If you’re a parent, you might laugh at the beginning of my how-to video today for this easy, frugal BBQ chicken recipe – I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in the slow cooker or the Instant Pot pressure cooker and then guess what? It was suddenly 5:20 p.m. I’ll give you one guess which one I demonstrate!! (Let’s just say I’m glad I figured out how to make slow cooker recipes in the Instant Pot…)
Even with the time crunch, I was able to include my 8-year-old daughter in the video because she knows basic cooking skills, and she did awesome and even starts cleaning up and organizing ingredients like I’ve taught her. Score!
This recipe has a lot going for it that will help you be a good Kitchen Steward, which is why we make it 1-2 times a month at least.
Best. Chicken. Recipe. Ever. Here’s Why:
- Economical: This Instant Pot recipe uses chicken thighs, a less expensive cut of meat – although it’s still meat-centric which is a more expensive meal than a “true” frugal meal like rice and beans. Keep the overall meal cost down further by serving multiple sides or using the chicken on sandwiches where people will likely eat less meat than over rice as shown in the pics. Plus this recipe will cover many meals or freeze half for later!
- Quick: Leah and I put this all together in a very short amount of time – watch the video to see how quickly!
- Freezable: Gotta love something you can freeze for an easy meal later.
- Packable: Served cold, still delicious. This BBQ chicken makes an excellent school lunch.
- Healthy: There’s a tiny bit of sweetener in the recipe but it can be easily omitted. Add veggies to make it even better, but you’re avoiding a lot of processed food additives when you make from scratch like this.
- Flexible: Can be made in the Instant Pot OR slow cooker, depending on how your day plays out.
- Huge batch: This all plays into the “packable” and “freezable” notes – you have to make a lot if you’re going to eat it at so many meals. The recipe as we made it in the video and as listed below is really a double batch already, and I am sure you could 1.5x this or maybe 2x it in the Instant Pot, definitely in a large slow cooker.
- Kid-friendly: If you haven’t already figured out, my kids looooove this recipe. It’s very mild in flavor and easy to chew for tiny ones.
- Allergy-friendly: Free of gluten, grains, eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, corn, sweeteners (optional) and more – so simple to feed everyone! My last recipe video was similar (except for grains) and would make a great frugal side to this dish: 7-Minute Gluten-free Flatbread.
Video: Making BBQ Chicken in the Instant Pot FAST – with a Kid Helper!
If you can’t view the video above, click here to see it directly on YouTube.
Check out how we teach kids to cook with fun, memorable phrases and engaging videos – time for the parents to get a little break while the kids cook dinner!
Paleo BBQ Chicken ThighsPrint
Easy on all sides for this frugal chicken recipe: easy to put together in the morning, easy to serve at dinner, easy to make into leftovers. It’s even easy to have all the ingredients on hand, which is why we have it at least once a month. Make it in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
- For Instant Pot: add ½ cup water
- 4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 c. onion, chopped (or 1/4–1/2 c. dry minced onion)
- 1 sweet bell pepper, chopped (optional)
- 4 cloves minced garlic (or 1–2 tsp. dried minced garlic or garlic powder)
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. tomato sauce (in glass jars best of course!)
- 2–3 Tbs. maple or sorghum syrup or molasses (totally optional!)
- 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs. yellow mustard
- 2–4 Tbs. arrowroot starch (if needed)
- Instant Pot extra instructions: If using fresh onion and peppers, saute in a tablespoon of oil for better flavor (optional). Add fresh garlic the last minute, then follow directions below.
- For either slow cooker or Instant Pot:
- Place the chicken on the bottom in even layers.
- Pour everything else except the arrowroot starch on top – no need to even stir! Some prefer to mix the ingredients in a measuring cup first and pour over. Both work.
- Slow Cooker:
- Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Using a plastic utensil (or two), shred the chicken. It practically shreds itself at this point, to be honest.
- Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker:
- Pour the water into the Instant Pot.
- Check the sealing ring and blocking shield to make sure they don’t have any food on them and are installed correctly.
- Lock in the lid.
- Turn the valve to “Sealing.”
- Set the time to 25 minutes using the “Poultry” or “Manual” buttons and + or – until 25 shows up. Add 15 minutes if your chicken is frozen.
- It will take about 15 minutes to get up to pressure. Tip: Speed this up by turning on “Saute” as you add the ingredients (after the water is in the pot).
- After the cooking time is over, you can open the valve for a quick steam release or wait about 15 minutes (or more) for a natural pressure release. The chicken will be more tender after longer time but will be done and able to be shredded with the quick release.
- Use two forks or any utensil to shred the chicken in the pot.
- (optional) Press “Cancel” and then “Saute” to evaporate some extra liquid and thicken up the chicken.
- Both methods:
- After shredding the meat, sprinkle 2-4 Tbs. arrowroot starch over the top and mix in to thicken.
- Serve on buns, over rice, or with side veggies like cauli-rice, potato wedges, cabbage noodles, sweet potatoes, and more. Great with extra mustard and pickles on top.
Even if someone in your family doesn’t think they like dark meat, they’ll still love this recipe. I promise.
The chicken is marvelous cold in the lunchbox or picnic basket.
Freezes great; if a double batch would fit in your appliance, go for it!
Don’t have boneless/skinless? You could totally use bone-in chicken thighs with this, making it even more economical! Use slightly more than 4 lbs. chicken. Trim off as much of the skin as possible using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Make as directed, then pull out the bones and make homemade chicken stock out of them! Rinse if you want or embrace the extra flavor.
2 Tools for Real Food Success:
It’s never easy to keep up with real food goals! If my meal isn’t planned ahead and/or I don’t have the right food on hand, it’s SO tempting to give up and grab convenience food!
I have to almost trick myself into getting it right sometimes…like this:
I love my raw milk farm, and they usually have beef for me too – but not all the cuts. And chicken is hard to come by. And pork is hit or miss.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sourcing frustrations!
That’s why I’m always grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A box from Butcher Box is guaranteed to be grassfed/organic/pastured/free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
If you live in an area (like my mom) where organic local farms are nowhere to be found or have trouble sourcing certain meats or cuts, Butcher Box has you covered.
(free shipping too!)
But if I forget to plan ahead, all that amazing meat just sits in the freezer! Enter Real Plans, an online meal planning software that is probably smarter than I am.
I can enter that cut of meat along with my food restrictions and find the perfect meal, then generate a shopping list, multiply it by 4 if we have company, and enter my own fav recipes too.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type:
Did you like how that girl of mine was such a great helper? It was funny to watch the video and see that she was using our habits taught in our video cooking lessons, the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse – I didn’t even realize what she was doing while I was talking to the camera! She’s made to be a mom, the way she already can multitask and be efficient and notice everything around her (except clothing on her floor – she’ll make a great teenager too).
My kids totally understand the habit I demonstrated of packing lunches right after dinner, when everything is out. My 11yo is 100% responsible for packing his own lunches and the 8yo from the video does some of her own.
See how easy it is to toss some leftover healthy BBQ chicken, rice, and salad veggies into our favorite stainless steel Lunchbot containers as we clean up dinner anyway, grab some peas from the freezer, and you’re practically done!
Watch coming up for a fun post about other main dish meals that we pack as leftovers for lunch with great success! The crockpot BBQ chicken version of this recipe is also found in my popular eBook, The Healthy Lunch Box, a perfect way to pack better lunches starting today.
More Instant Pot Info
- 10 Basic Techniques for the Instant Pot
- 10 Easy Pressure Cooker Recipes (Even my Husband Made!)
- Cauli-Rice in the Instant Pot
- How to Cook Frozen Ground Beef in the Instant Pot
- Why an Instant Pot? How Will it Improve my Life?
- Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Chipotle-Style Beef Barbacoa
- How to Use an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker in a Hotel Room
- All our Instant Pot recipes!
My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once! She runs the most incredible online cooking classes with a total of 11 different topics and usually 2 dozen classes per topic.
Check out the pressure cooking modules HERE – I guarantee you’ll be impressed. And if you tackle the other classes, like sourdough, cultured dairy, or einkorn baking (they’re all included in the same membership), you might see a teacher you recognize, cough, cough.