Bourbon Chicken

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This easy Bourbon chicken recipe is a tasty fusion of Chinese and Cajun cooking. Lean white meat is stir-fried in a hot wok and then tossed in a sweet, sticky maple sauce.

Bourbon chicken cooking in a wok.
Table of Contents
  1. What is bourbon chicken?
  2. Chicken selection
  3. Alcohol selection
  4. The bourbon sauce
  5. How to make bourbon chicken
  6. Serve this with
  7. FAQ
  8. Bourbon Chicken Recipe

When you think of famous dishes originating from Louisiana, gumbo, jambalaya, and bananas foster typically come to mind. But what about Chinese food? Bourbon chicken has become a popular dish at Asian restaurants with roots starting in Cajun kitchens. The recipe is easy to make and is a twist to the usual take-out menu.

What makes this dish shine is the sauce. All the ingredients blend seamlessly for rich, savory flavors with a caramel finish. You can use the bourbon sauce as a marinade or glaze on baked and grilled meats. Serve this stir-fry on top of steamed rice for a complete meal.

Pieces of chicken breast cooking in a wok.

What is bourbon chicken?

The dish is said to be named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and it’s not surprising to find that one of the critical ingredients is whiskey. It’s a quick chicken stir-fry tossed in a sweet and savory bourbon-infused sauce.

Chicken selection

I recommend lean boneless skinless chicken breast cut into small, 1-inch bite-sized pieces. This size helps it to cook quickly and evenly without drying out. If you prefer dark meat, you can use boneless chicken thighs but trim off the excess fat to prevent the texture from becoming greasy.

Recipe Resources

Alcohol selection

American whiskey has strong vanilla, oak, and caramel flavors. This single ingredient is what adds depth and an exciting taste to the dish. It pairs well with the maple notes in the sauce. 

I used Knob Creek because that’s what my husband had in our liquor cabinet (don’t tell him!). Jameson, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Bulleit are other options.

Sauce being poured into a pan with cooked chicken.

The bourbon sauce

The base of the sauce is bourbon whiskey, soy sauce, pure maple syrup, tomato paste, chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, and red pepper 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 is often used as a thickening agent in Chinese dishes. The amount added makes for a sauce that clings well to the meat.

How to make bourbon chicken

The key to a successful stir-fry is to have all of the components prepped and assembled. This technique allows for quick cooking of the protein and sauce. Once the chicken is cut into chunks and sauce mixed, it’s time to grab your wok or large nonstick skillet. Sear the chicken in hot oil until golden brown and nearly cooked through. 

Saute the aromatics like minced garlic and ginger to add spice to the dish. Simmer the bourbon sauce for a few minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol. Mix in the cornstarch slurry to thicken the liquid. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions, and you’ve got a fast and easy meal ready in just 30 minutes.

Cornstarch being poured into a hot pan.

Serve this with

FAQ

What is bourbon chicken sauce made of?

A unique combination of soy sauce, bourbon whiskey, maple syrup, tomato paste, and a pinch of chili flakes for spice makes this a sweet and savory dish.

Does bourbon chicken contain alcohol?

Yes! American bourbon whiskey is made mainly from corn that’s been barrel-aged and distilled into liquor. Brands like Jim Beam, Jameson, Jack Daniels, or Marker’s Mark are popular options.

What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

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, mainly using malted barley.

Bowl of bourbon chicken served on top of white rice.

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 with lean white meat stir-fried in a wok then tossed in a sticky maple sauce.
Pin Print Review
4.43 from 19 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients

Bourbon Sauce

  • 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 pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water

Chicken Stir-Fry

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onions

Instructions 

  • Bourbon Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together chicken stock, bourbon whiskey, soy sauce, maple syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, and chili flakes. Set aside.
  • Make the Slurry – In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water. Set aside.
  • Cook the Chicken – Set a wok or large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add vegetable oil and sesame oil. Add the chicken and spread it into one layer. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes without moving. Stir-fry until no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  • Cook the Aromatics – Add the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  • Cook the Sauce – Add in bourbon sauce mixture. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally stirring to help some of the alcohol evaporate and for the sauce to reduce.
  • Thicken the Sauce – Stir the bowl of cornstarch slurry, then add it to the pan. Stir until the sauce thickens, 60 to 90 seconds.
  • To Serve – Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Equipment

Notes

  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Make it Grain-Free: Use 3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch. Mix with ⅓ cup of water.
  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: Warm over medium-low heat on the stovetop. Alternatively, cover and cook on the high setting in the microwave until hot, about 30-second increments.

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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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32 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Celeste says

    I made Bourbon Chicken exactly as written. I was a little hesitant using 1/4 bourbon, but I followed directions. The recipe was easy and delicious, definitely will be in our rotation. My husband wants to try it with pork chops or bbq shrimp. So many possibilities.

  2. Sheila Brown says

    We feasted on homemade Bourbon Chicken last night, thanks to Jessica Gavin! My hubs nearly had a heart attack when he saw I’d been cooking with the Maker’s Mark! “You had to use the best, most expensive Bourbon,” he asked? After he tasted it, he decided that was a very good use of our best Bourbon. I used chicken thighs, because that is what I had thawed for dinner, and that was an excellent choice.

    Since I had more than I needed for this dish, I split the chicken into two pans and used the rest in a different recipe involving a boxed mix of Bourbon Chicken rice, which I had originally planned for dinner until I saw this homemade version. The mix was okay, though it was enhanced by the use of the chicken which I had marinated in some of the sauce. I did find in the two separate pans that the type of pan makes a difference. One was a non-stick (Ozeri speckled stone thingy) and the other was my Ninja Foodi Neverstick Saucepan which is heavy and feels a little like my black, cast iron pans; this created a beautiful dark color on the chicken as I browned it, which the non-stick Ozeri pan did not.

    The substitutions: Log Cabin Syrup because I had no maple syrup, since I had to use regular chicken broth, I used low sodium soy sauce which worked fine. Next time (and there will be many more) I will be better prepared.

    I especially like the finish with the green onions and the sesame seeds! I was unsure about the use of the sesame oil, since I had two kinds: Pure Sesame Seed Oil and Extra Virgin Sesame Cold Pressed Oil. I have never used them in the frying, just marinades and finishing, but I guessed and went with the cold pressed. Looks like that was right because all the flavors worked so well. Next time, with white rice, all should be perfect. Thanks so much for sharing your talents!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad to hear that your husband was okay with him using the good bourbon! I love that you make two different meals out of the dish. Happy cooking!

  3. Pete says

    Well I didn’t have any bourbon so I used Scotch, didn’t have maple syrup so used honey resulting in an absolutely delicious sauce that works well with chicken and I’m sure will work with other meats and even seafood. Thanks so much for this one!

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