Some variation on tacos is a regular meal in our household, but we’re always looking for ways to change it up (and make it healthier if we can). Ever since I got my Instant Pot, I’ve been obsessed with trying new recipes in it.
Unlike the slow cooker, you don’t have to plan as far ahead. Plus, I’ve noticed meat tends to come out more moist and juicy from the Instant Pot, whereas they can dry out a bit in the slow cooker. That said, I’ve included an option for the slow cooker, because that’s still an option if you don’t have an Instant Pot.
In this rendition of Instant Pot Salsa Chicken, I’ve adapted the recipe from classic versions in a few ways:
- No marinating needed: to me, the whole point of Instant Pot recipes is being able to whip up a fabulous dinner quickly. I didn’t want to have to marinate the chicken to get good flavor.
- No pre-packaged salsa needed: this was an important one for me, because I’m not a fan of any salsa from the grocery store, but I also don’t want to take the time to make my own for this chicken. This recipe is literally dump and go, but you get a much higher quality (and less expensive) salsa!
- Easily make it spicy (or not): I’m a huge spicy food lover, but I also have two kids under 3 years old. You can control the spice level by adding more or less canned green chiles. I added one small can because I love some heat, and I got away with it by pulling some whole chicken breasts out when it was done and shredding them separately. This avoids any of the chicken getting mixed in with the green chiles, and my kids loved it!
- You can use frozen chicken: if I have the foresight to pull out frozen chicken and thaw it 1-2 days in advance, I’m pretty proud of myself. But I wanted a recipe that didn’t require it. Using frozen chicken didn’t compromise the flavor, texture, or time.
- The entire recipe is very forgiving: you can scale ingredients up or down in this recipe without worrying that it will ruin the integrity of the dish. It calls for 2.5 pounds of chicken, but you could easily use 2 pounds and keep the rest of the ingredients the same. If you like a lot of salsa, just add another can of fire-roasted tomatoes! You really can’t screw this recipe up.
My goal with this Instant Pot Salsa Chicken was to make it dump and go, feasible to make after a tiring workday, and delicious. I think this recipe is a trifecta!
Ingredients You’ll Need
This recipe is very flexible, so you can make substitutions based on what you like or what you already have in the pantry. I’ll include suggestions for substitutions, but I do think I’ve mastered the flavor profile with the suggested ingredients here.
- Frozen chicken breasts: you could substitute chicken thighs, and you can scale the quantity up or down a half pound without ruining the recipe. You can also use fresh chicken – just shorten the cooking time at high pressure by five minutes.
- Chicken stock: I always use a concentrate when it comes to chicken or beef stock (if I don’t have some homemade stock on hand). It takes up less space and produces less waste. You can substitute the chicken stock for any kind of stock (beef or vegetable come to mind).
- Fire roasted diced tomato: Fire roasted tomatoes give so much more flavor than regular diced tomatoes, but if you don’t have them on hand, regular diced tomatoes will do. You can also use whole tomatoes – it’ll just take more time after the chicken is done cooking, because you’ll have to mash them all up. I haven’t tested this recipe with fresh tomatoes, so I’m not sure how it would work. Comment below if you have!
- Soy sauce: This is entirely optional; I like adding umami to recipes, because it gives a boost of flavor that leaves everyone asking you where you got your recipe. Go-to ingredients for umami are tomato paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, mushrooms, anchovies (think caesar dressing), miso paste, or worchestire sauce. I thought soy sauce paired well with this recipe, and you don’t notice it. It just adds a depth of flavor.
- Yellow onion: I love onion in salsa! Plus, the fresh ingredient gives the whole dish a lift. You can scale the onion up or down depending on how much you like. Red, white, or yellow onion works here.
- Garlic: I’m a big fan of garlic, so my recipe calls for quite a bit. Again, scale it up or down if you like. You can substitute garlic powder if you don’t have fresh, but fresh tastes so much better!
- Lime: fresh lime juice adds acid to the dish, something I expect and love in salsa. You can easily swap the lime for lemon (which I did, because I didn’t have lime on hand), and in a real pinch, you can add some vinegar instead. I personally love sherry vinegar, but any kind of vinegar will work. You won’t taste the vinegar, it’ll just add some brightness to the dish.
- Canned green chiles: when I’m making homemade salsa, I love adding canned green chiles. It adds some spiciness and a lot of flavor, but you can leave this out if you don’t like spiciness or have children to feed.
Stay-at-home mom perspective: I love canned diced green chiles, and I don’t find that they add too much spice for my children when mixed into a dish like this.
- Cilantro: fresh chopped cilantro adds so much freshness to this meal! While the chicken was cooking, the whole house filled with the smell of cilantro – it was awesome. It also adds a nice pop of color to your tacos, making them look super delicious. They say you eat with your eyes first, and the cilantro helps with that. I know there are some people who hate cilantro because they taste a soapy flavor, so you could definitely swap it for fresh parsley (or just leave it out!).
- Cumin, oregano, and salt: Last but not least is your seasonings! I like creating my own blends of seasoning, but you could swap the cumin, oregano, and salt for a taco seasoning packet if you prefer. The seasoning part of this recipe is very forgiving – just add what you like! Some ideas include smoked paprika, chili powder, or cayenne.
Equipment You’ll Need
Instant pot recipes are the best because you only dirty one dish while you’re cooking. I researched Instant Pots to death (and actually tried another brand in the past), and I can say without hesitation that the Instant Pot Duo Plus 6-quart is THE BEST. It’s the perfect size, and it works perfectly every single time.
In order to actually prep some of the ingredients, you will need:
- Cutting board
- Can opener
- Citrus juicer (not an essential, but it’s much easier to keep the seeds out)
- Spatula or other stirring utensil
Of course, the main piece of equipment you need is the Instant Pot. Overall, the equipment needed for this recipe is pretty lean. I also include instructions on how to make this recipe with a slow cooker if that’s what you have.
For slow cookers, I recommend the KitchenAid 6 quart slow cooker – it’s incredible! We used to have the CrockPot brand, and it cracked. Then, we decided to go all out and get the All Clad slow cooker, but it cracked, too! Food also cooked unevenly in that one.
We’ve had the KitchenAid slow cooker for over a year, and it’s hands-down the best. I also notice food cooks more quickly in the KitchenAid without burning or getting dry.
How to Make Salsa Chicken
This Instant Pot Salsa Chicken recipe is dump and go – just put all the ingredients in the Instant Pot, stir it up, and pressure cook! It doesn’t matter what order you put the ingredients in, because you’re going to stir it all together before you start cooking.
Add all the ingredients and set the Instant Pot to high pressure (manual) for 15 minutes. If you’re using fresh chicken, scale it down to 10 minutes.
Once the cooking is done, you’ll want to wait 10 minutes before releasing the seal (switching the tab on the top from Seal to Vent).
Because I used frozen chicken and did a pretty large quantity (2.5 pounds, or a whole bag), it took my pressure cooker quite a while – about 30 minutes – to reach full pressure. If you halved this recipe or used fresh chicken, it wouldn’t take nearly that long.
When you’ve gone through the full cycle – coming to pressure, cooking at high pressure, and waiting 10 minutes after it’s done – your chicken is done! It’s time to pull out the chicken, shred it, and add it back into the pot.
You can serve immediately, but I like to turn the pressure cooker to Saute for a little bit to reduce the cooking liquid. This isn’t a mandatory step by any means if you’re in a rush and need dinner on the table in less than an hour. But if you have an extra 10-15 minutes, put your pressure cooker on Saute and stir occasionally until the liquid has mostly boiled off.
You can also make this recipe in a slow cooker if that’s all you have. Cooking times will be 3 hours on High or 6 hours on Low. You can’t boil the mixture in a slow cooker, so you can either transfer the cooked salsa chicken to the stove and reduce it in a pot or you can drain off any excess liquid.
How to Serve Salsa Chicken
The salsa chicken recipe is very versatile, because you can serve it and use it however you want. You can make enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, a salad, a Mexican-style pasta… the world is your oyster!
Our family’s favorite way to use salsa chicken is to make tacos, and then either have tacos again the next day with the leftovers or repurpose the chicken into enchiladas. This chicken also freezes really well, so you can freeze what you don’t eat and use it later!
Here’s what we use for our tacos:
- Cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- More cilantro
- Candied jalapenos
We warm up the tortilla in the microwave for 15-20 seconds before assembling the tacos. Sometimes, we add the cheese to the tortilla before microwaving to melt it a bit.
But you can serve it however you and your family like it.
Instant Pot Salsa Chicken Recipe
Easy Instant Pot Salsa Chicken
- Instant Pot
- 2.5 lbs frozen chicken breasts
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomato
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 7 oz green chiles
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Prep your onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime.
- Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot, reserving some cilantro for garnish. Mix well until combined.
- Set the Instant Pot to “Pressure Cook” for 15 minutes. On some models, this is the manual setting with high pressure. If using fresh chicken, reduce cooking time by 10 minutes. When the timer goes off and the Keep Warm setting begins, wait 10 minutes before releasing any remaining pressure, and turn the valve from Seal to Vent. *If using a slow cooker, cook on High for 3 hours or Low for 6 hours.
- Pull out the chicken breasts and shred them. Once shredded, add the chicken back to the pot and mix well.
- Set the Instant Pot to Saute, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to your liking (10-15 minutes). This step is optional but will enhance the flavor of your chicken as opposed to draining off excess liquid. *If using a slow cooker, transfer the entire dish to a pot on the stove, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce until excess liquid has boiled off.
- Serve on a warmed tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, more cilantro, and candied jalapenos. Enjoy!
I love dump and go recipes, and when the Instant Pot is involved, you know you can have an amazing dinner in less than an hour.
The best part is you’re only actively cooking for about 10 minutes of that hour. Most of the cooking time is breathing in the smell of fresh cilantro while you play with your kids, get some more work done, tidy up the living room – you name it!
If you try this salsa chicken recipe, please comment with a photo or tell me how you served it in our comment section below! Thanks for reading!