Bourbon chicken is a tasty fusion of Chinese and Cajun cooking. It’s a quick stir-fried dish packed with bold sweet and savory flavors. The chicken is seared in a hot wok, then tossed in soy and maple bourbon sauce. Mound it on top of steamed rice for a complete meal.
When you think of famous dishes originating from Louisiana, gumbo, po boys, and jambalaya typically comes to mind first. But what about Chinese food? Bourbon chicken has become a popular dish sold at Asian restaurants with roots starting in Cajun kitchens. The dish is said to be named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and it’s not surprising to find that one of the key ingredients is whiskey.
Pieces of chicken breast are stir-fried until tender and juicy, which takes less than 3 minutes in a wok. What makes this dish shine is the sauce. The unique combination of soy sauce, bourbon whiskey, maple syrup, tomato paste, and a pinch chili flakes for a hint of spiciness makes for an addicting meal.
The good news is it’s really easy to make, and a nice twist to the usual take out menu. You’ll be delighted to find that all of the ingredients blend seamlessly together for rich and savory flavors, with a caramel finish. You can even use the bourbon sauce as a marinade, or to glaze baked and grilled meats.
How To Make Bourbon Chicken
- Combine chicken stock, whiskey, soy sauce, maple syrup, tomato paste, vinegar, pepper, and chili flakes.
- Make a cornstarch slurry in a separate bowl.
- Stir-fry chicken in a wok until lightly browned.
- Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
- Pour in bourbon sauce and allow to simmer.
- Add cornstarch slurry, stir, and cook until thickened.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.
What ingredients are in bourbon sauce?
The base of bourbon sauce is soy sauce, whiskey, pure maple syrup, tomato paste, chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, and chili flakes. The combination creates a sweet, savory, and spicy flavor profile with a hint of smoke. A cornstarch slurry adds glossy, richness to the sauce, and it’s often used as a thickening agent in Chinese dishes.
What is the difference between bourbon and whisky?
Location, spelling, and ingredients. Bourbon is whiskey (with an “e”) made in the United States containing 51% corn in the fermented grain mash. It’s also typically aged in oak-charred barrels, bottled at no less than 80 proof and made without added flavoring, coloring or other additives. Scotch is whisky (no “e”) made in Scotland using mostly malted barley.
What type of whiskey should I use?
American whiskey has strong vanilla, oak, and caramel flavors. This single ingredient is what adds depth and an interesting taste to the dish. I used Knob Creek because that’s what my husband had in our liquor cabinet (don’t tell him!), but Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, or Bulleit are some other fabulous options.
What do I serve with bourbon chicken?
More Chinese recipes
Does the alcohol cook out of the sauce?
Alcohol evaporates at about 172ºF (78ºC) and simmering the bourbon sauce between 185 to 205ºF (85 to 96ºC) removes some but not all of the whiskey. At least 30 seconds at a temperature above the boiling point starts the evaporation, but it would take hours to completely cook-off.
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- 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
- ¼ cup bourbon whiskey
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chucks
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- ¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
- Whisk together chicken stock, bourbon whisky, soy sauce, maple syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, and chili flakes in a medium bowl.
- Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl.
- Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot add vegetable oil and sesame oil.
- Add chicken and spread into one layer. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes without moving.
- Stir-fry the chicken until no longer pink, 1 minute.
- Add garlic and ginger, stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Add in bourbon sauce mixture. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to help some of the alcohol evaporate and the sauce reduce.
- Stir cornstarch slurry and then add to the pan. Stir bourbon chicken until sauce has thickened, 60 to 90 seconds.
- Serve garnished with sesame seeds and green onions.
- Feel free to reduce the amount of bourbon in the recipe if you want a less strong flavor.
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