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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, BBQ chicken sliders, and BBQ chicken mac and cheese 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

My slow cooker BBQ chicken thighs recipe uses a similar seasoning blend, just one tablespoon of olive oil, and no additional BBQ sauce. You could take the extra step of searing the chicken in a large skillet before slow cooking for 2-3 hours, but that's optional.

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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Madison

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

So easy and so so good for meal prepping! Especially great for lower quality chicken breast from the grocery because the bbq sauce really hides the taste.

Jordan Brewer

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Made this last night and it was sooo easy and delicious! I used my foodi to sauté for a few minutes after cooking to thicken up the bbq sauce. Planning to use the leftovers to make the BBQ Mac and cheese!

Tess Snook-Louie

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

This pulled bbq chicken is fantastic and an absolute dream for meal prep! I usually double or triple it and freeze up proportioned amounts for future dinners/lunches and it always comes out perfect. I almost always use breasts only but I did a mix of thighs and breasts for our last big family dinner and it was even better 🤌🏽 love how easy, fast, and delicious this recipe is!

Liz

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Easy & delicious. Perfect for Sunday meal prep.

Jenn

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

This is my go-to BBQ Chicken recipe. I had tried several others and found that this one has the best flavors! I appreciate that the spices are ones used in a lot of recipes so I always have them and they are just the right amount to help it taste like I cooked something instead of just threw some BBQ sauce on it.

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