Why tolerate a boring bland chicken breast when you can have a tender juicy Instant Pot Chicken Breast smothered in Garlic and Herb Cheese Sauce served alongside a pile of rice and colorful veggies? Now that's a dinner worth showing up for! Bonus: it's easy and quick too!
Did you know that chicken breasts are the #1 searched for recipe ingredient of all time? Not too surprising, right?
But when it comes to pressure cooking, chicken can be a tad finicky.
Some people swear you can throw a Costco size bag of frozen chicken breasts into the pot and end up with tender shredded chicken every time (why does this never work for me?!).
Others vow they will never cook chicken in the Instant Pot again because of one too many chewy, dry, “dinner is ruined” situations.
I can't say I know for sure what accounts for the huge variation with “Instant Pot Chicken”, but I suspect the quality of chicken, elevation, cook time, method, and consumer expectation may be the biggest factors.
Well, today I want to share one of my favorite, hopefully fail-proof for everyone, methods for flavorful, juicy chicken in the Instant Pot.
No, it's not as simple as dumping 3 pounds of frozen chicken into the pot and pressing start, but IT IS delicious and utterly addicting – which is a term I typically use for popcorn, not chicken.
To really show off this chicken, I'm adding a 5-minute cheese sauce recipe that I love to put on everything from rice to veggies, to chips, and beyond. You will definitely want to print it off and have it on standby for many yummy dinners to come.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE INSTANT POT CHICKEN WITH CHEESE SAUCE
- FLAVORFUL: To maximize flavor and tenderness, this chicken gets a soak in a homemade brine. It's quick and painless and you'll be greatly rewarded for the extra 5 minutes of effort.
- JUICY: Like, cut your chicken with a fork and behold the glistening moist interior, JUICY. It's a serious contender for the famous store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- EASY: Only a few pantry items are needed to make this chicken. Yay for food that tastes fancy and costs hardly anything!
- CHEESE SAUCE: This easy Garlic and Herb Cheese Sauce is a bit of an “extra” here, but wow, is it divine! No roux or cheese shredding here. Simply warm up garlic and herb cheese spread, add a splash of lemon and fresh herbs, and you are in business!
- CROWD PLEASER: My part-time vegetarian children all agree, THIS CHICKEN ROCKS!
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN WITH CHEESE SAUCE IN THE PRESSURE COOKER
- Prepare the brine and let chicken soak for 4 – 6 hours (or even an hour will boost the flavor)
- Season the chicken and place on a rack inside the Instant Pot to cook
- As the chicken cooks, prepare the cheese sauce. Serve chicken and cheese sauce while hot
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- TAKE TIME TO BRINE: I know it feels like extra work when you hear the word “brine”, but honestly it's crazy simple. Salt – Water – Stir – Done. Without a doubt, it will be worth it for both the flavor and tenderness it creates.
- CHICKEN BREAST VS CHICKEN TENDERLOINS: I love to use chicken tenderloins in the Instant Pot – they're nearly fail-proof, but recipe testing has shown me that chicken breasts work equally well when cut into smaller chunks. Giant chicken breasts, in my experience, tend to turn dry and chewy. That said, the brine definitely works magic on even an average sized (not ginormous) chicken breast. If using a whole chicken breast (not cut into smaller chunks), cook time will be 10 minutes instead of 6. More details on that in the recipe card below.
- COOK CHICKEN ON A RACK: Again, in my experience, unless the chicken is cooked in a flavorful liquid like in this Healthy Crack Chicken, it tends to go bland when cooked in the bottom of the pot with water or broth. I love to season the chicken well, then cook it on a rack above the cooking liquid. This also keeps the chicken juicy and tender and far away from “boiled chicken” texture.
- DON'T STACK THE CHICKEN: If chicken is stacked on top of each other, it will take longer to cook through and result in dried out, chewy chicken. Keep it in one layer as much as possible. I like to have shorter and taller trivets for this kind of situation to make for easy stacking. These racks are also great for making big batches of meatballs and wings.
- CHICKEN AND RICE: If you happen to have 2 heights of racks you can also cook a pan of rice at the same time! More details on that in the recipe card.
- MAKE THE CHEESE SAUCE!: The cheese sauce is so simple, you simply must make it! It thickens considerably as it cools, so keep it warm and add extra broth, if needed, to loosen it up.
HOW TO STORE, REHEAT, AND FREEZE
- Store: Cooled chicken can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Cheese sauce can also be stored in a separate container for 5 days.
- Reheat: Reheat chicken gently in a skillet, air fryer, or microwave. Reheat the cheese sauce in a saucepan with a splash of broth or water.
- Freeze: I like to shred or chop chicken and place it in a freezer safe ziptop bag for up to 3 months. This makes it thaw quickly and it can be used for many different recipes (similar to a rotisserie chicken). When ready to eat, let thaw in fridge overnight then reheat as directed above. Cheese sauce doesn't freeze well, it becomes very grainy.
MAKE AHEAD TIPS
Brine can be prepared a few days in advance so the chicken can be easily placed in the brine on the day you plan to make this recipe.
Cheese sauce can be made a few days in advance, but be aware that it will need to be reheated on the stovetop with some broth, so it's actually just as easy to make it fresh the day of.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN AND CHEESE SAUCE
- Honey Glazed Carrots: These make an amazing addition to this meal!
- Vegetable Medley: You can skip making the cheese sauce written for in this medley recipe and use this garlic and herb sauce instead.
- Rice: White Rice, Brown Rice, or even Green Rice. Instant Pot Quinoa is also yummy.
- Chicken Seasoning: I love the seasoning mix written for in the recipe card, but anything goes! Cajun, lemon pepper, grill seasoning, curry, etc.
- Easy Chicken Sandwich: Instead of over rice, serve the chicken on a bun with mayo, bacon, sliced tomatoes, avocado, and lettuce – heaven!
- Chicken Salad: If you love a big salad for dinner or need chicken for easy lunch salads all week, this chicken tastes amazing hot and cold. Take inspiration from this Blackberry Poached Pear Salad.
So what has your chicken experience been in the Instant Pot? Do you have your own go-to method? I'd love to hear.
I can't wait for you to test out this new favorite technique of mine for Instant Pot Chicken. No matter your experience in the past, I believe this will make you a believer that 5-star chicken dinner is possible from the pressure cooker.
MORE INSTANT POT CHICKEN RECIPES
- Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken
- Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato
- Instant Pot Chili Lime Chicken Tacos
- And so many more!
TOOLS/INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE INSTANT POT CHICKEN AND CHEESE SAUCE
Easy Instant Pot Chicken with Cheese Sauce
Tender, Juicy Instant Pot Chicken with creamy garlic and herb cheese sauce over top. This is a chicken dinner winner!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 6 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
For the Brine
- 1 cup hot water
- 3 cups cold water
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 1 – 1 ½ pounds chicken tenderloins or boneless skinless chicken breasts – see note
For the Chicken Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
Garlic and Herb Cheese Sauce
- 5 oz spreadable herb cheese (like Boursin)
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
For serving: white rice, brown rice, or quinoa
- To prepare the brine, place a gallon-sized resealable bag inside a bowl and pour in 1 cup of hot water and ¼ cup kosher salt. Seal shut and gently shake to dissolve the salt. Then add 3 cups of cold water. If the water still feels warm, add a few ice cubes to chill it down quickly.
- Add chicken to the brine, seal shut, and place the bag in the fridge, in a bowl, in case the bag leaks. Brine the chicken for 4-6 hours (even an hour will work).
- Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika; sprinkle over both sides of the chicken.
- Add 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker pot and place a trivet inside. Stack chicken on top of the trivet. Try to keep the chicken in a single layer as much as possible so it cooks evenly.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes.
- While chicken cooks, prepare the Garlic and Herb Cheese Sauce. Combine herb cheese, chicken broth, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stovetop. Add more broth if a thinner sauce is desired. Take off the heat and stir in basil and chives. Place lid on top to keep warm.
- When pressure cooking is complete, allow pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure.
- Serve chicken over a bed of rice or quinoa with a few spoonfuls of the cheese sauce over top.
- Cooking the chicken on a trivet above the water results in a very tender, flavorful bite. I do not suggest cooking the chicken directly in the pot since my attempts at this resulted in a chewy, flavorless chicken.
- If using chicken breasts, I suggest slicing them into chicken tenderloin shaped strips. This will give you the juiciest, most flavorful chicken. If you would like to keep the chicken breast whole, cook for 10 minutes instead of 6.
- Try to keep the chicken in a single layer as much as possible. Stacking the chicken directly on top of each other may result in undercooked chicken.
- If you have a short and tall trivet that will allow the chicken to be stacked with space in-between them, the recipe can be doubled.
- How to Cook Chicken and Rice at the same time: If you have a short and tall trivet, you can cook the chicken on one layer and white rice on another layer. To do this, place the chicken on the lower rack, then add 1 cup of white rice and 1 ¼ cups chicken broth to a 7×3 cake pan and stack it on a trivet above the chicken. The rice can be doubled if desired. Cook time remains the same. If you own a double-stack rack system designed for pressure cookers, this will work for that as well.
- If you have the luxury of two pressure cookers, you can have the white rice, brown rice, or quinoa cooking in a separate pressure cooker as the chicken cooks.
Keywords: Instant Pot Chicken, Chicken Dinner, Easy Cheese Sauce
Welcome! I’m Marci, wife to my motorcycle dream man and mother of 3. I have a passion for creating and cooking delicious masterpieces in my kitchen and am ecstatic to share my discoveries on TIDBITS! I like my food tasty, wholesome, memorable, and always, ALWAYS followed by dark, salty chocolate.