Exactly no one complains when sticky Bourbon Chicken is on the menu! Serve this easy, lighter twist on the New Orleans Chinese-American original with rice, then bask in the blissful silence as the whole table inhales it with gusto.

Bourbon chicken with rice on a white plate

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Bourbon chicken is a stir fry style recipe that features pieces of fried chicken thighs in a sweet, sticky, and savory brown sugar bourbon glaze.

It tastes sweet and a little salty and tangy, similar to other popular Chinese-American dishes like General Tso Chicken and Healthy Orange Chicken.

Bourbon chicken being stirred in a skillet

Why Is It Called Bourbon Chicken?

Bourbon chicken is named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans (that’s why the “Bourbon” in Bourbon chicken” is capitalized).

  • As the story goes, the dish was popularized in a Chinese restaurant that was located on Bourbon Street.

Bourbon chicken does actually have alcohol in the sauce, though most of it cooks off.

  • In keeping with the name, bourbon is used in Bourbon chicken. It helps balance the sauce and keep it from tasting too sweet.

These days, you can find Bourbon chicken well beyond Bourbon street.

It’s a frequent menu item at shopping mall food courts or when ordering your favorite Chinese takeout.

Easy bourbon chicken on a white plate

The Bourbon chicken you find in a mall is battered, fried, and the sauce contains a hefty amount of brown sugar.

  • I wanted to created Bourbon chicken like the food court in taste and spirit, but I wanted mine to be lightly pan-fried instead of deep fried.
  • I also wanted to reduce the amount of sugar in the Louisiana Bourbon chicken sauce.
  • For example: many authentic Bourbon chicken recipes call for 1 full cup of brown sugar or more, which to me is more akin to dessert.

With the help of my reader-favorite Crock pot Bourbon Chicken recipe as a starting point, I arrived at today’s lighter Bourbon chicken recipe.

The sauce is thick and sticky (one of the best parts of this dish!), the meat is fork tender and juicy, and it has enough sweetness to satisfy that food court craving, without going overboard.

Two white plates of bourbon chicken

How to Make Bourbon Chicken

The Bourbon chicken sauce uses sweet, salty, and acidic ingredients to achieve the right balance.

Typically, it is served with rice, though you can certainly turn it into lettuce wraps, mix in sautéed vegetables (what we usually do), or serve it with a crisp salad, like this Asian Cabbage Salad.


The Ingredients

  • Chicken Thighs. Bourbon chicken thighs are my absolute favorite! The thigh meat stays tender, is more flavorful, and won’t dry out during cooking.

Substitution Tip

While I prefer chicken thighs for this recipe, you can swap them for chicken breasts if you prefer that cut of meat for your protein.

  • Soy Sauce. Gives the sauce a boost of umami flavor.
  • Bourbon. This recipe’s namesake. The flavor it’s strong; rather, it helps balance the sauce.
  • Maple Syrup. Helps make the sauce sweet, sticky, and delicious.
  • Brown Sugar. A modest amount for additional sweetness. It also helps thicken the sauce.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. Adds necessary acidity.
  • Cornstarch. Cornstarch helps the outside of the chicken brown to mimic the deep fried original, and it thickens the sauce.
  • Green Onions. Adds color, crunch, and a mild onion flavor. Perfect for a garnish. Also could use sesame seeds and red pepper flakes for a kick!

The Directions

Raw meat in a bowl
  1. Stir the chicken and part of the cornstarch together.
Sauce in a measuring cup
  1. In a separate bowl, stir the sauce ingredients and remaining cornstarch together.
Chicken being cooked in a skillet
  1. Cook the chicken.
Bourbon chicken in a skillet
  1. Pour in the sauce and stir. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, then garnish with the green onions. Serve with rice and ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Rewarm chicken in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 1 day in advance, cut the chicken and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

Leftover Ideas

Of course, leftovers are delicious served over a bed of rice or noodles, but they’re also tasty served in lettuce leaves (a spin on my beloved Lettuce Wraps).

What to Serve with Bourbon Chicken

A white plate with a fork and rice and bourbon chicken

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Liquid Measuring Cup. You can measure and mix ingredients in this glass measuring cup.
  • Large Skillet. Perfect for making this recipe. Could even us a wok!
  • Measuring Spoons. This recipe has lots of ingredients to measure, and these measuring spoons are up for the job.

Large and Versatile Skillet

This large cast-iron skillet is a high-quality, versatile, and easy-to-clean option. It’s oven-safe, so you can use it for a variety of different recipes.

Bourbon chicken with rice on a white plate

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does All the Alcohol Cook Out of Bourbon Chicken?

Most of the alcohol does cook out of the sauce, but I recommend avoiding the recipe if you are concerned about having any consumption whatsoever (pregnancy, abstaining, etc.).

Can I Make Bourbon Chicken without Bourbon?

While I’m partial to making this sauce with bourbon (I promise it’s worth it!), you could experiment with swapping the bourbon for an equal amount of apple juice. It will have a slightly different flavor but should still be tasty.

What Can I Do with Extra Bourbon Sauce?

If you have lots of leftover sauce (I’m jealous!) or simply want to make some on its own, you can use it in a variety of ways. I think it would be scrumptious tossed with Air Fryer Shrimp, Air Fryer Tofu, or drizzled over an Air Fryer Chicken Breast. Use it as a dipping sauce for Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders. For an easy side dish, toss it with some Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

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Bourbon chicken with rice on a white plate

Bourbon Chicken

This easy Bourbon chicken is sweet and sticky, just like Bourbon chicken from a mall food court, but is homemade with simple ingredients!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup bourbon anything good enough to mix into a cocktail (Bulleit is my go-to)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces (or boneless, skinless chicken breast)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions plus additional for serving
  • 2 cups prepared brown rice for serving

Instructions
 

  • Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornstarch over the top, then with a spoon, stir to evenly coat the chicken in the cornstarch.
  • In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, stir together the soy sauce, bourbon, maple syrup, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
  • In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat on the stove top. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, carefully add the chicken, breaking apart any pieces that stick together. Brown on all sides, stirring every so often, until the chicken is golden and cooked through.
  • Add the bourbon sauce. Cooking, stirring often, until the sauce is glossy and thickened, 2 to 4 minutes (you'll still have plenty of extra sauce, ideal for spooning over the rice). Stir in the green onions. Serve hot over rice, with additional green onions sprinkled on top.

Notes

  • Adapted from my Crockpot Bourbon Chicken.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm chicken in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4), without riceCalories: 359kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 34gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 162mgPotassium: 525mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 126IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 47mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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