Best Bourbon Chicken Recipe – How to Make Bourbon Chicken

Best Bourbon Chicken Recipe - How to Make Bourbon Chicken
the pioneer woman's bourbon chicken recipe

Caitlin Bensel

Chicken dinners never disappoint, and this bourbon chicken recipe will satisfy everyone seated at the table. Similar to sesame or orange chicken (swapping the fruit juices, of course!), bourbon chicken uses a little bit of bourbon, apple juice, and soy sauce to make a sticky-sweet sauce that coats lightly breaded, diced chicken thighs. Served over rice, with a sprinkle of scallions and toasted sesame seeds, it’s an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner recipe that (bonus!) takes less than 30 minutes to make!

What is bourbon chicken and how do you make it?

As the story goes, bourbon chicken is a dish made popular on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but leans toward the flavors of chicken stir-fry. It’s a lovely fall chicken recipe, as it leans on the warm flavors of both bourbon and apples to create its both savory and sweet sauce. Start by dicing chicken thighs, then tossing them lightly with cornstarch. Next, shallow fry the chicken pieces to give them a light, crispy coating. Ginger and garlic are cooked in the skillet before the ingredients of the sauce are whisked together and reduced. The sticky sauce coats the chicken pieces, making for one of the most flavorful chicken dishes you’ve ever eaten.

Does bourbon chicken actually use bourbon?

This bourbon chicken recipe does include a small amount of bourbon. The mixture is boiled so that no alcohol remains in the sauce. Rather the bourbon passes on its toasty, spiced, vanilla scent.

Is there a substitute for bourbon in bourbon chicken?

Absolutely. Instead of using bourbon, increase the amount of apple juice or chicken stock in the recipe by 1/4 cup. Using more apple juice will preserve the fruity flavors of the sauce, whereas more chicken stock will make this dish more savory. Additionally, the chicken thighs can be swapped for diced boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

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Prep Time:





Total Time:





2 lbs.

boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 tbsp.

grated fresh ginger

1 C.

+ 1 tbsp. chicken stock, divided

1/2 tsp.

packed brown sugar

2 tbsp.

apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp.

crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp.

toasted sesame seeds


scallions, thinly sliced

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  1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss the chicken with the salt, pepper, and cornstarch in a large bowl until coated.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook, turning, until well browned, crispy and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken and transfer to the same plate.
  3. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute. Add the 1 cup of chicken stock, apple juice, bourbon, soy sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and crushed red chili flakes. Whisk until combined. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then cook until reduced by about half.
  4. Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of chicken stock and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the skillet and whisk well to combine. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 1 minute to thicken. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes to warm through and coat with the sauce.
  5. Serve over white rice, topped with sesame seeds and scallions.

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