This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

With tender pieces of chicken stir-fried in a sweet and tangy sauce over a bed of fluffy steamed rice, no one complains when sticky Bourbon Chicken is on the menu! This easy recipe is a lighter twist on the original New Orleans Chinese-American recipe.

Healthy Bourbon chicken  mall recipe with rice on a white plate

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

While the original recipe originated in New Orleans, these days, you can find Bourbon chicken well beyond the French Quarter.

It’s a frequent menu item at shopping mall food courts and at many Chinese takeout restaurants around the country.

And with this easy Bourbon chicken recipe, you can bring all of its deliciousness into your very own kitchen.

Easy Bourbon chicken being stirred in a skillet

5 Star Review

“This was absolutely the best Bourbon chicken I’ve ever had. It’s better than take-out.”

— Becky —

Why Is It Called Bourbon Chicken?

Bourbon chicken is named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans (that’s also 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 keeps it from tasting too sweet.
Stovetop bourbon chicken on a white plate with green onions

About this Bourbon Chicken Recipe

The food court Bourbon chicken recipe you find in shopping malls is battered and fried, and the sauce contains a hefty amount of brown sugar and other mystery sweeteners.

  • I wanted to create 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 original Louisiana Bourbon chicken sauce.
  • For example: many authentic Bourbon chicken mall 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 Crockpot 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 the BEST bourbon chicken recipe

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 or Roasted Broccoli (what we usually do), or serve it with a crisp salad, like this Asian Cabbage Salad.


The Ingredients

  • Chicken Thighs. Bourbon chicken thighs are mouthwateringly juicy! 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.

  • Cornstarch. Cornstarch helps the outside of the chicken brown to mimic the deep-fried original, and it thickens the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce. Gives the sauce a boost of umami flavor.
  • Bourbon. This recipe’s namesake. While the flavor isn’t strong, it helps balance the sauce and is the secret to the BEST Bourbon chicken with authentic flavor.
  • 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 to the sauce mixture.
  • Green Onions. Adds color, crunch, and a mild onion flavor. Perfect for a garnish.

TIP!

Looking for some extra pizzaz? Toss in some sesame seeds for texture and red pepper flakes for a little kick!

The Directions

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

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight 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

While a side of steamed white or Instant Pot Brown Rice (or Cauliflower Fried Rice) is truly all this dish needs to feel complete, I often like to complete our takeout experience with one or more of these other tasty Asian-inspired side dishes or starters.

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 use a wok!
  • Measuring Spoons. This recipe has lots of ingredients to measure, and these measuring spoons are up for the job.

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 1/4 cup apple juice or chicken broth. 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, Crispy 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.

Is Bourbon Chicken Chinese or Cajun?

It’s a little bit of both! Born in New Orleans at a Chinese restaurant, the dish is a hybrid that brings together the ingredients and cooking methods of both cuisines and cultures.

Is Bourbon Chicken Gluten Free?

To make this recipe gluten free, you will want to opt for your favorite brand of tamari rather than traditional soy sauce. Also, despite many bourbons being distilled with wheat, barley, or rye, most are considered safe for people with celiac disease because of the distillation process. However, if you are particularly sensitive to gluten or have concerns, I recommend consulting with a physician before making this recipe with bourbon.

Bourbon Chicken

5 from 6 votes
How to make Bourbon chicken, a New Orleans Chinese-Cajun favorite. Juicy chicken pieces in a sweet and sticky sauce. Easy and delicious!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 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 fresh ginger minced
  • 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 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, vegetable 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.

Video

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

Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Create an account to easily save your favorite recipes and access FREE meal plans.

Sign Me Up

More Delicious Chicken Favorites

Did you try this recipe?

I want to see!

Follow @wellplated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

You May Also Like

Free Email Series
Sign Up for FREE Weekly Meal Plans
Each includes a grocery list, budget, and 5 healthy dinners, helping you save time, save money, and live better!

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!

Learn more about Erin

Leave a Comment

Did you make this recipe?

Don't forget to leave a review!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




2 Comments

Leave a comment

  1. Made this for dinner last night. I had 1.5 lbs of chicken so I made 1 1/2 batches of sauce. In retrospect, I should have doubled it. This was absolutely the best Bourbon Chicken I’ve ever had. It’s better than take-out.5 stars