You can make perfectly tender and juicy chicken in the Instant Pot straight from frozen - no thawing required! Frozen chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs are ready for shredding, dicing, or slicing in less than 30 minutes!
One of my absolute favorite uses of my Instant Pot is cooking frozen chicken. It is such a huge time saver! When I've forgotten to thaw any meat for dinner and don't have time to go to the grocery store, the Instant Pot can save dinner in no time.
You can buy chicken already frozen or freeze it yourself and keep it ready to go in the freezer. It's much easier to keep frozen chicken on-hand without having to worry about it expiring in the refrigerator or forgetting to thaw it before you need it.
Whether you want to use breasts, tenders, or thighs, any boneless cut of chicken can work with this recipe. I'll explain what cook time you'll need for each cut of chicken.
Frozen chicken cooked in the Instant Pot is so versatile and can be shredded, sliced, diced, or served in whole pieces. You can season it up however you like it, or use it for meal prep to use in any recipe that calls for pre-cooked chicken.
- What Kind of Chicken to Use
- How to Separate Frozen Chicken Stuck Together
- What Cooking Liquid to Use
- How to Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders
- How to Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
- How to Cook Frozen Chicken Thighs
- What to Do if Chicken is Undercooked
- Top Tips for Success
- How to Shred Chicken
- How to Dice Chicken
- How to Use Cooked Chicken
- How to Season Chicken
- How to Double the Recipe
- How to Freeze Cooked Chicken
- Calories Per Serving
What Kind of Chicken to Use
The most common options for frozen chicken are:
- Chicken Tenderloin (or chicken tenders)
- Chicken Breasts
- Chicken Thighs (boneless)
These are the three types of chicken I will cover in this post. No matter which type of chicken you want to use, make sure they are individually frozen (not frozen into one big chunk).
Chicken tenders, breasts, or thighs are all sold pre-frozen in bags in the freezer section of your grocery store. The label should say "individually frozen" or "ice glazed." You can typically find them in 3 pound or 5 pound bags.
If you want to freeze your own chicken, you can wrap individual pieces in plastic wrap and then place wrapped pieces in a zip-top bag and freeze.
For the best results, I recommend using individually frozen chicken tenders. Frozen chicken tenders are my favorite cut of chicken to use because they are evenly sized. While chicken breast sizes can vary from 6 ounces to 12+ ounces, tenders are much more consistently sized. With large breasts, it can be difficult to get them fully cooked in the thick parts without overcooking smaller pieces.
While you can get good results with any kind of frozen chicken in the Instant Pot, I have consistently had the best luck with tenders! They are pretty much no-fail, and you don't have to worry about inconsistent sizing.
How to Separate Frozen Chicken Stuck Together
If your chicken is frozen into one large chunk, you will have to thaw it enough to at least separate the pieces before cooking in the Instant Pot. The chicken will have no chance of cooking evenly if you attempt to cook it in one huge chunk.
To separate frozen chicken pieces, place chicken in a bowl of cool water for 30 minutes until it has thawed enough for you to separate the pieces. To skip this step, purchase pre-frozen chicken from the freezer section that is frozen into individual pieces, or freeze chicken pieces individually using plastic wrap to separate them.
What Cooking Liquid to Use
To pressure cook in the Instant Pot, you will need one cup of liquid. You can use:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup broth (chicken broth or vegetable broth)
- 1 cup pineapple juice or apple juice (for a slightly sweet taste)
Which cooking liquid you want to use really depends on what you plan to do with the chicken and what kind of flavor profile you want. I typically use 1 cup chicken broth because that gives it a little bit of extra flavor.
Pineapple juice also is quite good if you like a slightly sweet taste.
In general, chicken broth goes well with almost anything. If you want your chicken to be completely plain, use 1 cup water.
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders
Add 1 cup of liquid (water or broth) and 1 pound of individually frozen chicken tenders to the Instant Pot (no trivet needed). Pressure cook for 6 minutes and then allow a 5-minute natural release.
After a 5 minute natural release, cooked tenders will be juicy and tender! Mine have a yellow tint here because I made this batch with pineapple juice.
Cooked tenders can be shredded or diced just like you would do with a chicken breast. You can also serve them whole, although they may be so tender they will almost fall apart!
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
While tenders are my favorite frozen cut for pressure cooking, you can also make Instant Pot chicken breasts straight from frozen. To cook frozen chicken breasts, you will need individually frozen chicken breasts and one cup of liquid (I used chicken broth).
Before starting, weigh out your chicken breasts to determine roughly what size they are using a food scale. This is an important step because the cooking time depends on how large the chicken breasts are. Note the size of your largest breast, because that will determine your cook time.
Chicken breasts are very unforgiving and can become rubbery if overcooked, so it's important to carefully dial in the cooking time. I would start with the times I have suggested below and then adjust according to the results with your Instant Pot. Each Instant Pot model may cook slightly differently.
Add 1 cup of liquid (water or broth) and 1 pound of individually frozen chicken breasts to the Instant Pot liner (no trivet needed).
Cooking times (choose the time based on the largest breast you are cooking):
- 6-8 ounce chicken breasts: 10 minutes high pressure with a 5-minute natural release
- 9-10 ounce chicken breasts: 12 minutes high pressure with a 5-minute natural release
- 11-12 ounce chicken breast: 14 minutes high pressure with a 5-minute natural release
A natural release means letting the pot sit undisturbed for an additional 5 minutes before pressing the quick-release button to release the remaining pressure.
After the 5 minute natural release, breasts should be perfectly tender and juicy- ready to shred, dice, or slice!
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Thighs
To cook frozen boneless chicken thighs, add 1 cup of liquid (water or broth) and 1 pound of individually frozen chicken thighs to the Instant Pot.
Cook frozen chicken thighs for 13 minutes high pressure and then allow for a 5-minute natural release before releasing remaining pressure.
What to Do if Chicken is Undercooked
For any cut of chicken, you need to verify that the inside of the chicken reaches at least 165 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to verify that the chicken is fully cooked.
If your chicken is almost, but not completely cooked when you open the lid, put the lid back on the top of the pot and let it sit for an additional 2-3 minutes. The heat trapped inside the Instant Pot will finish cooking the chicken.
If your chicken is very under-cooked (less than 145 degrees), you can set the Instant Pot to 2 minutes high pressure and then do a quick release. This will help the chicken finish cooking the rest of the way.
Top Tips for Success
Use frozen chicken tenders - tenders are the easiest and most foolproof cut of chicken. While you can get good results with breasts, it's much harder to get the cooking time just right. Chicken tenders are smaller and sized much more consistently sized than breasts.
Use individually frozen chicken - make sure your chicken is frozen into individual pieces, not frozen into one big chunk.
Use a meat thermometer to verify that chicken has reached at least 165 degrees. This is very important to make sure that your chicken is safe to eat!
Cook in chicken broth or pineapple juice for added flavor, especially if you plan to eat it plain.
Trim chicken after cooking - if you notice any fatty or bad spots on your chicken, don't attempt to cut it off while frozen. You can easily trim off any bad spots after cooking, before you shred or dice it up.
To keep shredded chicken extra moist, add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid to shredded chicken. This will also add extra flavor!
How to Shred Chicken
My favorite way to shred chicken is by using my bear claw shredders. These are basically like giant forks, and they get the job done quickly! These help you pull apart chicken breasts or tenders really easily.
Use the meat shredders to move the chicken out of the Instant Pot liquid and place chicken on a cutting board to shred. If desired, you can put shredded chicken back in the cooking liquid.
You can also shred chicken by using two forks to pull it apart, or you can use a stand mixer. The stand mixer works great for a large batch, but I typically just use my bear claw shredders if I'm only shredding a pound or two.
How to Dice Chicken
Especially if I'm using the chicken in a pasta dish such as chicken alfredo, I like using diced chicken to avoid any stringiness.
To dice chicken, grab a chef knife and cutting board. Cut chicken into slices and then chop into bite-sized pieces. The chicken should be tender and juicy inside.
How to Use Cooked Chicken
Instant Pot frozen chicken is so versatile and you can use it in many different ways! You can dice it, slice it, shred it, or serve in whole pieces.
Here are a few ideas for how to use cooked chicken:
- Prep for casseroles or other recipes that call for cooked chicken or a rotisserie chicken
- Dice chicken for meal prep (add veggies and rice)
- Chicken salad
- Tacos or quesadillas
- On top of a salad
- Shred chicken and mix with BBQ sauce for sandwiches (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
How to Season Chicken
If you're planing to use plain chicken, here are a few ideas for some simple seasoning:
- Butt rub (bbq dry rub flavor)
- Salt + pepper + garlic powder
- Seasoned Salt, such as Lawry's
- Cajun seasoning blend
- Taco seasoning blend
How to Double the Recipe
To cook more than one pound of chicken at a time, you do not need to add any extra liquid or change the cooking time. With more chicken in the pot, the Instant Pot will just take a little bit longer to reach pressure.
Make sure you do not fill your Instant Pot past the max fill line. In my 6 quart Instant Pot, I normally do not cook more than 2-3 pounds of chicken at a time.
How to Freeze Cooked Chicken
To freeze cooked chicken, you can place it in quart or gallon-sized plastic zip-top bags. Remove as much air as possible and freeze in flat sheets. This method works whether your chicken is shredded, sliced, or diced. You can keep cooked chicken in the freezer for 2-3 months. Thaw frozen cooked chicken in the refrigerator overnight before you plan to use it.
Calories Per Serving
The calorie count depends on which type of chicken you use.
For a 4 oz serving (uncooked), or about 3 oz cooked chicken:
- Chicken tenderloin - 100 calories
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts - 110 calories
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs - 140 calories
Chicken tenders or breasts have fewer calories than thighs because they are lower fat. Also, remember that chicken loses some of its weight after cooking, so 4 oz of uncooked frozen chicken is close to 3 oz cooked chicken.
Plain chicken is one of the healthiest things you can eat - it's low in fat and very high in protein! It's great for keto diets or low-calorie diets.