Bourbon Chicken – Just Like Takeout in 30 Minutes! (VIDEO)

5 from 19 votes
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Bourbon Chicken is an American-Chinese takeout classic that can be found in strip malls and food courts everywhere! The sweet, savory glaze over the stir fried chicken is absolutely mouth-watering and so easy to make at home. The best part is that it’s done in 30 minutes for a delicious, easy dinner any day of the week.

Bourbon Chicken cooking in a pan.

Watch the Bourbon Chicken Recipe Video Below!

A Brief History of Bourbon Chicken

The origins of Bourbon Chicken are somewhat unclear but many people believe it was named after the famous Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It’s become a staple dish at mall food courts and Chinese restaurants – the tender pieces of chicken covered in a rich, flavorful glaze is beloved for combining elements of American-Chinese and Southern-American cooking. To this day, Bourbon Chicken is still a popular comfort food dish that reflects the culinary diversity of the United States.

Bourbon Chicken close up plated with rice.

Ingredients

This Bourbon Chicken takes exactly like take out! The tender pieces are so delicious and tossed in a sweet and tangy bourbon sauce. Here is what you’ll need:

  • For the Chicken:
    • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast – you can use either thighs or breast
      • make sure to cut them into similar sized pieces so the chicken can cook evenly.
    • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (15 ml) – My favorite neutral oil is avocado oil, but you can also use canola or vegetable oil!
      • I don’t use olive oil when cooking Chinese food for two reasons: 1. It has a low burning point and 2. The flavor profile does not work with the flavors of Chinese cooking.
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (30 ml) – You will need “light” (not “low sodium”) or “all-purpose” soy sauce.
    • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (2 g) – I love white pepper and it’s used very commonly in Chinese cooking (another “secret ingredient” for cooking restaurant quality Chinese food at home). It has an earthier flavor than black pepper. I recommend having some in your pantry but if you can’t find it, you can always substitute with black pepper.
    • 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (7 ml) – This is one of my favorite Chinese pantry staples. It adds a depth of flavor and complexity to the sauce and truly one of my “secret ingredients” for making restaurant quality Chinese food. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with mirin, sherry, or even chicken broth.
    • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (4 g)
  • For the Sauce:
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (30 ml)
    • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce (5 ml)
    • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (5 ml)
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (39 g)
    • 1/2 cup warm chicken stock or water (120 ml)
    • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (1 g)
    • 2 tablespoons bourbon (30 ml), divided in half – Bourbon adds so much to this chicken and is a huge part of the unique flavors of this dish. If you’re worried about the alcohol content, it will begin to reduce as the sauce simmers and should evaporate.
      • You can also use whiskey, brandy, or scotch.
      • If you are not comfortable using bourbon or don’t have any other alcohol substitutes on hand, you can substitute with apple cider vinegar or pineapple juice.
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (8 g)
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (5 ml)
  • Aromatics
    • 1 slice ginger 1/4 inch (0.6cm) thick, smashed with knife or cleaver
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 scallion chopped

Recipe Instructions: Bourbon Chicken

1. Marinate the Chicken

Marinate the chicken with soy sauce, white pepper, Shaoxing wine, avocado oil and cornstarch. Mix until incorporated and marinate for 15 minutes.

2. Mix the Sauce

Mix the sauce ingredients by combining the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, dark brown sugar, chicken stock or water, bourbon, sesame oil and white pepper and set aside.

3. Cook the Chicken

Heat ¼ cup of neutral oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat until smoking, then add half of the chicken to the pan. Let the chicken sear on one side for 1 minute, then flip and sear the other side until all sides are golden brown. Remove and repeat with the rest of the chicken.

4. Sauté the Aromatics

Bring the wok or pan to medium heat and immediately add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.

5. Deglaze with Bourbon and Add Sauce and Chicken

Stir in the bourbon to deglaze the wok, and let cook for 30 seconds to allow the alcohol to cook off, leaving the flavor behind. Next, add the sauce and heat over medium high until bubbling and thickened. The consistency should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Add the chicken and toss it in the sauce until fully coated.

6. Garnish and Serve!

Stir fry for another minute and garnish with scallions. Serve with freshly steamed rice and enjoy!

Bourbon Chicken close up plated with rice

Cooking With a Wok (Alternatives)

By now, you know that I LOVE cooking with my wok! It is my #1 most recommended kitchen tool, as I believe it is perfect for high-heat cooking and results in restaurant quality Chinese food!

If it is your first time cooking with a wok, make sure to read my “How To Season a Wok” post. There is a video included that shows exactly how to season your brand new wok and how to maintain it so it lasts for years.

If you cannot or do not want to use a wok, you can use a large pan, cast iron, or even a dutch oven.

PRO TIPS

Expert Tips for the BEST Bourbon Chicken

  • Quality Ingredients: Start with high-quality chicken, preferably boneless, skinless chicken thighs, as they are more flavorful and tender. Use real bourbon whiskey for the sauce, as it can significantly enhance the dish’s flavor.
  • Marinate for Flavor: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 15 minutes to infuse it with the sweet and savory flavors of the marinade.
  • Hot, Quick Cooking: Use a hot skillet or wok for stir-frying the chicken. High heat helps to sear the chicken quickly, keeping it juicy. Don’t overcook the chicken; it should be tender and slightly caramelized.
  • Thicken the Sauce: Do not skip the cornstarch in the sauce! It is key to thickening the sauce and give it the glossy finish that is so delicious!
  • Garnish Creatively: Garnish your bourbon chicken with sesame seeds, chopped green onions, or fresh cilantro. These additions not only add visual appeal but also fresh flavors that complement the dish.

Can I substitute the protein?

Traditionally, Bourbon Chicken is made with Chicken thigh, but you can easily substitute it for chicken breast, pork loin, or strip steak.

Storage and Reheating

You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I like to reheat Bourbon Chicken in a hot wok or pan.

What to Serve with Bourbon Chicken

Are you feeling nostalgic for the mall food court or your favorite Chinese take-out place? You can’t have take-out without the crispiest Egg Rolls! Pair this Bourbon Chicken with a classic takeout dish like Chicken Fried Rice (Shrimp Fried Rice if you want to mix up your proteins) or Shrimp Lo Mein (if you want to continue the Chicken theme, you can make Chicken Lo Mein)! If you want to try another chicken dish, make General Tso’s Chicken!

If you tried this Bourbon Chicken or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!

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5 from 19 votes

Bourbon Chicken (Video)

Servings: 4
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Bourbon Chicken cooking in a pan.
Bourbon Chicken is an American-Chinese classic and found in strip malls and food courts everywhere! The sweet, savory glaze over the stir fried chicken is absolutely mouth-watering and so easy to make at home! The best part is that it's done in 30 minutes for a delicious, easy dinner any day of the week.

Equipment

Ingredients 

For the Chicken:

For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 30 ml
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 5 ml
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 5 ml
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 39 g
  • 1/2 cup warm chicken stock or water, 120 ml
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1 g
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon, 30 ml, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 8 g
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 5 ml

Aromatics

  • 1 slice ginger, 1/4 inch (0.6cm) thick and smashed with knife or cleave
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion, chopped

Instructions 

  • Marinate the chicken with soy sauce, white pepper, Shaoxing wine, avocado oil and cornstarch. Mix until incorporated and marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients by combining the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, dark brown sugar, chicken stock or water, bourbon, sesame oil and white pepper and set aside.
  • Heat ¼ cup of neutral oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat until smoking, then add half of the chicken to the pan. Let the chicken sear on one side for 1 minute, then flip and sear the other side until all sides are golden brown. Remove and repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • Bring the wok or pan to medium heat and immediately add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Stir in the bourbon to deglaze the wok, and let cook for 30 seconds to allow the alcohol to cook off, leaving the flavor behind. Next, add the sauce and heat over medium high until bubbling and thickened. The consistency should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Add the chicken and toss it in the sauce until fully coated.
  • Stir fry for another minute and garnish with scallions. Serve with freshly steamed rice and enjoy!

Notes

KEY TIPS:
    • Quality Ingredients: Start with high-quality chicken, preferably boneless, skinless chicken thighs, as they are more flavorful and tender. Use real bourbon whiskey for the sauce, as it can significantly enhance the dish’s flavor.
    • Marinate for Flavor: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 15 minutes to infuse it with the sweet and savory flavors of the marinade.
    • Hot, Quick Cooking: Use a hot skillet or wok for stir-frying the chicken. High heat helps to sear the chicken quickly, keeping it juicy. Don’t overcook the chicken; it should be tender and slightly caramelized.
    • Thicken the Sauce: Do not skip the cornstarch in the sauce! It is key to thickening the sauce and give it the glossy finish that is so delicious!
    • Garnish Creatively: Garnish your bourbon chicken with sesame seeds, chopped green onions, or fresh cilantro. These additions not only add visual appeal but also fresh flavors that complement the dish.
 
STORAGE AND REHEATING
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I like to reheat Bourbon Chicken in a hot wok or pan.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 121kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 1009mgPotassium: 68mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 30IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 17mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Tried this recipe?Mention @cj.eats_ or tag #cjeatsrecipes!

About CJ

I’m a third generation Chinese-American home cook who has always loved cooking & eating! Welcome to my food blog, where you can find trusted, tested, easy & approachable recipes for the everyday home cook that taste delicious! I am so glad you're here!

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Recipe Rating




11 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Rating 5 stars because I forgot to rate in my original comment 🙂

    After eating this dish a couple times for leftovers, I thought it would be good with some peanuts at the end. Of course, not necessary at all.

    Cheers!

  2. Dude…I made an account just to comment on this. Was very good. I wanted veggies without having to make a separate side, so I added red bell pepper and cucumber (stir fried in wok separately), and 1.5x the sauce. Just really good.

    Cheers 🙂

    1. Thank you so much – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! If you could give the recipe 5 stars it would really help out the blog!

  3. Hi CJ! I am loving all of your recipes and I can’t wait to try your Bourbon Chicken! What bourbon do you recommend? Do you prefer bourbon or a bourbon whiskey?

    1. Hi Brooke! A bourbon whiskey is best for this recipe like Jim Beam, which I find to be pretty affordable. Let me know how it turns out!

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you CJ! This is helpful, and I cannot wait to try it! Looks so yummy! We made your copycat Panda Express Chow Mein last night and loved it! Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful recipes.

  4. 5 stars
    One of my friends loves bourbon chicken and I made this recipe for them. They loved it. They said it’s even better then the original. We loved this recipe.