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Behind the Seasoning: Bourbon Chicken

Behind the Seasoning: Bourbon Chicken

You have probably been offered a free sample of Bourbon chicken while minding your own business in a mall food court. If you’ve ever wondered where the bourbon is in the chicken or where it got its name, you’ve come to the right place. 

Have you ever walked through a mall food court, minding your own business, when a piece of chicken on a toothpick is held enticingly in your path? It was probably Bourbon Chicken. The reason it’s used for samples? It’s sticky, sweet, and irresistible. We suggest you skip the mall and satisfy your mall food court cravings at home instead.

If you’ve ever wondered if it has bourbon in it or exactly how it got its name, you’ve come to the right place. We have all the juicy details of this bold, American chicken dish. 

What is Bourbon Chicken?

Bourbon Chicken. A Spice & Easy with a sweet personality and a smoky past. Also, a misleading name because spoiler: there is no bourbon in it. Bourbon Street, in the heart of the historic French Quarter, is known for its colorful nightlife, celebrated restaurants, live jazz, and legendary parties. It was here, legend says, that a Chinese chef developed a sticky, sweet, and smoky sauced chicken that blended Asian flavor favorites like ginger and sesame with classic Cajun characters like white and black pepper, tomatoes, and garlic. Add a touch of honey sweetness and hickory smoke and you have Savory’s elevated take on the fusion cuisine that is currently being sampled at a mall food court near you.

Buy Bourbon Chicken on the left with Spice & Easy package on the right

What spices and seasonings are in bourbon chicken?

When it comes to bourbon chicken, a lot is going on — in a good way. This Spice & Easy Meal Starter Spice Mix packs a ton of flavor all into one easy mix. The meal starter kit includes a blend of dehydrated ingredients like brown sugar, tomato, honey, Worcestershire Sauce, and and hickory smoke flavoring. Then rounded out with plenty of spices, including sesame seedsgarlic, ginger, black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon. The final product is a blend of flavors that are sweet, spiced, toasty, and umami.

Does bourbon chicken have alcohol in it?

Don’t let the name of the chicken confuse you. The misleading name of the chicken dish doesn’t actually have any bourbon in the recipe. So, what does bourbon have to do with the chicken?

Bourbon chicken is named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which was named after France’s ruling family in 1721, the House of Bourbon, which was named after the historic French province, Bourbonnais. 

That being said, some recipes for bourbon chicken do call for bourbon. Good for them. As a potentially costly and polarizing ingredient, especially for those with kiddos, we chose to forgo the spirits after rigorous recipe testing and customer polling. Add a splash of bourbon if you like, but we (and our trusted recipe testers) think it tastes great as is. 


Bourbon Street Marker. Photo Credit: https://www.frenchquarter.com/bourbon-street/

What is bourbon chicken sauce made of?

With our Spice & Easy mix, we take care of all the hard work. All you have to do is add a few pantry staples to complete the sauce. Water, soy sauce, corn scratch, and vegetable oil complete the recipe to create the sticky and sweet sauce that completes the dish. 

What Does Bourbon Chicken Taste Like?

Bourbon chicken is in a category of its own when it comes to cuisine. It borrows from both Chinese food and traditional Cajun fare. What results is a sauce that is sticky, sweet, and smokey. It’s a mashup that might not seem compatible on paper but wows the tongue with one simple bite. 

Ginger and sesame are the main spices that are Asian flavors, while tomatoes, black pepper, and garlic are highlighted from the Cajun flavors. The sauce is very similar to teriyaki but with peppery and spiced notes to give it a New Orleans twist. 

Is bourbon chicken the same as teriyaki chicken?

The two chicken dishes have a lot of similarities, both sauces use soy sauce as a key ingredient. But, at the end of the day, they are distinctly different. Bourbon chicken is an umami bomb that features sweet, nutty, toasty, and spiced notes. Teriyaki chicken, on the other hand, leans into sweet, tangy, and salty flavors. 

What Can Be Substituted for Bourbon Chicken?

If you find yourself craving a batch of bourbon chicken but are without this Spice & Easy mix, there is no need to worry. Many spices can be blended to replicate a similar flavor profile to the signature dish. Use teriyaki sauce as a base and add spices with Cajun notes, like pepper, chiles, onion, and garlic. Don't forget a bit of tomato paste.

Our Cajun Blackening along with tomato powderhoney powder, and sesame seeds, will also combine well to cover the spice mix if you need a substitute in a pinch. While it may not be exact, it will help satisfy that craving. 

Where and How to Buy Bourbon Chicken Seasoning Mix 

If you head to your local supermarket, you might be able to find a mix for bourbon chicken. If you strike out, your best bet is to make your own spice blend. 

If you want to make it incredibly easy on yourself, your best bet is to get our Bourbon Chicken Spice & Easy — you might as well stock up and save a little money with the 3-pack! This Meal Starter Spice Mix has everything you need to get started on the signature dish. If you’d rather view the Spice & Easy blends in person, our store locator feature can guide you to where you can view our products on the shelves. 

How To Make Bourbon Chicken 

Making bourbon chicken the star of your meal isn’t hard when you are following the lead of the Spice & Easy mix. The mix does all the heavy lifting, combining all the key flavors for you. All you need to do is mix water and soy sauce in a bowl with the spice packet, toss the chicken in some cornstarch (our secret for making it a little extra crispy), and cook the chicken in a neutral oil. It’s so simple that you’ll wonder why you ever ordered this dish when you could have made it fresh. 

Love the flavor of bourbon chicken but don’t love chicken? Not to worry! The sauce can easily be used on any type of protein, like shrimp or steak. It can easily be made vegetarian-friendly by using the mix for cauliflower or tofu.

But don't stop there...Turn our Bourbon Chicken Spice & Easy into another takeout favorite by adding orange juice to our Bourbon Chicken Spice 'n Easy! *Poof* Like magic, you have a homemade version of Orange Chicken. For a true take-out experience, we suggest serving with fried rice and a side of steamed veggies.

What To Serve With Bourbon Chicken

Bourbon chicken doesn’t need much to make the meal complete. Serve with rice and veggies. But if you want to create a takeout-inspired feast, these are some of our recommendations to make the meal truly mouthwatering. 

  • Stir-Fry Egg Roll - These crispy egg rolls are a must-have meal starter. The fresh vegetables will add a lightness to the completed dish. 
  • Cauliflower Rice - Lighten up the meal with this rice alternative. It's a great way to secretly add more vegetables to the meal. 
  • Spiced Vegetable Lo Mein - The traditional noodle dish is a great companion to the sweet and spiced chicken. 
  • Sweet Ginger Pork Dumplings - Surprise your tastebuds. The notes of ginger will flow seamlessly from the chicken to the dumplings. 
  • Honey Sesame Fortune Cookies - End your meal on the right note with our take on a fortune cookie - plus, you get to make up your own fortunes!

Honey Sesame Fortune Cookies with black and white sesame seeds

Have you made our Bourbon Chicken? Please submit a review (especially if your family loved it!)

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