Is there a Paleo version of Bourbon Chicken?

by (2689) Updated February 10, 2012 at 5:43 PM Created June 29, 2011 at 1:17 PM

I was craving Chinese food last night and I managed to avoid ordering delivery by cooking up this recipe. It was incredibly tasty and a great way to jazz up the boring boneless/skinless chicken breast I had on the menu for dinner. Despite its tastiness, it wasn't long before my stomach was protesting. Some of the ingredients were definitely not Paleo:

Brown sugar


Soy Sauce

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Juice (had none, so I subbed more vinegar)

I plan to keep this recipe around and my thoughts are to replace the brown sugar and ketchup with molasses (still sugary, but a "real" food) and to continue to use the vinegar.

My big concern is the soy sauce. I usually don't worry about it as most recipes I use only call for a splash, but this recipe called for quite a bit (1/3 cup). I used conventional soy sauce. I'm wondering if there is a good soy sauce substitute, or is there a specific brand that anyone knows of that is less processed?

Any other suggestions for substitutions (or alternative bourbon chicken recipes) are welcome!

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2062 · June 29, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Coconut or palm sugar can be substituted for the brown sugar (coconut sugar is mostly inulin, making it low glycemic, with a little more than half the carbohydrates of brown sugar and tastes a great deal like it, as well). Ketchup can be replaced with a mixture that is equal parts tomato paste, apple cider vinegar and honey. The apple juice only serves to sweeten the dish further, so you could probably omit it and not worry about replacing it with anything else, except maybe water if you need to thin the sauce.

As for the soy sauce, I usually buy wheat-free tamari but you can substitute it with coconut aminos if you wish to avoid soy all together - you won't be able to tell the difference in the finished dish. However, it is a specialty item most grocery stores do not carry (I have to buy it at the health-food store) and it cost about 3 times as much as soy sauce.

Edited to add: the coconut sugar is also a specialty item and rather expensive, but it's nice to have on hand for dishes like this that call for small amounts of brown sugar.

1714 · June 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

I just wanted to chime in and ask how can chicken breast be BORING?! There are so many ways to use it - curries, roasts, grilling, etc. You should never be bored with your food!

My current favorite is Chicken Breast cut into a pocket, filled with bacon and natural whole milk mozzarella and topped with some home made marinara. Bake it! Eat it! YUM!

642 · June 29, 2011 at 1:33 PM

Hi Ali! Have you tried the (wheat free) Tamari Soy Sauce or (soy and wheat free) coconut aminos? It might make a difference.

For ketchup you can use just plain strained tomatoes from a can and a little vinegar, or if you have an extra four minutes you can make a paleo friendly ketchup. I have the recipe I use posted on my site.

Lastly, the folks over at Health-Bent.com have a great recipe for Paleo Orange Chicken. I know it is not exactly what you were looking for, but it might hit the spot. I can vouch for it's awesomeness.

That's all I got!

-Ryan Wilder

11555 · February 10, 2012 at 5:43 PM

Tequila Mockingbird*

*May substitute chicken if no mockingbirds available.

15261 · June 29, 2011 at 1:58 PM

The problem with this recipe are that it is low fat and has a sweet sauce. Chicken breasts have almost no flavor nor fat, so the flavor has to come from the condiments, which must be sweet in order to have that "take-out Chinese" style sauce. It is hard (maybe impossible) to make this really Paleo-friendly since it is bound to have insufficient fat and too much sugar.

Curiously, the name of the dish is Bourbon Chicken but there is no bourbon?

You could make this more Paleo by using chicken thighs instead of breasts, cutting out some of the sugar and replacing it with fat. This recipe looks better:


But you really shouldn't have so much sugar in any Paleo dish. Even ketchup is about 25% sugar. When I do a saute-plus-pan-sauce recipe (which is basically what this is), I never add any sugar. I use plenty of shallots, garlic, chilis, onions, herbs, broth, cream, and maybe some wine. The only thing on that list that has meaningful amounts of sugar is the wine which is optional. You should probably look for recipes with those ingredients.

I would not worry too much about a little bit of soy sauce, even though it isn't Paleo, because it provides so much flavor for such a little amount, and doesn't have much sugar.

20462 · June 29, 2011 at 1:34 PM

I think I can get you pretty damn close:

Garlic Ginger Tomato Paste Chili flakes

Unsweetened Apple Juice Whatever you're using for a sugar sub - I use coconut crystals and coconut nectar and in a pinch unsweetened apple sauce. It will give you a nice sweet taste and a thickening texture. Play with the apple and sugars so you don't go too sweet :)

Braggs OR coconut vinegar Instead of the Soy Sauce use coconut aminos Booze Salt - if you need it.. you might.

Would love to hear how it goes, good luck!

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