Pulled Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

This Instant Pot BBQ chicken is perfect for game days or your next meal prep. You can make everything from sandwiches and nachos to loaded fries or spuds. The possibilities are limitless. 

It’s an easy recipe that takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. Each serving has 18 grams of protein with just 3 grams of carbs and 165 calories. And I’ve included plenty of substitution notes for using chicken breast instead of chicken thighs in case you need to make your batch even lower in calories. But enough talk, let’s get into it! 

BBQ pulled chicken in a white bowl

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How to Make BBQ Instant Pot Pulled Chicken

You’ll find a recipe walkthrough below so you can see what your Instant Pot BBQ chicken should look like at each step. I’ve included ingredient substitution notes and tips along the way. If you’re a Kinda Healthy Recipes veteran, you can jump down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post and come back if you have a question. 

Step 1: Coat boneless skinless chicken in olive oil and a bbq chicken seasoning blend. 

boneless skinless chicken thighs, olive oil, and bbq chicken seasoning

The recipe calls for chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breast or half and half. I’ve included nutrition facts for all three variations in the notes section of the recipe card below. But like I mentioned in my chili coconut pulled chicken thighs, the small amount of extra fat in thighs makes for tender, juicy finished product. Go with thighs! 

For the bbq seasoning blend, I’m betting you have everything on hand. If not, you could get by with an omission or submission here and there. You’ll be adding some bbq sauce in step 3 to help cover your bases. 

Step 2: Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes per side using the Instant Pot’s sauté function.

sautéing bbq chicken thighs in the Instant Pot

Make sure your Instant Pot is completely hot before adding the bbq chicken. Similar to my Mexican shredded chicken thighs, you want a quick sear on both sides to create the food geek friendly Maillard reaction (read: flavor creation)! While you could get away with just throwing everything in and pressure cooking, the few minutes of contact with the heated pot are really worth it. 

Step 3: Add bbq sauce, seal, and cook with high pressure for 5 minutes. 

pressure cooking chicken thighs with bbq sauce

To keep the ingredient list and cook time on the short side, the recipe calls for your choice of bbq sauce. I used local-to-me Stubb’s Bar-B-Q sauce. Their original is on the lower calorie side, but the Sticky Sweet is worth the extra calories in my opinion. G Hughes also makes sugar free BBQ sauces that are really flavorful if you’re okay with a few artificial sweeteners. Have fun here—any sauce will get the job done! 

Just make sure you move the chicken thighs around and get some sauce on the bottom to deglaze the pot before sealing. 

Step 4: Shred the cooked chicken and add back to the bbq sauce. 

shredded bbq chicken in the sauce

I like to transfer the chicken to a separate bowl for shredding to keep my delicate hands burn-free. But if you didn’t want to dirty another bowl, you could attack yours with meat claws like I mentioned in my Instant Pot buffalo chicken dip and pork tenderloin carnitas recipes. 

Unlike other pulled chicken recipes on my blog, this Instant Pot bbq chicken doesn’t call for reducing the remaining sauce, but that’s always an option. If you want an extra thick bbq sauce, you can use the sauté function on the Instant Pot to reduce the sauce while you shred the chicken in a separate bowl. 

Optional: Broil for 8-12 minutes for crispy edges on your pulled bbq chicken. 

broiling the bbq chicken using the Instant Pot duo crisp

I use the 8-quart Instant Pot Duo Crisp for recipe development, which has the broil function. I’m sure the air fryer attachment or similar accessories have comparable functions. If you don’t have anything that can do this, you can simply transfer your bbq pulled chicken to a baking sheet and broil in the oven. It’s definitely worth the hassle! 

I’ll also add that if you don’t plan on broiling, it’s probably worth taking a few minutes to reduce the remaining bbq sauce a bit. 

Serving Your Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

BBQ chicken sandwich, BBQ chicken nachos, BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potatoes, and BBQ chicken sliders

Pulled pork sandwiches are always a good move to keep things simple. But if you haven’t seen my BBQ chicken nachos using this chicken, head over there right away. I’ve also made BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potatoes and BBQ chicken sliders using this recipe! 

In case you’d like to get creative and incorporate your leftover pulled BBQ chicken into other recipes, I’ve got you covered. I used leftovers from my pressure cooker pulled pork recipe to make things like pulled pork pizza and a pulled pork breakfast casserole. Swap the pork for your bbq chicken and rock on. 

However you end up serving your Instant Pot pulled BBQ chicken, I’d love to hear about it. Come back and let me your thoughts on this recipe and what you end up using it for in a comment at the bottom of the post. Recipe reviews are always helpful! 

Instant Pot Pulled BBQ Chicken

Instant Pot Pulled BBQ Chicken

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

BBQ seasoned chicken thighs seared and pressure cooked to juicy, tender perfection.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Tbsp (32g) Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 C (140g) BBQ Sauce of Your Choice

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Coat the chicken in the oil in a large bowl before adding the bbq seasoning blend. Stir to coat.
  2. Set a pressure cooker's sauté function to high. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping and cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the bbq sauce and move the chicken around to get some sauce to the bottom of the pot. Seal and pressure cook for 5 minutes* on high with quick release pressure.
  4. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl to shred before going back in the sauce.
  5. Optional for Instant Pot Duo Crisp: Use the broil function for 8-12 minutes or broil on a baking sheet in the oven for crispy edges.

Notes

*If you use chicken breast, which tends to be a bit thicker than chicken thighs, you may need to extend the cook time by a few minutes.

For Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken

You can take the extra step to sear the chicken thighs in a large skillet before slow cooking in the bbq sauce and a bit of chicken broth to partially cover the chicken. Or you can throw everything in a slow cooker for 2-3 hours on high before shredding. You could also omit the olive oil if you skip the searing step.

Nutrition Facts Notes

  • Each 3-ounce serving of pulled BBQ chicken has 3 WW SmartPoints (blue).
  • Per serving with chicken breast: 135 calories, 21g of protein, 3g of carbs, 4g of fat, and 1 SmartPoint
  • Per serving with 1 pound of chicken breast and 1 pound of chicken thighs: 150 calories, 19g of protein, 3g of carbs, 6g of fat, and 2 SmartPoints

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Servings Serving Size: 3 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165Total Fat: 9gCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 18g

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21 thoughts on “Pulled Instant Pot BBQ Chicken”

  • Hey Mason, I made this (I did the broiling in the oven). It is super easy and my finicky kids love it. Thanks a bunch!

  • I made this with chicken breast and it was fantastic. I did everything in the Ninja Foodie (including the broil). I love that I only dirtied up one pot.

  • I made this in the slow cooker without searing first. I think next time I will sear just to taste the difference. It was amazing and I’m sure it’ll be even more amazing when I sear! We made sandwiches, nachos and loaded potatoes with it!!

  • We made this in our instant pot! We loved it. It came apart so nicely. We added “coleslaw” and a seared pineapple slice too! We bought the shredded cabbage mix at Trader Joes, tossed it in greek yogurt! Thanks Mason!

  • Okkkkk….so I thought the Mexican pulled chicken couldn’t possibly be topped….UNTIL NOW! I made the recipe as follows, but used 1/2 G Hughes BBQ, and 1/2 Sweet Baby Rays (never be afraid to mix the sauces, y’all) and while I pulled the chicken, I reduced the remaining liquid using the sauté function, and then broiled in the oven for 10 minutes…wahhhla- perfection!

    Paired with a little fat free mozzarella, fresh buns, and air fried French fries.

    Can’t stop, won’t stop making this!! Chicken thighs for life!

  • Made this for meal prep this week and am loving it! Paired it with eggs, avocado, toast and salsa for a morning scramble and also with a “healthier” sweet potato casserole for lunches/dinners. So versatile that I’ve been eating it for a few days straight and enjoy it more each time. 😋

  • I made the instant pot BBQ pulled chicken using half reduced sugar Ray’s BBQ sauce and half Ray’s regular sauce with chicken thighs,. I just purchased the top to broil with the Instant Pot Duo (since Mason recommends it in several of his recipies), I used it and it kicked this recipe up through the roof!!! Amazing, game changer. The wife and the baby Loved it! We had the chicken with some leftover Mason’s Air Fryer Roasted Potato and Carrots. My wife said it was the best Mason meal yet. Thank you for all the amazing recipes that you share.

  • I made this tonight in my slow cooker, sooo good! I loved the spice mixture and I found a sugar free bbq sauce at our Walmart. Meat was very tender. This will definitely be on a regular rotation for meal prep!

  • We’re big BBQ fans in this house, and this was a definite hit! I’ve already made this a few times, as is and with chicken breast. It’s fantastic either way. We eat it over nachos or as a sandwich. So so good

  • I have made this twice this week because it’s THAT good! Chicken thighs are life! We made pulled chicken sandwiches and then made nachos the next night. Probably my new favorite!

  • I made this to meal prep this week and its soooo delicious. Its definitely going to be a staple from now on. I don’t have a pressure cooker so I let the chicken cook in a crockpot overnight and it fell aspart so easy. Then I added the seasonings and bbq sauce. I put it on a 647 roll with some store bought slaw and it was perfect.

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