This Crockpot Bourbon Chicken is a homemade version of food court Chinese! This healthier recipe is made with lean chicken and a sweet, sticky brown sugar bourbon glaze.
I don’t know about you, but I still have distinct memories of eating Chinese food in the food court at the mall before spending my allowance at Forever 21 — I know you’re with me. My go to? Bourbon chicken! It’s sticky, sweet, and just overall delicious…especially with perfectly cooked rice. Today’s recipe is a healthier version and bonus: it’s made in the slow cooker. I promise you, you’ll love this crockpot bourbon chicken even more than the kind you had at the mall!
What is bourbon chicken?
Bourbon chicken is a popular dish usually found at Cajun or Chinese restaurants that gets its name from Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It also gets its name, because it contains bourbon, but if you’d prefer to keep this more kid friendly, I talk about substitutions below.
Bourbon chicken is made with chicken and a sweet, sticky sauce that’s flavored with honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, bourbon, and more!
This take out fake out recipe contains ingredients that you likely have in your pantry already!
- Soy Sauce – gives the sauce a savory, umami flavor to cut the sweetness from the honey and brown sugar. If you’re gluten free, replace with equal parts coconut aminos or tamari.
- Ketchup – adds a bright, sweet flavor. Use a no added sugar variety to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.
- Bourbon – is an American whiskey, distilled from a mash made primarily of corn. Bourbon has notes of vanilla and caramel which adds to the sweetness and flavor of the sauce. Any bourbon can be used in this recipe, so use your favorite!
- Honey and Brown Sugar – our sweeteners that make the sauce sticky and perfectly sweet. Honey adds floral notes, while the brown sugar has a rich, molasses taste.
- Garlic – adds a subtle kick of nutty flavor. I love pre-minced jarred garlic for ease!
- Red Pepper Flakes – gives the sauce a kick of heat to cut the sweetness from the honey and brown sugar. Omit to make more kid friendly. If you don’t have red pepper flakes, but want some spice, try sriracha instead.
- Chicken Breast – use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Chicken breasts are used to keep this recipe lean, but thighs are often cheaper and more tender.
- Cornstarch and Apple Juice – whisked together to form a slurry which helps thicken the sauce. A slurry is typically made with water, but I love the additional flavor and sweetness juice adds.
How to make
This crockpot recipe takes 15 minutes to prep!
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together soy sauce, ketchup, bourbon, honey, brown sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes then pour half into a greased crockpot.
- Place in chicken breasts, cover with remaining sauce, then cover and cook on HIGH FOR 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-8 hours.
- In a small bowl, whisk apple juice together with cornstarch until smooth.
- Remove the chicken from the crockpot then slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce until well combined.
- Cut the chicken into chunks, stir back into the crockpot, then cover and cook for another 30 minutes before serving.
Does bourbon chicken contain alcohol?
Yes, but if you’d like to keep this free from alcohol (or simply don’t have bourbon on hand), I list bourbon substitutions below. Keep in mind, some of the alcohol may burn off in the crockpot, although we don’t know how much.
What can you substitute for bourbon in a chicken recipe?
Although I do love the kick of warm spice that bourbon adds to the sauce, there are a few other things you can use that a provide a similar flavor:
- Another liquor. Try rum, cognac, brandy, whisky, etc. Although each contribute slightly different flavors, they all add the same warm sweetness that comes from bourbon.
- Juice. If you’re avoiding liquor altogether, you can use apple juice (my first choice), orange juice, or pineapple juice instead.
Can you make bourbon chicken on the stove?
Yes! If you’re shorter on time, whipping up bourbon chicken on the stove is quick and easy:
- Cube chicken and toss with 1/2 the cornstarch. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, then sauté chicken for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through, to brown. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Whisk together soy sauce, ketchup, bourbon, honey, brown sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer on the stove.
- Stir chicken back in, then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is cooked through. Stir regularly.
- In a small bowl, whisk together remaining cornstarch and juice then add that into the sauce. Cook until the sauce has thickened to your liking.
- Serve and enjoy!
What to serve with crockpot bourbon chicken
I love to serve bourbon chicken over a bed of rice and with a side dish or two to bulk up the meal!
How to store
Leftover bourbon chicken will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then microwave or warm on the stove before serving.
Crockpot Bourbon Chicken
Equipment for this recipe
- 1/2 cup soy sauce use coconut aminos or tamari to make gluten free
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup apple or orange juice
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together soy sauce, ketchup, bourbon, honey, brown sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes until well combined.
- Pour half into a greased 6 quart crockpot.
- Place chicken breasts on top, then cover with remaining sauce.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-8 hours.
- Remove chicken and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk apple or orange juice and cornstarch together until smooth, then slowly whisk into the sauce until well combined.
- Cut the chicken into chunks and stir back into crockpot.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for an additional 30 minutes.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary, then serve over rice and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.