Mall Food Court Bourbon Chicken, Made Healthy

I always felt sorry for those ladies in the mall food court, standing around heckling innocent mall goers to try their chicken on a toothpick. Every time I walk through the entrance by Panda Express I take a sample nodding and smiling, guilted into heading over to the counter to ask about the $4.99 special. Although it tastes exactly the same everywhere I tried it, this Chinese restaurant staple of questionable cultural authenticity is totally addictive, and it’s not just the MSG. It’s sweet with hint of caramel flavor from the bourbon.

I googled many combinations of “mall bourbon chicken” to find an ingredients list for the commercial dish, to no avail. A few recipes purporting to taste like the food court fare popped up, so I took the plunge and pieced together a test recipe. After tasting the results, I proceeded to eat way too much chicken and toyed with the idea of keeping this magical formula for chicken nirvana to myself. Good thing for you, I never was good at keeping secrets. This recipe really does taste like the stuff you get in the mall. Just keep it on the dl, please. Those ladies with the samples have to make a living, too!

This meal is pretty budget friendly considering a lot of the ingredients are components of a well stocked pantry. Target has the best deal for organic chicken in my area (Coleman brand), which you definitely want to spring for. Macadamia nut oil is a wonderful investment because of its health benefits and delicious nutty flavoring that’s not overpowering in most applications. It has a high smoke point for high heat cooking, and beats olive oil in the amount of monounsaturated fats. Coconut oil would also work nicely. Peanut oil would taste fine, but is not the healthiest option since it’s highly polyunsaturated. Extra light virgin olive oil would be a last resort, as it wouldn’t complement the other flavor components. If you don’t have a lot of the key items, you can stock up with this recipe and make fake Chinese take out to your heart’s content.

The recipe makes three large servings, but you’d best divide it up in advance because it’s hard to stop with this stuff. You don’t have to feel guilty if you overindulge a bit, though. No sugar, no gluten, no transfats or polyunsaturated oils, nothing artificial. The best part is you would never know that if I hadn’t told you.

Made-over Mall Food Court Bourbon Chicken

Makes 3 large servings

1 1/2 pounds of organic chicken thigh meat, cubed
2 tablespoons of oil (see note above)
1/4 cup soy or wheat-free tamari sauce
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
2-4 tablespoons sweetener
1/4 cup Truvia OR erythritol OR xylitol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia powder
 (if not using Truvia)
1/2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1T diced yellow onion, or 1 green onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ginger
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
sea salt, to taste

Combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk together. Taste and add more sea salt or sweetener if necessary. Toss chicken thigh chunks in marinade, then place chicken and marinade into a zip top bag and leave in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight, turning occasionally to expose all of the chicken evenly.

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and pour chicken and marinade into a baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, turning pieces over and moving them around in the marinade during the baking process. Serve hot from the oven and refrigerate leftovers immediately.

~2g net carbs per serving!

16 Comments on Mall Food Court Bourbon Chicken, Made Healthy

  1. PJ
    July 2, 2008 at 6:25 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow, that sounds great!! thanks!!

  2. Amanda
    June 28, 2009 at 3:50 am (13 years ago)

    is the ginger here powdered or fresh?

  3. Buy viagra
    July 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm (12 years ago)

    Hi the chicken is pretty healthy cause have proteins and vitamins and every one likes chicken also its cheaper that the pork of fish so if you have to choose you're meal in the mall food court choose chicken .

  4. Anonymous
    July 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm (12 years ago)


  5. kamagra
    March 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm (11 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing, I love cooking every weekend.

  6. gwyn
    March 8, 2011 at 1:00 am (11 years ago)

    i made this for dinner tonight. SO yummy. i wound up using quite a bit more erythritol + stevia than the recipe called for to achieve the mall-level sweetness. i also added a few pinches of xanthan gum to create the thicker sauce we're used to from those mall ladies. will definitely make this again!

    • Lauren Benning
      December 15, 2013 at 1:40 am (8 years ago)

      The sauce could definitely use a little thickening help from xanthan. Thanks for sharing your feedback, Gwyn!

  7. IvO
    May 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm (10 years ago)

    This is awesome! I made it with the cut up chicken thighs first like in your recipe but right now I'm marinating chicken wings in the fridge. Can't wait to try them! This recipe rocks and so do you! 😀

    • Lauren Benning
      December 15, 2013 at 1:40 am (8 years ago)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Great idea to use chicken wings.

  8. IvO
    May 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm (10 years ago)

    I made this before with the organic chicken thighs and it was lovely, but I have chicken wings marinating right now in the fridge with this awesome sauce! I can't wait to try them! This recipe rocks and so do you! 🙂

  9. Lauren
    June 17, 2012 at 2:33 am (10 years ago)

    IvO – Very glad you like the recipe! Going to have to get some chicken thighs and make this again.

    • jodya
      December 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm (8 years ago)

      I would be eternally grateful if you came up with a recipe for the steamed side dish that is usually found in the same kiosk… I have tried a number of times but always flub it up.

      • Lauren Benning
        December 15, 2013 at 1:38 am (8 years ago)

        Hi, Jodya! Can you describe the side dish?

        • jodya
          May 7, 2014 at 1:11 am (8 years ago)

          It is a mixture of vegetables, usually cabbage, carrots maybe zucchini and some others I think. It has been awhile since I have had it.


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