Make this Instant Pot BBQ shredded chicken in under 20 minutes! Great for serving on sandwiches, tacos, or as a filling for baked potatoes with cheese! Saucy and delicious BBQ shredded chicken made in the Instant Pot.
Barbecue shredded chicken is made super easy with an Instant Pot! No need for a slow cooker to make tender and saucy shredded chicken. This recipe makes enough for 5 - 6 servings and can be used in so many different ways!
Need some ideas on what to serve with BBQ shredded chicken? Check out my Air Fryer Corn on the Cob recipe as well as my Air Fryer Broccoli Parmesan recipe. They're healthy veggie sides ready in a flash! You can also serve this with my Instant Pot Mac & Cheese recipe - the best combination!
A handful of seasonings, chicken breasts, and your barbecue sauce of choice are all you need to make this recipe!
To make Instant Pot BBQ shredded chicken, you'll need:
- Chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
- Sea salt and pepper
- Ground paprika
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Barbecue sauce of choice
See the recipe card for precise quantities and instructions!
The chicken breasts are pressure cooked for 10 - 15 minutes with some water and seasonings before shredding and adding the barbecue sauce. The bbq shredded chicken is ready to be served in just under 20 minutes!
Add the chicken breasts to the Instant Pot and then pour in the water. The water should cover most of the chicken breasts with some of the chicken breast still sticking out of the water.
Sprinkle all of the seasonings onto the tops of the chicken breasts, do not add the barbecue sauce yet. Do not mix!
Close the Instant Pot and turn the steam knob to "Sealing". Pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, followed by a 5-minute natural pressure release (i.e. just leave the Instant Pot for 5 minutes after cooking before turning the steam knob to "Venting".)
Add the shredded chicken back into the Instant Pot as well as 1 cup of the barbecue sauce. Mix well and add more barbecue sauce as necessary.
Once the pressure has been released, open the Instant Pot and remove the chicken breasts to a clean plate. Shred the chicken as finely as you want. Discard most of the liquid inside the Instant Pot, leaving a few tablespoons of liquid behind in the Instant Pot.
Serve on sandwiches or tacos or your meal of choice!
Hint: If the chicken and sauce is too watery, you can thicken it by turning on the Instant Pot sauté function for a few minutes and mixing occasionally so the barbecue sauce doesn't burn.
🙋🏻♂️ Questions & Answers
Chicken breasts and boneless chicken thighs are the best cuts of chicken for shredding. Boneless chicken thighs will work very well in this recipe.
Use the sauté function on your Instant Pot or heat the barbecue shredded chicken on the stovetop until thickened. It will thicken quickly due to the sugars in the barbecue sauce so mix well and keep an eye on it.
Chicken breasts cook for 10 - 15 minutes in the Instant Pot, depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts. After 10 - 15 minutes the chicken breasts are ready to be shredded, cut, or served.
Pulled chicken is cooked slower and the pieces of chicken are larger compared to shredded chicken. Shredded chicken is usually slightly dryer so it shreds into smaller pieces.
A total of 15 minutes (10 minutes pressure cooking and 5 minutes natural release) is all you need to cook perfect chicken in the Instant Pot. Thicker cuts of chicken will need a few extra minutes of cook time.
Here are some suggestions for substitutions that you can use based on what you have in your pantry!
- Cuts of Chicken - I used fresh chicken breasts for this recipe but you can also use boneless chicken thighs. They cook for the same amount of time and will shred just as easily as the chicken breast. You can also use fresh or frozen chicken, remember to increase the pressure cooking time by 5 minutes.
- BBQ Sauce - Use any barbecue sauce you like for this recipe! The sauce is added at the end and is an important part of the shredded chicken's flavor. Use a good quality store-bought brand or make your own sauce! There are white barbecue sauces, spicy ones, and also mustard-based barbecue sauces. All work well in this recipe!
Here are some ideas for variations that keep this recipe exciting every time you try it!
- Spicy - Add more cayenne pepper when cooking the chicken for a spicier chicken recipe. Add 1 - 2 teaspoons more depending on how spicy you want it. You can also use a barbecue sauce that has some hot spices in it!
- Ranch-flavored shredded chicken - You can make this shredded chicken in a variety of different ways! Instead of barbecue sauce, why not try some of your other favorite sauces? Ranch dressing is a great first one to try and makes this shredded chicken delicious on toasted sandwiches!
This recipe has been developed and tested using a 6-quart (5.5 L) Instant Pot Duo. I love making quick lunch or dinner recipes in my Instant Pot. Getting a healthy lunch or dinner ready so quickly in one appliance saves the day sometimes!
🥣 Storage, Making Ahead, and Doubling the Recipe
Storage: Store any leftover BBQ shredded chicken in an airtight container once it has cooled to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Use in sandwiches or tacos or your meal of choice!
You can also freeze leftover shredded chicken. Store in an airtight container or resealable bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Make this recipe ahead: Make this BBQ shredded chicken and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Thaw completely and heat up on the stove or in the Instant Pot before serving.
Doubling the recipe: You can double this recipe very easily, just make sure to layer the chicken evenly in the Instant Pot when pressure cooking, you might also have to add more seasoning for the same amount of flavor.
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
- You can use vegetable or chicken broth instead of water when pressure-cooking the chicken for more flavor. Keep in mind that most of it will be discarded.
- Lay the chicken breasts in an even layer in the Instant Pot for even cooking and even seasoning on the chicken. If doubling the recipe, add 5 minutes to the pressure cooking time.
- Adjust the amount of spice to your preference with the amount of cayenne pepper.
- Use any brand of barbecue sauce for this recipe or use a homemade version!
🍽 Recipe Card
Instant Pot BBQ Shredded Chicken Recipe
- 4 Chicken Breasts
- 1 Cup Water
- 1 tsp. Sea salt
- 1 tsp. Black pepper
- 1 tsp. Paprika powder Sweet or Smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper
- 1 - ½ Cups Barbecue sauce
- Add the chicken breasts to the Instant Pot and then add the water. The water should cover most of the chicken breasts with some of the chicken breast still sticking out of the water.4 Chicken Breasts, 1 Cup Water
- Sprinkle all of the seasonings onto the tops of the chicken breasts, do not add the barbecue sauce yet.1 tsp. Sea salt, 1 tsp. Black pepper, 1 tsp. Paprika powder, ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper
- Close the Instant Pot and turn the steam knob to "Sealing". Pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute natural pressure release (i.e. just leave the Instant Pot for 5 minutes after cooking before turning the steam knob to "Venting".)
- Once the pressure has been released, open the Instant Pot and remove the chicken breasts to a clean plate. Shred the chicken as finely as you want. Discard most of the liquid that is left inside the Instant Pot, leaving a few tablespoons of liquid behind in the Instant Pot.
- Add the shredded chicken back into the Instant Pot as well as 1 cup of the barbecue sauce. Mix well and add more barbecue sauce as necessary. Serve on sandwiches or tacos or your meal of choice!1 - ½ Cups Barbecue sauce