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.
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.
5 Star Review
“This was SO good! I had never used the instant-pot, or this dish. But you made it very clear, and the instructions/times were perfect!”— Ryan —
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 too.)
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.
- More flavor.
- A better, juicier texture.
- A faster cook time.
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.
How to Make Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos
Cue the Instant Pot.
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!)
- Chicken. I opted to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this recipe. However, if you’re a fan of dark meat, feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead.
How to Make Using Frozen Chicken
- Follow the recipe instructions below, but cook on high pressure for 10 minutes instead of 8. That’s it!
- Note: 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.
- Chipotle Chilis. My other mega-flavor tip for next-level shredded chicken tacos. 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.
- Avocados. Add a creamy, cool factor that balances the shredded chicken’s spice.
I like to blend my avocados with Greek yogurt and fresh lime juice to make a rich but healthy sauce. 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
- Diced Tomatoes. Don’t drain these. The tomatoes and their juices functions as the primary cooking liquid for the chicken in the Instant Pot.
- Onions and Garlic. Provides a great base of flavor when sautéed in the Instant Pot.
- Chili Powder. Add an additional layer of heat, spice and flavor to the chicken
- Lime. Add a little zip and acidity to balance the flavors.
- Season the chicken and then sear on both sides in the Instant Pot, using the sauté function. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Next, sauté the onion and garlic and season with chili powder salt.
- Stir in the chipotle peppers, tomatoes, and reserved chicken in a single layer and pour the lime juice over the top.
- Lock the lid and cook on manual pressure for 8 minutes.
- Manually release the pressure, remove the chicken and switch the Instant Pot back to sauté. Simmer and reduce the cooking liquid by about half. Meanwhile, shred the chicken with two forks.
- Return the shredded chicken into the Instant Pot and coat in the sauce.
- Serve as desired with your choice of toppings. ENJOY!
Ways to Serve
While tacos are my favorite way to enjoy this recipe, this shredded pressure cooker Mexican chicken is versatile. Try it:
- Mixed with rice and beans as a burrito bowl.
- As a filling for enchiladas.
- On top of this Skinny Taco Salad.
- Rolled up in a jumbo, low-carb tortilla as a burrito
I would be hard-pressed to imagine an occasion where easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos wouldn’t be welcome.
- They’re impressive enough to serve your in-laws for a family dinner.
- A guaranteed crowd-pleaser that 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.)
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
- Tortillas or taco shells of your choice
- 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 or tortillas 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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