Bourbon Chicken

Update 07/2014: You know a recipe is a real winner when it’s still being made and enjoyed six years later! I posted this recipe in the first year of food blogging (seems like a lifetime ago) and we still make it all the time. It’s so delicious, you won’t believe it takes less than 30 minutes to throw together.

It is a complete lifesaver on those weeknights when you have neither time nor energy but hungry mouths are still clamoring for dinner to get on the table ASAP (sigh, no rest for the hardworking home cook).

Oh, and PS, there is no bourbon in the recipe so no worries if that had you concerned (don’t ask me why it is named what it is; I don’t ask questions when something is as fantastic as this meal). The chicken is slightly crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside and the sauce is the a wonderful balance of sweet, tangy and a teensy bit of spice.

I’ve gushed before about Brian’s adoration of his beloved sweet and sour chicken. If it is any indication, this much faster saucy-chicken-over-rice-type-of-meal takes a very close second. Or in other words: bourbon chicken rocks.

I’ve updated the recipe just slightly with changes we’ve made over the years (subbing in chicken broth for the apple juice and water and a few other minor changes) but overall it’s pretty much the same ridiculously yummy stuff.

Bourbon Chicken

What To ServeFresh fruit or green salad
Buttery Peas with Thyme
SimpleΒ Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Bourbon Chicken

Yield: Serves 6

Bourbon Chicken


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or coconut oil
  • Cornstarch for dusting the chicken pieces
  • Sauce:
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apple juice + 1/2 cup water (or sub out the apple juice and water for 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional - helps thicken the sauce a little bit more)


  1. In a gallon-sized ziploc bag, toss the chicken pieces with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch.
  2. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
  3. In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Cook half of the chicken in a single layer for 30 seconds or so on each side until golden brown but not all the way cooked through. Lift the chicken pieces out of the skillet to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken, also removing it to a plate.
  4. Wipe any excess oil out of the skillet and return it to medium heat. Pour in the sauce and add the chicken pieces. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly (don't overcook the chicken or it might be dry).
  5. Serve the chicken and sauce over hot, cooked rice or quinoa.
Recipe Source: adapted from Blog Chef

95 Responses to Bourbon Chicken

  1. […] source: Lightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and A Dash of […]

  2. Melinda D says:

    From one Mel to another, seriously, thank you for this recipe!! Made it for dinner tonight. I’m pregnant and nothing has tasted good for weeks!! This was absolutely delicious and everyone loved it, and so easy!

  3. Heidi Simon says:

    Hi Mel! I love that this recipe is super easy and yummy. I was wondering if this meal could me formatted into a slow cooker meal. If so, do you have any recommendations as to how to do that? Thank you!!!!

  4. Ali says:

    Yum! We love the sweet and sour chicken recipe but I rarely make it because it is time consuming. With 4 little ones around a quick dinner is a must. This was delicious. My kids all gobbled theirs up and my picky eater asked for seconds. Thank you!!

  5. Missy says:

    My family loves this recipe!! We have made it every other week ever since I found it. Thanks, Mel. Love your site!

  6. Audrey says:

    We love this recipe and have been making it for some time! I was so glad you suggested the chicken broth in place of the apple juice. We always liked it, but that little change made it even tastier!

  7. Melissa says:

    My family LOVES your sweet and sour chicken recipe, but during the week it’s kind of too much to do. I saw this recipe on your site and decided to try it last night and it was GREAT! My whole family loved it and although it is a “stand-alone” recipe, the tastes were very similar to the sweet and sour chicken we love. I will be making this again for sure!

  8. Amy says:

    I am a recipe following gal, to a fault. About how much cornstarch do you put in the bag?


  9. Nicholl says:

    Excellent recipe! My husband told me to hold onto the recipe. Similar to sweet and sour chicken. Next time I make it I will take out the crushed pepper because although the kids liked it they thought it was a little spicy.

  10. Karen says:

    This was so delicious! I’ve got the pickiest 7 year old in the world and he was so upset that I made this for dinner. He said, “I hope this isn’t too gross” as he put the fork in his mouth. Wish I had a picture because instead of gagging, his eyes bugged out of his head and he exclaimed, “mmmmm!” Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. ashley says:

    SCORE!!! made this tonight and it was a total hit. my husband’s exact words: “out of all the chicken-y dishes you make, this is by far my favorite.” this will for sure be worked into the normal rotation. thanks!

  12. Ter says:

    You’re right Mel, this recipe just keeps on giving! My goodness, it rivals any Asian restaurant bourbon chicken except that it is fresher and much healthier. I finally found an Asian recipe that isn’t too difficult or time consuming, and tastes great, thanks to Mel. Everyone loves this and I actually follow the recipe exactly and it turns out perfect. Have with rice and broccoli, or mixed veggies. My son, a big city foodie wanted the recipe even. Next to try is your famous sweet and sour chicken. Thanks so much for all your hard work on this blog Mel!

  13. bambie says:

    I tried it and yes it was a hit! I had to eat less because my daughter asked if she can have left over for her lunch to bring to school! I doubled the sauce and extend the chicken in the oven for few minutes to brown it a bit more! Glad I found this site and will be trying more of your tested recipes πŸ™‚ thank you mel πŸ™‚

  14. Melody says:

    Loved this recipe. I didn’t have apple juice so I used bourbon I had left over from another recipe, it was amazing!! I will make this again and double/triple the recipe for leftovers!

  15. Jennifer says:

    This is a great recipe. My whole family loves it.

  16. Amanda Z says:

    This was delicious! It was sweet with a kick, one of my favorite flavor combinations. I served it over rice and could have just poured the sauce over more rice and devoured it, the sauce was so good! This was on par with your amazing sweet and sour chicken, thanks mel!

  17. Jana Mae says:

    This was amazing! My husband loved it, too. We’ve been married about a year, and there’s only a handful of “keeper” recipes that he raves about. Happily, most of them are from you, so I give you the credit. πŸ™‚ Thank you for all of the hard work and the delicious recipes. This really was so easy and yummy (and filling! My husband is 6’8″ and sometimes it takes a lot of food to fill him!) πŸ™‚ Thank you, Mel.

  18. Shannon says:

    Oh. My. Goodness! I made this for dinner tonight and it is amazing! And it’s so easy! I can see why it’s one of your husband’s favorite. It’s one of mine now too!

  19. Libby says:

    Woooow! This recipe was SO easy and so good! I’m a college student, so I’m always looking for recipes that are relatively inexpensive and quick to whip up. Didn’t have apple juice, but the sauce was delicious anyway! I served it with rice and steamed veggies. The roommates will love it. πŸ™‚

  20. Scout says:

    I had been so anxious to try this, but sadly I didn’t love it. My sauce was quite soupy even after simmering much longer than suggested. I added a little cornstarch at the end but was hesitant to add too much ~ it still looked nothing like your photo. Where’d I go wrong? Without a thickner, the only thing I can think to do is boil it away longer. Simmering for 10 minutes didn’t cut it.

    • Mel says:

      Scout – not sure what you did wrong. Sorry it didn’t work! Cornstarch, to thicken, needs to be dissolved in a cold liquid first before being added to the sauce to simmer so you might try that next time.

  21. Jamy says:

    Madeline, I don’t ever put salt and pepper on it. Not that I’m Mel, but I think it tastes AMAZING without it! πŸ˜‰ Hope that helps. Mel, sorry to step on your toes! Just made this again after not making it for about a year. WHY have I not been making it more?! hahaha

  22. Madeline says:

    I am making the Bourbon Chicken tonight. I have a question for you.. Do you put salt & pepper on the chicken before dusting it with the cornstarch?

    Thanks, Madeline

  23. SBakes says:

    Another home-run hit! My hubby and all three kids loved this meal as they do all of your recipes that I’ve tried so far. It was a little more time consuming and messy than I would prefer, but it was definitely worth it! This would also be great with a mix of Asian-style veggies. A keeper for sure. Thanks, Mel.

  24. Kelley says:

    We had this for dinner tonight and it was delish! After frying the chicken I sauteed a ton of veggies (broccoli, carrot, celery, onion, green peppers) then added the chicken and the sauce in and it was great! I love your sweet n sour chicken but this recipe is my new “restaurant chicken” fav because it was so easy! Thanks for another delicious recipe Mel! Don’t know what I would do without this blog…pretty sure my family would starve πŸ™‚

  25. Salem says:

    So I don’t have apple juice, but I do have everything else. Do you think it would still be okay if I used applesauce instead of apple juice? πŸ™‚

  26. Audrey says:

    This was the best thing I have ever made! No joke. My kids were freaking out they liked it so much. Next time I’m doubling the recipe because it was gone in a flash. Thanks so much for your website. It’s been just what I needed to get out of my cooking rut.

  27. Bonny says:

    This was soooo good! It was a little spicy for the kids but it was the perfect amount of spice for me! I made a few substitutions, I didn’t have any apple juice, so I used juicy juice tropical juice and I used coconut vinegar instead of cider vinegar. It turned out amazing!

  28. Stacy says:

    This was really good!! We used boneless skinless chicken thighs like they use at the Cajun place in the mall, and it turned out perfect! We doubled the recipe, and had more than enough for dinner, my lunch tomorrow, and a portion for someone on leftover night. Hubby ate 2 helpings, and my girls gobbled it up too. Definitely a keeper…thanks!!

  29. Heidy says:

    This was another hit at my house! Next time, I think I will make more sauce, but the flavor was great!

  30. Katie says:

    Made this for dinner tonight! It was SO good!! I can’t wait to make it again πŸ™‚

  31. Aimee says:

    Mel, Again thank you for another great recipe! This is one of my favorite recipes to make for dinner. I make this again and again without ever getting “burned out” on it.

  32. Hannah says:

    Ok, so this was unbelievable! We had eaten chicken with this same name in a food court and so we eager to see if it had the same flavor… it did! We will be making this again and again!

  33. […] Bourbon Chicken Chicken and Broccoli Chicken and Black Bean Green Enchilada Rice Bake […]

  34. […] Feb Last week we stuck to our meal plan for the most part. TheΒ  Bourbon Chicken was yummy as usual. The chili was a disaster so we ended up having Subway. The Round steak was just […]

  35. […] 8 – Bourbon Chicken and rice (family […]

  36. […] Jan Last week’s meals were pretty good. The winner, however, has to be the bourbon chicken. Hands down. So good! It is definitely a […]

  37. Amanda says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was fantastic! We all loved it. Definitely a keeper! Thanks for sharing!

  38. Dana says:

    Mel, just made this bourbon chicken and it was a delight! Ben loved it, too. Thanks for sharing!! I may never have to go to the mall again! πŸ™‚

  39. […] Breakfast – Banana Oat Pancakes Dinner – Bourbon Chickenwith rice and steamed […]

  40. sara says:

    Mel, I LOVE this chicken!!! So delicious and easy – I was disappointed that I didn’t double the recipe – my husband ate all the leftovers! I posted this recipe tonight and linked back here. Thanks for another great one!!

  41. Melanie says:

    My husband loved it tonight and the kids ate it (big win)! I think I might have overcooked the chicken a tad (bad habit) but I will definitely make it again!

  42. Sonya says:

    I made this on saturday and it was a huge hit..Thank you very much for the great recipe!!!

  43. Sally says:

    The flavor was great. The cornstarch fell of my chicken though, that was weird. Anyhow, the fam loved it. PS. I made the sauce, minced the garlic and all in an awesome little tool, the Chef’n VeggieChop. My mom works at WS, so we get a lot of great new stuff. It’s so awesome!

  44. Melanie says:

    Kristi – thanks for letting me know you loved this. It sounds like next time doubling it will be key!

  45. Kristi says:

    Loved it! Made too little of it, will not make the same mistake again!

  46. Melanie says:

    The Conrad Family – glad you liked this fast weeknight meal. Thanks for letting me know!

  47. The Conrad Family says:

    We made this last night and it so yummy! Quick, easy, and good enough that even the picky “kid” eaters gave it a thumbs-up!! Thanks for the recipe…we will definitely be making this again!

  48. Joie de vivre says:

    Looks delicious and easy!

  49. Nicole says:

    I tried this recipe on Monday and my sister is next to try it. VERY tasty and I loved the pinch of red pepper flavor because it added just enough spice to taste good but not overpower the toddler. Thanks again Mel!

  50. Melanie says:

    Katypi – what a sweet comment! Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know that you enjoy stopping by.

  51. Marge says:

    This looks wonderful and easy! I can’t wait to try it.

  52. Melanie says:

    D – I’m getting a lot of comments lately about how all the husbands have given approval on recipes. I guess that’s what must count quite a bit, right (I know it does in my house)?? I’m glad your husband approved!

  53. Patsyk says:

    I love quick and easy dishes like this one!

  54. D says:

    My husband told me I could make this ANYTIME. He rarely says that. Very yummy and easy. THANK YOU!

  55. Cara says:

    Yum! We are big fans of chicken and rice dishes at our house too! I love bourbon chicken, but we don’t have bourbon on hand, so this will be perfect!

  56. grace says:

    i think it’s an unwritten rule that one must overeat on thanksgiving. if it’s not, it should be. πŸ™‚lovely chicken dish, melanie. your fowl is not foul. πŸ™‚

  57. Marisa says:

    My hubby will love this! thanks!!! You have such good chicken and rice recipes on here!

  58. Maria says:

    You can’t go wrong with quick and easy. A perfect weeknight meal!

  59. Amy and David Ziehl says:

    I am totally drooling! ( sick I know but true!)

  60. Payne Family says:

    I was just searching for something quick, that used rice (I had some leftover). Anyway this was so good. I seasoned the chicken just slightly with salt and pepper, it was delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

  61. Melanie says:

    Tammy – this is such an easy weeknight meal – I’m so glad you liked it!

  62. Jenn says:

    I made this tonight for dinner. It was really good and very, very similar to what you find in the mall–mmm.Now that’s the short story. Here’s my long story. I meant to have this yesterday for dinner, but my husband ended up at a work dinner. So, I put the chicken (uncooked thighs cut into pieces because they use thigh meat in the mall) into the sauce and let it marinade until I got it out for dinner tonight. I got it out tonight, put the marinade and chicken into a pan and let it cook. Well, then the sauce didn’t look so great, so I removed the chicken from the pan, put it on a cookie sheet and broiled it a little (to cook off some more of the fat from the thigh pieces) while I made up another batch of the sauce. Well, the sauce wasn’t getting thickened, so I started basting the chicken with the sauce. Well, the end result was perfect. My husband is mmm-ing as I type. So, your sauce recipe is perfect, and even with my cooking detour the chicken turned out great. Thanks for the recipe–sorry that I turned it upside-down (because I don’t like it when I go to find a recipe and the commenters turned the recipe around into something completely different).

  63. Julianne says:

    Well, this looks like your other amazing, wonderful, tasty, perfect chicken dish (your husband’s favorite), so I really want to try this. My only problem is the ginger — the last time I ate some and then nursed Sam, he woke up the next morning with a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE diaper rash. I wonder how it would taste if I left it out…?

  64. Laura says:

    I may have to make this this week. But I think I’ll do it the cheater way and use frozen popcorn chicken.

  65. Melanie says:

    Payne Family – glad you found this recipe in time to use up some leftovers. I love it when that happens. Thanks for letting me know you liked it!

  66. Tammy says:

    Mmm! I just made this dish tonight and really enjoyed it – I’ll definitely be adding it my “rotation.” Thanks!

  67. Melanie says:

    Hey Krista – thanks for commenting. I’m glad you like this recipe. It makes a frequent appearance at our house, too.

  68. Melanie says:

    Kali – you are so nice! Thank you for your comment, it definitely made my day. The french bread rolls and wild rice soup are two of my favorite recipes so I’m glad you like them, too. And of course I don’t mind at all that you check this blog out! That’s what it is here for. Thanks again for checking in.

  69. Woodstock Family says:

    You have to try this one, definitely one of our favorites! It makes it on my meal list every week!

  70. Kali says:

    I LOVE your blog. Your recipes are SO delicious and I usually have all the ingredients already! My fav is the French Bread Rolls. I have made these rolls five times in the last two weeks! I have also made the Chicken Wild Rice Soup three times! Thanks for having such a GREAT blog! Hope it’s ok that I look!

  71. Melanie says:

    Jenn – I don’t mind at all that you adapted the recipe and tweaked it to fit your timeline. I’m glad it still worked with a few little twists and that is a great idea to use chicken thighs – I bet they added great flavor. Thanks for adding all the detail in your comment about what you did – I think it is helpful!

  72. PheMom says:

    “Welcome to Melanie’s blog. 101 ways to make the most fantastic, simple and delicious recipes.” New tagline. I’m just saying. That is all.Hope your Thanksgiving was awesome!

  73. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – thanks for your comment and compliment. This is a family favorite for us, too. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you liked it!

  74. Frieda says:

    We are big fans of chicken and rice combos…this will definitely be on our list to try!

  75. Deborah says:

    Well, I love the sweet and sour chicken, so I’m sure I’ll love this one too!!

  76. Katypi says:

    Just stopping by to say I love your blog, and your recipes…oh, wow! They all look so good. I really enjoy reading your narratives; it makes me want to try them all! Yumm!!

  77. Erin says:

    This looks delicious! I’m definitely going to have to make this!

  78. Leigh Anne says:

    Can’t wait to try this. We love chicken with rice in almost all forms at our house too!! I was needing a little inspiration for this week’s meal plan and I found it! Thanks Melanie!

  79. Anonymous says:

    It reminded me of something I would eat at a restaurant. It was so good! Thankyou. I must have cooked my sauce a little longer because it looked darker and thicker than the one you showed in your picture. This definitely is a keeper.

  80. Tharon & Alicia says:

    We had this the other night and mmm… it was so good. The leftovers went with my husband for lunch and I was sad there was none for me. LOL!

  81. Melanie says:

    Alicia – glad you liked this chicken recipe. I hear you on having to give up the leftovers for the husband. I’m proud of you for letting go. πŸ™‚

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