This sticky Bourbon Chicken is reminiscent of the popular take-out dish but made with better for you ingredients for a healthier twist on Asian-inspired fare!
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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Asian-inspired food is MY FAVORITE! There’s something about enjoying a sticky, slightly sweet homemade take-out dish knowing exactly what went into it and that it isn’t going to hurt your stomach later, am I right? Major bonus when the dish is cooked in the Instant Pot for a fuss-free dinner experience!
This recipe was a happy accident – I was throwing ingredients into my Instant Pot for a quick dinner, and the result was better than I could’ve expected! As soon as my husband took a bite, he told me that it tasted exactly like the chicken they used to give samples of at the mall food court – and he was totally right. With a few tweaks, I landed on a perfect bourbon chicken recipe that takes me straight back to my childhood, and comes together in no time!
If you’re looking for another delicious Asian-inspired dinner, these Asian-inspired Lettuce Wraps are a fantastic addition to your weeknight dinner rotation!
What is Bourbon Chicken?
This sticky, slightly sweet, tangy, and (mildly) spicy chicken dish actually originated in New Orleans and was named after the very popular Bourbon Street (not the bourbon whiskey that sets this dish apart from the rest!), but now, it can be found in mall food-courts and take-out Chinese restaurants all over the place!
Here’s what you’ll need in order to whip up this delicious food court staple:
- Chicken Thighs – to start, you’ll need 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Coconut Aminos – the bulk of our sauce is made up of coconut aminos (1 cup to be exact!), though you can totally use soy sauce if you’d prefer. Do note that soy sauce is quite a bit saltier than coconut aminos! Our favorite brand of coconut aminos (Coconut Secret) sells an 8oz bottle, so go ahead and just dump the whole thing in!
- Bourbon – you’ll also need 3 tablespoons of bourbon here – if you’re only planning on cooking with the bourbon, don’t worry about grabbing a fancy bourbon!
- Sweetener – for this recipe, you’ll also need ¼ cup of either coconut sugar, brown sugar, or honey – you choose!
- Chili Garlic Sauce – 1 tablespoon of chili garlic sauce counters the sweetness perfectly and gives this delicious dish a little kick!
- Apple Cider Vinegar – 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar add a bit of acidity to the dish to cut through the rich sauce.
- Sesame Oil – you’ll also need 1 teaspoon of sesame oil – sesame oil is strong, and a little bit goes a long way!
- Cornstarch or Arrowroot Starch – finally, a tablespoon of either cornstarch or arrowroot starch thickens the sauce up beautifully!
How to Make
The moment you’ve all been waiting for, right?! Thanks to the Instant Pot, the process is rather easy! Here’s how you’ll whip up this crowd-pleasing dish:
- Whisk the Sauce – in a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients (coconut aminos, bourbon, sugar, chili garlic sauce, apple cider vinegar, and sesame oil) until fully combined.
- Add the Chicken + Sauce to the Instant Pot – add the chicken thighs to the Instant Pot, pour the bourbon sauce over top, then toss to coat the chicken.
- Set the Instant Pot to Cook – place the lid on the pot (making sure that the pressure valve is set to ‘sealed’), and set the Instant Pot to cook for 18 minutes.
- Release the Pressure + Remove the Chicken – after 18 minutes, manually release the pressure by turning the pressure valve from ‘sealed’ to ‘venting,’ then remove the chicken from the pot, and set it aside.
- Thicken the Sauce – set the pot to ‘saute’ mode, then whisk together the cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) with ¼ cup of water, until there are no lumps. Once the sauce is bubbling, whisk in the cornstarch + water mixture. Let the sauce cook for 2-3 minutes, until it’s thickened, then turn off the heat.
- Shred the Chicken – shred the chicken with two forks, then return it to the pot and give everything a good stir, making sure to fully coat the shredded chicken with the sticky sauce.
- Serve + Enjoy – serve over rice with the veggie of your choice, and enjoy!
How to Serve
We love serving this Bourbon Chicken recipe on top of a bed of white rice, but you can certainly serve yours over brown rice, cauliflower rice (for low carb), or no rice at all, and next to a side of simple steamed or sauteed veggies (broccoli, bok choy, and green beans are all excellent options!). If you want a little extra spice, finish your bowl off with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes!
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! While we love the pressure cooker for a quick dinner, the slow cooker is also a great option for nights when you don’t have the time to fuss with dinner!
To prepare this easy Bourbon Chicken in the slow cooker, simply whisk together the bourbon sauce, then add it to the slow cooker along with the chicken thighs (making sure to coat the chicken). Set the slow cooker on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours, and when it’s finished, remove the chicken and set it aside, then pour the sauce into a pot on the stove over medium-high heat. While you’re waiting for the sauce to simmer, whisk together the cornstarch and water, and once the sauce is simmering, add the cornstarch mixture to the pot! Let the sauce cook for about one minute, until it’s thickened, then turn off the heat, shred your chicken, and add it to the pot with the sauce! Serve and enjoy!
You definitely *can* use breasts instead of thighs, but we really recommend going with thighs if you’re able to. Chicken thighs tend to be a bit more tender, juicy, and flavorful and pair with the sticky, sweet sauce perfectly.
There is! Bourbon actually contributes to the rich flavor in the sauce, so we think it’s a must here. Don’t worry, though, the alcohol in the bourbon reduces and evaporates, making this classic dish one that the whole family will enjoy!
Instant Pot Bourbon Chicken
- 1 cup coconut aminos
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar brown sugar, or honey
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- Set the Instant Pot to ‘saute’ mode and add the coconut aminos, bourbon, coconut sugar, chili garlic sauce, apple cider vinegar, and sesame oil to the pot and whisk to combine.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, to make sure that the alcohol evaporates, then add the chicken and toss to coat. Place the lid on the pot and set to cook for 18 minutes.
- After 18 minutes, manually release the pressure and remove the chicken from the pot. Set aside.
- Set the pot to ‘saute’ mode again, then whisk together the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water, until there are no lumps. Once the sauce is bubbling, whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce is thickened, then turn off the heat.
- Shred the chicken with two forks, then return it to the pot and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve over rice with the veggie of your choice!
- If you are sensitive to spice, reduce the chili garlic sauce to 1-2 teaspoons.
- To use soy sauce in place of coconut aminos, use 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 3/4 cup of water or chicken broth in their place.
- To make in a slow cooker, add all of the sauce ingredients to a slow cooker and whisk to combine, then toss with the chicken, and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Then, remove the chicken from the slow cooker, shred with two forks, and transfer the sauce to a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk together 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch and stir into the boiling sauce. Let cook for about 1 minute, until thickened, then remove from heat.