Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

~ Just 3 ingredients! These yummy, ultra-easy Instant Pot Chicken Tacos require very little hands-on time and can even be made ahead. Let your pressure cooker do the work for you, and serve up an infinitely customizable dinner your whole family will love! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in About 30 Minutes or Less    Freezable    Make Ahead  

These 3-ingredient Instant Pot Chicken Tacos are truly about the easiest possible answer to the soul-crushing, never-goes-away question, “What’s for dinner?”

Overhead of 7 chicken tacos loaded with toppings, on a round serving platter with a bowl of guacamole.

They require almost no thought. They basically make themselves.

And you can serve ’em up in a practically endless variety of ways. Every single family member … from your heartiest appetite to your pickiest eater … will be happy. Which means you’ll be happy.

The dinner dilemma is solved for another day. Win!

How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

Ok guys, this is so darn easy and requires almost no hands-on time, except for shredding the chicken at the end.

It takes maybe 2 minutes {tops} to toss everything into your Pot and get it going … and that magical Instant Pot takes over from there. So you can go throw in a load of laundry, or help with some math homework (yay … fractions!), or maybe just sip a cup of coffee and think about absolutely nothing at all. Your choice!

But whatever you choose, dinner’s already practically done. Niiiiice!

Shredded chicken served in corn taco shells with shredded iceberg, cheese and a drizzle of sour cream.

So here’s whatcha do:

Step #1

Put a little water (more about that in a sec …) and about 1/4 of a jar of your favorite salsa in the bottom of your Instant Pot insert.

Be sure to choose a salsa that you LOVE, since it makes a big difference in the final flavor of your tacos.

Pro Tip: How Much Water (And What Type of Salsa)

Instant Pots need enough liquid (typically around 1/2 – 1 cup total), in order to properly come to pressure. Your salsa already has some liquid in it, but adding just a little extra water, in addition to the liquid in the salsa, is important to ensure there’s enough total liquid to properly build pressure.

So, the exact amount of water you’ll want to add can vary slightly depending on how runny your brand of salsa is. For very loose salsas (like my favorite, Herdez mild), just 1 tablespoon of additional water is generally sufficient.

For more typical jarred salsas, I recommend using 2 tablespoons of water. If you aren’t sure how much water to use, I’d say go with 2 tablespoons the first time you make this recipe. (You can always use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chicken and sauce, so that a little of the liquid is left behind in the pot after cooking.)

I don’t recommend making this recipe with “thick and chunky” style salsas, because you have to add too much water to them.

Next, lay the raw chicken breasts in there, sprinkle them with your packet of taco seasoning, and dump the rest of the salsa on top.

Step #2

Close the lid (and be sure the little knob is set to “sealing” not “venting”).

Select the Manual, High Pressure program for 15 minutes.

Annnnnnnd … you’re freeee … go do something else while your Instant Pot takes over!

Step #3

When the cook time is up, let the Instant Pot sit (this is called a “natural release”) for 5 minutes.

Then, manually vent the rest of the steam.

Be careful to stay out of the way of that super-hot steam. I usually use a long-handled wooden spoon to nudge the “venting” knob, and maybe even wear an oven mitt.

Once all the steam is vented, the Instant Pot will unlock so you can open it and behold the taco-wonders within.

Step #4

Scoop the cooked chicken breasts out and shred ’em up.

I know some people have other methods for shredding chicken, but for just three chicken breasts, I think a couple of forks is really all you need. 

Then, spoon the saucy cooking liquid from the bottom of the Instant Pot into your shredded chicken.

Pro Tip: How Saucy Do You Want Your Shredded Taco Chicken?

You don’t have to stir ALLLL of the cooking liquid back into the shredded chicken. You can use a slotted spoon to scoop up the flavorful and thicker parts of the sauce, if you’d like to leave some of the moisture behind.

Personally, I usually use all (or almost all) of the cooking liquid, but that’s entirely up to you. Feel free to adjust the moistness of your taco chicken to taste.

Just be sure to incorporate most of the flavorful bits of salsa into the chicken so it actually tastes like taco chicken … and not just plain ol’ shredded chicken.

That’s it! So simple!

Dinner is on the table in a jiffy!

How to Serve Your Shredded Chicken Taco Meat

And now, this is where your super-easy dinner gets really fun …

Once you’ve got your chicken taco meat perfectly cooked and shredded, there are sooooo many yummy options for how to use it!

Closeup of chicken with salsa mixed in, before being made into tacos.

Scrolling through the photos in this post, you’ll see several different serving ideas I’ve showcased for you. Different tortillas (or none at all!), different toppings … lots and lots of options!

These chicken tacos are delicious in a practically endless variety of ways, and everybody around the table can customize their own meal, with exactly the toppings they like best.

Here are just a few ideas:

Super-Simple: You can serve these very simply – just roll some of the shredded taco chicken in a tortilla and be done. Maybe sprinkle on a little cheese or dollop with a bit of reduced-fat sour cream. You really don’t need anything else at all!

Over the Top: Or you can add on whatever toppings you like! Classic options are chopped avocados or guacamole, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, crumbled cotija or shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, corn, reduced-fat sour cream, extra salsa, cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeños, or hot sauce.

Taco Bar Parties: As you can imagine, this recipe lends itself perfectly to taco bars for parties and tailgates. Offer up plenty of enticing toppings … and let everybody build their own delicious creations!

Side Dish Inspo: These tacos really can be a meal all on their own, especially loaded up with lots of terrific toppings. But, if you’re looking for Mexican-inspired sides, these would be fabulous with Mexican Street Corn Salad, Easy Corn Salad (which doubles as a salsa), or 5-Minute Easy Beans and Rice. Our Mexican Fiesta Black Bean Hummus would be a great starter.

Tortillas … or NOT: These Instant Pot Chicken Tacos are great with wheat or corn tortillas. (Although, of course, we always opt for healthier whole-grain options.) But hey now … why do tortillas get to have all the fun? The shredded taco chicken is fantastic on salads or in lettuce wraps, too!

Serving suggestion showing the shredded chicken piled on top of a loaded taco salad.

Super easy. Super versatile. (I wasn’t kidding when I said this was pretty much the easiest possible dinner solution!)

And hey hey … more good news …

These Chicken Tacos Can Be Made Ahead, Too!

The shredded chicken taco meat refrigerates and even freezes beautifully.

So, it’s a great option for meal prepping. And terrific if you love enjoying leftovers for quick lunches (or more dinners) later in the week.

Which Is Right for You: This Instant Pot Chicken Taco Recipe … Or Our Slow Cooker One?

This Instant Pot recipe version is actually adapted from one of the all-time most popular recipes we’ve ever published – our 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos.

The original slow cooker version is great for people who won’t be home just before dinnertime, and need to get their meals cooking away earlier in the day.

And I’ve gotta tell ya, it sure is awesome to roll into the house at the end of a busy day, knowing that dinner is ready and waiting. (And happily sniffing the scrumptious scent of warm tacos!)

BUT …

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve forgotten to get my slow cooker going ahead of time. I’m off and running through the day … and sometime mid-afternoon I realize {with great horror} that I forgot to start my perfectly planned dinner. GAH!

That’s why the Instant Pot Tacos are a perfect alternative method!

If your mornings are too busy to think ahead to dinner. Or if you just plain forget to fire up the slow cooker. Wellllll … you can still get these Chicken Tacos to the table lickety-split at dinnertime. Thanks, Instant Pot!

Chicken served in flour tortillas with avocado slices, cilantro and jalapenos.

So which choice is better for you? It all depends on when you have the time to toss your ingredients into the cooker.

  • Wanna do it earlier in the day? Go the slow cooker route.
  • Wanna cook dinner in the evening? The Instant Pot will have your tacos ready in a jiffy!

Both options are equally delicious … so there’s really no wrong answer here!

FAQs At-a-Glance

Can I Change Up the Spicy-Heat Level?

Sure! It’s easy to scale from mild to hot based on the salsa you choose. And as I mentioned above, the flavor of the salsa is really important in this recipe. So be sure to choose a salsa you love – it truly does make a difference. My absolute favorite store-bought salsa is Herdez, and I always go with mild since it’s the most versatile – and the heat-lovers in my family can spice things up with hot sauce if they want.

What If My Chicken Taco Meat Seems Too Wet?

Depending on how much water you added and how watery your brand of salsa is, you may not want to stir ALLLL of the cooking liquid back into your chicken after shredding. If you’d like, you can use a slotted spoon to scoop up the thicker bits of salsa and some of the flavorful cooking liquid, adjusting the moistness of your shredded chicken by leaving a little of the cooking liquid behind. As a note, I typically use all – or nearly all – of my cooking liquid. But feel free to adjust that to your preferences.

Can You Refrigerate the Shredded Chicken and Make It Ahead for Meal Prep?

As I mentioned above, the chicken refrigerates well. Great for meal prepping!

Can You Freeze the Shredded Taco Chicken?

And again, this chicken also even freezes well. If you want, rather than freezing a full recipe, you can portion out individual servings so you can grab just a single-portion at a time. I recommend defrosting overnight in the fridge and then gently rewarming it when you’re ready to eat.

Is It Good Cold?

Believe it or not … yes! At least, my husband and I sure think so. For example, when I use the shredded chicken to make a taco salad, sometimes I heat it up a little, but I actually often just spoon it onto the salad, still chilled.

No more stressing over dinner, worrying how you’ll have enough time to pull it all together … or whether everyone in the family will like it.

Your Instant Pot makes chicken tacos an absolute breeze!

Loaded chicken tacos with lots of toppings, arranged on a circular platter and drizzled with Mexican crema.

And with so many ways to customize them, you know each member of your family will be able to create precisely the dinner they’ll love best.

Ahhhhhh … the dinner dilemma is solved again!

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Several tacos loaded with lots of toppings with a side of guac.

Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

Yield: 4 1/2 cups chicken
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

These yummy, super-easy Instant Pot Chicken Tacos can be customized lots of ways – a dinner your whole family will love! Great for meal prep and taco bars, too!

  Ready in About 30 Minutes or Less    Freezable  •  Make Ahead  

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons water (see note)
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar of your favorite salsa (NOT thick and chunky style; I prefer Herdez mild)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (1.25-ounce) packet low-sodium taco seasoning (see note)

Ideas for serving:

  • tortillas or taco shells or a bed of lettuce (for salads), plus your choice of optional toppings, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, black beans, corn, chopped avocados or guacamole, reduced-fat sour cream, and hot sauce

Instructions

  1. Put water and about 1/4 of the salsa in the bottom of the Instant Pot insert. Add the chicken breasts. Sprinkle the taco seasoning on the chicken, and then pour the remaining salsa over top.
  2. Close the Instant Pot lid (making sure the "venting" steam release knob is set to sealing, not venting). Select Manual, High Pressure, 15 minutes. (It takes my 6-quart Instant Pot Duo60 about 9-11 minutes to build enough pressure to seal, and then begin the 15-minute cook time.)
  3. When cook time is completed, allow the Instant Pot to sit (natural release) for 5 minutes. Then manually vent to relieve the remaining pressure (be careful to avoid being burned by the escaping steam), and open the Instant Pot.
  4. Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot and shred. Stir the seasoned salsa sauce from the Instant Pot into the shredded chicken. (You can choose how wet you want the shredded taco chicken meat to be by using a slotted spoon, if you don't want to incorporate all of the moisture back into your chicken.)

Notes

Water: Instant Pots need enough liquid in order to properly come to pressure, and adding just a little extra water in addition to the liquid in the salsa is important for that reason. So, the amount of water you add can vary slightly depending on how runny your brand of salsa is. For very loose salsas (like my favorite, Herdez mild), just 1 tablespoon of additional water is generally sufficient. For more typical jarred salsas, I recommend using 2 tablespoons of water. I don't recommend using this recipe with "thick and chunky" style salsa because you have to add too much water.

Taco seasoning: I recommend avoiding taco seasoning mixes that contain MSG. Also, there are differences in the amounts of sodium (and other ingredients) in various brands, so it's a good idea to read the nutrition information for the brands offered at your store.

Yield: Your precise yield may vary slightly from 4 1/2 - 5 cups of shredded chicken, depending on how large you shred your chicken and how much sauce you incorporate.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 9 servings Serving Size: 1/2 cup shredded chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 152Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 64mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 24g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

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