Juicy and fall apart tender, this Instant Pot BBQ chicken is simple enough for a weeknight, and can be prepped ahead to save time! Serve it on a bun with slaw and plenty of tangy barbecue sauce.
When it comes to weeknight dinners, simple is best! And while I love this crockpot bbq chicken recipe, since it cooks for 3-4 hours, it's not a great option for those working outside of the home. Enter the Instant Pot, which can have it ready for your table in under 25 minutes!
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With a ton of flavor from the tangy sauce, it's great served as a sandwich, in tacos, on pizza, or in meal prep bowls.
Reasons you'll ♡ this recipe
- has only 5 simple ingredients, is juicy, flavorful and kid-friendly
- it can be on your table in under 25 minutes
- it works great for meal prep: assemble as a freezer crockpot recipe or cook ahead and use in multiple meals
- is perfect served in sandwiches, tacos, wraps and on pizza
Watch the video below to see exactly how I prepped Instant Pot BBQ chicken. It’s so easy! You can find more of my recipe videos on my YouTube channel.
- chicken- you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this recipe; reduce cook time to 8 min with quick pressure release for breasts.
- BBQ sauce- use your favorite! I've used Stubb's, Sweet Baby Ray's* and Newman's Own to make this recipe. *my favorite
- apple cider vinegar- enhances the tanginess of this recipe; I strongly recommend the Bragg's brand.
- maple syrup- adds sweetness to contrast the vinegar; swap for brown sugar or honey.
- chili powder- refers to a paprika-based chili powder blend; do not confuse with pure powdered chilis! If you cannot find it in the spice aisle of your grocery store, consider making your own.
Step by step directions
1. Combine- In the stainless steel insert of your Instant Pot, stir together the barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and chili powder. Stir until smooth, then add the chicken thighs, turning to coat in the sauce.
2. Cook- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, set the steam release handle to the 'sealing' position, then pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
When the cooking cycle has completed, perform a quick pressure release: carefully transition the steam release handle to the 'venting position', taking care to ensure your hands, face, and kitchen cupboards are clear from the steam.
3. Shred- Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to a clean bowl. Use an electric hand mixer or two forks to shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the sauce and coat it in the cooking liquid.
4. Serve- Serve it up on a bun with slaw. See below for other serving suggestions!
Other ways to serve it
- pizza- top with pineapple, red onion, and extra barbecue sauce brushed on the crust (or on naan bread pizza!)
- wrap or tacos- top with crunchy cabbage slaw
- burrito bowl- serve with rice, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, and your favorite toppings (check out pulled pork burrito bowls for more ideas)
- meal prep bowls- use these Grilled Veggie Black Bean Meal Prep Bowls as inspiration
Meal prep + storage
Instant Pot BBQ chicken is perfect for meal prep, and can work in a few different ways:
1. Instant Pot freezer meal
An Instant Pot freezer pack is assembled ahead and frozen before cooking. This way, when it’s time to cook, you simply dump the ingredients into the Instant Pot and skip any measuring. This is a great recipe to prepare for someone who is expecting a baby.
Here’s how you can turn this recipe into a freezer meal:
- Assemble the chicken thighs plus all remaining ingredients in a gallon-sized freezer bag, reusable silicone bag, or meal prep container.
- Squeeze out as much air as possible.
- Freeze flat for up to 3 months.
- Thaw completely, then cook as directed in the recipe card.
2. Cook ahead and reheat
You can cook this recipe all the way through, and store in an air tight container in the fridge (up to 4 days) or freezer (up to 3 months), using it as a protein for multiple meals.
Rewarm in a frying pan, using tongs to stir it up. Heat until steaming hot, and enjoy!
Find my favorite meal prep containers here!
According to my testing, yes! We do mix the BBQ sauce in with some thinner liquids in this recipe, including maple syrup and apple cider vinegar, which probably help the Instant Pot come to pressure. If you remove these ingredients, you do risk getting a burn warning or failure to pressurize.
Yes! Use a cook time of 8 minutes at high pressure with a quick pressure release.
Yes, you can, though if there is skin on the chicken, I recommend removing it so that it doesn't make your sauce too fatty. Increase the cook time to 12 minutes with a quick pressure release.
Yes you can! For boneless frozen chicken thighs- cook for 12 minutes with a quick pressure release. If they are stuck together in a clump, release the pressure after 5 minutes, pry them apart, put the lid back on, and continue cooking for the additional 7 minutes.
For frozen bone-in thighs, do 15 minutes high pressure with a quick pressure release (unless stuck together; use the same method as described above but cook for a total of 15 min).
This is a very forgiving recipe, considering we toss the chicken in a sauce after cooking, but it is important that you do a quick pressure release, as the chicken continues to cook during a natural pressure release. 10 minutes is plenty of time for chicken thighs to cook through.
More Instant Pot chicken recipes
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken
- Instant Pot Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs
- Spicy Instant Pot Thai Chicken Curry
- Instant Pot Honey Sesame Chicken Breast
- 2 lbs boneless chicken thighs see note 1
- ½ cup barbecue sauce see note 2
- ¼ cup maple syrup see note 3
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Combine- In the stainless steel insert of your Instant Pot, stir together the barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and chili powder. Stir until smooth, then add the chicken thighs, turning to coat in the sauce.
- Cook- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, set the steam release handle to the 'sealing' position, then pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.When the cooking cycle has completed, perform a quick pressure release: carefully transition the steam release handle to the 'venting position', taking care to ensure your hands, face, and kitchen cupboards are clear from the steam.
- Shred- Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to a clean bowl. Use an electric hand mixer or two forks to shred the chicken. Return the chicken to the sauce and coat it in the cooking liquid.
- Serve- Serve it up on a bun with slaw. See below for other serving suggestions!
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