Instant Pot Bourbon Chicken

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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! 

two beige bowls filled with white rice topped with shredded bourbon chicken with red pepper flakes on a marble surface

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!

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!

Is there bourbon in Bourbon Chicken?

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!

shredded chicken in a glass bowl with a sticky bourbon glaze next to a pot of rice, two beige bowls, and a small white bowl with more sauce on a marble surface

Ingredients

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!

Can I use chicken breast instead of thighs?

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.

a beige bowl filled with white rice and shredded instant pot bourbon chicken with red pepper flakes on top on a marble surface with a linen napkin beside it

How to make Bourbon Chicken

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!

Can this be made in the slow cooker?

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!

two beige bowls filled with white rice and bourbon chicken in front of a bottle of bourbon on a marble surface

How to Serve Bourbon Chicken

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! 

More Asian-Inspired Dinners

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Instant Pot Bourbon Chicken

a beige bowl filled with white rice and shredded instant pot bourbon chicken with red pepper flakes on top on a marble surface with a linen napkin beside it

This bourbon chicken is perfectly sweet, tangy, and comes together in no time in the Instant Pot!

  • Author: Amber Goulden
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 5
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Asian

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. After 18 minutes, manually release the pressure and remove the chicken from the pot. Set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Notes

  • 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.

Keywords: instant pot, pressure cooker, slow cooker, chicken, chicken thighs

 

Comments

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  1. Jenn says:

    This sounds delicious! Do you have a specific brand of Chili Garlic sauce that you prefer? Thanks!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      We use THIS one, Jenn!

  2. Leslie says:

    I have everything to make this today except bourbon. Will it still be good without it?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Yes, it’ll still be good, Leslie!

  3. Allison says:

    Made this last week and it was so good! It lasted a few days and my husband and I found ourselves excited for dinner each night. Definitely adding this to our regular rotation! Out of curiousity, could this be done with pork tenderloin or shoulder?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      So glad you loved it! We haven’t tried it, but I think it’ll work!

  4. Jaimee says:

    Picked up Jack Daniel’s whisky instead of bourbon, can I use that as a substitute for the bourbon? Super excited to make this!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      That’ll work, Jaimee! Enjoy!

  5. Katy says:

    This recipe is great!! I’m not a huge fan of Asian cuisine so I was a little nervous! But this was amazing!! Highly recommend.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      So glad you loved it, Katy! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  6. Jenna says:

    Has anyone tried this recipe w/ a meat alternative, like tofu or tempeh?? Wondering how long you might instapot the protein if subbing the chicken

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      I’m not sure, Jenna…we haven’t tried it! Let us know if you do!

  7. Alison P says:

    This came out soo good!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Awesome! We’re so glad you loved it, Alison!

  8. Jenn says:

    This was delicious! I accidentally used maple flavored bourbon so there was def a strong maple flavor but it was still good!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Yay! Glad you enjoyed it, Jenn!

  9. Anna says:

    Yay, SO good!! Didn’t have chili garlic sauce on hand so just squeezed in some sriracha and garlic powder. So yummy over some spinach and jasmine rice. Thank you!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Oh, great thinking! So glad you enjoyed it, Anna!

  10. Bonnie M says:

    Can you use frozen chicken for this recipe and just increase the cook time?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Frozen chicken will definitely cook just fine, but it’ll likely water down the sauce a little bit!

  11. Maya says:

    So tasty! I made this using Trader Joe’s Chili Onion crunch and a clove a of garlic instead of the Chili Garlic sauce and it was delish! Thank for such an easy, tasty recipe. This will be going in the regular rotation!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Yum! So glad you loved it, Maya!

  12. Robyn says:

    Can we add broccoli florets somehow? If so, cook them separately and add in at end? Or cook in the instant pot?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      I’d go ahead and cook the broccoli separately, Robyn! Enjoy!

  13. Jessica says:

    The flavor on this is amazing but for some reason mine came out SUPER salty. I even used coconut amino (didn’t use soy). I might use water to cut the coconut amino next time!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Oh no! So sorry, Jessica! This dish is definitely on the salty side!

  14. Danielle S says:

    This is amazing, it tastes like there is butter in it. I can’t wait to make it again. I didn’t have a full 2 lbs of chicken thigh but I know what I’ll be buying this weekend. Thank you so much for another great recipe.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      So glad you enjoyed this one, Danielle!! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  15. Rachel says:

    Super easy and delish! I used plain chili sauce and no bourbon and it was still really good.