Bourbon Chicken

Sautéed chicken simmered in a slightly sweet and tangy Bourbon sauce makes this recipe one for the weekly rotation. Serve it over rice or for a low carb version try it in lettuce wraps!

Easy Bourbon Chicken served over rice.
Nick Evans

There are so many versions of sauteed chicken with sauce, but this bourbon chicken is one of my favorite iterations of that idea. It’s easy to make, flexible enough to use any cut of chicken you have on hand (use cubed thighs or breast), and the bourbon sauce is so good you’ll want to eat it with a spoon straight out of the skillet.

The trick to making this dish the best it can be is by making sure you have plenty of sauce. You want it to coat the chicken and have more than enough to drizzle over the rice as well.

This recipe isn’t booze forward despite the name. The alcohol in the bourbon completely cooks off as the sauce simmers and it’s safe to serve to children, but if you are concerned or don’t have bourbon on hand, you can substitute the 1/4 cup of bourbon for 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce.

Hoisin sauce is a sweet and tangy sauce typically used in Asian cuisine, that is available at most grocery stores. It thickens nicely and would work well in this dish.

What is Bourbon Chicken?

Bourbon chicken is a classic New Orleans (think Bourbon Street) dish that is just chicken, cubed, sautéed, and simmered in a sweet and tangy sauce.

There are MANY variations on this sauce, and you should feel free to experiment once you get the hang of it. Some versions have the addition of apple juice for a slightly sweeter sauce. Personally, I like to use chicken stock and apple cider vinegar for a tangier version.

Overhead view of The BEST Bourbon Chicken Recipe served over rice.
Nick Evans

How to Make Bourbon Chicken

The trick to making a good bourbon chicken dish is to lightly dust your chicken pieces with corn starch before cooking. Coating the chicken in cornstarch and then sautéing it allows the chicken bites to form a crust on the outside. Once combined with the sauce, it thickens the sauce and helps the sauce adhere to the chicken.

Some recipes call for a roux or other thickening agents when making a sauce, but with the addition of cornstarch here, there is no need. Simmering the cornstarch-coated chicken in the sauce is all you need to make this recipe really delicious.

The Secret of the Sauce

The sauce is a combination of garlic, ginger, chicken stock, bourbon, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar also goes in for added extra tang. At first It will look like A LOT of sauce, but it cooks down and reduces nicely.

If you want to leave out the bourbon, it’s actually not a critical ingredient. You can substitute it with hoisin sauce as I mentioned above or just leave it out entirely and add a little extra chicken stock and soy sauce to make sure your volume is similar.

Side view of a fork lifting a piece of Sweet and Tangy Bourbon Chicken.
Nick Evans

What Is the Best Chicken to Use?

I like to use boneless skinless breasts or thighs for this recipe because they are easy to cube. Assuming you cube the chicken in a similar size, they will cook at same rate regardless of what cut you use. You can also use the bourbon chicken sauce for chicken wings and it’s incredibly delicious!

What to Serve with Bourbon Chicken?

I keep it simple for this dish to really make the chicken and sauce shine. Serve it over white rice and garnish heavily with sesame seeds and chives.

Side view of The BEST Bourbon Chicken Recipe served on a blue plate with rice.
Nick Evans

Storage Tips for Bourbon Chicken

If you have leftovers, no worries. It stores beautifully in the fridge for 4 to 5 days and reheats nicely in a skillet with a splash of water. You can also reheat it in the microwave. Just be careful not to over-heat the sauce or it can get too thick. Thinning it out with water always helps bring it back to life.

More Saucy Chicken Recipes

Bourbon Chicken

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Chives, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method

  1. Cook the rice:

    Place the rice in a wire mesh sieve or strainer and rinse under cold water for about a minute. In a medium saucepan add the rice and 1 3/4 cups of water.

    Cover the rice and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, 4-5 minutes, reduce the heat to medium low and let the rice cook for about 10 minutes.

    After 10 minutes remove from heat and keep the lid on for 10 additional minutes. When ready fluff it with a fork.

  2. Cut, season, and coat the chicken:

    Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl add cubed chicken and season with salt. Toss with the cornstarch to fully coat all of the chicken pieces. 

    Chicken coated in flour in a metal bowl to make Sweet and Tangy Bourbon Chicken.
    Nick Evans
  3. Cook the chicken:

    In a large non-stick skillet set over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is starting to brown and is mostly cooked through, about 8 minutes.

    It’s okay if it’s not entirely cooked through at this point because it will continue to cook in the sauce. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside on a plate.

    A skillet with chicken browning and a wooden spoon to make Sweet and Tangy Bourbon Chicken.
    Nick Evans
  4. Cook the sauce:

    In a medium bowl combine the garlic, ginger, chicken stock, bourbon, soy sauce, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Add the sauce to the same skillet where you cooked the chicken and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, 2-3 minutes.

  5. Coat the chicken in sauce and finish cooking:

    Once the sauce is simmering, add the chicken back into the skillet with sauce and bring to a boil. At this point, you can increase the heat slightly to speed up the process but be careful as the sauce can burn if you raise the heat too much.

    Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it has thickened and coats the chicken well, 6 to 8 minutes. The finished sauce should glaze the chicken well and coat the back of a spoon.

    Chicken and sauce simmering in a skillet to make Sweet and Tangy Bourbon Chicken.
    Nick Evans
    A wooden spoon stirring Sweet and Tangy Bourbon Chicken in a skillet.
    Nick Evans
  6. Garnish and serve:

    Serve the bourbon chicken immediately over rice. Garnish with chives and sesame seeds.

  7. Storage and reheating instructions:

    If you have leftovers, you can store the chicken in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. Reheat bourbon chicken in the microwave with a splash of water or gently in a pot or skillet with a splash of water.