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Mexican Instant Pot Chicken to Prove that Pressure Cookers Aren’t Scary

My life fluctuates between the acceptance of delayed pleasure and the need for instant gratification.

Handcrafted clogs custom-made for each order? Yeah, I’ll begrudingly wait a month to get a pair that I know are mine and mine alone.

But the excruciating five-minute wait for a Shake Shack burger? I have been known to frantically scroll through my entire Instagram feed at the table to take my mind off the fact that my buzzer hasn’t yet skittered to life.

Mexican Instant Pot chicken thighs
Photo: Casey Barber

As my soul sister Sally Albright once said, “Well, I just want it the way I want it.”

To that I’ll add, I want it when I want it, and pressure cooking gives me all the pleasure of flavorful, slow-simmered food without all the waaaaaaiting.

Stop right there. Don’t let those words leave your mouth.

I will tell you right now that if you can program a slow cooker, you can also use a pressure cooker—most frequently known these days by the Instant Pot brand name.

Mexican Instant Pot chicken thighs
Photo: Casey Barber

You’re a modern cook! You’re not living in the Victorian era, for pete’s sake, and there’s no reason to futz with one of those banging, clanging stovetop relics.

Unlike those old models, which promised low-maintenance cooking but really were frighteningly high-maintenance, the Instant Pot and its ilk go for multitasking mastery.

They combine the functionality of slow cookers and pressure cookers in one plug-in, set-it-and-forget it package.

I would call them two-in-ones, but really, they’re so much more.

Depending on which model you buy, you might also have preset options to brown, steam, cook rice, incubate yogurt, and more, in addition to the basic high/low/warm functions for both pressure and slow cooking.

And every single one of these functions has a very familiar setup: add ingredients, close the lid, set the high/low temperature for X amount of time, and walk away while it does its thing.

For most people, the selling point for these combo cookers is the idea that you can pressure-cook entire meals—everything from beef stew to risotto to tender baby back ribs—in only an hour’s time.

I’ve done this, and it really does work as well as advertised. Pretty much anything you’re waiting to cook for 6 hours in a slow cooker could be done in a fraction of the time in an Instant Pot.

However, with all my recipe development work, we’re not really hurting for making big-batch meals on a regular basis.

What we do need in this house is quick and basic fixes for those desperation moments when I’m not cooking for work and the fridge is scary empty.

pulled chicken in stand mixer
Photo: Casey Barber

And because of that, I most frequently use mine to batch-cook basic ingredients and versatile elements that I can eat immediately or freeze in single-serving portions to throw into meals as needed.

This is where the Instant Pot really earns its keep in my appliance arsenal, far beyond what a slow cooker or rice cooker alone could accomplish.

I could throw a pot of dried beans on the stove and let them simmer away for the afternoon, or I could get a pound of creamy cannellini beans for my should-be-famous baked beans ready in 30 minutes.

(This is especially helpful when you wake up on a Saturday, realize you haven’t yet made your potluck contribution for the wonderful Emily Peterson‘s annual backyard hootenanny, and you’re due at her house in 3 hours.)

Or, because I know deep down that if I must eat rice, I should be eating brown rice, I can pressure-cook it in the same time it would take to do a quick cup of white rice on the stove.

red chile sauce for enchiladas
Photo: Casey Barber

Same goes for hearty whole grains like wheat berries or farro—healthy meals ahoy! Yes, this is all totally doable even if your electric pressure cooker model doesn’t have the specific rice function.

And because we make a lot of vaguely Tex-Mex-ish things in this house, I throw a lot of chicken thighs into the Instant Pot too, making a tender, shredded filling for tacos, enchiladas, or as a nacho topping. (Nachos all day erryday around here, man.)

The Instant Pot chicken recipe that follows below is supremely adaptable and versatile.

Switch out the red pepper and green chiles for a few tablespoons minced or sliced ginger and maybe a few scallions for fun, and you have an Asian version that’s ready for adding to a soba noodle bowl.

Or if you need plain old Instant Pot chicken, take all those aromatics out of the equation entirely for a blank slate.

Try this Mexican-style pulled chicken as a starter recipe and see how simple electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot can be.

Mexican Instant Pot chicken thighs

Just remember that at the end of the cooking process, the pressure cooker will have to let out all the steam that builds up inside the machine.

This is the part that usually scares everyone off, but it’s truly no big deal—it can be accomplished with the flick of a switch, and the cooker self-modulates. It just sounds and looks scary because there’s a lot of steam!

Wait to hear (and see) the “pop” that tells you the pressure has been released and the cooker will unlock, then carefully open the lid.

Mexican Instant Pot chicken thighs

Mexican-Style Instant Pot Chicken Thighs

Yield: 4 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Make Instant Pot chicken thighs with simple Mexican seasoning to have flavorful pulled chicken for enchiladas, burritos, nachos, and more.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles

Instructions

  1. Pour the broth into the Instant Pot, then add the chicken, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and green chiles.
  2. Close the lid —making sure it clicks to seal and that the knob is set to SEALING—and set for 10 minutes on high pressure.
  3. Release the pressure by turning the knob to vent the steam. When the lid unlocks, open carefully as there might be a residual bit of steam remaining inside.
  4. The chicken gives off a fair bit of liquid as it cooks, so you'll notice that things inside the bowl are a lot soupier than you left them.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the broth and transfer to a bowl until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth from the vegetables, reserving each separately.
  6. Shred the chicken, either by hand with tongs or forks, or with a stand mixer.
  7. Place the chicken in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed and watch the paddle shred the chicken automatically.
  8. Add the reserved vegetables and as much broth as needed to keep the chicken moist. Save the rest of the broth for other recipes!
  9. Divide into meal-size portions as appropriate for your needs and freeze until ready to use.
  10. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating on the stovetop or adding to soups, enchilada or burrito fillings, or whatever magical meal you have planned.

Notes

adapted from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Rick Rodgers and Arlene Ward

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 153Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 181mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 21g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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