No outdoor cooking is required to make this super easy Instant Pot BBQ Chicken. Add the ingredients to the Instant Pot and walk away while it does all the work! From there, you can serve this pulled BBQ chicken in any way you like. We love it with baked potatoes and slaw. But it’s also great as a rice bowl, quesadillas, or nacho topping. It freezes well and makes a great recipe for meal prepping.
We’ve been making this BBQ chicken for years as the perfect way to have BBQ flavors on the table, no matter the season! While I’m willing to cook outside at almost any temperature, below zero really is a challenge.
It can be done, but you have to be so careful not to break the knobs off the BBQ and other mishaps! Rather than try and grill BBQ chicken at -35F, let’s just make it in the Instant Pot shall we?
My favorite way to serve this is very summery over baked potatoes with a creamy slaw. It’s a bright spot of a meal with ingredients that are readily available year-round.
You’ll also find more serving suggestions below. And you may well just find yourself making batches of this BBQ chicken to have on hand in the freezer!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chicken breasts – boneless skinless chicken breasts work best in this recipe for shredding. But boneless skinless chicken thighs will work as well. They need less cooking time and it’s a little harder to shred them.
- Chicken broth – look for low sodium so you can control how much salt you add.
- Garlic & onion powder – both of these seasonings should be unsalted. Also if you can find granulated garlic and granulated onion, I think the flavor is a bit better than finely powdered.
- BBQ Sauce – I’ve used sugar-free BBQ sauce from Primal Kitchen and numerous other store-bought BBQ sauces and they’re all good. The sugar-free barbecue sauce is my last choice in terms of flavor, but it is good if you’re avoiding sugar.
How to make this recipe step by step
Step 1: Start by mixing the chicken broth and spices together in the instant pot. Then top with the chicken.
Step 2: Next pour the bbq sauce over the top of the chicken.
Do not stir! This is very important. If you stir the BBQ sauce into the chicken broth, you will possibly get the BURN signal from the instant pot. See the recipe notes in the recipe card below for more.
Ways to serve this
- Baked potatoes – I make them by poking them with a knife, then rubbing them in avocado/olive oil, placing them on a baking sheet, and baking at 350ºF for about 1 hour. For the slaw (pictured above), I made the creamy slaw from my Spicy Jalapeno Turkey Burgers recipe. Or skip the baked potatoes and make BBQ chicken sandwiches with the slaw.
- Try this BBQ shredded chicken in your next quesadilla, pizza, or nachos.
- Make this shredded chicken into a bowl meal with freshly steamed rice and shredded cabbage. Then, top the bowl with my Cilantro Lime Dressing.
Yes, you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs in this recipe instead of the chicken breasts. They can be a little harder to shred by hand, but the mixer method in the tips makes short work of them.
Yes, you can overcook chicken in the Instant Pot, and that is one factor that can lead to rubbery chicken. Most chicken breasts come weighing about 8 ounces each and they cook until perfectly tender but shreddable at 10 minutes plus the natural release listed in the recipe.
- To store – place any leftovers into an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Make ahead – this recipe is perfect to make ahead and reheats well. If you meal prep, it keeps 3-4 days in the fridge. Or you can freeze it for the future as well.
- Reheating – place the leftovers into a skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring often until heated through. Add 1-2 tbsp of water to prevent sticking if necessary.
- To freeze – place any cooled leftover BBQ chicken into an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost the chicken in the fridge overnight before reheating. If you freeze it in a Ziplock, place the bag on a tray or in a bowl to catch any leaks as it defrosts.
Tips & Tricks
- This BBQ shredded chicken also makes great lunch salads. Top any leftover slaw with this chicken, or build out your favorite green salad and top with leftover chicken. My Guacamole Salad is excellent for this; omit the chicken called for in the recipe and use BBQ chicken instead.
- Meat Shredding Shortcut: Carefully remove the finished chicken breasts from the Instant Pot and place them into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speeds until the chicken is shredded, 1-2 minutes.
- To avoid getting a ‘Burn’ signal, place the ingredients in the Instant Pot in the order listed. The chicken stock goes in the bottom, and you can see in the photo above that the BBQ sauce goes on top of the chicken.
- Next, don’t stir the sauce into the chicken stock. This creates a sauce that’s too thick and prone to give you a burn signal. By starting the cooking time with the BBQ sauce on top, I haven’t had any problems.
- Whole30 – use a homemade unsweetened BBQ Sauce or the Primal Kitchen unsweetened BBQ sauce, and make sure your broth is compliant.
- To make any shredded chicken recipe on the stove top, start by sautéing the chicken on both sides.
- Then add the liquid, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken and reduce the liquid by half.
- Shred the chicken and add it back into the pan. Add BBQ sauce (or whatever recipe you’re following) to taste and simmer just to combine.
I hope you enjoy this Instant Pot BBQ Chicken recipe! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth - low sodium or homemade
- 1 tsp each garlic powder - onion powder, and sea salt
- 3.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts - 6-8
- 1 1/2 cups your favorite bbq sauce - try Primal Kitchen for Whole30 without sugar
- Place the ingredients in the order listed into a 6-quart Instant Pot. Secure the lid and set to 'sealing'. Be sure to pour the BBQ sauce over the top of the chicken breasts, and do not stir!
- Select the pressure cook button and add 10 minutes. When the time is up, let the Instant Pot naturally release for 10 minutes, then use the quick release function.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the sauce, then set the Instant Pot to sauté mode to reduce the sauce. Let the sauce reduce for 5 minutes or until reduced by 1/2.
- While the sauce reduces, use two forks to shred the chicken. Or place it in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, turn the mixer on to low speed, and mix just until shredded.
- Turn off the Instant Pot, then add the shredded chicken back into the sauce. Stir to combine and serve with your choice of sides.
This recipe was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2024 with more tips and information.