Bourbon Chicken

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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.

bourbon chicken cooking in a wok

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.

pieces of chicken cooking in a wok

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.

chicken stock being poured into a pan with cooking chicken

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.

cornstarch being poured into a hot pan

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?

Since this dish has flavors inspired from both Louisiana and Chinese cuisine, you’ve got a lot of options. Hot steamed rice, fried rice, or some chow mein would make for a nice dinner.

bowl of bourbon chicken served on top of white rice

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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Bourbon Chicken

Bourbon chicken is a fusion of Chinese and Cajun cooking. The chicken is stir-fried in a wok then tossed in soy and maple bourbon sauce.
Pin Print Review
4.7 from 10 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Equipment

Notes

  • Feel free to reduce the amount of bourbon in the recipe if you want a less strong flavor.

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Nutrition Facts
Bourbon Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 305 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 693mg29%
Potassium 775mg22%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 37g74%
Vitamin A 190IU4%
Vitamin C 3.8mg5%
Calcium 23mg2%
Iron 1.1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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22 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Sandy S. says

    Jessica, just found your web site and am anxious to try your recipes. They sound delicious and easy to prepare. My question is whether I can substitute garlic and ginger paste for the fresh? Thanks.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so glad that you found me, Sandy! Yes, you can use garlic and ginger paste instead of the fresh. I would start with half the amount, and add more to taste as it may be more concentrated in flavor.

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