Did you know that you can cook chicken breasts straight from frozen...in 10 minutes? In the Instant Pot, anyway. If chicken is comfort food, then Instant Pot chicken is comfort cooking.
One night after work, starving, I came home to an empty refrigerator. (Hey, it happens to the best of us.) I had just come back from vacation and, as I'm one of those people who clears out his fridge even when he's only gone for a short weekend, I hadn't yet made my grocery run to restock my provisions.
Desperate, I threw them (the chicken breasts, not the ice cream) into my Instant Pot—still 100-percent frozen and unfeeling—along with a can of crushed tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and some spices. I set to Pressure Cook on High for 10 minutes. Though it took a few minutes to come up to temperature from frozen, and then for the pressure to release, the chicken came out fully cooked and perfectly juicy.
Humorist Arnold H. Glasow once wrote, "You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it." (In this case, you get the chicken by failing to plan dinner in advance, then saving the night by pressure-cooking it.)
In case you need another reason to believe in the magic of the Instant Pot, below are 11 quick and easy chicken dinners to make a convert out of anyone.
From stock to stew, the Instant Pot makes chicken and dumplings a more streamlined option. "Mine are these fluffy biscuit-like dumplings that float like clouds atop a simple stew of large pieces of tender chicken studded with bright orange carrots and flecks of herbs," Sheri Castle writes. "This meal is so comforting that it feels restorative."
"Happily for you, I’m not about to suggest using a can of cream of mushroom soup in this (or any other) recipe," says Urvashi Pitre, writer of the popular blog Two Sleevers. "But, happily for you, if you like cream of mushroom soup, you won’t miss it after you try this recipe."
"Butter chicken, also known as chicken makhani, is more like a treat than an entrée," claims cookbook author Archana Mundhe. "This heavenly, creamy curry highlights the robust flavors of Kashmiri chile, dried fenugreek leaves, and garam masala."
The other day, Food Stylist Anna Billingskog and I were discussing the many merits of the Instant Pot. But the greatest thing it churns out? Soups, stocks, and broths. This Vietnamese-inspired number from Martha Stewart is fresh and zingy, thanks to lots of herbs, fish sauce, and lime juice.
Special thanks to community member BellaRasa for adapting my mother's stovetop recipe for the Instant Pot. "I just throw everything in and skip the poaching step," she told me. I've since tested her method and added a pressure-cooker variation in the directions.
"While this old-fashioned country recipe traditionally uses an entire chicken—preferably a tough old bird—here I use chicken thighs, which braise beautifully in the pressure cooker," Ann Mah advises. "For the braising liquid, I like to use an inexpensive (don’t spend more than $10), medium-bodied red wine like a Beaujolais Villages. Buttered broad noodles are a traditional accompaniment."
Contributor Posie (Harwood) Brien's recipe is, in her words, "a simple weeknight chicken dinner with a sticky-sweet honey garlic sauce. I like to serve this over greens mixed with rice or mashed sweet potatoes."
"Cacciatore means 'hunter' in Italian and refers to a dish cooked with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes wine," Whole90 founder Melissa Hartwig writes. "This version doesn’t contain any wine and subs zucchini noodles for the standard wheat pasta or rice that is usually served with the chicken, but it still has amazingly rich flavor."
Pressure-cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts with frozen broccoli for a quick and easy dinner that's on the table in under an hour. "It’s clean, absolutely delicious, and will leave you oh-so satisfied," Hartwig says. "The best part? It’s one of my kids’ favorites."
Perhaps the one recipe Pitre is most known for is her Instant Pot variation of butter chicken, which turns chicken breasts into a glorious tomato curry. It was so popular, it sparked a book deal—and even a nickname, The Butter Chicken Lady.
Eric Kim is the Senior Editor and 'Table for One' columnist at Food52. Formerly the Digital Manager of FoodNetwork.com, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog.