If you’re unfamiliar with birria, it’s a traditional Mexican dish consisting of stewed chiles, spices, and herbs along with goat or beef that’s shredded and served on corn tortillas with the broth or consomé for dipping. You may have seen the recent quesabirria trend here in America where the tortilla is dipped in the vibrant red consomé and grilled with cheese and shredded beef. Well, this recipe for Instant Pot birria de pollo aims to make a healthier spin on traditional birria, and you’ll learn how to make quesatacos while you’re at it. Get excited!
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How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Birria
While there might be an unfamiliar technique or two, this recipe is actually quite simple. You’ll find a visual walkthrough in the post below with ingredient notes and tips for prep. If you skip to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post and have a question, hop back here and I bet it’s covered.
If you’re anything like me, you might be a little intimidated by dried chiles. Don’t be! This recipe calls for two mildly spicy chiles in guajillo and ancho, and the spicier chile de arbol (the small one pictured above.) Check out this dried chile guide if you’re interested in learning more about flavor profiles and spice levels.
Side note: If you are still intimidated by dried chiles, check out my pressure cooker shredded Mexican chicken recipe. It’s made with a simple seasoning blend and Mexican cerveza.
Boneless Chicken Thighs
Aside from the chiles, everything else will be pretty standard. The recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs, and I’d highly courage you to stick with that. Like I mentioned in my Instant Pot BBQ chicken, thighs are much more forgiving than chicken breast, which can be difficult to perfectly cook during pressure cooking. The extra fat in chicken thighs will create a rich and flavorful broth that you won’t want to miss.
Chicken Bone Broth
Since traditional birria is made with bone-in cuts of meat, I wanted to use a high quality chicken bone broth for my birria de pollo. Kettle & Fire is an Austin-based company making great slow simmered broth from free range chickens and grass fed beef. And if you’re a macro counter, this bone broth adds an extra 20g of protein!
Using the Instant Pot’s Sauté Function
Okay, the rest of the ingredient lineup is standard fare. Let’s get cooking. You’ll want to start by turning on the sauté function of your Instant Pot. While the pot heats up, cut off the stems of the dried chiles and pour out any seeds.
Once the pot is fully heated, add the chiles and toast for 4-5 minutes until fragrant. You shouldn’t see any smoke. Toasting chiles activates flavor compounds and reduces heat.
Set the toasted chiles aside and add the seasoned chicken thighs to the pot. Don’t worry about fully cooking, you just want to get some browning on both sides of the chicken. This maillard reaction creates lots of flavor. You’ll likely need to brown the chicken thighs in two batches.
Once you’ve browned the chicken, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion for 4-5 minutes until it softens and starts to brown. Then add the the garlic, tomato paste, and spices to cook for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
Add a little bone broth and fully deglaze the Instant Pot before adding the toasted chiles and browned chicken. You want to make sure all the delicious fond on the bottom of the pot is incorporated into your chicken birria! Pour the rest of the bone broth in and make sure the chiles are fully submerged.
The hard part is over. Now it’s time to seal and pressure cook.
Pressure Cooking the Chicken Birria
For a quick crash course on how pressure cooking works, it essentially traps steam inside the pot, causing the temperature to get well above 212ºF (past the boiling point). This drastically speeds up the cook time and flavor extraction of foods. So, instead of stewing underground for hours like traditional birria, this chicken birria is “done” after an 8-minute stint in the Instant Pot.
Going back to the beauty of chicken thighs, they’re hard to mess up. Even if you cook them above the food safe temperature of 165ºF, they typically stay moist and tender. Skip the breasts for this one!
Blending the Chiles for Consomé and Shredded the Chicken
After pressure cooking, transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the chiles to a food processor with a few tablespoons of the remaining broth. Or you can use an immersion blender to skip the food processor.
Start on a low speed before gradually increasing to a high speed for 1-2 minutes. You want a completely silky smooth sauce. If you have a lower powered food processor or blender, you might want to use a fine mesh strainer to make sure no stray chile skins go back in the pot.
Once the chiles are back in the pot, shred the chicken before rejoining the party. And that’s it. You’re ready to rock. I like to let the shredded chicken hang out in the sauce while using the “Keep Warm” function on the Instant Pot. It just gives the flavors extra time to get to know one another. Now, let’s talk about what to do with your birria de pollo.
How to Make Quesabirria or Quesatacos
There are lots of ways to do it, but I like to copy the quesotaco from La Tunita 512, which is one our favorite Austin food spots. Instead of just dipping the tortilla in the consomé, toasting, and adding cheese like a quesadilla, I like to partially melt the cheese and flip to create a toasty cheese layer. It’s almost like eating a cheese tortilla inside a deliciously toasty corn tortilla.
An important note for making quesabirria is to use Oaxaca cheese. It pulls apart like string cheese and melts beautifully—even better than something like Monterey jack.
Serve these with a side of the consomé and you’re in business.
Other Ways to Serve Your Birria de Pollo
Similar to the quesabirria above, you can simply dip some corn tortillas in the broth and toss in a pan to crisp up. Then fill with the chicken birria and top with diced white onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Birria tacos are definitely the way to go if you’re keeping things lower calorie, as the quesatacos are best with lots of cheese.
Birria is also served in a bowl like a soup or stew. In the photo at the top of this post, you’ll see the chicken birria in a bowl with rice and beans. I actually took a shortcut with HEB southwest brown rice and quinoa and canned borracho beans, but you could use something like my smoked charro beans or these slow cooker borracho beans. And for a lower carb rice option, check out this Mexican cauliflower rice.
Whether you make extra cheesy quesabirria, tortas, or serve soup-style, I’d love to hear what you think about this Instant Pot chicken birria. Recipe reviews are always appreciated. And if you have a question about the recipe I forgot to cover, drop it in the comments at the bottom of this post. I hope you enjoy!
- 2 1/2 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 2 tablespoons (32g) Olive Oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 4 Dried Guajillo Chiles*
- 4 Dried Arbol Chiles*
- 1 Dried Ancho Chile*
- 1 small (200g) Onion, diced
- 6 cloves Garlic, grated or minced
- 2 tablespoons (30g) Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 4 Bay Leaves
- 2 cups Kettle & Fire Chicken Bone Broth
- Coat the chicken in 1 Tbsp (16g) olive oil before seasoning with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Turn the Instant Pot's sauté function on high while you prep the chiles. To prep, remove the stems and any seeds. Once the pot is hot, add the chiles and toast until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Stir a few times during toasting. Set aside.
- Add the seasoned chicken to the pot and cook for 2- 3 minutes per side to brown the chicken on both sides. Set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil and the diced onion. Cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes, before adding the garlic and tomato paste and cooking another 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the remaining ingredients, fully submerging the toasted chiles. Seal and pressure cook on high for 8 minutes and wait 5-10 minutes before venting.
- Transfer the chicken to a bowl to shred. Remove and discard the bay leaves before transferring the chiles to a food processor with a few tablespoons of the broth. Blend until smooth, about 2-3 minutes, before adding back to the pot. (If you have a lower powered food processor or blender, you may want to use a fine mesh strainer to catch any pieces of skin from the chiles.)
- Turn the Instant Pot to "Keep Warm" and add the shredded chicken to the pot with the blended chiles and broth. (If you want a thinner consomé, you can add more broth or water.) See the post for instructions on making quesatacos and other ways to serve.
*You can use guajillo, ancho, or pasilla chiles in place of one another if you have trouble finding one or the other. Chile de arbol will be a bit spicier. You can try cascabel chiles in their place or even dried chili flakes or cayenne pepper to add spice in a pinch. Or for a milder chicken birria, you can add another guajillo chile or omit altogether.
Nutrition Info Notes
- Nutrition facts are for chicken and broth only. Add tortillas and other accompaniments separately.
- Each serving has 4 WW SmartPoints (blue).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 3/4 C (about 6.5 oz)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260Total Fat: 13gCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 31g