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Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

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Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is a quick and easy recipe to satisfy your BBQ craving! Enjoy these delicious smoky, sticky, and sweet boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Top view of BBQ chicken topped with cilantro on white plate next to mashed potatoes on blue cloth

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken thighs cook quickly for a tasty meal! The secret trick is to sear the chicken thighs in the Instant Pot before pressure-cooking. This method packs in all the smoky, sweet flavor and tender juices.

Try serving this recipe with my Instant Pot Corn on the Cob or Air Fryer Potato Wedges! Yum.

Can you BBQ in an Instant Pot?

I get asked this question all the time! No, you can’t barbecue like you would be able to on a traditional grill, but you can prepare many modified BBQ dishes in the Instant Pot. 

The best part is that the Instant Pot cooks in a fraction of the time, compared to grilling, smoking, or slow cooking! It’s the quickest way to satisfy your BBQ craving.

Check out some of my best Instant Pot BBQ Recipes:

Can BBQ sauce count as the liquid in an Instant Pot?

Unlike many slow cooker recipes, BBQ sauce will NOT work as the liquid in an Instant Pot. Due to the high sugar content in BBQ sauce, if you add it directly to the pot, it will burn. That’s why this recipe first sears the thighs, then uses water to deglaze the pot.

Close up of potato casserole scooped from pan topped with cheese and green onions
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken pairs perfectly with Twice Baked Potato Casserole (also made in the Instant Pot!)

Deglazing sounds fancy, but it’s a basic technique!  It simply means adding liquid to a hot pan and gently loosening the caramelized bits, also known as fond, from the bottom. It’s how you get the flavor off the bottom of the pan and into your mouth!

If you’re concerned about burning, cook the Instant Pot barbecue chicken on a trivet with just the BBQ rub seasoning, then sauce after pressure-cooking.

Close up of instant pot BBQ chicken on white plate on mashed potatoes

How to make Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs

  • Press the sauté button on the Instant Pot and allow it to preheat until the pot reads “HOT.”
  • Add oil and heat until shiny.
  • Sprinkle your favorite BBQ rub/seasoning blend on the boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Place the chicken into the hot oil and sear three minutes per side.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and immediately add water to the pot.
  • Turn off sauté mode.
  • Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. If your seasoning blend has sugar in it (most BBQ seasoning does), you must scrape all the browned bits off completely, or it’ll burn.
  • Place the chicken back into the pot in the liquid. Top each piece of chicken with 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce, careful not to get it into the liquid.
  • Lock the lid, turn the knob to sealing, then pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Allow a 5-minute natural pressure release.
  • Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot and glaze with additional BBQ sauce.

If desired, you can broil the basted chicken for extra char.

two cooked air fryer chicken thighs in air fryer with cooked asparagus stalks

What’s the difference between chicken breasts and chicken thighs?

Chicken thighs are more tender and fatty than chicken breasts. The chicken thigh is dark meat with a delicious, intense flavor. Oppositely, chicken breasts are all white meat. If not cooked correctly, chicken breasts can result in dry, bland, and chewy chicken.

I make this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It produces a better result than chicken breasts.

If you’re looking for a yummy Instant Pot BBQ chicken breast from fresh or frozen, check out my Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken recipe! I like to add this Instant Pot pulled chicken to a fresh strawberry salad.

I also highly recommend my Air Fryer Chicken Thighs.

About Lisa

Lisa childs holding an instant pot lid with a mickey instant pot

Lisa Childs is the food blogger behind Tried, Tested, and True. Join the hundreds of thousands of people each month that learn from Lisa-

Subscribe to her website, follow her on Instagram at @tried_tested_true, follow her on Pinterest, and find her on Youtube at Tried Tested and True. She is passionate about giving home cooks confidence using their Instant Pots. Make sure to sign up for our email newsletter to hear from personally from her weekly! Learn more about Lisa.

Graphic of Instant Pot Easy BBQ Chicken with one picture of a plate of BBQ chicken.
Top view of BBQ chicken topped with cilantro on white plate next to mashed potatoes on blue cloth

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken is a quick and easy recipe to satisfy your BBQ craving! Enjoy these delicious smoky, sticky, and sweet boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (add 4 minutes for bone in)
  • 2 teaspoons bbq seasoning rub (store bought or homemade. My recipe below)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup bbq sauce, divided

Homemade BBQ Rub

  • 1/4 C. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

Instructions

  1. Press the saute button on the Instant Pot and allow to preheat until the pot reads "HOT."
    Add oil and heat until shiny.
  2. Sprinkle your favorite bbq rub/seasoning blend on the chicken thighs. Place the chicken into the hot oil and sear three minutes per side.
  3. Remove the chicken to a plate and immediately add water to the pot. Turn off saute mode. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. If you seasoning blend had sugar in it (most bbq seasoning does), you must scrape all the browned bits off completely, or it'll burn.
  4. Place the chicken back into the pot in the liquid. Top each piece of chicken with 1 tablespoon of bbq sauce, careful not to get it into the liquid.
  5. Lock the lid, turn the knob to sealing, then pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Allow a 5 minute natural pressure release.
  6. Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot and glaze with additional bbq sauce.
    If desired, you can broil the basted chicken for extra char.


To make the Homemade BBQ Rub, combine all ingredients and store in an airtight bag or container for up to 3 months. Sprinkle on any meat like my Instant Pot BBQ Ribs or Instant Pot Country Style Ribs recipe.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 761Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 275mgSodium: 3733mgCarbohydrates: 78gFiber: 6gSugar: 59gProtein: 59g

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