Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken
Published Nov 20, 2019•Updated Jul 30, 2023
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Sweet, crunchy, savory, and spicy, Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken is better than take-out (and faster!). Use the pot-in-pot method to cook the rice and it all comes together in the pressure cooker in just a few minutes.
The Instant Pot has been saving busy weeknights for most of us for years, but it truly comes in handy with take-out fakeout meals like Kung Pao Chicken. Everything cooks together with tender bites of chicken simmering in a rich sauce and fluffy steamed rice cooking at the same time.
And if you’re looking to increase your repertoire of irresistible Instant Pot meals, don’t miss Instant Pot Spaghetti, Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup, Instant Pot Chicken Tacos, and Korean Beef and Brown Rice (which reviewers absolutely love).
Ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken
- Ginger and Garlic – These aromatics add great flavor to the sauce. You can totally skip them if you want to save time, but it’s worth the extra few minutes to chop them up and include them.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – I test all of my recipes with low-sodium soy sauce. It allows me to create a larger quantity of sauce with a less salty flavor. I highly recommend grabbing low-sodium soy sauce for this recipe.
- Hoisin Sauce – The sauce in this dish is everything. It gets a lot of its sweet and savory flavor from Hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce also includes some spices that will make this dish taste like a truly authentic take-out Kung Pao Chicken. Find it in the international aisle at the grocery store.
- Brown Sugar – A bit of sugar goes a long way to balance the sweet-savory notes of the sauce. Light or dark brown sugar (or even granulated / white sugar) will work.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Kung Pao Chicken usually has a spicy kick. A bit of red pepper flakes do the trick. Feel free to double the amount listed if you like spice. Or skip this if you want a non-spicy version.
- Peanuts – Don’t skip the peanuts on top of the finished dish! They add great crunch.
This recipe uses what is known as the “pot-in-pot” method for cooking rice alongside the chicken. Assemble the kung pao chicken in the bottom of the pot. Add a bowl with rice and water on top. Let it all cook together. When it’s done, you’ll have tender, saucy chicken and perfectly cooked rice – all made together in the Instant Pot. Check out my post on How to Use the Pot-in-Pot Method if this is new to you.
Variations on Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken
- Make it Vegetarian / Vegan – Try this recipe with 2 cans of chickpeas instead of chicken. We love it this way. Rinse and drain them before you use them. Just follow the rest of the instructions as written.
- Add vegetables – Don’t hesitate to add some vegetables to the dish if you’d like. Broccoli, chopped bell peppers, finely chopped carrots, or cauliflower florets could all be added right alongside the chicken and should cook in the same amount of time as the chicken.
- Cook the rice separately – If you prefer to make a bigger batch of rice, you can cook it separately. Instructions and cook time for the Kung Pao Chicken remain the same.
Other Instant Pot Recipes that Use the Pot-in-Pot Method
- Instant Pot Chickpea Curry – We make this one a lot lately. It also uses the pot-in-pot method to cook rice and just needs naan and yogurt for serving.
- Kung Pao Cauliflower – A veggie version of this Kung Pao recipe. The cauliflower turns super tender and soaks up all the delicious sauce.
- Instant Pot Korean Beef and Brown Rice – This Korean-inspired beef recipe has tons of flavor and, because the beef takes longer to cook, you make brown rice using the pot-in-pot method.
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Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken with Rice
- Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker
- Pressure cooker rack
- Pressure cooker-safe bowl
Kung Pao Chicken and Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (see note)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped (see note)
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 20 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into large pieces
- 1 cup medium-grain white rice
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 4 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- chopped green onions, for serving
- Make the sauce by combining ginger, garlic, 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.
- Combine sauce and chicken in the bowl of an Instant Pot. (Note: If you don't want to add the pot-in-pot rice, skip ahead to Step #5.)
- Top it with a rack that is approved for use in the Instant Pot.
- Combine rice and 1 cup of water in a bowl that is approved for use in the pressure cooker. Place the bowl with rice on top of rack.
- Close and lock the lid. Set steam valve to Sealing.
- Cook on manual / high pressure for 4 minutes.
- When chicken and rice are done cooking, leave pressure on natural release for 10 minutes and then manually release any remaining pressure.
- Carefully remove the bowl of rice and rack, leaving chicken in the bowl.
- Turn on the pressure cooker’s saute function to normal / medium.
- Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and 2 Tbsp water together until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture, Hoisin sauce, and toasted sesame oil to chicken.
- Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce thickens. (Be careful not to cook any longer than a minute or two so that the chicken doesn’t overcook.)
- Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Top with peanuts and chopped green onions.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.