No-Marinade Bourbon Chicken Recipe

Prepared bourbon chicken in bowl.

Bourbon chicken is a Chinese-Cajun dish featuring fried chicken in a tangy, salty sauce. Some renditions of this dish actually have bourbon in the sauce, but this bourbon chicken recipe does not. It uses rice wine and vinegar — more common pantry ingredients that produce an incredibly delicious result.

What’s bourbon chicken?

There aren’t too many dishes that blend elements of Chinese and Cajun cuisine. This one is rumored to have originated on New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street.

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Today, you can find bourbon chicken on Chinese takeout menus. It’s known for having a tangy, salty, spicy, and somewhat addictive sauce. My husband, who notoriously doesn’t care for Chinese food, can’t get enough of this recipe.

Bourbon chicken recipe.
©Blog Chef.

Ingredients for bourbon chicken at home

Here are the ingredients you need to make this fabulous bourbon chicken recipe at home:

  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
Ingredients for the sauce in Bourbon Chicken recipe.
©Blog Chef.

As you can see, except for the rice wine and the chicken, most of these items are pantry staples.

Substitution options

Meat. You could make this recipe with a leaner cut of pork. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs would also work, though they are harder to cut up into even chunks.

Oil. I use avocado oil for frying, but it’s a little spendy if you don’t shop at a club store. Try vegetable oil or canola oil instead.

Cornstarch. You could omit the cornstarch and skip this step entirely. You’ll miss out on a bit of texture on the chicken and the sauce, but the flavors won’t be affected.

Ginger. You can swap in 3/4 teaspoon dried ginger in lieu of fresh ginger. Know that you will lose a bit of that fresh ginger tang. If you go this route, promise me this: You’ll buy fresh ginger on your next grocery run. Cut it up into 1-inch pieces, put them in a resealable bag, and keep it in the freezer. When you have a recipe that calls for fresh ginger, pull out a piece and let it thaw for 5 minutes.

Rice wine. If you don’t have rice wine, try apple juice or apple cider instead.

Sugar. Coconut sugar can easily stand in for brown sugar here.

Bourbon. You don’t need bourbon, but if you want bourbon…add 1 tablespoon to the sauce and reduce the water measurement by the same amount.

Bourbon chicken recipe step by step

As far as Chinese dishes go, this one’s pretty simple.

1. Make the sauce

Sauce for bourbon chicken in a bowl.
©Blog Chef.

To start, mince a clove of garlic and a small chunk of fresh ginger. Then mix these ingredients into a bowl:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

2. Prep the chicken

Cubed chicken breast for bourbon chicken on a cutting board.
Yep, that’s my dog in the background. She likes chicken. ©Blog Chef.

Now, cut the chicken breast into 1-inch chunks. I’d say “cubes” but that’s pretty much impossible — so chunks are fine. The important thing is to make them generally consistent in size so they cook evenly.

Next, sprinkle the cornstarch over the top of the chicken pieces. Stir the pieces gently to distribute the cornstarch. This gives the chicken an extra bit of texture and thickens the sauce.

3. Fry the chicken

Frying chicken pieces in a wok.
©Blog Chef.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the chicken pieces until they are lightly browned on all sides. They do not need to be fully cooked, since they’ll simmer in the sauce in the next step.

Remove the chicken pieces to a tray lined with paper towels to drain.

4. Simmer chicken in the sauce

Bourbon chicken cooking in wok in sauce.
©Blog Chef.

Turn the heat under your wok down to medium and add the sauce mixture to the hot pan. It should come to a boil quickly. Turn the heat down again, move the fried chicken pieces back to the wok, and let the whole thing simmer for 10 minutes.

Before you dive in, do a quick check to ensure the chicken is fully cooked. You can jab a meat thermometer in there or cut one of your larger chicken pieces open. You’re looking for a temperature of 165°F (74°C) and clear juices inside the meat.

Prepared bourbon chicken in bowl.
©Blog Chef.

Serve the chicken and sauce over white rice, thin spaghetti noodles, or rice noodles.

Yield: 4 servings

Bourbon Chicken Recipe

Prepared bourbon chicken recipe in bowl.

This is a bourbon-free version of the Chinese takeout favorite, bourbon chicken. It's an easy dish to prepare -- you mix up the sauce, fry the chicken, then simmer for 10 minutes and you're done.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

Instructions

    1. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
    2. Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the top. Toss the pieces gently to distribute the cornstarch.
    3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in your wok. Fry the chicken pieces in batches until lightly browned. They don't need to be fully cooked; they'll cooking in the next step. Drain the chicken pieces on paper towels and set aside.
    4. Pour the sauce mixture into the hot wok and bring it to a boil. Add chicken pieces back to the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
    5. Serve with rice or noodles.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 528Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 193mgSodium: 1403mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 0gSugar: 16gProtein: 72g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

More Chinese takeout favs

If you like bourbon chicken, you may also like these:

Chinese Honey Chicken Recipe
Chinese Chicken Skewers Recipe
Slow Cooker Chicken with Cashews Recipe

29 thoughts on “No-Marinade Bourbon Chicken Recipe”

  1. Bobby, I’ve bookmarked your recipe. It looks delicious and how do you take these lovely pictures, I want to jump into the bowl.

  2. This is a different take on the recipe I’ve done before, but nonetheless it looks nom nom. Suggestion to you if you ever feel like using. Using boneless skinless chicken thighs (they just taste better imo) and just cook them in pan with a little oil, little burned bits are great. Make the sauce as you have, and dump chicken pieces in. All the bourbon chicken types I’ve had in malls have never been fried first; just my two cents.

  3. what?! no alcohol. jokes. this looks great. and there’s cider vinegar in it – wow. the flavours must be immense. gotta try it some time. x

  4. Oh, my children love the Bourbon Chicken that they give samples of in the mall’s Food Court. I’m gonna give this a try especialy as it seems so easy.

    I’m sure to be a hero after making this, thanks!
    ~ingrid

  5. Ivy – Thanks for the compliments on my pictures. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

    Tommy – Not a bad idea. I have wanted to use thigh meat for along time. I’m thinking about making some general tso’s with it.

    diva – It does have amazing flavor, you will enjoy it!

    ingrid – Great, let me know how it turns out!

  6. Yet another great dish! I made it last night and it was very good. I love the tangy flavor the apply cider vinager gave it. Thanks again!

  7. Hey, me and my lil bro are like IN LOVE with bourbon chicken! so I just have a question about this recipe: How many servings does this rcipe make?

  8. I made this tonight for dinner and my 4 year old daughter just LOVED it! She thought it tasted just as delicious as the one at the mall that she loves. Thanks for an easy and tasty recipe!

  9. This was fabulous I have Gerd which keeps me from eating certain things because of the spices and such but this was awesome did not bother me at all thank you for a recipe I can make thats not tasteless!!

  10. Saw the recipe on the net and got very excited about making it. My husband and I had great bourbon chicken at the mall. And I said that I was going to try to make it. The recipe looks very easy and. Can’t wait to try it!!!!

  11. Samantha – That would depends on things such as prices and how many of these ingredients you already have. Assuming you have none, I would say no more than $15.

  12. It sounds like a winner! Do you use grated ginger or ginger powder? Thanks to anyone who can answer this question!

  13. I tried this. It was good but not great. It did not taste anything like the one in the mall that I go to

  14. This was wonderful! We had white rie and steemed brocolli with it. I thought it was pretty spicy, but not bad enough to be the only thing you taste. cut the red pepper a bit if you think it will be too spicy for you. I also used the ginger puree in the jar you keep in the frige, and it was great! I’m definently keeping this on the normal rotation. The best part is that the only thing I needed to get was the apple juice, and the hubby picked that up on the way home from work!

    Thank you!!!

  15. Shilan and Montese

    My hubby and I made this together and it was great!! Plan on using this again, Thanks for sharing!

  16. Add some fried and stemmed veggies and your all set! I will try this and add fried rice and steemed veggies im sure it will turn out great.
    one question why no bourbon in it?

  17. I have bookmarked this recipe. I have always wanted to try making it myself. This will be dinner one night.

  18. I made this recipe for the first time last night. It was really AMAZING. A definite new favorite in our household. Thanks!

  19. I made this today for the first time!It came out perfect!Thanks for this recipe.It is a new FAV!

  20. A lot more “soy” than my mall’s bourbon chicken tends to taste. I’m considering cutting the soy sauce and maybe adjusting up the sugar? The sauce in my part of the us is almost maple syrup-y

  21. I substituted brown sugar for Splenda’s version as I’m type I diabetic. I did add 1/4 cup Bourbon and cooked out the alcohol. I rarely make the same dish twice or the same way, but everyone loved this so I’ll keep it as a favorite and return when we wish to have it again.

  22. In Louisiana we know this dish as ”Bourbon St. Chicken”, its was and still is made and served by the better street food carts in New Orleans during our Mardi Gras Season.

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