Have you ever been casually traipsing through your day, only to be sideswiped by the shocking reveal that you’ve been doing something painfully basic wrong your entire life? That was how I felt the first time I made these easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos. This recipe yields the BEST EVER shredded Mexican chicken. Once you try shredded chicken tacos, pressure cooker style, there is no going back.
This recipe is sponsored by Avocados from Mexico
Other days tantamount to epic Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Taco day:
- The day I realized the correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes,” not “for all intensive purposes.” (It’s true…and I didn’t find out until I was in my 20s. ?)
- The day I peeled a banana from the bottom instead of the top (TRY IT).
- The day I discovered baked bacon.
Shredded chicken tacos have been a trusty, easy recipe standby in my emergency dinner rotation since I first learned to combine salsa and chicken in a slow cooker and turned it on.
Come to think of it, salsa chicken has been a trusty, easy recipe standby in my non-emergency dinner rotation too. Sometimes I’d make it in the slow cooker, and sometimes I’d start with this basic tutorial for How to Make Shredded Chicken and then add salsa. (This Baked Chicken Breast is a new favorite in our house.)
I thought we’d carry on happily for years, this basic salsa chicken and I, until a few weeks ago when I found myself wanting…more.
A better, juicier texture.
A faster cook time.
Sure, salsa chicken was fine, but every time I took a bite of a chicken taco I’d made using it, I found myself essentially smothering the shredded chicken with other ingredients in a desperate attempt to give it more flavor.
I’d gussied the shredded chicken up, but I hadn’t solved the essential problem: how to make truly excellent shredded Mexican chicken that I could use for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or in any which way I pleased.
Oh, and the prep for this mystery shredded chicken of my dreams still needed to be minimal and the cook time fast too.
Cue the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos – The Easiest, Tastiest Way to Make Mexican Shredded Chicken
In addition to slashing the shredded chicken’s cook time, the Instant Pot’s sauté function made it a one-step snap to brown the chicken before cooking it, which had a profound, positive impact on its final flavor, as did sautéing the onions and spices. (Another Instant Pot winner with a similar flavor profile: Instant Pot Mexican Casserole!)
My other mega-flavor tips for next-level shredded chicken tacos are chipotle chilis in adobo (available in the Hispanic food section of most grocery stores) and fresh avocados.
The chipotle chilis give the chicken a deep, smoky flavor that makes it taste as if you’ve been cooking it for hours low and slow, instead of 8 minutes in the pressure cooker.
The avocados add a creamy, cool factor that balances the shredded chicken’s spice. I blended mine with Greek yogurt and fresh lime juice to make a rich but healthy avocado sauce that we spooned over EVERYTHING that week. You can take this extra step if you have time. If you are in a hurry, simply pile your Instant Pot Chicken Tacos high with plenty of fresh avocado slices for a similar effect.
While this shredded pressure cooker Mexican chicken is versatile (try it mixed with rice and beans, as a filling for enchiladas, or even on top of this Skinny Taco Salad), most often I use it for tacos.
We were craving hard versus soft shell tacos this time, so I opted for another “OMG I’ve been doing this wrong my whole life!” product, Old El Paso Stand ’n Stuff Taco Shells. The flat base means they stand up on their own, so they are easy to fill and to eat.
Ever picked up a taco to take a bite only to realize you won’t be able to set it back down again until you’ve finished? With these clever flat-bottomed shells, you can!
While I would be hard-pressed to imagine an occasion where easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos wouldn’t be welcome (come on, you know chicken tacos are way more fun than whatever fussy spread you’d planned to serve your in-laws), with the Big Game a few weeks away, football time is prime time for tacos too. This crowd-pleasing recipe would be a hit at any game day party. (So would these Flank Steak Tacos!)
For maximum hosting ease, you can keep the shredded chicken taco filling warm in the Instant Pot (or transfer it to a slow cooker and keep it warm there), set out the toppings and shells, and let guests build their own tacos. (Or try this Crockpot Mexican Chicken, which can keep warm in the slow cooker.)
To Make This Instant Pot Shredded Chicken from Frozen
- Follow the recipe instructions, but cook on high pressure for 10 minutes instead of 8. That’s it!
- Note that you will need to skip searing the chicken, so you will have some loss in flavor; that said, if you forget to thaw your chicken, this is certainly still a workable option.
More Mexican-Inspired Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken Mole
- Instant Pot Mexican Casserole
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Plus, don’t miss these 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes!
Tools to Make Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos
Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos
FOR THE CHICKEN:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 small/medium or 3 medium/large), cut in half if large
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo individual peppers, NOT 3 cans, finely chopped (if you love heat, feel free to add an extra pepper or stir in a few teaspoons of sauce from the can)
- 1 can diced tomatoes in their juices (14 ounces)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 medium lime
FOR THE AVOCADO SAUCE:
- 1 ripe avocado peeled and pitted
- 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Old El Paso Stand & Stuff Taco Shells
- Any other bonus toppings: fresh cilantro diced jalapeno, thinly sliced radishes, cheese, additional salsa, diced avocado (either in place of or in addition to avocado sauce above)
- Season both sides of the chicken with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper.
- Set the Instant Pot to sauté. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Once hot and shimmering, add half the chicken and sear both sides for 2 to 3 minutes each, just until brown (the chicken does not need to be cooked through). Do not disturb the chicken while each side sears. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the second half of the chicken and sear each side for 2 to 3 minutes each. Remove to the same plate.
- With the Instant Pot still on sauté, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, chili powder, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Let cook 3 minutes, until the onion beings to soften. Turn the Instant Pot off (on my model, I hit CANCEL). Stir in the chipotle peppers, tomatoes, and reserved chicken. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer (a little overlap is OK, and the chicken will be touching). Pour the lime juice over the top.
- Lock the lid in place. Cook on manual pressure for 8 minutes. As soon as the time is up, vent immediately. Once you can open the lid, turn the Instant Pot off, and then remove the chicken to a large bowl or plate. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces by about half. Meanwhile, shred the chicken with two forks (or, once it is cool enough, your fingers).
- Once the liquid is reduced, turn the Instant Pot off, return the chicken into the Instant Pot, and then stir the chicken to coat in the sauce.
- Prepare the avocado sauce (I like to do this while the chicken is pressure cooking): In a food processor, blend together the avocado, Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt until smooth. Taste and add additional salt or lime juice as desired.
- To serve: Fill the shells with the chicken, drizzle with avocado sauce, and add any desired toppings. Enjoy immediately.
- Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat gently on the stove with a splash of chicken stock or extra salsa to keep it from drying out.
- Leftover avocado sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container or mason jar (press a piece of plastic wrap over the top to protect it from air) for up to 2 days.
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I am sharing this post in partnership with Avocados from Mexico and Old El Paso. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue to create quality content for you!