Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

Published Updated September 11, 2023

~ Just 3 ingredients! These yummy, ultra-easy Instant Pot Chicken Tacos require very little hands-on time and can even be made ahead. Plus, you can use either fresh or frozen chicken (with no thawing). 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?”

They require almost no thought. They basically make themselves.

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

And you can serve ’em up in a practically endless variety of ways. (We have soooo many ideas for you toward the bottom of this article!)

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, with nearly zero 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 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 salsa brands, 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 these Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos 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.

Adjusting the Cooking Time for Frozen Chicken

If you have chicken breasts waiting in the freezer, there’s no need to thaw them before cooking this recipe.

Simply place the individual, frozen chicken breasts in the pressure cooker and increase the cook time to 20 minutes (instead of the 15 minutes you use for fresh chicken). Easy!

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

Step #3

When the cook time is finished, 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 to shred chicken (like using a hand mixer), but for just three chicken breasts, I think a couple of forks is really all you need. It’s the same thing I do with my Instant Pot Shredded Chicken BBQ Sandwiches.

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

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. What an easy taco night!

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!

This salsa chicken is 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 a few terrific ideas …

1) Super-Simple:

You can serve these very simply with minimal effort – just roll some of the shredded taco chicken in flour tortillas or pile it into crunchy, hard shells … and be done. Maybe sprinkle on a little cheese or dollop it with a bit of reduced-fat sour cream.

You really don’t need anything else at all!

2) Fabulously Over-the-Top:

Or, you can add on whatever favorite toppings you like!

Classic options are avocado slices or guacamole, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, minced red onion, crumbled cotija or shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, corn, reduced-fat sour cream, extra salsa or fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeños, hot sauce, or maybe even a squeeze of lime juice.

3) 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 masterpiece creations!

4) Tortillas … or NOT:

These Instant Pot Chicken Tacos are great with either 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 succulent, shredded chicken is fantastic on taco salads or in lettuce wraps, too!

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

Or you can get really creative and try piling your scrumptious chicken into a baked sweet potato, make zucchini “boats,” or even serve it as a quick filling for stuffed pepper halves.

5) Nachos:

Turn your taco chicken into a crowd-pleasin’ appetizer!

Grab some tortilla chips (go mutli-grain for the nutrition boost!), layer on your chicken, cheese, and whatever other toppings you’re craving (saving things like shredded lettuce or chopped avocado for AFTER they come out of the oven, of course).

Then throw your snack-y creation into a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes (just like we do with our Buffalo Chicken Nachos). Yum yum yum!

6) Burrito Bowls:

Does your family love customizing burrito bowls at your local Chipotle restaurant? Then you’ve gotta try this DIY dinner idea (inspired by our favorite Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls)!

Start with some piping hot rice (preferably whole grain brown rice instead of white rice, to keep it healthier).

Then add the shredded chicken, plus lots of taco toppings. Let the whole family choose their own adventure and create their own, personalized concoctions.

7) Perfect Side Dishes:

No doubt, 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, try:

And our Mexican Fiesta Black Bean Hummus would be a great starter!

No matter what you decide to do with your fabulous Mexican shredded chicken, dinner will be delicious, fun and super easy. It’s absolutely one of the most versatile recipes. (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 it’s fantastic if you love having leftover chicken for quick lunches (or more dinners) later in the week.

Which Is Right for You: This Instant Pot 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.

That “original” slow cooker chicken tacos recipe is great for people who won’t be home until it’s dinnertime, and need to have 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!)

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

BUT …

What if your mornings are too busy to think ahead to dinner? Or what 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 by cooking them in your Instant Pot!

Plus, although you shouldn’t use frozen chicken in your slow cooker, it’s totally fine to use frozen chicken in the faster-cooking pressure cooker. So, if your chicken’s frozen, the Instant Pot’s the way to go! (And if you’re interested, we’ve got a whole collection of Instant Pot Recipes for Frozen Chicken that are ready to save the day.)

FAQs At-a-Glance

Can I Change Up the Spicy-Heat Level?

Sure! It’s easy to scale from mild to spicy, 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 brand is Herdez, and I always go with mild since it’s the most versatile. I figure the heat-lovers in my family can spice things up with hot sauce if they want. But, you can definitely choose to use a hot salsa if you want your shredded chicken tacos to have more of a kick.

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! Keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for quick dinners on busy nights all week long, or even for fast, yummy lunches.

Can You Freeze the Shredded Taco Chicken?

And again, this chicken also even freezes well. If you want, rather than freezing a full recipe all together, you can portion out individual servings into small freezer bags, 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 spoon it right onto the salad, still chilled.

Can I Use Frozen Chicken in the Instant Pot?

Yes! It’s safe to cook frozen chicken in electric pressure cookers, and it also works really well! As discussed in the article above, if you’d like to use frozen chicken for these chicken tacos, there’s no need to thaw it first. You can put the frozen chicken right into the pressure cooker, still frozen, and simply add a little longer to the cook time. For this specific taco recipe, you need to add 5 additional minutes. There’s no other change needed to the recipe. So simple! Note that I recommend using chicken breasts that are individually frozen, and not frozen in one large chunk. If they aren’t frozen individually, they may need even more cooking time and may not cook very evenly. In that case, it’s best to safely thaw them first.

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!

~ by Shelley

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

Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

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  •
5 from 11 votes
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 ½ cups chicken

Ingredients
 

  • 1-2 tablespoons water (see note)
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar of your favorite salsa (NOT thick and chunky style; I prefer Herdez mild)
  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen – no need to thaw if frozen)
  • 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 (see full list of serving ideas in article above)

Instructions
 

  • Put water and about ¼ 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.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (making sure the "venting" steam release knob is set to sealing, not venting). Select Manual, High Pressure, and then 15 minutes if using fresh or already-thawed chicken or 20 minutes if using frozen chicken breasts that are NOT thawed. (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 for fresh chicken, and an extra 4-6 minutes if I'm starting with frozen chicken.)
  • 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.
  • 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: 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 4½ – 5 cups of shredded chicken, depending on how large you shred your chicken and how much sauce you incorporate.
Cooking Frozen Chicken: Your chicken breasts should be individually frozen, and not frozen together in one big block. If they aren’t individual, they will probably need even more additional cook time and may not cook evenly. I don’t recommend that. Instead, thaw them safely in the refrigerator or microwave before making this recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/2 cup shredded chicken | Calories: 152 | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0g | Unsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Carbohydrates: 6g | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Protein: 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.

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Low Fat
Author: Shelley © Two Healthy Kitchens LLC at www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com
Tried this recipe?We’d LOVE to hear … please leave a star-rating!

20 thoughts on “Instant Pot Chicken Tacos”

  1. Personally, I love adding avocado slices, shredded cheese, sour cream and extra salsa to my chicken tacos. It’s a treat for the taste buds! And the best part is that you can make this chicken ahead of time and freeze it for future meals, making it a perfect meal prep option.

    Reply
    • I like how you think, Emma! As good as the salsa chicken is just simply wrapped in a tortilla, I’m with you – I love to LOAD up all the toppings. Yum yum yum! I’m really happy you enjoyed this chicken taco recipe so much – thank you for taking the time to leave such lovely feedback! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply
  2. 5 stars
    We make this recipe often and use it as a filling for not just tacos, but for burritos, burrito bowls, even loaded nachos! It always turns out great!

    Reply
    • Oh, wonderful – I’m so happy to hear it, Justine! Leave it to the trusty ol’ Instant Pot to make even Taco Tuesday better, right?!?! 😉 Thanks for letting me know these tacos were such a big hit – I appreciate that you took the time to circle back with a review! ~Shelley

      Reply

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