Need a last-minute dinner? Just dump frozen chicken thighs in the Instant Pot and dinner's done! No thawing or planning ahead needed. 🙂
Instant Pot frozen chicken thighs are perfect for burrito bowls, chicken tacos, meal prep, and more. Make the best and easiest shredded chicken with just 2 ingredients straight from your freezer and pantry.
Instant Pot frozen chicken thighs vs chicken breast
If you've been following along, you know I love boneless, skinless chicken thighs for quick meals. Don't get me wrong, bone-in chicken thighs are great for slow cooking, but if you need a fast meal you can't beat boneless chicken thighs.
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I've tested this recipe with both frozen chicken breast and frozen chicken thighs and chicken thighs are definitely the way to go. They turn out juicier than chicken breast and really hold up to cooking straight from the freezer. In fact, they are so deliciously moist and tender you can't tell that they were cooked from frozen.
So if you have your freezer stocked (I stock mine with ButcherBox deliveries---you can get your first delivery here) and you keep some basic paleo and keto staples in your pantry. You can whip up this tasty chicken anytime, without having to make a trip to the grocery store.
While this Instant Pot recipe will work with fresh or frozen chicken thighs, the beauty of it is being able to cook frozen chicken thighs---and having an emergency meal in your back pocket.
How to cook frozen chicken in the Instant Pot
Cooking frozen chicken thighs in the Instant Pot couldn't be easier. As with anything you cook in the electric pressure cooker, you'll need to use at least one cup of liquid. This is the perfect opportunity to add some Mexican flavor with one of my favorite pantry staples---salsa.
Be sure to read the salsa ingredients to make sure it's paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly. It should contain just what you would put in it if you were making salsa from scratch---tomatoes, peppers, onion, salt, cilantro---no sugar or processed food chemicals.
There's no need to season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper if you have enough seasoning in your cooking liquid. The salsa I use has a good amount of salt so I don't add any extra.
Just pour half a jar of salsa into the cooking pot and arrange the frozen chicken thighs on top. Set the Instant Pot to "Manual" or "Pressure Cook" (depending on which model Instant Pot you have) on high for 12 minutes. Use a natural release instead of a quick release.
Note, this cooking time is for four frozen chicken thighs without bones. If you're using fresh chicken thighs, you'll need to reduce the cooking time. To cook bone-in chicken, increase the cooking time.
You'll notice I didn't say brown the chicken first. I shred the chicken to use for burrito bowls, chicken tacos, or stuffed sweet potatoes, so skipping the browning is fine.
How to serve Instant Pot shredded chicken
My favorite way to serve this chicken recipe is over a bowl of cauliflower rice topped with avocado, limes, and cilantro. If you meal prep the cauliflower rice ahead of time, it takes minutes to reheat. You can heat the cauli-rice and prep all the toppings in the time it takes the chicken to cook.
This shredded salsa chicken is perfect for taco Tuesday with paleo tortillas or lettuce wraps. Serve with spicy slaw and guacamole. Or serve it fajita style with roasted peppers and onions. Or try the chicken and all the toppings stuffed in a sweet potato. The possibilities are endless!
More Instant Pot recipes to try
- Easy Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
- Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
- The Easiest Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash
- Easy Instant Pot Ribs
More easy keto & paleo dinners
Instant Pot Salsa Chicken (With Frozen Chicken!)
- 1 cup prepared salsa (sugar-free, paleo)
- 4 boneless, skinless frozen chicken thighs
- Pour salsa in Instant Pot. Arrange frozen chicken thighs in a single layer over salsa.
- Cook on manual or pressure cook at high pressure for 12 minutes. Let pressure naturally release.
- Carefully shred chicken with two forks in bottom Instant Pot. Toss to combine with pan juices and serve.
This did not work. Chicken did not cook in 12 minutes.
Hmmm. I make this at least a couple of times a month and the chicken always cooks through. Did you use boneless chicken thighs and do a natural release?
If I wanted to double up on the recipe do I cook it longer?
Hi Renee, I haven't tested doubling the recipe, but I would probably add a couple minutes to the cook time.
Delicious! Easy to make and you can have it as leftovers the next day. Turns out perfect every time!
Is I am using fresh boneless chicken thighs how long would you say?
Hi Jena, I would do 8 minutes for fresh boneless chicken thighs.
First thing I've made in my new pressure cooker, and I couldn't be happier. My thighs were bought fresh and I used a whole (16 oz) jar of salsa so we'd have extra juices in the pot, but kept the 12 minute cook time. My husband wasn't satisfied with just one serving, and even my older girl was thrilled with the taste. I've done salsa chicken before, but always breasts in the crock, so this was a very pleasant change and will definitely be my go-to method now!
Yay! I'm so glad you and your family love it!
I did 15 minutes with 1 cup of salsa and 1 cup of chicken broth, 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning (I create my own to control the salt)
Let it NRP for 10mins then turned the valve to release the rest.
Shred the chicken and place back in the instant pot, press the stew/chili button. And then let us soak up most of the juice. I stir it frequently but it comes out SO good this way!