This bourbon chicken recipe is melt-in-your-mouth delicious with juicy chunks of chicken simmered in a sweet and spicy brown sugar sauce, the perfect one-pan meal.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy weeknight chicken dinner with a combination of sweet and spicy, Bourbon Chicken is a recipe you’ll want to keep in your recipe collection.
Bourbon chicken is a southern dish with chunks of juicy chicken simmered in a sticky bourbon and brown sugar sauce, with a sweet and spicy kick. It is named for its use of bourbon, but also for Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where the dish originated.
You may have encountered the dish in Cajun restaurants or Chinese restaurants from the area, or heck, in mall food courts or other simple menus. It looks like a Chinese dish, and may be Asian inspired, but it’s considered Cajun.
No matter how you classify it, I think you’ll agree that it is delicious and satisfying nonetheless. I love it for how easy it is to make, essentially done in about 15 minutes once you have your chicken chopped up.
Breaking down the recipe, you’ll cook chopped chicken in a pan, add a quickly made sauce and simmer, then thicken it with a bit of cornstarch. Done! Plus, you can up the chili flakes or add in some spicy peppers if you’re looking for a version with a bit more kick.
I know you want to, my spicy food loving friends.
It’s quite a bit like other stir fries, though the bourbon gives it a unique flavor unlike other stir fry dishes you’d tried.
Let’s talk about how to make bourbon chicken, shall we?
Bourbon Chicken Ingredients
- Boneless Chicken. Use chicken breast, chicken thigh, or a combination.
- Veg. Garlic and Ginger.
- Oil for Cooking. Use sesame oil for extra flavor, though you can use vegetable oil or olive oil as well.
- Soy Sauce.
- Bourbon. The alcohol cooks off on the sauce. However, if you’d prefer a non-alcoholic version, sub in apple juice. 2 tablespoon to 1/4 cup will suffice.
- Brown Sugar.
- Rice Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is good, too.
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Corn Starch Slurry. For thickening. It’s a mixture of cornstarch and water in a bowl, whisked until it forms a slurry with no lumps.
- For Garnish. Chopped scallions/green onions, spicy chili flakes
How to Make Bourbon Chicken – the Recipe Method
Cook the Chicken. Heat the sesame oil together in a large skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Add the chopped chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown.
Garlic and Ginger. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Make the Bourbon Sauce. Whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, bourbon, vinegar and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Pour the sauce into the wok or pan and reduce heat. It will become sweet sticky.
Simmer the Bourbon Chicken. Simmer the chicken and sauce for 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol from the bourbon and cook the chicken through. You can cook longer, 20 minutes or up to 30 minutes to build flavor, though don’t let it dry out or reduce too much.
Thicken and Sauce. Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir it into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens to your preference. You can use a bit more cornstarch for a thicker sauce.
Garnish and serve! I love mine served over rice, or with noodles!
Boom! Done! Bourbon chicken is ready to serve. Looks delicious, doesn’t it? And it’s so quick and easy to make, isn’t it? Done in about 15 minutes once you’ve got everything prepped.
Give it a taste. It has such a nice touch of sweetness from the brown sugar, and the bourbon really imparts a unique flavor. So good. I really love this dish. And it’s easy to spice up, too, which is great for me.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Chicken. I usually make this with boneless chicken breast, though I also enjoy it with chicken thighs, which you can usually simmer longer. Both are great, and it’s really your choice. Go with both! Chopped pork loin is a nice alternative. You can also make it with tofu for a vegetarian version.
- Thicker Sauce. For a thicker, stickier sauce, add an extra teaspoon or more of cornstarch slurry to the sauce and let it simmer until it thickens even more. The sauce should stick to and coat the chicken pieces.
- Skip the Bourbon. Bourbon is a key element in making a proper Bourbon Chicken, but for those who do not prefer to cook with alcohol, do not fret. You can substitute apple juice for bourbon. You won’t achieve the exact same flavor, but you will achieve a flavorful dish that you will enjoy.
- Heat Factor. Mild-Medium, though you can spice things up with more chili flakes, or use a spicy chili powder. Or, add in a spicy chili pepper or two to the mix when you cook the chicken. Easy way to get some heat!
- Scale it Up. This recipe easily scales up. There is enough sauce to add an extra one half to one pound of chicken and still have all the chicken pieces nicely coated. Adding cooked rice or noodles rounds out the dish.
- Add Vegetables. I also like to add in vegetables to cook with the chicken for a more balanced stir fry. Consider broccoli, bok choy, snap peas, sliced bell peppers, potatoes and more. Use your favorites.
- Slow Cooker Bourbon Chicken. You can make this recipe in a slow cooker or crock pot. Simple whisk the sauce ingredients (not including the cornstarch) together and toss it into the slow cooker with the chopped chicken. Cook it on low for 4-5 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is cooked through. 10 minutes before serving, swirl in the cornstarch slurry and allow to thicken.
That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your new bourbon chicken recipe and that your family loves it. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Kung Pao Chicken
- General Tso’s Chicken
- Szechuan Chicken
- Hunan Chicken
- Cashew Chicken
- Dragon Chicken
- Sweet & Spicy Teriyaki Chicken
- Korean Chicken
- Spicy Chicken Fried Rice
- Dan Dan Noodles
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Bourbon Chicken Recipe
- 1 pound boneless chicken breast cut into bite-sized chunks, or use chicken thighs
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil or use vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup bourbon use apple juice as a non-alcoholic substitute
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional for a touch of heat, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- For Garnish: Chopped scallions/green onions spicy chili flakes
- Heat the sesame oil together in a wok or pan to medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Whisk together the soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, vinegar and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Pour the sauce into the wok or pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol from the bourbon and cook the chicken through.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir it into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens to your preference. You can use a bit more cornstarch for a thicker sauce.
- Garnish and serve! I love mine over steamed rice, or with noodles!
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 12/17/21 to include new information and video. It was originally published on 5/17/21.