This saucy and tender Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is a dream for meal prep, barbecue dinners, baked potatoes, salads, and more!
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Juicy shredded barbecue chicken is super accessible thanks to the instant pot! This Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is ready in a snap: just whisk together premade bbq sauce with a few staple seasonings and onion, pressure cook the chicken in the sauce, shred, and dinner is on the table!
This recipe is perfect for meal prep, freezes so well, and is budget-friendly!
We're all about those quick and easy meals lately, so today I'm back with another one for you: Instant Pot BBQ Chicken.
Not only is this chicken juicy and so full of barbecue flavor, but it's also ready in under 35 minutes. Most of that cooking time is hands-off, too.
Because even if you are the type that enjoys hands-on cooking, let's face it: life gets busy. Not all nights are "let's roll our sleeves up and spend an hour cooking dinner" type nights (though I wish they could be!).
Life happens. Crazy appetites demanding food now happen! Busy nights of work deadlines, helping kids with homework, getting in workouts, and every other obligation happens.
Though I am definitely guilty of falling back on frozen pizzas and macaroni and cheese (there's often only so many more dishes I can do after a day of cooking) I'm working more recipes like this one into my rotation.
After all, there's really no reason not to. After a quick mix of premade barbecue sauce, spices, and onion, layer the chicken on and pressure cook! Next, simply shred the chicken, toss it back in the sauce and you're good to go.
And there you have it: dinner not just for tonight, but potentially for the nights to come too! That's right, this chicken is amazing for meal prep, leftovers, and saving for later in the freezer.
Join me in a stress-free dinner time, my friend!
Here at Mae's Menu, we have a variety of readers: those who are more experienced in the kitchen and want to zip straight through to the recipe and those who want to learn more about the dish, potential substitutions, and more.
To skip straight to the recipe, just click "Jump to Recipe" at the top left of this post. To browse the post quickly, just click the headings in the table of contents below.
Table of contents
- This pressure cooker BBQ chicken recipe is...
- Recipe ingredients
- Ingredient substitutions
- What is the best type of chicken for this recipe?
- What type of barbecue sauce is best for this recipe?
- Is this shredded barbecue chicken gluten-free?
- How to make this Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken...
- Pro-tips to make the best chicken every time:
- Is shredded barbecue chicken budget-friendly?
- How do you serve instant pot shredded barbecue chicken?
- Can you serve this chicken unshredded?
- Can you make this recipe ahead of time?
- What pressure cooker do I use and recommend for this recipe?
- Can you use this recipe for meal prep?
- Can you double or triple this recipe?
- How long do leftovers last?
- Can you freeze leftover Instant Pot barbecue chicken?
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Other Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi recipes you'll love:
- Other healthy chicken dinner recipes you'll love:
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This pressure cooker BBQ chicken recipe is...
- Lightly spicy
- Easy to make
- Perfect for meal prep
This quick and tender shredded chicken is a dream when it comes to meal times, picnics, barbecues and meal prep!
- Barbecue sauce
- Apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Yellow mustard powder
- Smoked paprika
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Minced onion
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts
- Sweetener - maple syrup or agave syrup can substitute for the honey
- Vinegar - white vinegar can work in place of the apple cider vinegar in a pinch
- Chicken - bone-in chicken thighs (not breasts) can work in place of the boneless skinless, but you will need to add a minute of cooking time and remove the bones before shredding
What is the best type of chicken for this recipe?
The best chicken for this recipe is a mixture of boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts. You can even use all boneless skinless chicken thighs like I did for these photos.
See my notes below (under "substitutions") for how to use bone-in chicken thighs if you can't have or find boneless. Either way, I recommend against using skin-on chicken, as it can affect the texture of the shredded chicken.
What type of barbecue sauce is best for this recipe?
The best barbecue sauce for this recipe is your favorite type of barbecue sauce. The better quality sauce you use the better, since you will taste the flavor in the chicken.
I love using a honey-based barbecue sauce (many Kansas city-style sauces have honey in them), but you can also use brown sugar if you prefer.
Pre-made bottled sauce works just fine for this recipe, but you can also make your own sauce for this recipe too. I love Gimme Some Oven's Kansas City Barbecue Sauce recipe.
Is this shredded barbecue chicken gluten-free?
Yes, this barbecue chicken should be gluten-free. Just double-check your Worcestershire sauce to make sure it's gluten-free, use a gluten-free barbecue sauce and you're good to go.
Note: most barbecue sauces are naturally gluten-free. You may want to double-check your ingredient list to be certain no gluten ingredients were added, however.
How to make this Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken...
- Gently stir together the barbecue sauce, seasonings, and minced onion in the pot of your pressure cooker or Instant pot.
- Nestle the chicken into the sauce, being careful not to cover the chicken in the sauce or let it touch the bottom of the pot.
- Pressure cook the chicken on high for 15 minutes. Natural-release the pressure of the pot.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the pressure cooker. Shred with two knives, pulling apart the chicken into small shreds.
- Move the chicken back to the Instant Pot and gently toss the chicken in the sauce until covered.
- Keep the barbecue chicken warm in the pot for up to 2 hours or serve immediately!
Pro-tips to make the best chicken every time:
- Use a good barbecue sauce - as I said above, you are going to taste the quality of your sauce so choose a quality sauce you love!
- Use chicken thighs - whether you use them for just part or all of the chicken, using thighs adds flavor and moisture to the shredded chicken
- Use fresh spices - fresh spices make the world of a difference in this recipe since they are more potent! Check your expiration date on your spices for the best end flavor
- Don't let the chicken touch the bottom of the pot before cooking - since the sauce is relatively thick, we need to keep as much moisture between the chicken and the pot to keep the chicken from scorching or burning while it cooks. So, just nestle the chicken in the sauce (don't totally cover it in it) and don't place the chicken in contact with the bottom of the pot!
Is shredded barbecue chicken budget-friendly?
Yes, this recipe is budget-friendly, especially if you use all chicken thighs!
Using all chicken thighs, my ingredient total came to $11 (shopping at Trader Joe's and using spices and apple cider vinegar I already had on hand). So, when serving this recipe to 6 people, the price is $1.83/serving. When serving to 8 people the total comes to only $1.38/serving. Fantastic!
How do you serve instant pot shredded barbecue chicken?
There are so many ways to serve this saucy chicken. Here are some of my favorites.
- Barbecue plates
- Baked potatoes
- Power bowls: steamed rice, black beans, romaine lettuce, shredded cheddar, etc.
- Air Fryer Potato Skins
- ... and more!
Can you serve this chicken unshredded?
Yes, you certainly can serve this chicken unshredded if you desire! The chicken is pretty tender so it will shred very easily-- and may even break off into smaller pieces on its own during cooking -- but you don't have to shred the chicken before serving if you'd rather not.
Can you make this recipe ahead of time?
This recipe is perfect for making it ahead of time!
You can make it a few hours ahead of time: just keep the shredded meat on warm in the Instant Pot for up to two hours.
Or, you can make it days ahead of time: just store the prepared chicken in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Then reheat on warm in the slow cooker or microwave, or at 300 degrees (covered) in the oven.
What pressure cooker do I use and recommend for this recipe?
I have the Ninja Foodi Tendercrisp and love using it for this recipe! I have many friends who have and love their Instant Pot pressure cookers, but since the Ninja Foodi is an air fryer and pressure cooker in one (yey! for fewer appliances on my countertop!), that is my go-to. Either one will be great for this recipe.
Can you use this recipe for meal prep?
This shredded chicken is incredible for meal prep!! It stores well, reheats beautifully, and is so tasty on so many things!
Here are some ways you can enjoy it throughout the week for meal-prep (in addition to my serving suggestions above!):
- With steamed rice and veggies
- In a quesadilla
- On a salad bowl
- With roasted potatoes
- ... and more!
Can you double or triple this recipe?
Yes, you can certainly double or triple this recipe! Just multiply the ingredients by whatever number you desire and follow the directions as listed.
Note: you don't need to adjust the cooking time for a larger batch. The pressure cooker will naturally take longer to bring the pot to pressure (because of the extra food), meaning that it will "adjust" the cooking time for you.
How long do leftovers last?
Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can you freeze leftover Instant Pot barbecue chicken?
Yes, this chicken is perfect for the freezer! Just portion out the chicken in whatever amounts you desire and freeze in freezer-safe containers for up to 2 months!
Tools needed to make this recipe:
Other Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi recipes you'll love:
- Pressure Cooker Black Bean Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Tacos
- Instant Pot Beef Ragu
- Instant Pot Turkey Chili
- Instant Pot Risotto
- Pressure Cooker Maple Baked Beans
Other healthy chicken dinner recipes you'll love:
- Quick Chicken Stir-Fry
- Rubbed Turmeric Chicken
- Peanut Butter Chicken Curry
- Thai Chicken Salad
- Spicy Honey Chicken Marinade
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Tender and juicy Shredded Instant Pot BBQ Chicken that is perfect for barbecue plates, baked potatoes, salads, and more!
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce*
- ¼ teaspoon yellow mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ cup finely minced onion
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts
- Combine the barbecue sauce, water, apple cider vinegar, honey, Worchestershire sauce, yellow mustard powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and minced onion in the pot of your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Gently stir together until combined.
- Gently nestle the chicken breasts and/or thighs into the barbecue sauce mixture, being careful not to touch the meat to the bottom of the pan.
- Lock in the pressure cooker lid and cook on high for 15 minutes. Quick-release the steam out of the pressure cooker.
- Very carefully move the chicken to a heat-safe bowl and shred with 2 forks. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce in the Instant Pot and toss until covered.
- Keep the shredded chicken in the pressure cooker on warm for up to 2 hours or serve immediately!
* to keep this recipe gluten-free, use a Worchestershire sauce without malt vinegar. Click here for a list of gluten-free sauces.
1. Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They can also be freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.
2. For the best flavor, use a quality barbecue sauce in this recipe. Or make your own. Here is my favorite recipe!
3. Keeping a layer of sauce under the chicken will keep it from scorching or burning in the pressure cooker, so be careful to nestle the chicken in the sauce without covering it totally with the sauce or touching the chicken to the bottom of the pan.
4. To shred the chicken: hold a fork in each of your hands. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, press down and pull apart the chicken, shredding it into small pieces.
5. You can make this chicken up to 2-3 days ahead of time. Store prepared chicken covered in the refrigerator and reheat on the warm in a slow cooker for 1-2 hours, over low heat in the microwave for 2.5-4 minutes, or even covered in the oven at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Serving Size⅛ of recipe made with 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs and 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
Amount Per Serving Calories 271Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 117mgSodium 515mgCarbohydrates 20gFiber 1gSugar 16gProtein 32g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dietitians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.