Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is a one-pot 30-minute dinner idea that makes a healthier version of your classic pulled chicken! With a homemade BBQ sauce, tender fall apart chicken is at your saucy fingertips. A quick and easy, freezer-friendly recipe that makes meal prep easy. Serve as a topping, as a side, or a filling in a delicious wrap!
Table of contents
- Instant Pot Pulled Chicken
- Why This Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Works?
- Ingredients You Will Need
- How to Make Shredded BBQ Chicken Instant Pot
- Tips for Best Results
- Add-ins and Variations (because variety is the spice of life!)
- Recommended Serving Ideas
- How to make and freeze chicken wraps:
- Making BBQ Chicken in Advance
- Freezer-Friendly Meal Prep
- More Healthy Instant Pot Recipes
Instant Pot Pulled Chicken
This recipe for Instant Pot BBQ chicken is a keeper! I mean any recipe that can have a one-pot family-friendly dinner on the table in 30 minutes is one I definitely come back to. It’s an easy way to get fall apart tender shredded chicken with a homemade smoky, sweet, and tangy BBQ sauce so flavorful, you’ll be licking your fingers.
Once you’ve made a big batch you can use this versatile Instant Pot bbq pulled chicken recipe in everything from sandwiches, sliders, wraps, chicken burritos, and salads. Some days I eat it as a side dish along with brown rice or quinoa. You could even opt for a low-carb version and use the bbq shredded chicken in a lettuce wrap for a healthy lunch ideas or light dinners.
It’s the perfect make-ahead meal which makes meal prep for the week a breeze! During warmer weather, it’s one of my favorite summer Instant Pot recipes, to serve a crowd!
There are no added sugars, no corn syrup, no preservatives, or high sodium ingredients in this shredded barbecue chicken. It’s easy, healthy, wholesome, and mouthwatering. You could make it in the slow cooker when you have more time to spare, but on busy weeknights when you need to serve hungry kids fast, cooking it in the pressure cooker is a time saver. And possibly a lifesaver! And get this, on the days you forget to take the meat out of the freezer in time for dinner, you can cook your bbq chicken Instant Pot frozen, too!
The next time you’re setting up for a game day party, a BBQ, or even just a family dinner, keep the chicken warm in the Instant Pot, set up a DIY wrap station. Put out some tortillas and delicious toppings like avocado, shredded cabbage, and diced green onions, and have everyone make their own pulled BBQ chicken wrap!
Why This Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Works?
- It is healthy without skimping on taste. No refined sugars or high sodium. Just fresh, real ingredients.
- Loads of flavour thanks to the BBQ sauce made with spices, aromatics and natural sweeteners.
- Quick and easy meal prep and make-ahead dinner and lunches.
- Everything about a one-pot meal is amazing. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it dish, but it also means easy cleanup!
- Versatile shredded BBQ chicken can be used in so many ways.
- Customizable ingredients mean you can pick and choose how to flavour your BBQ sauce to your liking.
- Kid-friendly bbq pulled chicken instant pot recipe for the win! Because if even the pickiest eaters love it, everyone will!
Ingredients You Will Need
- Chicken: You can use boneless and skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination of both. I would not recommend bone-in chicken because it will release more juices diluting the flavor and sauce. You can even use Instant Pot frozen chicken breast. Just make sure they are separated. The cooking time remains the same.
- Onion: An aromatic that adds sweetness and flavour to barbecue chicken. I used one giant Costco onion, but “normal” grocery store onions would be two. 🙂
- Liquid smoke is sold in small bottles in the sauce or spice section of some grocery stores, smaller gourmet shops, or on Amazon. It lasts for years in the fridge. While it adds a smoky flavor of a barbecue sauce you can replace it with 1 tsp of smoked paprika or omit it completely. It is not a recipe breaker but I highly recommend you find it. Then you can use it to make healthy BBQ sauce and pulled pork as well. 🙂
- Seasonings: Tomato paste, maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and chili powder “seal the deal”. No unknown ingredients. Easy!
How to Make Shredded BBQ Chicken Instant Pot
You can use 3 quart, 5 quart, 6 quart or 8 quart Instant Pot to make shredded BBQ chicken Instant Pot. Ingredients will fit into any and cooking time remains the same. You can double the recipe in 6 or 8 quart pot.
- Add all ingredients to Instant Pot except for cornstarch and water. Cook for 20 minutes on high pressure. No water is necessary – that is correct. The onion and chicken will release enough juices to create steam.
- Release pressure immediately and shred the chicken right inside the pot. How amazing is this?! If you let the shredded chicken sit for 10 minutes it will soak up some of the juices. You do not have to thicken the sauce but I recommend so for that signature BBQ sauce experience, especially for wraps.
- Thicken BBQ sauce by pressing Saute. Whisk together cold water with cornstarch in a small bowl and pour into the pot and stir. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and has thickened.
Tips for Best Results
- Shredding chicken with a hand mixer is game-changing! It’s so fun! It literally shreds in seconds (sure, with a little splatter) but it’s definitely a time saver. Otherwise, of course, you can use two forks.
- Use frozen chicken by following the same directions.
- Make the wraps just before eating, otherwise, they will get soggy. You can also freeze them right away, but don’t let them sit around in the fridge.
- A combination of thighs and breasts gives it a moisture and texture balance that works nicely.
Add-ins and Variations (because variety is the spice of life!)
- Store-bought BBQ sauce is not the end of the world. If you happen to have one you like, go ahead and use it. For the sake of all things healthy, I encourage you to use a brand you trust that doesn’t come with a lot of the junky ingredients. A gluten-free, refined sugar-free, version if possible.
- Crispy edges: If you’re a fan of my Instant Pot pork carnitas and like those crispy tips, you can transfer the chicken to an oven-safe dish and set the shredded chicken under the broiler for a few minutes.
First and foremost, you don’t want to make them too far in advance. In fact, you want to eat them immediately. There is no way around a soggy wrap eventually, just due to the fact that there is a sauce involved but there are some things you can do to help. Add a bit of rice to help absorb the sauce or even line the tortilla wrap with a sturdy leafy green like kale (without the rib), lettuce, or spinach.
Nope! This BBQ pulled chicken in the Instant Pot recipe makes its own sauce! The onion and the chicken create their own juices. If you happen to be using store-bought BBQ sauce, which has more sugar and is thicker, you will need to add a bit of liquid (water, stock, juice) to avoid the burn notice.
If you are following this recipe as directed and really want to add some orange flavour, you can squirt some in at the end once the chicken is done cooking and the liquids have been released. Otherwise, if you add liquid beforehand, it will dilute the other flavours as well as the flavour of the chicken. In the case of store bought BBQ, then yes, you can add the juice in as your liquid or a bit along with some water.
Recommended Serving Ideas
BBQ pulled chicken dinner combination ideas:
- Chicken sandwiches, sliders or quesadillas.
- You can even use meat to top nachos or baked potatoes.
- Serve with a salad like oil based coleslaw, healthy coleslaw or Instant pot potato salad.
- For low carb dinner make lettuce wraps with BBQ meat.
You get the picture – the possibilities are endless! Chicken is ready in 30 minutes from start to finish with minimal effort from you while you get the sides ready. Check out my other 45 healthy Instant Pot recipes.
How to make and freeze chicken wraps:
- Because of the sauce you can only make and freeze wraps right away. Do not refrigerate because wraps will get soggy.
- To reheat, thaw first and then bake at 425 F degrees for 10-15 minutes.
- This recipe makes 10 wraps using large whole wheat tortillas.
- Fillings I used: shredded red, green or savoy cabbage; sliced avocado, green onion and sesame seeds.
- I think if you add cooked rice, it will absorb some of the sauce making wraps more “dry”. Or “line” inside of tortilla with kale leaves (without ribs).
- To help with wrapping, place filling to the edge closer to you, fold the front and then sides. When rolling keep tucking filling inside.
Making BBQ Chicken in Advance
Refrigerate meat leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Freeze cooked leftovers for up to 3 months.
Reheat: Thaw on a counter for at least 6 hours or longer in the fridge. Reheat in a pot by simmering on low with a tiny splash of water.
Freezer-Friendly Meal Prep
Freezer meal: Add all ingredients to a bag and swoosh chicken around to separate so it doesn’t cook in a frozen blob. Freeze uncooked in a gallon size Ziploc bag or these re-usable 1 gallon silicone bags I am obsessed with! Cook from frozen following the rest of the recipe.
More Healthy Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot chicken thighs
- Instant Pot meatballs
- Instant Pot carnitas
- Browse all healthy Instant Pot recipes.
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Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
- 3 large 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs or both
- 2 large onions diced
- 3 oz tomato paste low sodium
- 3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 3 tbsp soy sauce I used Bragg’s liquid aminos
- 1 tbsp apple cider or white vinegar
- 2 tsp liquid smoke 1 tsp smoked paprika or omit
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- In any size Instant Pot, add chicken, onion, tomato paste, maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke, chili powder and garlic powder. No water is necessary – that is correct. Onion and chicken will release enough juices to create steam.
- Close the lid, set pressure vent to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 20 minutes.
- Release pressure right away using Quick Release method and open the lid.
- Shred chicken with 2 forks right inside the pot. You do not have to thicken the sauce but I recommend so for true BBQ sauce experience, especially for wraps.
- Press Saute.
- In a small bowl, whisk cold water with cornstarch, pour into a pot and stir.
- Cook for 2-4 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and has thickened. That’s it!
- To make chicken wraps, for each wrap place 1/2 cup shredded cabbage, 1/2 cup meat, 3 slices avocado, 2 tsp green onion and 1 tsp sesame seeds on 1 large tortilla on the edge closer to you. Fold the front and then sides. When rolling keep tucking filling inside.
- Store: Leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Up to 3 months. Thaw on a counter for at least 6 hours or longer in the fridge. Reheat in a pot by simmering on low with a tiny splash of water.
- Frozen chicken breast: Just make sure they are separated and cooking time remains the same.
- Size of Instant Pot: You can use 3 quart, 5 quart, 6 quart or 8 quart and cooking time remains the same. Double the recipe in 6 or 8 quart pot.