Sweet, crisp, and saucy, this Bourbon Chicken makes the perfect weeknight dinner. This popular Chinese takeout recipe comes together in less time at home than it would take to order carry-out. Enjoy over rice with steamed veggies for a satisfying and easy meal any night.
Easy Bourbon Chicken Recipe
Do you remember the bourbon chicken samples that would be given out in front of the Chinese restaurants in the mall food court? This recipe reminds me so much of those yummy samples! It’s a Chinese takeout copycat recipe that comes together in under 45 minutes, which means it can be whipped up any night of the week.
We love this sticky chicken dish served over rice, with a side of steamed vegetables. It makes a filling, satisfying dinner and the leftovers are always incredible. In fact, I sometimes double the recipe so we have leftovers the next day. It’s that good!
Prefer cooking dinner in the Instant Pot? Try my Instant Pot Bourbon Chicken recipe!
Does Bourbon Chicken Actually Have Alcohol?
Yes, bourbon chicken is actually made with bourbon. It’s what gives it the signature flavor. Most of the alcohol does cook off, so it’s not a boozy dish or anything. It is safe for kids to eat. The bourbon is primarily for flavor.
If you want to make this dish without bourbon, you can add apple cider instead. It won’t have the same flavor, of course, but it will still taste good.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the Bourbon Chicken Recipe (the exact measurements and full recipe instructions are below in the printable recipe card):
- Chicken – I prefer boneless, skinless chicken breasts but chicken thighs will also work.
- Cornstarch – Helps the chicken crisp up.
- Salt & pepper
- Oil – Any neutral cooking oil like vegetable, corn, or canola oil can be used to cook the chicken.
- Soy sauce – Adds the umami undertones.
- Apple juice – Sweetens the dish.
- Chicken broth – To thin out the sauce without reducing any flavor.
- Ketchup – Adds a tangy sweetness.
- Bourbon – The signature ingredient! I used Jim Beam but any bourbon you like will work. If you don’t have bourbon, regular whiskey can be used as well.
- White vinegar – Adds a tangy undertone that balances out the sweet ingredients.
- Brown sugar – Helps sweet and caramelize the sauce.
- Spices – Ginger, onion powder, and the optional red pepper flavors add more flavor to bourbon chicken.
How to Make Bourbon Chicken
This easy chicken dinner recipe comes together in under 45 minutes. Perfect for those busy weeknights when there’s just not much time to cook.
- Season the chicken. Trim any fat off of the chicken, then cut it into 1-inch pieces. Combine the cornstarch with the salt and pepper, then toss with the chicken to completely coat.
- Cook the chicken. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes on each side in a skillet with oil. You’ll likely need to cook the chicken in two batches. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Return the chicken to the pan and combine with the sauce. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Thicken if needed. If you’d like your sauce to be even thicker, combine the remaining cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of water. Stir into the sauce.
- Enjoy. Serve over steamed rice or your preferred dish. Enjoy.
Recipe Tips & Variations
Here are few easy variations on bourbon chicken, as well as a few tips for making the best dish possible.
- Crispy bourbon chicken. Dip the chicken in egg then flour for a thicker breading or use frozen popcorn chicken for a quick and easy alternative.
- Spice it up. I like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for some flavor but if you like things spicy, add more pepper flakes, a splash of sriracha, or some paprika into the dish.
- Don’t touch the chicken while frying. For the chicken to get a little crispy, it’s important to cook them on each side for 3 minutes without stirring. Stir only when it’s time to flip them.
- Take care while frying. When frying the chicken, the oil does tend to spit a bit. Use a splatter screen while the chicken fries and long tongs to turn the chicken.
What to Serve with Bourbon Chicken
Bourbon chicken is typically served with steamed white rice or brown rice. However, chicken fried rice is another great option and if you’re looking for a lighter option, try cauliflower rice. Noodles like chow mein or lo mein are also good. Basically anything that will soak up all the tasty sauce!
Any steamed veggies also make a great side dish and if you’re going for takeout-style, you can never go wrong with an egg roll or crab rangoon. (Or enjoy both together with crab rangoon egg rolls!)
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover bourbon chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The easiest way to reheat is the warm individual servings in the microwave in 30-second intervals, though you could also reheat it on the stovetop.
Can I Freeze Bourbon Chicken?
Yes, you can freeze bourbon chicken – both before and after cooking. It actually makes a great freezer meal!
To freeze before cooking, you’ll still need to cook the chicken as directed and prepare the sauce. However, instead of combining the two to simmer, allow them to cool and transfer to a freezer ziploc bag. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge, then finish cooking on the stove.
To freeze the cooked bourbon chicken, allow it to cool completely. Transfer to a ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat on the stovetop.
More Easy Chicken Recipes:
- Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken
- Garlic Butter Mushroom Stuffed Chicken
- Crockpot Chicken Alfredo
- Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Honey Chicken
Bourbon Chicken Recipe
- 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 5 tablespoons corn starch divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable, corn, or canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 cup water
- 2/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- Trim any fat off of the chicken and cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons of the corn starch with the salt and pepper; add the chicken and toss well to completely coat.
- In a large skillet or pot, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add half of the chicken pieces and cook on one side without stirring for 3 minutes. Turn each piece of chicken and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and set aside. Add the remaining half of the oil to the skillet, then add the remaining pieces of uncooked chicken. Cook the chicken on one side without stirring for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
- Add the minced garlic to the skillet and sauté for 20-30 seconds until fragrant. To the skillet at the water, soy sauce, apple juice, chicken broth, ketchup, bourbon, vinegar, brown sugar, ground ginger, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken to the sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half.
- Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 1-2 tablespoons of water, then stir into the sauce to thicken (optional).
- Serve the bourbon chicken hot over steamed rice.