Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken


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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.

instant pot kung pao chicken over rice in a white bowl

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).

stirring kung pao chicken in the instant pot

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. 
adding spices to kung pao sauce

Pot-in-Pot Rice

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.

cooking rice with the pot in pot method in the instant pot
fluffing rice in an instant pot

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. 
instant pot kung pao chicken over rice in a white bowl

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. 
instant pot kung pao chicken over rice with chopsticks

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instant pot kung pao chicken over rice in a white bowl
3.85 from 38 votes

Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken with Rice

Sweet, savory, saucy, and spicy (or not), Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken is a fast, easy weeknight meal. Use the pot-in-pot method to cook the rice and it all comes together in the pressure cooker in just a few minutes.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 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

Pot-in-Pot Rice:

  • 1 cup medium-grain white rice
  • 1 cup water

To Finish:

  • 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.


Ginger and Garlic – If you’re looking to save time, you can certainly skip one or both of these aromatics, but the sauce won’t be as flavorful.
Optional Pot-in-Pot Rice – Feel free to skip the pot-in-pot rice here. Just skip over the steps to add the trivet, bowl, and rice. Follow all other instructions (including cook time) as written.


Calories: 527kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 907mg | Potassium: 626mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 72IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $10.25
Calories: 527
Keyword: chicken dinner, Chicken Recipe, easy recipe, easy, weeknight-friendly, instant pot, one pot meal, pot-in-pot
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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    1. I use either of the two smaller sizes in the link in the post. The largest size in the set won’t fit, but either of the other two will fit just fine. In the photos in the post, I use the smallest bowl and the rice fills right up to the top, but it works great.

  1. This sauce is fantastic! I made the same amount of sauce for half the chicken and it was lovely! I did use sriracha and ground cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes. I also lifted a “velveting” technique from a stir fry recipe : 1tbsp sherry, 1tbsp soy sauce, 2tsp baking soda, 1 tsp corn starch- marinate 15m. Then lifted from another ip recipe to use the sauté setting first and sauté the chicken for about 5m. The chicken breast came out really juicy and soft!

    I’m really looking forward to trying more of your recipes. Thanks!!

  2. Hi!
    Add vegetables – can you add them right into the sauce with chicken to cook in the IP or should they be prepared separately and added to the finished dish?

    1. It depends which vegetables you use. If you’re using a vegetable with a recommended cook time that is similar to the time in this recipe, it should be just fine to add it with the chicken and cook them together. Diced bell peppers, dice carrots, and broccoli florets should hold up well. Cauliflower florets will work fine but will fall apart a bit. If in doubt, it works well to steam the vegetables separately and just fold them into the IP at the end.

    1. Absolutely! I do sometimes use chicken breast and don’t change the time. Because it simmers in so much sauce, I don’t find that it dries out using the cooking time listed. Enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    My family absolutely loves this recipe. Even my two picky eaters! It’s definitely one for my personal cookbook where I keep the best. Thank you!

      1. 5 stars
        Love the recipe, can’t beat fresh ginger and garlic. I want to try it one pot style like you have done (I used my rice cooker instead) but I tried the link (to Amazon) for the bowls you recommend and in the Q&A section an Anchor Hocking rep says not to use in IP (see below). Any suggestions?
        Q: Anyone used these in the instant pot…pressure cookin?

        A: The bowls in this 3-piece mixing bowl set are oven, microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe, but not intended for stovetop (which includes pressure cooker use ), toaster oven or broiler use. We hope this information is helpful. If you have any other questions, our experts are available by phone at 1-800-562-7511, ext. 2478 or email at Our office hours are Monday-Friday: 8:00am – 4:30pm EST. see less
        By Kimberly MANUFACTURER

        1. Hi David – thanks so much for pointing this out. I certainly would not advise going against the manufacturer’s guidelines, so I can only speak to my personal experience (I have used them in both the Instant Pot and the oven for many years). I also link to Pyrex bowls in the post and believe that Pyrex has officially approved them for use under pressure, so those might be a great option.