This Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken is N’Awlin’s meets take out, and it’s going to be one delicious rendez-vous. Tender chicken thighs slow-cooked in a sticky, sweet bourbon sauce made with maple syrup, brown sugar, and ginger, it’s the kind of (big) easy recipe that makes any day feel more extraordinary.
What do New Orleans, Chinese takeout, and bourbon all have in common?
The answer is bourbon chicken.
I’ve visited the Big Easy (New Orleans) three times.
One dish I couldn’t get enough of (aside from beignets and Blackened Salmon) was the city’s famous bourbon chicken.
Juicy chicken cooked in a sweet, sticky sauce, bourbon chicken gets its name after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, as well as its not-so-secret boozy ingredient (you’ll also find it in these Bourbon Balls).
History of Bourbon Chicken
Who gets credit for being the first to make this dish is greatly contested (my research results were admittedly dubious and conflicting). However, there does at least seem to be a consensus that the dish first appeared at a Chinese restaurant that (at one point in time) was on Bourbon Street.
While the original recipe may be one of legend, the crock pot bourbon chicken recipe I’m sharing today will make your next family dinner legendary.
5 Star Review
“OMG… this is delicious and soooo easy! Can’t wait for tomorrow and leftovers.”— Paula —
How to Make Crockpot Bourbon Chicken
New Orleans bourbon chicken is traditionally made in a wok or skillet (like any one of these fantastic stir fry recipes).
This crock pot bourbon chicken deviates from tradition by cutting the prep down to less than 10 minutes and turning it into an easy, effortless slow cooker recipe.
You’ll also notice the absence of ketchup. While adding 1 cup ketchup is traditional in some recipes, I prefer to skip it and use the from-scratch approach below.
- Chicken. Tender, succulent boneless skinless chicken thighs are without a doubt my favorite cut of chicken for this simple slow cooker recipe (and this Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken). This recipe calls for 1.5 lbs.
- Bourbon. No need to buy the pricey stuff. Just make sure you choose a bourbon you would also like to drink. A bourbon with notes of honey, caramel, cinnamon, black pepper, or dried fruit would pair especially well with this dish (as well as this Bourbon Glazed Salmon).
- Soy Sauce. Flavors the marinade with a wonderful umami flavor.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Lends some much-needed acidity to balance out the sweetness of the sauce and also helps to tenderize the chicken.
- Ginger + Garlic Cloves. Provides a little zippy kick and Asian flair.
- Brown Sugar. For sweetness, depth of color, and subtle molasses flavor.
- Maple Syrup. Compliments and enhances the bourbon flavor (as it does in these Maple Bourbon Bars) while adding additional sticky sweetness to the sauce.
- Cornstarch. Thickens the sauce so it clings to every crevice of the juicy, tender chicken thighs.
- Green Onions. Finish this saucy chicken recipe with a bit of color and freshness.
- Rice. A generous scoop of fluffy brown rice is my favorite way to serve crock pot bourbon chicken. However, jasmine rice, quinoa, or even farro would all be excellent options for serving.
While this bourbon chicken isn’t spicy, if you’d like a kick, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste.
- Stir together the marinade (sauce) ingredients in a small or medium bowl.
- Place chicken in a shallow baking dish, then pour the mixture over the chicken.
- Marinate, covered, in the fridge for a few hours or overnight for maximum flavor.
Looking for a shortcut? While I think the BEST slow cooker bourbon chicken is one that’s marinated, you can opt to skip this step if you’re short on time.
- Transfer the chicken and marinade to a slow cooker.
- Cook the bourbon chicken on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Remove the chicken and then transfer the sauce to a saucepan on the stove top.
- Make a slurry with 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the pot and heat the sauce to thicken.
- Pour sauce over the chicken. Chop the green onion and serve with rice. Season with salt or red pepper flakes to taste. ENJOY!
- To Store. Leftover crock pot bourbon chicken may be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To Freeze. Store cooked slow cooker bourbon chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
- To Reheat. Warm in the microwave until steaming.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Slow Cooker. This old girl has been my trusted kitchen partner for several years now.
- Whisk. A small size for incorporating the cornstarch slurry into the bubbling sauce.
- Shallow Baking Dish. Perfect for marinating meat and baking up casseroles.
Bourbon chicken, I don’t know where you came from, I’m just glad I found you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. In fact, most bourbon chicken recipes are made on the stovetop. Rather than adapting this slow cooker recipe, follow the steps for this Bourbon Chicken on the stovetop instead.
I have not tried this recipe in the oven, however, I suspect it could be done. I would try baking the chicken in the marinade at 350 degrees F, basting it periodically, until cooked through. Note that the sauce would likely need to be thickened on the stove with cornstarch after the chicken is cooked.
I have not made this recipe with bone-in thighs so I, unfortunately, cannot give specific advice on timing. My post on Crock Pot Shredded Chicken may be a good starting point however since it offers tips and instructions for preparing bone-in chicken in the slow cooker.
Frozen chicken cannot be placed directly in the slow cooker, as it will spend too long at an unsafe temperature. If you’d like to use frozen chicken, be sure to thaw it completely first.
Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat*
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari for a gluten-free alternative
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon (You don't need top-shelf—just make sure it's a brand you'd also enjoy drinking. I like Bulleit.)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 5 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions for serving
- 2 cups Prepared brown rice for serving
- In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, bourbon, brown sugar, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, and black pepper.
- Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish, then pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover the dish tightly, transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for as long as time allows (a few hours or overnight).
- Lightly coat a 4-to-6-quart crockpot with cooking spray and arrange the marinated chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour the marinade over the top, then cover the crockpot.
- Cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, until tender and cooked through.
- Remove the chicken from the crock pot to a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and place it on the stove.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Heat the saucepan on medium-high, then whisk the slurry into the cooking liquid until evenly combined. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce bubbles. Continue cooking and stirring until glossy and thickened, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with green onions. Serve warm with rice.
- SHORTCUT: You may skip marinating the chicken if you are running short on time (or simply forget to do so). The chicken will still turn out delicious just perhaps slightly less tender and flavorful.
- INGREDIENT NOTE: I highly recommend using chicken thighs, not chicken breasts in this recipe, as chicken breasts tend to dry out in the crockpot. If you decide to substitute chicken breasts, watch the cooking time carefully, as you may need less time to avoid overcooking the chicken.
- TO STORE: Leftover crock pot bourbon chicken may be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- TO FREEZE: Store cooked slow cooker bourbon chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in the microwave until steaming.
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