You have to try this bourbon chicken — the sauce is over the top delicious! Everyone just raves about it!
Why you’ll love it: The bourbon sauce is just amazing!
How long it takes: 35 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: Large skillet, mixing bowls, whisk
Bourbon chicken is one of my favorite take-out style dishes but this easy recipe is so much better than the mall food court or any restaurant. With a tangy, lip-smacking bourbon flavored barbecue sauce, bourbon chicken packs a serious flavor punch!
Named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, bourbon chicken has Creole and Asian influences. It’s easy to make and you’ll find yourself wondering how you lived without this recipe. I can’t wait for you all to try it!
About this recipe
Bourbon chicken is really easy to prepare. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners and it’s also a great choice when you’ve invited guests for dinner. It’s so boldly flavorful that simple sides are all that’s needed. I like steamed jasmine rice and crisp tender roasted broccoli. Roasted sweet potatoes are a great side, too.
I’ll run you through the recipe here and give you a few extra tips but as always, the printable recipe with complete instructions, measurements, and nutrition information can be found near the end of this post.
What you need
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: If you prefer dark meat, boneless skinless chicken thighs can be substituted.
- Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil: Used to season the chicken, and to brown it.
- Soy Sauce: Choose low sodium soy sauce or the chicken will get too salty.
- Chicken Broth: Again, low sodium or no salt added chicken broth is best. If you don’t use low sodium chicken broth or if you’re watching your sodium intake, omit the salt in the recipe.
- Brown Sugar: Dark or light, it doesn’t matter. Use what you have in the pantry.
- Ketchup: I like to use ketchup that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup, but choose your favorite.
- Bourbon: Take a look at the FAQs for more info about bourbon.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Lots of potent, bright flavor in this vinegar. Don’t substitute plain apple juice.
- Garlic: Minced or pressed, fresh garlic is a major flavor booster. If you don’t care for a lot of garlic, use a bit less or substitute a half teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Ground Ginger: Just a touch of ginger in the sauce. If you prefer fresh ginger, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated ginger.
- Cornstarch: Often used to thicken sauces, cornstarch is gluten-free.
- Sliced Green Onions and Sesame Seeds: for a lively garnish.
- Rice: Fragrant jasmine rice is perfect to soak up all that flavorful sauce but it isn’t required. Choose any sides you enjoy. Cauliflower rice is a good low-carb option.
How to make bourbon chicken
Begin by prepping the chicken. Cut it into bite sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken until it’s nearly done. Depending on how large the pieces are, it will take about 15 minutes or so.
While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl or large measuring cup. Make sure there aren’t any lumps of cornstarch.
When the chicken is nearly done, pour the sauce ingredients into the skillet. Simmer until the sauce thickens and turns clear. It takes only a few minutes but I like to simmer it a little longer so the chicken really absorbs all that great flavor.
Spoon the chicken and sauce over rice if you like. Make sure everyone gets a good helping of the sauce. You for sure don’t want to leave any of it in the pan!
Garnish bourbon chicken with a sprinkle of sliced green onions (scallions) and sesame seeds. (I always leave the sesame seeds off because my kids are severely allergic. )
Yes, there is a very very small amount of alcohol in bourbon chicken. You may think that the alcohol is burned off during the cooking process but actually you would have to cook it quite awhile, up to three hours, for it to completely burn off.
Choose a bourbon that you like because you will have a lot left over. One of my favorites is Woodford Double Oaked. Try a bourbon cocktail, a Maple Old Fashioned or a Vanilla Bourbon Fizz.
If you don’t want to buy a big bottle, mini bottles (50 ml) are available at stores like Walmart or most party shops.
The easiest way to explain the difference is that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. There are many different types of whiskey. Bourbon is a whiskey made in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and it’s produced according to strict criteria.
Make It Your Own
- Make bourbon chicken in the oven. I like to use bone-in chicken thighs, with the skin removed (8 thighs). Arrange in a baking pan in a single layer and bake at 425°F for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the chicken from the oven, pour the sauce over the chicken, coating each piece. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until chicken is done (internal temp of 165°F). Makes 4 servings (2 thighs each).
- Prefer grilled chicken? If you simmer the sauce and thicken it, the bourbon sauce can be used just like your favorite BBQ sauce. Simply grill chicken (no need for marinade), brushing the chicken with 1/2 cup of the bourbon sauce when the chicken is nearly cooked. Make sure to reserve some of the sauce separately to serve on the side.
- Add a little spicy heat to the sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of Sriracha, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes to the sauce.
- Substitute boneless cubed pork for the chicken if you like.
- If you’d rather not cook with alcohol, you can make bourbon chicken without bourbon. Just substitute apple juice for the bourbon. The sauce will be a little sweeter and not quite as rich tasting but it’s still delicious. I’m not sure you’ll be able to call it “bourbon” chicken though! You might also enjoy orange chicken or baked honey mustard chicken.
Make Ahead Ideas
To get a head start on preparing bourbon chicken, stir up the sauce ingredients up to a day in advance. Cover tightly and store in the fridge until ready to cook. Whisk to incorporate cornstarch before adding to chicken. The chicken can be prepped in advance and stored in the fridge as well.
Storage and Reheating
Because the sauce keeps the meat from drying out, bourbon chicken is really good left over. Put it into a covered container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for one month. For best results, thaw frozen chicken in your refrigerator overnight before reheating.
To reheat, simmer gently on the stove until heated through. If you prefer, reheat in the microwave, covered, in 30 second intervals.
Turn your leftover bourbon chicken into a fantastic BBQ sandwich. The sauce is basically a bourbon flavored barbecue sauce!
Remove the chicken from the sauce and shred it slightly with two forks. Stir the shredded chicken back into the sauce and serve on a toasted bun. If you like, add toppings: shredded cheese, sliced green onions, shredded cabbage or coleslaw, or very thinly sliced tomatoes.
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into 1-2” pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ½ cup low or no salt added chicken broth
- ½ cup light (or dark) brown sugar
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Green onions and sesame seeds, for garnish
- Cooked rice for serving
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, salt, and pepper until evenly coated.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned chicken and cook for about 15-18 minutes, until the chicken is nearly cooked through.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, ketchup, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and ginger. Add cornstarch and whisk until no lumps remain.
- When chicken is nearly cooked, whisk sauce again to make sure cornstarch hasn’t settled, and pour into the pan. Simmer over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until sauce is clear and thickened.
- Serve immediately with cooked rice.
- If you want a spicy version, add 1 tablespoon of Sriracha, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes to the sauce.
- 1½ teaspoons of freshly grated ginger may be used in place of ground ginger.
- If you prefer a no-alcohol version, substitute apple juice for the bourbon. The sauce will be slightly sweeter.
- If you don’t use low sodium soy sauce or chicken broth, omit salt from chicken.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.