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Have a delicious meal ready in no time with this Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken! Tender, juicy, sweet and tangy shredded chicken makes for a versatile add-on to tacos, sandwiches, and loads of other easy dinners!
My Favorite Way to Make BBQ Pulled Chicken
My Instant Pot is fast becoming my new best friend. At least in the kitchen. Whenever I need to get a home cooked meal on the table – stat! – it’s always there, the pressure cooker setting at the ready.
Making pulled chicken in the Instant Pot is fast, easy, and comes out deliciously juicy and full of flavor every time! It’s by far my favorite way to make saucy pulled chicken, you really can’t beat the speed or convenience.
This sweet and tangy BBQ chicken recipe is versatile and perfect for weeknight meals (and next-day lunches!). We’ve enjoyed it in sandwiches on Gluten Free Hamburger Buns, over rice, in tacos, and rolled up in wraps.
I’m always on the hunt for new ways to use pulled chicken, let me know your ideas in the comments!
Does BBQ Sauce Count as Liquid in the Instant Pot?
Some BBQ sauces are thicker than others, which is why I include extra chicken broth (or water) in this recipe. BBQ sauce alone is often too thick to count as liquid in the Instant Pot, and can lead to a burn notice (no fun!).
Mixing broth into the ingredients ensures that there is enough actual liquid to prevent the sauce from burning. Make sure everything is well combined before pressure cooking, and you should be smooth sailing!
What You’ll Need
- Chicken: I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts as they’re lean and easy to shred.
- BBQ Sauce: You’ll need about 1 ½ cups of your BBQ sauce of choice, either storebought or homemade, like my Bourbon BBQ Sauce.
- Chicken Broth: Adds liquid to the Instant Pot that will create the necessary steam for pressure cooking and prevent burning (see above). You can also use water for this.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I love the slight sweetness of apple cider vinegar, since it pairs really nicely with the BBQ chicken. Alternatively, you can use red or white wine vinegar, or even regular distilled white vinegar to add a bit of acidity.
- Seasoning: Smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. Note that you’ll want to use extra salt if you’re using water instead of chicken broth as your liquid.
Can I Swap the Chicken Breasts for Thighs?
Yes! Depending on who you ask, some may even insist that chicken thighs are the way to go when it comes to pulled chicken. While I still prefer chicken breast, you can just as easily make this recipe using boneless, skinless thighs, or even a combination of the two. Thighs are flavorful and tender, and easy to shred also.
You shouldn’t need to adapt the cooking time since this recipe uses the natural pressure release, but it’s always a good idea to check that the meat is cooked through anyway.
How to Make Instant Pot Barbecue Chicken
You’re going to be blown away by how crazy-juicy this Instant Pot chicken is! I don’t think I can ever make pulled chicken another way again. The steps are just so easy:
Combine: In the Instant Pot, combine the broth, apple cider vinegar and seasonings. Add in the chicken breasts and roll them in the liquid to coat, then pour the BBQ sauce over the chicken. Don’t forget to leave some of the sauce aside for later!
Cook: Close the valve and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high. Let the pressure naturally release before venting and removing the lid.
Shred: Place the cooked chicken breasts in a bowl and use a pair of forks to shred it. Add the shredded chicken back into the Instant Pot with the remaining BBQ sauce and stir everything until well combined.
Serve: Your BBQ pulled chicken is ready to serve in sandwiches, tacos, wraps, and more!
Tips for Success
- Use the Natural Release: Make sure to let the Instant Pot naturally release the pressure, and not quick-release it. The quick release can lead to chicken that is undercooked.
- How Do I Avoid Overcooked Chicken?: On the other hand, the best way to avoid overcooking chicken in the Instant Pot is to cook the chicken breasts whole, like we do in this recipe. Even if the end result calls for chicken pieces that are cubed or shredded, always try to cook the chicken first and cut it up after.
- Save Some of the Sauce: Reserving some of the BBQ sauce for this recipe means it can be added in later, undiluted by the broth. This will restore bold flavor to the pulled chicken, so don’t skip this step!
Make it a Meal
This BBQ chicken is super convenient when it comes to weeknight family dinners! It’s easy to pair it with almost anything, from veggies and potatoes to salads. You can even make it an appetizer and serve Pulled Chicken Sliders!
Pulled chicken is great to serve in salads, tacos, and wraps with tons of options for sides. Here are some easy dishes to serve with this saucy pulled chicken:
- Homemade Coleslaw
- Bacon Green Beans
- Mac and Cheese
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries
- Potato Salad
- Air Fryer Carrots
Storing and Reheating Pulled Chicken
Store any leftover BBQ chicken covered, airtight in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat pulled chicken in the microwave or in the oven at 350 degrees until warmed through. You can also serve leftovers cold in wraps or salads!
Does This Freeze Well?
This BBQ pulled chicken will keep frozen for up to 3 months! Once the cooked, shredded chicken is completely cool, place it in a freezer-safe bag or container and store frozen until you’re ready to use it.
Thaw the pulled chicken in the fridge overnight, and then reheat in the microwave or covered in the oven until it’s warmed through.
What Can I Make with Leftovers?
I have some great recipes that you can make with leftover chicken. These are family favorites, and I think you’ll love them too.
What Instant Pot Do I Need?
Which Instant Pot you buy depends on your budget and the size you need based on the many people you usually cook for. However, for this instant pulled chicken recipe, the smaller 3-quart Instant Pot will not be large enough. You’ll need one that is at least 6 quarts so that it isn’t overfilled. Here are some options.
Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart 7-in-1 – your best budget-friendly option for all of the basic functions, including pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, saute pan, and food warmer.
Instant Pot Duo Plus 6 Quart 9-in-1 – gives you more functionality, including sous vide and sterilizer.
Instant Pot Ultra 8 Qt 10-in-1 – has even more features and is great for feeding a crowd.
Instant Pot Duo Crisp 6 Quart 11-in-1 – a single appliance that does double-duty as a pressure cooker and an air fryer.
Each of these models are available in multiple sizes to find the one that meets your needs.
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
- 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp kosher salt (use 2 teaspoons if using water instead of chicken broth)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 3-3 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (use your favorite), divided
- Add the chicken broth or water, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to the Instant Pot and stir together. Add the chicken breasts to the Instant Pot and move them around a bit so the liquid coats the chicken.
- Reserve 3/4 cup BBQ sauce for later and pour the remaining 3⁄4 cup over the chicken.
- Close the valve and set it to MANUAL (or PRESSURE COOK on HIGH) for 20 minutes.
- Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then turn the valve to the vent position. Once the float valve has dropped, remove the lid.
- Transfer the chicken to a bowl and use two forks to shred it, then return to the Instant Pot along with the additional 3⁄4 cup BBQ sauce. Stir to combine.
- 6. Add the reserved sauce to the chicken and mix to combine.
- 7. Serve in salads, tacos, wraps, burger buns, and sandwiches with additional sauce, if desired!