Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken is my new weeknight favorite! It's saucy, tender, easy to make, and only requires 10 minutes of prep. Try it with my homemade tangy pomegranate BBQ Sauce. Then, pair it with my homemade slaw and serve it as a BBQ pulled chicken sandwich or on top of nachos with air fryer tortilla chips!
📋 About the Recipe
- Great for feeding a crowd! I love making this pulled chicken when hosting because it's super flavorful, easy to double, and the chicken cooks itself, allowing me to entertain guests at the same time.
- Perfect for hot summer nights. If you're craving BBQ without a grill, using the pressure cooker to make BBQ pulled chicken is the next best option! It won't heat up your house and you'll still get that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Kid friendly. Depending on the BBQ sauce you use, this shredded chicken can be super mild in spice. I promise they will be asking for seconds!
- Versatile. Serve between toasted buns for BBQ chicken sandwiches or in a salad, on a burrito bowl, over a baked potato, or substitute it for the brisket in my Baked Brisket Mac and Cheese. The options are endless.
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Chicken - You'll need 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds) for this BBQ pulled chicken recipe. I have not tested this recipe with chicken thighs or frozen chicken.
- Apple sauce - Naturally sweetens the BBQ sauce without the need for tons of added sugar and also adds an additional depth of flavor.
- BBQ sauce - Use any type of BBQ sauce you have on hand like Sweet Baby Ray's, Stubb's or a homemade BBQ sauce! The key is to use a sauce that your family loves since this will become the main flavor of the chicken.
- Brown sugar - Adds richness to the flavor and helps thicken the BBQ sauce! A little goes a long way for the perfect combination of tangy and sweet.
- Apple cider vinegar - Essential to balancing the sweetness of the BBQ sauce with a bit of tang. Again, a little goes a long way, but is so important in creating a depth of flavor.
- Add the sliced onion, minced garlic and water to the bottom of the Instant Pot or pressure cooker, then place the chicken breasts on top, along with the BBQ sauce, apple sauce, apple cider vinegar, light brown sugar, kosher salt and pepper. No stirring needed!
- Twist on the lid and set the valve to the "sealing" position. Pressure cook on manual high pressure for 8 minutes.
- Allow the Instant Pot to naturally depressurize for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure by switching the valve on the lid from "seal" to "vent."
- Remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and set the Instant Pot to "saute" to simmer and thicken the remaining BBQ sauce for 15-20 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, shred the chicken with two forks into a pulled chicken texture, then top with the thickened BBQ sauce. Stir to coat until the pulled chicken is nice and saucy.
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Out of brown sugar? Use 1 tablespoon cane sugar and an ⅛ teaspoon of molasses.
- Out of apple cider vinegar? Use equal parts lemon juice or rice vinegar.
❄️ How to Store
To store: Store any remaining pulled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Freezing BBQ pulled chicken is incredibly simple and highly recommended for future pre-cooked meals! To freeze, allow the pulled chicken to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer safe bag, squeeze any air out, and freeze for up to 6 months. If doing so, be sure to label your bag with the recipe name, how many servings it makes, and when it should be defrosted and used by.
To reheat: Reheat any leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. Alternatively, you can even reheat in the Instant Pot using the sauté function.
If you overcook chicken breast in the Instant Pot, it will be on the tougher, drier side. Luckily it is fairly difficult to overcook chicken in the Instant Pot because the steam created during pressure cooking keeps the chicken moist. Cooking the breasts whole also helps prevent overcooking.
BBQ sauce alone will not count as a liquid in the Instant Pot because it is too thick and will register a burn warning. Putting the water on the bottom of the pot helps meet the 1 cup of liquid requirement and prevents the BBQ sauce from burning to the bottom.
No, frozen chicken would need a drastically different cook time and has not been tested. If you have frozen chicken, it is recommended that you defrost it before adding it to the instant pot.
💭 One More Tip
Layer the ingredients in the Instant Pot as called for. Do not mix them or put the BBQ sauce directly on the bottom of the pot.
Doing so will likely trigger the burn warning and prevent the pressure cooker from being able to properly come to pressure. This is not only frustrating but will negatively impact the cook time on the chicken.
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Share your cooking with me! If you make this recipe, I'd love to know! Tag @yourhomemadehealthy on Instagram or leave a comment with a rating and some feedback at the bottom of this page!
Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken
For the Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 1 ½ cups sliced yellow onion (about ½ an onion)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 garlic clove)
- ½ cup water
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- 1 cup bbq sauce
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the Homemade Coleslaw
- 16 ounces classic coleslaw salad mix
- 1 scallion (greens only) sliced thin
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ of a lemon juiced
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed
- Add the onion, garlic, and water to the bottom of your instant pot.
- Place chicken breasts on top, along with the rest of the pulled chicken ingredients.
- Cover instant pot and set valve to the "sealing" position. Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes.
- Once the timer is up, allow to naturally release for 10 minutes before switching the valve to "venting" and manually releasing any additional pressure.
- Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Set the instant pot to the sauté setting and allow the remaining sauce to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes to thicken.
- Meanwhile, shred the chicken with two forks. Place shredded chicken into a mixing bowl and top with the thickened sauce. Stir to coat the chicken in sauce.
- Make the coleslaw: Combine slaw mix and sliced scallions in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise through celery seeds. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the slaw and toss to coat. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve instant pot bbq pulled chicken on a bun topped with homemade coleslaw, extra bbq sauce, and pickles.
- Other serving ideas include: serving on top of a salad, inside a baked potato, wrapped in a tortilla, as the base of a quesadilla, a topping for a burrito bowl, as a side dish to scrambled eggs, or in place of the brisket in my bbq brisket mac and cheese.
- Make sure to add the ingredients to the pot in the order listed. If you add the bbq sauce to the bottom, you might trigger a burn warning.
- Nutrition facts do not include the homemade coleslaw.
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Sounds yummy ! Please advise, if you don't have an instant pot how do you suggest to cook the chicken, for how long, etc. Thank you. 🙂
Good question. If you don't have an instant pot, I'd advise cooking the chicken on the stovetop:
In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes until softened. Then, add the rest of the ingredients. Make sure the chicken is submerged in the liquids as much as possible. Allow it to simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for about 25 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temp of 165 degrees F).
Remove the chicken and shred it with two forks. Continue to simmer the liquid on the stovetop until it thickens to a BBQ sauce consistency (can take about 15-20 minutes). Place the chicken back in the pot with the sauce. Or, drizzle the sauce over top of the chicken if you don't want it super saucy.
Let me know how it goes!