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The BEST Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

This Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken recipe is an absolute family favorite - it is SO EASY to make, makes great leftover pulled chicken, and tastes fantastic. Serve this BBQ Pulled Chicken in sandwiches, on tacos, as a pizza topping, over rice or a baked potato.

Tongs holding up BBQ pulled chicken

This isn't one of those long food blogger stories, I promise.

My brother recently got a pressure cooker and is constantly asking me for recipes, so I texted him this Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken recipe with vague instructions:

  • Slice an onion (or skip it if you're lazy), place in the Instant Pot
  • Add 3-4 chicken breasts on top
  • Season the chicken if you want (or skip it if you're lazy)
  • Add some BBQ sauce on top (half a cup maybe?)
  • Cook for 20 minutes? 15 if you're extra hungry?
  • Sauté to get rid of extra liquid, dump in more BBQ sauce, mix, eat

He made this pressure cooker BBQ pulled chicken and said it was the BEST Instant Pot recipe he's tried so far and asked me why the recipe is not on the blog.

Because I'm selfish and I was keeping it to myself? Just kidding.

Here it is! My super forgiving, super easy Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken.

And by the way, if this is something that piques your interest, then you need to check out my Instant Pot Ribs and Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork with homemade grape jelly BBQ sauce!

Placing BBQ shredded chicken on a sandwich

Related recipe: BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese

Ingredients for Instant Pot BBQ chicken

This BBQ pulled chicken has only 4 ingredients:

  • onion
  • chicken
  • BBQ sauce
  • chicken or pork seasoning

But this recipe is SUPER FORGIVING and I've made it without the onion or seasoning. Just chicken, BBQ Sauce, and water (so the Instant Pot doesn't give you a burn setting). If you have a good tasting BBQ sauce, this recipe will be fantastic without any additional seasoning.

If you take the extra minute to roughly slice an onion and to sprinkle some seasonings on the chicken, it will be out-of-this-world delicious.

The onion won't be felt once the chicken is done cooking - it will sort of melt into the broth and the BBQ Sauce and will make everything taste better. And extra seasonings never hurt anyone, obviously.

Instant pot with chicken, BBQ sauce, and onions in it

Related recipe: Hot Honey Chicken With Broccoli

Doubling the recipe

You can absolutely double this recipe. 

You can double the whole thing, double the chicken only, double the chicken and the onions, or double the chicken and the seasonings. As I said above, super flexible. 

Just don't double the water or the cooking time - it's not necessary. Increase the water to about 3/4 cup if doubling the chicken. And don't worry about not having the chicken in a single layer. Just spread it out as much as possible.

BBQ shredded chicken sandwich with an Instant Pot in the background

Related recipe: Spicy Honey Chicken

What kind of Instant Pot to use

This recipe can be made in any 6-quart *OR* 8-quart Instant Pot. It fits fine in both sizes since it doesn't fully fill up the Instant Pot. I bet it fits in the mini 3-quart Instant Pot as well, though I haven't tried. So go ahead and make it in ANY Instant pot that you have.

But if you're still on the fence or about to shop for an Instant Pot, here are a few affiliate links that might help you decide:

I have this 8-quart Instant Pot duo and think it's just the right size even though it's just me, my husband, and a toddler. We cook a lot so we went for the bigger one so we can make bigger batches and have leftovers. I haven't regretted getting the bigger size because we have the counter space for it. 

If you don't want the extra large one, then the 6-quart one really works for most recipes, especially if you're not making huge pots of chili or soups (remember, you can't fill it up all the way to 6 quarts because you need to leave some room so it comes to pressure safely).

Love trying new kitchen gadgets? Check out a sous vide cooker for the BEST chicken of your life!

How to serve BBQ Pulled Chicken and what to do with leftovers

This Instant Pot recipe makes ~6 servings. Maybe more. Maybe less - it really depends on how big your chicken breasts are. I often double the recipe because pulled chicken freezes well (more on that later) and because you can do SO MUCH WITH THE LEFTOVERS.

Here's our game plan for enjoying this pulled chicken and what to do with pulled chicken leftovers:

  • Day 1: BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches. Either with melted cheese or coleslaw. Always toast the bun.
  • Day 2: BBQ Pulled Chicken Tacos. Add any other toppings you like: sliced radishes, leftover coleslaw, diced onion, diced cilantro, squeeze of lime, shredded cheese, salsa, hot sauce, etc.
  • Day 3: Serve over rice. Add a vegetable on the side (this sauteed bell pepper salad!)
  • Day 4: Put it on pizza. (Like this Asparagus and BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza but with chicken, or make this Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza)
  • Day 5: Sweet Potato Hash (Like this Sweet Potato Pulled Pork Hash but with chicken)

It is also fantastic in a chicken quesadilla, or over a baked potato with a side of honey butter corn.

BBQ pulled chicken sandwich with melted cheese

How to freeze BBQ pulled chicken

This Instant Pot Pulled Chicken Freezes well. Just portion out anywhere from 1-4 portions, put it in a quart-sized zip lock bag, seal while pushing all the extra air out, and lay flat on the counter, spreading the pulled chicken into an even(ish) layer. Freeze.

To thaw, just move it from the freezer to the fridge the day before you plan on eating it. Reheat in the microwave or in a small saucepan, adding a bit of extra BBQ sauce if you want to add a little somethin' extra. 

So what do you think? Are you convinced to give this Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken a try?? I hope so, because it will blow your mind! If you make this recipe, please take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@babaganoshblog) so I can see! I love seeing your creations!

Other easy Instant Pot and chicken recipes you will love:

Or try this slow cooker honey chicken - it's so good!

If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a rating and a comment below, and share this recipe with someone on Facebook or save it on Pinterest so you can find it later!

Pinterest image with text: Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

bbq pulled chicken sandwich made in the Instant Pot with coleslaw
Print Recipe
4.87 from 23 votes

The BEST Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

This Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken recipe is a family favorite - it is SO EASY to make, makes great leftover pulled chicken, and tastes fantastic.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Author: Kate
Cost: $9


  • 1 large yellow onion - sliced
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons pork or chicken seasoning - (or 1/2 - 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika - See Notes)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce - , divided or more or less to taste

Special equipment


  • Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the instant pot. Add chicken breasts on top. Sprinkle the pork or chicken seasoning (or spice mixture) on top of the chicken. Add half the barbecue sauce on top of the chicken. Add 1/2 cup water on the side of the chicken.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid, set the valve to sealing, and cook on manual setting at high pressure for 20 minutes. Allow for natural pressure release (NPR) for at least 10 minutes.
  • Press the saute button and allow the extra liquid to cook off (about 10 minutes), stirring every few minutes to break up the chicken and ensure that the chicken doesn't stick to the bottom.
  • Add the rest of the BBQ sauce and stir well. Serve warm in a BBQ pulled chicken sandwich, in tacos, or over rice.



If you don't have pork or chicken seasoning and don't want to bother with all the spices, you can skip the spice mixture altogether. The BBQ sauce and onions add enough flavor to the chicken and I make it the "lazy way" all the time. Or you can season it with just a bit of salt and pepper, if you prefer. 


Calories: 255kcal (13%) | Carbohydrates: 19g (6%) | Protein: 32g (64%) | Fat: 4g (6%) | Saturated Fat: 1g (5%) | Cholesterol: 96mg (32%) | Sodium: 665mg (28%) | Potassium: 668mg (19%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 16g (18%) | Vitamin A: 152IU (3%) | Vitamin C: 2mg (2%) | Calcium: 23mg (2%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.


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Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

Delicious - as indicated!!


Wednesday 4th of May 2022

Thank you so much, Denise!!


Saturday 24th of October 2020

Can the chicken breast still be frozen with this recipe or thaw first?


Saturday 24th of October 2020

Hi Jessica,

Yes they can - add 10 minutes of cook time to the Instant Pot if starting with frozen chicken.


Thursday 27th of August 2020

How much is one serving of this? As far as serving size per serving?


Thursday 27th of August 2020

It really depends on how much you are adding to your sandwich or plate! I estimated the nutrition facts based on this recipe making 6 servings - that's how much we usually get out of this recipe (about 2/3 of a chicken breast each serving), but of course this varies on the size of your chicken breasts, etc.

Kathleen Young

Tuesday 21st of July 2020

can you use chicken thighs in place of chicken breasts?


Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

Hi Kathleen, I haven't tried it but I don't see why not! It would be a slightly different texture/flavor, obviously, but it would still be good. Just trim off any fat and make sure they're boneless. You might need to actually cut down on the cooking time, since I've made really tender chicken thighs in the IP in 5-7 minutes, but chicken breast usually needs 20 minutes for me to become fall-apart-tender. If you try it, I'd love to know how it turns out!

Bettina Gabrisch

Saturday 27th of June 2020

Hello Kate! Today is the second time I will be making this pulled chicken recipe. IT IS OUT OF THIS WORLD! SUPER EASY! SUPER DELICIOUS! My whole family ABSOLUTELY loves it! Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe with all of us! Bettina


Saturday 27th of June 2020

Hi Bettina, THANK YOU SO MUCH for letting me know! This seriously made my day. We absolutely love it too, it's by far the tastiest chicken recipe with the least ingredients possible.

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