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Is there a Paleo version of Bourbon Chicken?

by (2682)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:25 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

Ketchup

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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20908 · February 10, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Inulin is just a long polymer of fructose. Like starch is a long polymer of glucose. Don't be fooled and think low-glycemic automatically equals healthy.

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942 · June 30, 2011 at 4:05 AM

I agree. I don't understand people who have a long list of foods that have become tasteless boring swill since they became Paleo. It does take skill to cook breasts.

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12174 · June 29, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Wow, tons of practical substitute ideas. :)

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Yum, that sounds delicious! Chicken is boring to me UNLESS I dress it up, whereas beef I could eat pretty much on its own and be happy every time. I actually love roasted chicken, but didn't want to wait on it. I have yet to make curries, but when I've had them before they are wonderful. Do you have a good curry recipe?

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 6:21 PM

Good point. I usually pound the chicken thin, slather on cheese w/ herbs, then wrap it up with bacon. I am a bit nervous about using cream in a pan b/c I am very prone to burning things, but it sounds delicious!

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10919 · June 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

you can buy palm and coconut sugar on the cheap at asian markets.

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15385 · June 29, 2011 at 3:25 PM

When I cook lean meats like chicken breast or pork loin, I either wrap them in bacon, stuff them with herbs/vegetables/butter/cheese, or prepare a high-fat sauce such as a pan sauce with cream or pesto. If you have Paleo-friendly breading such as crushed flax seeds or panko, you can batter them in whole milk, eggs, and the crunchy stuff and fry them in butter and olive oil, then top them with fresh lemon juice. The primary point is to use good fats for flavor instead of sugars.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051
15229 · June 29, 2011 at 2:37 PM

yes, i love your blog, too jan! i follow you on facebook and always look forward to new posts.

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20519 · June 29, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Hi! Not sure where you live but try Whole Foods and also your natural food store or food co-op should be able to hook you up. You have to troll the shelves tho.. it's probably going to be where you least expect it which is NOT the vinegar section :)

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Yes, it is odd that this recipe has no bourbon in it, but I had no bourbon in the house, so it worked out. 8) Next time I make this, I will definitely do thighs instead of chicken breasts, but the initial reason for recipe hunting was to figure out how to cook the chicken breasts that were already in-house. 1/3 cup of soy sauce seems like a lot of soy sauce to me, not a little, but perhaps it's just because most recipes I've used call for less. Thanks for the recipe suggestion, it sounds great!

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Wow, I've never heard of coconut vinegar. Do you find that at a regular grocery store?

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate the suggestions! I haven't tried Tamari Soy Sauce, but I will look into it. And that Orange Chicken recipe will help keep me away from Chinese take-out, thanks!

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b
2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Thanks! By the way, I love your blog! The Scotch Eggs were a big hit in my office. 8)

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6 Answers

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2081 · 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.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73
20908 · February 10, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Inulin is just a long polymer of fructose. Like starch is a long polymer of glucose. Don't be fooled and think low-glycemic automatically equals healthy.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461
12174 · June 29, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Wow, tons of practical substitute ideas. :)

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f
10919 · June 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

you can buy palm and coconut sugar on the cheap at asian markets.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051
15229 · June 29, 2011 at 2:37 PM

yes, i love your blog, too jan! i follow you on facebook and always look forward to new posts.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b
2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Thanks! By the way, I love your blog! The Scotch Eggs were a big hit in my office. 8)

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1702 · 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!

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942 · June 30, 2011 at 4:05 AM

I agree. I don't understand people who have a long list of foods that have become tasteless boring swill since they became Paleo. It does take skill to cook breasts.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b
2682 · June 29, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Yum, that sounds delicious! Chicken is boring to me UNLESS I dress it up, whereas beef I could eat pretty much on its own and be happy every time. I actually love roasted chicken, but didn't want to wait on it. I have yet to make curries, but when I've had them before they are wonderful. Do you have a good curry recipe?

7cf45aaa9478fcef7dd16914088ce480
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654 · 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

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate the suggestions! I haven't tried Tamari Soy Sauce, but I will look into it. And that Orange Chicken recipe will help keep me away from Chinese take-out, thanks!

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11571 · February 10, 2012 at 5:43 PM

Tequila Mockingbird*

*May substitute chicken if no mockingbirds available.

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15385 · 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:

http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chickenrecipes/r/bourbonchicken.htm

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.

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2682 · June 29, 2011 at 6:21 PM

Good point. I usually pound the chicken thin, slather on cheese w/ herbs, then wrap it up with bacon. I am a bit nervous about using cream in a pan b/c I am very prone to burning things, but it sounds delicious!

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1
15385 · June 29, 2011 at 3:25 PM

When I cook lean meats like chicken breast or pork loin, I either wrap them in bacon, stuff them with herbs/vegetables/butter/cheese, or prepare a high-fat sauce such as a pan sauce with cream or pesto. If you have Paleo-friendly breading such as crushed flax seeds or panko, you can batter them in whole milk, eggs, and the crunchy stuff and fry them in butter and olive oil, then top them with fresh lemon juice. The primary point is to use good fats for flavor instead of sugars.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b
2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Yes, it is odd that this recipe has no bourbon in it, but I had no bourbon in the house, so it worked out. 8) Next time I make this, I will definitely do thighs instead of chicken breasts, but the initial reason for recipe hunting was to figure out how to cook the chicken breasts that were already in-house. 1/3 cup of soy sauce seems like a lot of soy sauce to me, not a little, but perhaps it's just because most recipes I've used call for less. Thanks for the recipe suggestion, it sounds great!

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e
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20519 · 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!

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e
20519 · June 29, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Hi! Not sure where you live but try Whole Foods and also your natural food store or food co-op should be able to hook you up. You have to troll the shelves tho.. it's probably going to be where you least expect it which is NOT the vinegar section :)

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b
2682 · June 29, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Wow, I've never heard of coconut vinegar. Do you find that at a regular grocery store?

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