This easy Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is the perfect shredded BBQ chicken with minimal effort. Be sure to check out the tip to easily shred your chicken without more dirty dishes!
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
This easy weeknight meal takes hardly any hands-on time, but it’s packed with flavor. You can even break this recipe out for weekend get-togethers, picnics, and potlucks.
Wondering how to serve it? I love this as a bbq sandwich on hamburger buns with some cilantro coleslaw, as sliders on Hawaiian rolls, and it’s amazing in tacos.
It was such a hit! It’s been a long time since I got that many incredible compliments on my food, so I definitely recommend trying that combination.
It’s also great over rice, with potatoes, or on a salad with some ranch dressing.
What Chicken Should I Use?
This recipe calls for equal parts boneless skinless chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken thighs. The pulled chicken has so much more flavor and is much more tender when you use both cuts of meat.
If I was going to use more of one meat than the other, I’d err on the side of using more thighs than breasts, but it’s a very adaptable recipe and will work either way.
A quick note on the chicken: If at possible, I strongly encourage you to use air-chilled chicken and not water-chilled chicken (it will specify which it is on the packaging).
Air-chilled chicken typically tastes better and is more tender. The really important reason for using it in this recipe is because the water-chilled chicken absorbs lots of water during the chilling process, and then releases it during cooking. That’s why some people end up with more liquid than others after cooking this Instant Pot recipe.
If you don’t want to have to pour off the cooking liquid (and all the flavor with it), use air-chilled chicken so that there’s a more reasonable about of liquid in the pot that the cornstarch can easily absorb.
Can I Use Frozen Chicken?
Yes! You can use frozen chicken with this recipe. I’ve tried and it worked beautifully. I just add about 3 minutes of cooking time. You may have a little more liquid in the pot after cooking, but you can just use more cornstarch to balance it out.
Which BBQ Sauce Should I Use?
The two sauces I’ve tried and loved in this recipe are Sweet Baby Ray’s and Stubb’s Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q Sauce. You can use your favorite brand, just know that the flavor of the chicken is largely dependent on the sauce.
I’ve also made it with homemade bbq sauce. Here’s a YouTube tutorial showing you how to make bbq sauce if you’d like to try making your own. My favorite homemade sauces typically use apple cider vinegar and honey.
If you’re looking for something a little different, you can try this with a little bit of a Korean inspiration. I’ve made it with Lucky Food’s Sweet & Spicy Kimchi Hot Sauce (which is more like a bbq sauce and less like a hot sauce). I used less sauce when I made this variation, but it was SO good.
How To Shred The Chicken
The easiest way to shred this pulled chicken is with an electric hand mixer directly in the Instant Pot after it finishes cooking. You may want to let it cool just a bit so that the inevitable bits of splatter isn’t too hot (and I wouldn’t wear white while you’re doing this).
Seriously, I love this trick! You don’t have to dirty another bowl and the hand mixer does all the work for you! Try and it and you’ll be amazed at this fun and easy dinner hack.
Why It’s Better Than 2-Ingredient Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
You absolutely could make it with just 2 ingredients (chicken and sauce), but that would super bland in comparison to this recipe. It’s so worth it to take the extra 2 – 3 minutes and add the other ingredients.
Avoid The Burn Error
To avoid the dreaded burn error, we’re adding chicken broth and a bit of oil to the bottom of the pot before adding the chicken.
After that, add the chicken and cover as much of the bottom of the pot as possible. That gives you a nice surface to sprinkle the spices and smear the sauce onto.
It’s so important to add the spices and sauce directly to the chicken, and not to the bottom of the pot. The burn error happens when the spices or bbq sauce burn onto the pot. So, with the broth and chicken layer barrier, you shouldn’t run into any problems.
Is It Gluten Free?
It can easily be made gluten free, but it all comes down to the ingredients you use. There are three in particular you have to check to make sure that your pulled chicken will be gluten free.
- Chicken Bouillon – We’re more of a gluten light household, so what we use wouldn’t be safe for a truly gluten free household. Be sure to use a bouillon that is certified gluten free.
- Worcestershire Sauce – This can contain gluten, so be sure to use a brand that is certified gluten free.
- BBQ Sauce – Each brand varies, so check to make sure you’re using a gluten free brand.
Some reader favorites are:
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons water (divided)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base (or a certified gluten free chicken bouillon if necessary)
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium onion (grated)
- 1 1/2 cups bbq sauce (plus more to taste, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s, certified gluten free if necessary)
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (certified gluten free if necessary)
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch (optional, more as needed)
- In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the hot water, olive oil, and chicken bouillon. Add the ingredients to the Instant Pot in this order: chicken broth, chicken, spices, bbq sauce, onion, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Only add the bbq sauce to the top of the chicken, and not to the bottom of the insert (if it’s on the bottom of the insert, you may get the “burn” message during cooking).
- Cook on manual mode for 15 minutes, then let it natural release for 10 minutes before setting it to a quick release to release the remaining pressure. Once the pressure release valve drops, you can carefully remove the lid.
- If there’s only a medium amount of liquid in the post, you can go ahead and shred the chicken. If there’s a lot of liquid, you may want to pour some of the liquid off before using a hand mixer to shred the chicken directly inside the pot.
- If the chicken is a little more liquid than you would like after shredding, you can thicken it with cornstarch. To do this, set the Instant Pot to the saute mode and mix the cornstarch and remaining 2 Tablespoons of water together. Add the cornstarch mixture to the chicken and saute to thicken it up.
- Taste and add additional bbq sauce to your preference.
If you're making this for someone that eats gluten free, you need to make sure that you use chicken bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and bbq sauce that are gluten free. Those are ingredients that can commonly contain gluten.
Each batch of this is a little different in terms of how much liquid there is in the pot after the chicken cooks. It all depends on the chicken you use (air-chilled chicken is best for this recipe). You can pour off the excess liquid, but I love the flavor, so I just add cornstarch until I get the thickness I want. For a very liquid batch, that may be up to 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Always mix the cornstarch fully with a bit of water before adding it in.
If you want a more prominent smoky flavor, you can add in a bit of liquid smoke when you add the Worcestershire sauce.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 340Total Fat: 7.3gSaturated Fat: 1.5gCarbohydrates: 30.2gNet Carbohydrates: 30gFiber: 0.2gSugar: 26.8gProtein: 36g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime
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Try making this sweet and savory shredded bbq chicken in the Instant Pot! It’s the perfect easy Instapot meal.