We have all been there – you plan to start a meal in the slow cooker before you leave the house in the morning but life gets crazy and it doesn’t happen. You get home with limited time until dinner and 100% of the meat in your house is frozen solid. This is when we usually turn to take out or pizza, but there is a better way! I am sure you have heard about the super popular kitchen gadget the Instant Pot. The hype is true, you can honestly have dinner on the table straight from the freezer in under an hour. Much less depending on the recipe including this fast and easy Instant Pot salsa chicken.
Why Instant Pot?
The buzz about the Instant Pot started a few years ago. It allegedly did 100 different things and could cook anything. Blah, blah, blah. Look, I don’t need a rice cooking function, I can’t imagine myself making yogurt that my kids would eat, I have never in my life used a pressure cooker and honestly it kind of scares me. Then I started hearing about lead leaching out of traditional slow cookers…into the food being cooked. Um, what?! Using my crock pot was potentially poisoning my children? Nope, done.
I really love the slow cooker for certain dishes though. I remembered the Instant Pot had a slow cook function. And that the pot the food cooks in is all stainless steel. Nothing is perfect, but stainless steel is one of the safest materials to cook with. I decided that was enough of a reason for me to give this contraption a shot. Since it was fall I put it on my Christmas list (the best budget friendly way to update your kitchen gear!). Because my mom was the one who asked for the idea I could also strongly hint to her to buy it on Black Friday when Amazon.com featured it at an amazing price.
Since then I have come to realize the Instant Pot is so much more than just a kitchen appliance. It is a not-so-secret club, there is a HUGE online community with tons of advice, tips and recipes. People name their IPs, decorate their IPs, own 2 or 3 IPs. It’s a whole thing and with good reason. The Instant Pot is truly a game changer. The fact that it can quickly cook meat from frozen alone has made it worth every penny. I wanted it to take the place of my slow cooker, but I rarely slow cook anything in it. Almost any slow cook recipe is easily adapted to pressure cooked. And the results are consistently so similar there is just no reason to worry about getting dinner started 8 hours ahead of time anymore.
Over the last few years Amazon.com has featured significant price cuts on the Instant Pot at least twice a year – Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. There are also discounts offered in between, you just have to check. If you are wondering which model to buy, I would highly recommend the DUO 7-in1 6 QT for a family of 2, 3, 4 or 5. The 8 QT might make sense around 6 family members and up. Even if you don’t think you need the yogurt function I say you never know – might as well have it.
I use my Instant Pot about 3 times a month. More when we are busier in the fall. And it would be even more if I had the counter space to leave it out all the time. I think you will love what it can do. It is the #1 selling product on Amazon in the US for good reason.
A super fast and easy recipe that gets tossed in the Instant Pot at 5:00 and on the table by 5:45 is Salsa Chicken. Everyone loves tacos and this is a quick way to give them what they want. If you have prepared Homemade Taco Seasoning or even a premixed (organic!) packet, it is literally just dump and go. It works from frozen or fresh. Simple, speedy, and versatile.
The preset for ‘poultry’ on the IP is 15 minutes at high pressure. That doesn’t mean it is 15 minutes start to finish though, you need to allow time to get the machine up to pressure and time for the pressure to release after. If you are using frozen chicken it will take a bit longer for the IP to get hot enough to build up the pressure needed but it is still much faster than defrosting. It will also require a slightly longer cook time, which is easy to adjust on the IP settings.
If your chicken breasts or tenders (or even thighs!) are frozen in a clump together you should add a little more time as well. I do 15 minutes for fresh, 20 minutes for frozen and 25 minutes for frozen together. Remember that the IP needs to have some liquid to develop the steam inside that creates the pressure for cooking. Just salsa alone is possibly enough but they can vary a lot in the liquid content. Make sure to add a least 1/2 cup water, more if you have a salsa that is very chunky and not runny.
You can also cook this on the Instant Pot slow cook setting. I have found that 4 hours works well for chicken. Add a little extra liquid and salsa. I frequently get this recipe going right before it is time to go to the bus stop so it is ready after we get home from after school activities. I don’t need to give myself any excuses to resort to ordering pizza because I am really good at justifying things like that to myself!
It is so simple to just toss in 2 chicken breasts, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1/2 cup of water, and 1 Tbsp taco seasoning. Close the lid (it makes a cool sound so you know you are doing something right), make sure to close the pressure valve, set the timer and gather the other parts of dinner. We frequently have this chicken for tacos with flour tortillas and all the toppings. Of course it is a great low carb salad topping or main entree on its own as well. This makes plenty for my little family to have tacos, but if you have big eaters or want leftovers consider doubling or more.
When the time is up (you will know, it beeps – a lot), I try to let it release pressure on its own for as long as I can. This just depends how you are doing on time. If you need to speed things up you can manually release the pressure as well. Just be careful as it will release all that built up steam and there will be a little spray. Make sure the IP isn’t under a cabinet or anything that might be damaged by the powerful steam shooting up and turn the valve with a dish towel. It sounds scary and honestly is a little bit, but it is totally safe. Shred the chicken and serve.
Quick Tip: Use your hand mixer to quickly shred cooked chicken. It is so much easier than using forks, just make sure to do it while the meat is still warm.
Chicken – Animal products are some of the most important to buy Organic. For chicken there really is no in between like grass fed can be for beef. The price of organic chicken at Costco can’t be beat but if you don’t have that option make sure to stock up as much as you can when there is a sale at Kroger, Meijer, Aldi or your local store.
Salsa – There are a lot of options for salsa in most every stores generic organic line. I really like the True Goodness salsas at Meijer but I also have been happy with the Costco and Whole Foods brands. Just watch to choose a mild version if you are serving anyone sensitive to heat from spices. Or feel free to kick this dish up a notch with the heat of salsa you prefer!
Taco Seasoning – Homemade is super easy. My recipe to prepare a larger batch to keep on hand is here. There are now organic taco seasoning packets available like this one. Most of them don’t have the added fillers and preservatives that the conventional packets do. That alone makes them worth seeking out.
Give the Instant Pot a try, with lots of recipes like this Instant Pot Salsa Chicken it will greatly reduce your fall back on take out!
Easy and Fast Salsa Chicken in the Instant Pot
This is a easy and versatile recipe that works if you plan ahead or need something last minute. Using the Instant Pot allows you to quickly cook the chicken straight from the freezer if need be, or slow cook if you have the time.
- 2 Chicken Breasts Substitute thighs or tenderloins as needed
- 1 tbsp Taco Seasoning Substitute Organic seasoning packet
- 1/2 cup Salsa heat to taste
- 1/2 cup Water
Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot
Use 'Poultry' setting (or manual, high pressure), 15 minutes for fresh chicken, increase to 20 minutes for individually frozen breasts or 25 minutes for chicken pieces frozen together. Make sure pressure valve is closed ('sealing'). **
When cooking time expires, allow natural pressure release as time allows though quick pressure release works as needed.
Shred chicken with 2 forks OR using a hand mixer.
Serve warm with taco fixings, as salad topping, or on it's own.
** If you want to slow cook, set for at least 4 hours on high. If using the Instant Pot slow cooking function, use the adjust button to set it to 'more' heat (equal to high slow cooker setting) and ensure the pressure valve is OPEN to 'Venting'.
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