of it drying out and becoming tough.
More Easy Chicken Recipes
Love easy chicken dinners? Next, try my Greek chicken skillet, creamy Tuscan chicken, or creamy garlic chicken with thyme – all delicious, real-food meals ready in 30 minutes or less!
Enjoy a good take-out fake-out? This chicken asparagus stir fry always hits the spot, as does honey teriyaki chicken. You can also make teriyaki chicken in the slow cooker for an irresistible make-ahead meal.
If you try this Bourbon Chicken, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
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- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch divided
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons ketchup
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon bourbon optional
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- rice and steamed veggies for serving
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cornstarch, toss briefly to coat, and set aside.
- In a separate bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, bourbon (if using), garlic powder, ginger, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
- Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot and rippling. Add chicken pieces and cook for about 1 minute on each side, just until the outside edges are golden. The chicken should not be cooked all the way through. Remove pieces to a plate and set aside.
- If there is a lot of oil left in the skillet, soak up a bit with a paper towel and discard. Lower the heat to medium, pour in the sauce, and bring it to a simmer. Return chicken to the pan and stir to coat each piece of meat with the sauce.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick, almost syrupy. Serve with rice, broccoli, and/or other veggies. Enjoy!
- This recipe also works well with chicken tenders, if you prefer, or chicken thigh meat – thighs will take longer to cook.
- Any leftovers keep well and make a great reheated lunch. Store in airtight containers in the fridge.
13 Comments on “Bourbon Chicken Recipe”
This recipe has been a really special recipe for me. Those who haven’t tried the recipe should try it now.
I’m so glad you like it, Leila!
Made this last night and it was so delicious! My husband asked to have it added to the regular dinner rotation. I didn’t have bourbon on hand so I used bourbon flavored maple syrup and it was delicious. But, I’d definitely use real bourbon next time. The only trouble I had was with the bite sized chicken pieces sticking together in the bowl after I tossed them with the corn starch. They weren’t particularly wet when I added the corn starch and I didn’t leave them in the bowl for very long after I tossed them. But, it was a challenge getting the little pieces separated to add them to the pan for browning. Next time I may cut them into bite sized pieces after I brown them. But, there will definitely be a next time because this recipe is a keeper!
So happy this was a winner for you, Sharon, and thank you for leaving this helpful review! That maple syrup sounds incredible. 🙂 And I agree, cutting the chicken after browning is definitely an option.
Just had this for dinner. My husband said, “Wow! That was really good!” I totally agree.😋
Hooray, so happy to hear that it was a hit! Thank you for sharing!
Monica! This sauce is EVERYTHING. It looks SO dang good. Putting on my meal plan now!
Wow, this bourbon chicken looks so good! I had no idea it could be so quick and easy. Thanks!
A winning dinner! This sauce is amazing, and I’ll bet it would be delicious on salmon, too!
This chicken meal sounds so juicy and deliciously tasty! Once I make it, I will defensively add bourbon. I love new flavors!
This is tonight’s dinner!! 30-minute meals are a lifesaver and I bet this is going to be one of my go-to’s!
I’m glad your recipe for bourbon chicken actually has bourbon in it! I’m drooling over your photos and I must make this ASAP. It will be a great use of the bottle of bourbon I have at home. 🙂
I don’t know about you but my New Year has started out busy!! So I am on the lookout for recipes like this one, tasty, easy and quick to prepare! Thank you for sharing!