Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are a little sweet, a little spicy and whole lot of PAO!!! in your face, YUMMY! Meatballs are so fast and easy in an Instant Pot and result in tender, juicy meatballs every time.
What is it about meat being so much yummier when it’s rolled up into a ball? I guarantee these Kung Pao flavors wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if they were a meatloaf or a patty. But roll all that spicy sweet goodness up into a little ball with lots of sauce and some crunchy roasted peanuts, and I’ll eat 15 of them.
This theory also works on my kids.
“Oh, you don’t like sun-dried tomato, feta, and spinach burgers, my sweet children?” Well then, I’ll roll it into a ball, hand you the ketchup bottle, and suddenly I’m a flippin’ Master Chef. And yet it’s a wonder why a mother’s patience tank is completely empty by bedtime . . .
These Kung Pao Meatballs are in the running for my favorite of all time. Tangy, spicy, sweet with a sauce that’s just the perfect amount of sticky. I rarely eat very much meat in one sitting, but I found myself going back for “one more” again and again and then eating the kids leftovers as I put the dishes in the dishwasher (bad habit, I don’t recommend it).
Serve them on top of Green Veggie Rice with a good drizzle of sauce and a handful of crunchy peanuts and my goodness, it’s a knockout to look at AND eat! I also think a drizzle of peanut sauce would be a divine combo. If you try it, let me know!
Meatballs are one of my favorite things to make in a pressure cooker because it means no greasy stove top splatters and no sexy meat fragrance in my clothes and hair. Plus they cook up moist and tender every time like in this Spring Minestrone with Ricotta Chicken Meatballs or the Meatballs in Tomato Basil Marinara from our book Master the Electric Pressure Cooker (still my #1 favorite meatball recipe!)
While we’re on the subject, here’s the low down on making meatballs in the pressure cooker (until I write an official post all about it one day).
HOW TO MAKE MEATBALLS IN AN INSTANT POT
- Use a cookie scoop so every meatball cooks up at the same time.
- Roll up your meatballs gently. Packing them tightly will lead to a tougher meatball.
- Cook your meatballs in the sauce/cooking liquid. It needs to be watery enough to allow the pot to come to pressure, but keep in mind your meat is going to release liquid as it cooks, so don’t over do it or your sauce is going to be very watery.
- Arrange the meatballs in a circular pattern around the pot. If you fill up the bottom layer with meatballs, go ahead and stack the second row gently on top. (The picture below is an 8 quart pot which is why I had plenty of room)
- Depending on how big they are, cook them for about 4-6 minutes. I do at least a 5 minute natural release so I don’t end up with sauce spraying out of the valve, but that will differ from one recipe to the next.
- If you want a thicker sauce, remove the meatballs to a plate and simmer the sauce (using the saute or simmer function) or use a cornstarch slurry to thicken it.
COOKING MEATBALLS ON A TRIVET
Some recipes call for cooking meatballs on a rack/trivet instead. This works great if you’re only cooking the meatballs and then eating them plain or tossing them in a sauce afterwards. But if I have a sauce that is thin enough to use as my liquid in the pot, I prefer to cook the meatballs in the sauce to really infuse that flavor.
COOKING MEATBALLS FROM FROZEN
This works great and can be done directly in the sauce like in this Kung Pao recipe or on a trivet. As always, when I’m cooking with frozen ingredients, I always cook it for 1 1/2 of the original time. So if the cook time for fresh ingredients is 4 minutes, I will cook the frozen for 6 minutes.
BROWNING THE MEATBALLS
If you MUST have the browning element in your meatballs, here is what I do. While the meatballs are cooking, I turn on my oven broiler to high. When the meatballs are cooked, I transfer them to a sheet pan, spritz with nonstick cooking spray (or brush with olive oil) then throw them under the broiler to get some color, tossing them around a bit if I want more browning.
But honestly, I RARELY do that! With all the flavor I just infused into my meatballs, I’m a happy camper with how they come out of the pressure cooker (HAPPY camper doesn’t quite describe my feelings on sleeping in a tent however . . .)
Until I get another lightbulb moment, that should cover everything I know on making amazing meatballs in the Instant Pot!
Now get these Kung Pao Meatballs in your Instant Pot and an extra batch in your freezer! You’ll be so happy you did!
Tools/Ingredients used to make Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs
Instant Pot or
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Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs
A sweet and spicy tender ball of meat on top of a green bed of veggie rice. Dream dinner right here!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: about 14 -16 meatballs
For the Chicken Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- big pinch of kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs (can substitute with any bread crumb)
- Optional for toppings: chopped roasted peanuts and/or sesame seeds
- Optional for serving: Instant Pot Green Veggie Rice
For the Kung Pao Sauce
- 1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (use 1 tablespoon for less heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cool water
For the Chicken Meatballs
- In a large mixing bowl, add ground chicken, green onions, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, egg, and panko bread crumbs. Gently mix by hand until combined. Using a small cookie scoop (about a 2 teaspoon scoop), form meat into balls.
For the Kung Pao Sauce
- To the pressure cooker pot add soy sauce, chicken broth, rice vinegar, sugar or honey, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, and ginger and whisk to combine. Arrange meatballs in a circular pattern on top of the sauce.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes.
- Note: If making the Green Veggie Rice in a separate pressure cooker, start that now.
- When cooking is complete, use a natural release for 5 minutes and then release any remaining pressure.
- As is, the sauce is quite thin. If a thicker sauce is preferred, use a slotted spoon to remove meatlballs to a plate and set aside.
- Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing cornstarch and water and whisk until well combined. Use the saute function to bring sauce to a simmer, then pour in half of the slurry and whisk until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the rest of the slurry to thicken the sauce more if desired.
- Return the meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat the meat.
- To serve, place a scoop of meatballs and sauce on top of rice. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts and sesame seeds and devour!
- Prepare meatball mixture and place balls on a cookie sheet. Set in the freezer until frozen then place in a freezer safe ziplock bag.
- When ready to cook, prepare Kung Pao Sauce as directed above and arrange frozen meatballs in the pot. Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes and continue with step 4.
- As written, the sauce has an amazing spicy kick. Cut the chili garlic sauce down by half to make a more mild sauce.
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats