This recipe for Bourbon Chicken is so easy to make, with tender, juicy bites of chicken and a gloriously sweet and sticky sauce that clings to each bite. Make it in just 30 minutes, and you’ll have a weeknight dinner the whole family will love!
Skip the takeout and make your Asian-style dishes at home! Not only are they super easy to make, they taste so much better. We love takeout/fake-outs like my Garlic Pork Stir Fry and Ginger Glazed Chicken Ramen. This is one of my Asian-Inspired recipes you’ll definitely want in your collection!
Bourbon chicken recipe
Well, we’re in the thick of winter folks, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more and more tired, so we’re relying on takeout wayyyy too much.
Not that takeout isn’t delicious, because ohhh it definitely is, but it’s not so great on both the wallet and the waistline, amiright?!
One thing that I crave a LOT, is bourbon chicken. It’s so crispy, sticky, and omg that sauce is to die for!
This recipe hits all those flavor notes of a traditional bourbon chicken (like the bourbon chicken from the food court at the mall!), but without any breading, frying, and a sauce with who knows what in it.
From beginning to end, this recipe will take about 30 minutes, or even less if you prep ahead! Definitely check out my “Making bourbon chicken ahead of time” section for my prep ahead tips. I’m all about prepping ahead whenever I can!
We love to serve this bourbon chicken with some fluffy white or jasmine rice and some steamed broccoli, but you can serve it up any way you want… it’s your meal 🙂
How to make bourbon chicken
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Toss chicken with cornstarch and seasonings. Coating the chicken in a light layer of the cornstarch is what gives it a slightly crisp exterior when browned and gives the sauce something to cling to.
- Combine sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Sear chicken. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes per side, and cook in batches so the skillet doesn’t get overcrowded. Overcrowding the pan will lead to the chicken steaming and not getting golden brown.
- Add garlic and ginger.
- Pour in sauce. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 7-10 minutes, or until it’s reduced a little and is starting to thicken.
- Make slurry. A slurry is a mixture of cornstarch and water that’s whisked together until smooth, and then added to the sauce to thicken.
- Add chicken back to skillet.
- Simmer until thickened. How thickened the sauce gets is a personal preference.
Additional cooking tips
- Chicken type – our family (specifically the kids), prefers white meat chicken, so we normally use boneless skinless chicken as written in the recipe. If you like chicken thighs, you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs and slice them into the same sized pieces as directed in the recipe.
- Bourbon – bourbon is an essential part of this recipe (there’s a reason it’s in the recipe name itself!), so I don’t recommend substituting it unless you truly have to. The alcohol content of the bourbon is cooked off when you cook the sauce, and it concentrates down into a rich amazing flavor. If you don’t have bourbon, regular whiskey will work as well.
Variations of this recipe
- Spicy – feel free to add more sriracha, or a pinch of red pepper flakes to this recipe to kick it up a notch.
- Mild – I don’t feel this chicken is that spicy, but if you’re sensitive to heat, you can omit the sriracha sauce.
- Honey – if you prefer a honey flavor, substitute an equal amount of honey for the brown sugar.
- Bourbon-less – the alcohol cooks out during the simmering process and gives the sauce that classic bourbon chicken flavor, but if you’d rather not use it, just substitute with an equal amount of apple juice.
- Instant Pot – if you’d rather use your pressure cooker, I’ve also included those directions down in the recipe notes.
- Slow Cooker – if you’d rather use your crockpot, I’ve also included those directions down in the recipe notes.
Making bourbon chicken ahead of time
I found that this sesame chicken tastes best when made right before serving, but you can absolutely prep ahead of time.
- Mince the garlic and ginger and store in the refrigerator.
- Slice the green onions and store in the refrigerator.
- Cut up chicken and store in the refrigerator.
- Whisk sauce together and store in the refrigerator.
- Rice can be made ahead of time as well.
Leftover chicken should be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed within 4 days.
You can also freeze this bourbon chicken! Let the chicken and sauce cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat gently in a saucepan, skillet or microwave.
Shop the recipe
- Large Skillet – I love the big size of this skillet, and cleanup is a breeze!
Be sure to scroll down to check out other readers’ comments for tips and reviews.
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- 1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced into bite sized pieces
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil (canola or peanut are good substitutes) divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (3/4 tsp dried ginger can be substituted)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- 3 Tbsp apple juice
- 2 1/2 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar is a good substitute)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Slurry (to thicken sauce)
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cold water
- In a mixing bowl, add chicken pieces, salt, pepper, and cornstarch. Toss to combine well.
- Combine sauce ingredients in a separate mixing bowl, whisking well. Set aside.
- To a large skillet, add 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil and heat over MED HIGH heat. Once hot, add half the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, without stirring.
- Flip chicken over or stir and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, and repeat with remaining oil and chicken. Remove second batch of chicken to plate.
Make the sauce
- To same skillet, add garlic and ginger and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Pour in the sauce you whisked together already. Bring to a low boil, then add chicken back to skillet, stir, reduce heat to MED LOW and simmer for about 7-10 minutes until sauce is thickening and reducing.
- Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth, then stir in to the skillet.
- Cook another few minutes, until sauce is thickened to your liking and coats the back of a spoon.
- Serve immediately, with white rice and garnished with sliced green onions and sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- Leftover chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Want to save this recipe for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own recipe box!
- If you like chicken thighs, you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs and slice them into the same sized pieces as directed in the recipe.
- Bourbon is an essential part of this recipe, so I don’t recommend substituting it unless you truly have to. The alcohol content of the bourbon is cooked off when you cook the sauce, and it concentrates down into a rich amazing flavor. If you don’t have bourbon, regular whiskey will work as well, or you can add an additional 1/4 cup of apple juice instead of the bourbon (but this will change the flavor).
- You can also freeze this bourbon chicken! Let the chicken and sauce cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Slow Cooker Instructions:
- Cook chicken pieces as directed (although I’d recommend using chicken thighs instead – they’ll be juicier)), then add to slow cooker.
- Divide all sauce ingredients in half (since they won’t be able to simmer and cook down in the slow cooker), and pour on top of chicken pieces.
- Stir, cover and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours.
- Add the slurry to the slow cooker and increase heat to HIGH, cooking uncovered for about 20-30 minutes. Stir often.
- If you need or want to cook the chicken longer, you can cook whole boneless skinless chicken breasts on LOW for 6-8 hours, although this will likely be a shredded sesame chicken.
Instant Pot Instructions:
- Omit cornstarch from chicken. Add cubed chicken, salt, pepper, and all sauce ingredients to the Instant Pot, stirring to combine.
- Secure lid, making sure the valve is set to “sealing”. Select manual or pressure cook and use the +/- buttons to set it to 3 minutes.
- Once pressure cooking is finished, turn the valve to “venting” to perform a quick pressure release.
- Open lid and select “saute”.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Stir into chicken and sauce. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon until sauce is thickened to your liking. This usually takes me about 2-3 minutes.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.