Bourbon chicken is a favorite for many. For all of you sauce lovers out there, including my daughter Sarah, this saucy bourbon chicken dish will have you swooning over every bite of chicken and sauce-soaked rice.
What is Bourbon Chicken?
Bourbon chicken is a kind of Cajun and Asian hybrid dish that’s evolved over the years in Chinese take-out restaurants and local mall food courts. Recipes vary, but it is most loved for its sweet and sticky sauce and pure comfort food feel.
In fact, bourbon chicken is neither particularly Cajun nor Asian. It seems like a distinctly American creation, fusing multiple cultures in a particular time and place.
Although this bourbon chicken recipe is super-easy to make, there are a few factors that will make your home cooked version especially delicious:
- Don’t ignore the quick marinating process––it’s essential for a juicy and flavorful bourbon chicken.
- Make sure you’re using high enough heat to really sear the chicken, which will give it a nice fried flavor without deep frying.
- Be sure to allow enough time to cook off the alcohol after adding the bourbon.
- Use the sauce to deglaze and “clean” the sides of the wok, where a lot of the flavor is.
- Make enough rice to soak up all that sweet and savory bourbon chicken sauce!
Trust me on this, everyone will gobble up this bourbon chicken, so let’s get into how to make it!
Bourbon Chicken Recipe: Instructions
Start by marinating the chicken. Mix 3 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon soy sauce with the chicken chunks, working it with your hands until the chicken has absorbed all of the liquid. Adding water and soy sauce to the chicken (especially true if using chicken breast) results in a moist and tender chicken experience!
Once the chicken has absorbed the liquid, mix 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into the chicken until well combined and set aside. For more information and preparing chicken for stir fries, see Bill’s post on Chicken velveting 101.
Mix the sauce ingredients by combining the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, dark brown sugar, chicken stock or water, sesame oil and white pepper and set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat until just smoking, and spread the chicken evenly. Let the chicken sear on one side for 1 minute.
Use a metal wok spatula (you can also use a rubber spatula if you can’t use metal utensils on your pan) to turn the chicken and sear another minute. Turn off the heat and move the seared chicken to a plate. Set aside.
Return the wok to medium heat and immediately add the ginger (if using), garlic, and minced onion.
Stir-fry for 20 seconds or until the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn the mixture.
Stir in the bourbon to deglaze the wok, most all of the alcohol will cook off leaving the flavor behind. After 30 seconds or so, pour in the sauce mixture and stir to further deglaze the sides of the wok.
Once the sauce comes to a simmer, add the chicken back to the wok.
Stir until the sauce comes back to a simmer and gradually stir in the cornstarch and water mixture (stir it up first, as the cornstarch may have settled).
Continue to stir and cook until the sauce has thickened enough to coat a spoon.
At this point, you can remove the smashed piece of ginger or warn your guests so there are no surprises! Stir in the scallions.
And serve with steamed white rice!