These Instant Pot Chicken Thighs make a succulent, easy, and very flavourful dinner that will make everyone at the table happy. Leftovers, if you have any, are great in tacos or enchiladas.
Lately, if I need to come up with a quick, easy dinner, there’s about a 90% chance I’m going to cook these Instant Pot chicken thighs. These days I have been very into hands-off cooking and this chicken is my new Instant Pot obsession; few ingredients, tender juicy meat, flavourful sauce, versatile, and incredibly tasty. So simple, it is ideal for the busy weeknight and none of us seem to tire of it. Incredibly, this dish is just as good made with frozen chicken so you need to have made zero planning ahead.
If you’re new to the Instant Pot, this one is nearly impossible to get wrong. The core recipe is beyond simple: lightly browned chicken thighs cook atop a bed of onions and peppers then pressured cooked until tender and juicy. Combined with the chicken juices, the onion and pepper mixture creates an unexpectedly flavourful and bold sauce that will both surprise and thrill you. And as good as it is the night you make it, the leftovers are even better the next day. I’m telling you, these chicken thighs are amazing and have your weeknight dinner covered.
- Why You Will Love These Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
- Minimal Amount Of Liquid
- *UPDATE ON THE AMOUNT OF LIQUID:
- Can I Skip Browning the Chicken Thighs?
- Can I use Chicken Breast?
- Can I use Frozen Chicken?
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs How To
- Tips To Make The Best Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
- To Serve
- Check Out These Other Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs (Fresh or Frozen)
- More Ideas
Why You Will Love These Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
In general, boneless, skinless Chicken thighs are my go-to for quick weeknight dinners. Throw them in an Instant Pot, and they will be more tender, juicier, and flavourful than you thought possible. Here’s why you will love this recipe:
- An incredibly easy, rich, and flavourful sauce: The vibrant and gorgeous sauce you see in the photos is made simply with sliced onions and mixed peppers. When the vegetables are steamed in the Instant pot they release a lot of flavourful juices. Mixed with the chicken spices and juices, it gives you something far tastier than it should for the amount of work you put in.
- Simple, pantry-friendly spices: There are no exotic, hard to find spices here. Sweet paprika, garlic powder, and a little oregano, is all that is needed. The paprika is what gives the chicken and the sauce its lovely colour without the need for too much browning.
- Versatile: I have made these Instant Pot chicken thighs dozens of times, varying the vegetables and spices to suit my mood and refrigerator inventory. The dish always works.
- A last minute dinner: I love to cook and I love a nice dinner, but I am a huge culinary procrastinator. Too often, come dinnertime, I have just started thinking about what to make. These Instant Pot chicken thighs are perfect for people like me. They cook in mere minutes and with impossibly few ingredients and effort, you are amply rewarded.
- Spoon tender, deeply flavoured chicken: In the Instant Pot, spices penetrate the meat more deeply. These perfectly spiced chicken thighs emerge from the pressure cooker beautifully succulent and fall-apart tender.
- Works like a charm with frozen chicken thighs: Magically, these chicken thighs turn out just as delicious with frozen chicken. I will go as far as saying they might be even better. More on cooking frozen chicken thighs below.
Minimal Amount Of Liquid
I need to be really clear on the minimal amount of liquid needed for this recipe because people get very heated about this. Yes the Instant Pot generally requires liquid to get to pressure, and to avoid the dreaded burn warning. But, for this recipe, and for many others, you do not need a lot of liquid. The chicken and vegetables release plenty of liquid to make everything work just fine.
The amount of sauce you see in the photos of the finished dish was achieved with only 4 tablespoons of water added. In fact, I usually use way less, or none. Don’t feel tempted to use more or you will have a very thin, watery sauce.
The only reason I add those 4 tablespoons of water, is to scrape up the browned bits left behind from browning the chicken. Doing this will 100% prevent the burn warning. Trust.
*UPDATE ON THE AMOUNT OF LIQUID:
Many readers continue to express concerns about the small amount of liquid this recipe calls for. Here is an explanation you might find helpful by Urvashi Pitre — a bestselling Instant Pot cookbook author:
“Many recipes call for too much water, which makes users wonder why their food is so bland or overcooked. Yes, it is true that you need a certain amount of water for the pot to come to pressure—but that water does not all need to come from the tap. Most vegetables, fruits, and meats release water while cooking. A LOT of water, in fact. In contrast, rice, most grains, potatoes, and pasta all absorb water.
Once you understand how this works, you will realize why many of my recipes don’t call for added water. Not only does it make food bland, but to thicken the sauce, you often end up having to use the Sauté function after the food is already well cooked—resulting in overcooked food.” ~ URVASHI PITRE via Food52.
NOTE: If you are still nervous about using only 1/4 cup of water for this recipe, please go ahead and add 1/2 cup, or 1 cup. It will still be great but the sauce will be a little less tasty, even if you sauté it for a while.
Can I Skip Browning the Chicken Thighs?
I shouldn’t admit that I often skip this step if cooking skinless chicken thighs in the Instant Pot, but I do. The sauté function in the Instant Pot is incredibly convenient for browning vegetables and meat. The small surface, however, makes it very tedious to brown even a small amount of meat. Unfortunately, we all know that browning does add depth and flavour to the finished dish, and here it also adds complexity and colour to the sauce.
So I compromise. I brown the meat on one side only. I find this gives me the nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan that add so much flavour, without spending too long on the task.
Can I use Chicken Breast?
Yes you can. With a few considerations to keep in mind. Dark chicken meat is forgiving, even when overcooked in the Instant pot by a minute or two. Meltingly-tender, you just can’t mess it up. Chicken breast on the hand, is not that straightforward or easy. It just almost always will taste dry. If you have no choice but to use breasts, reduce the cooking time by 2 minutes, and consider shredding the cooked chicken into the sauce.
Can I use Frozen Chicken?
Yes! In fact, the first time I tested this recipe I used a block of frozen chicken thighs. They were shockingly delicious. Simply follow the recipe exactly, skip browning the chicken, and add 4 to 5 minutes more cooking time. If you wish, increase the spice amount by just a touch.
Note: You can find all the detailed instructions for cooking frozen chicken thighs in the Instant Pot in the recipe notes.
Instant Pot Chicken Thighs How To
These chicken thighs are incredibly flavourful and easy to prepare thanks to to a few pantry-friendly and the handy Instant Pot. After quickly browning the chicken and sautéing some onions and peppers, then add in just about a half hour, it is done!
Here is a visual step-by-step:
- Season chicken with spices and slice onions and peppers.
- Brown chicken in two batches in the Instant Pot on one side. Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Sauté onions and peppers. Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of water and scrape up all the browned bits.
- Place chicken on top of sautéed onions and peppers.
- Seal the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes for fresh chicken thighs, and 12 minutes for frozen. If using bone-in thighs, add 2 minutes to cooking time.
- Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 to 15 minutes then turn the valve to “venting” to release any remaining steam.
- Release any remaining pressure. When the steam has released, turn the lid, and carefully remove it. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
- Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot, and sauté the sauce to thicken, if desired.
Tips To Make The Best Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
- Allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes: This helps keep the meat from seizing up and becoming tough. It will also help finish the meat to cook through completely and absorb more flavours.
- Thicken the sauce: I really enjoy this dish without needing to thicken the sauce. If you prefer a thicker sauce, remove the cooked chicken from the Instant Pot, and turn on the Sauté setting. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes until reduced and slightly thickened. Alternatively, make a slurry by mixing 3 Tablespoons water with 3 Tablespoons flour until smooth. Stir into the sauce and cook on saute for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened.
- Use fresh spices: Paprika, in particular, loses its strength and flavour rather quickly. Use the freshest spices possible for maximum flavour.
- Don’t skimp on the veggies! The onions and peppers are doing double duty here; for delicious flavour, of course, but they also release a lot of liquid which means we don’t need to add a lot of water. If you significantly reduce the amount of veggies, then double the amount of water.
- Don’t add too much liquid: Repeating this again due to how important it is to not add too much liquid. Particularly for this recipe which includes vegetables that release a lot of liquid when pressure cooked.
- No need to use a trivet: Most recipes will have you place the chicken thighs on a trivet to prevent them from boiling in the liquid. In this recipe, the chicken will rest on the large amount of onions and peppers so one is not needed. That said, if you are omitting the peppers, or you don’t have a lot of vegetables, consider using a trivet if you have one.
- Remove a few onions for garnish: This is optional but once the onions brown, I like to remove a few and reserve them for garnish.
You can certainly have some fun with these Instant Pot chicken thighs. Switch up the spices and make them lean towards a curry, or Thai flavoured dish.
I absolutely love the flavour of the peppers in this dish. Very reminiscent of a Dominican pollo guisado (stewed chicken) or an Italian chicken cacciatore. That said, I have made this with just onions and the chicken is still super delicious.
You can even omit the onions in which case you will have no sauce, but the chicken will still be great. If you go this route, you may need to add a little more water and use a trivet for the chicken to rest on.
A crusty loaf comes will come in handy with this one as this dish offers plentiful sauce for mopping up.
These chicken thighs are excellent with marinated white beans, white or brown rice, a creamy polenta, or a cauliflower mash.
If avoiding carbs, serve the chicken with a hearty salad, such as this Mexican Chopped Salad, so good.
Store leftover cooked chicken in the fridge for 3-4 days, and reheat gently over medium heat on the stovetop.
To freeze, transfer chicken to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Check Out These Other Instant Pot Recipes
- Salsa Verde Chicken (Slow Cooker and Instant Pot)
- Instant Pot Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Instant Pot Barley Minestrone Soup
If you give this Instant Pot Chicken Thighs (fresh or Frozen) recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. Your feedback is very helpful to me and to other readers. Thank you!
Instant Pot Chicken Thighs (Fresh or Frozen)
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs about 6 large thighs
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or any other dried spice such as thyme, rosemary or a favourite blend
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 medium onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rings, or half rings
- 1 small green pepper sliced into 1/4-inch rings, or thin slices
- 1 small red pepper sliced into 1/4-inch rings, or thin slices
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Rub the spice mixture all over the top and underside of the chicken thighs.
- Press the "Saute" function and wait until the Instant Pot displays "Hot" about 2-3 minutes. Once hot, pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread over the bottom of the pot. Place half of the chicken thighs in the pot and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned on one side. Remove chicken to a clean plate, and repeat with remaing chicken. Set chicken aside.
- Pour in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the onions, green pepper, and red peppers. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until starting to brown, but barely transluscent. If you wish, remove a few of the browned onions and reserve them for garnish.
- Turn "Saute" function off and pour in 1/4 cup of water into the inner pot. Use a flat wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. This will ensure that you do not get a burn warning during the pressure cooking process.
- Return the chicken thighs back to the Instant Pot, placing them right on top of the onions and peppers. Sprinkle the red chili flakes over the chicken, if using.
- Close the Instant Pot lid and set the steam release valve to the "Sealing" position. Press "High Pressure/Manual" and set the timer for 8 minutes, or 9 minutes if your chicken thighs are big. The Instant Pot will take about 5 minutes to come to pressure before the cooking time begins.
- Once the IP is done cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once done, turn the steam release valve to the venting position to release any remaining pressure. When the float valve drops down, carefully open the lid. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
- Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot and place in a serving bowl or platter. If sauce is too thin for your taste, turn on the "saute" function and cook for 5 minutes until sauce reduces and thickens to deisred consistency. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with chopped parsley, if you wish.
- Sauté onions and peppers as per recipe instructions. Add 2 tablespoons water to deglaze bottom of the pan. Place frozen chicken thighs on top of sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle spice mixture over top (you may not need to use all the seasoning).
- Seal and cook on “high pressure” for 12 minutes for boneless chicken, or 15 minutes for bone-in. Allow pressure to release naturally for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once done, turn the steam release valve to the venting position to release any remaining pressure. When the float valve drops down, carefully open the lid. Separate the chicken if it is still a little stuck together and allow it to sit in the hot juices for a few minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
- To finish, follow the written recipe above.