Chicken thighs with or without bone, with or without skin, fresh or frozen – get the times needed to cook chicken thighs of any type in the Instant Pot. This is a great technique for when chicken thighs are on sale and you’re doing meal prep for the week.
I really love chicken thigh meat. I find it much juicier and more flavorful than chicken breast. So when it’s on sale at my grocery store, I load up on it.
My new favorite way to cook chicken thighs, especially if I’m doing food prep for the week, is to put it all into the Instant Pot. It comes out really juicy and tender and full of flavor. I mean it. If I put half an onion and some garlic cloves into the Instant Pot with that chicken, the meat seems to get penetrated by that flavor. Probably due to the high pressure of the Instant Pot cooking method.
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Video: Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
What you’re going to do is to season up your chicken thighs with salt and pepper and anything else you’d like.
Then put some water into the bottom of your Instant Pot insert. 1 cup is enough. I often put 2-4 cups because that water ends up deliciously flavored and I use it as stock or broth during the week. Note that if you use more water, the time the Instant Pot takes to get pressurized will increase. You still set your Instant Pot for the same number of minutes, all that changes is what the Instant Pot does, not what you do.
Optionally add half an onion and a couple of garlic cloves to the water. Celery and carrots work too. Put the trivet or a steamer basket on top of the water/veggies.
Put the thighs on top of the trivet. Seal the Instant Pot and set the valve to sealed. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for the times indicated below. Once it’s done, let it do a natural release for 5 minutes before turning the valve to vent.
Note: You can use any kind of chicken thighs in the Instant Pot. Times are given for different types below.
For all of the below, follow the instructions in the recipe below, using these times and extra details:
- Bone-in skin-on thighs: Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook for 12 minutes with about 6-8 thighs in there. Note that you should remove the skin before serving because it will be limp. It is easier to remove after cooking than before.
- Bone-in skinless thighs are also going to go for 12 minutes for 8 thighs.
- Boneless skinless thighs only need 10 minutes for 6-8 thighs.
- Frozen thighs that were bought fresh and then were frozen individually such that they are not touching each other: for 6-8 individually frozen thighs, set the Instant Pot for 14 minutes.
- Frozen thighs that were bought individually frozen as flatter pieces that have a 4% water or other solution (such as Kirkland), full 48 oz. bag: arrange them vertically like books on a shelf and pressure cook for 14 minutes.
- Frozen thighs that were bought fresh and then frozen touching each other on the tray in a single layer (they are frozen together is a single layer), 6-8 thighs: Remove all packaging (if needed run cold water over them until all packaging and absorbent mat is fully loosened so that it can be removed without tearing). Do everything as instructed but go with 6 minutes, then immediately vent pressure. Use tongs to separate thighs since they are now thawed enough to do so. Then set to pressure cook for an additional 10 minutes (for boneless thighs), do a natural release, or 12 minutes (for bone-in thighs).
What To Do If Your Chicken Isn’t Cooked Through
Sometimes you have bigger chicken thighs than expected, and other times the sealing ring on your Instant Pot has a small leak and some steam is getting out. There are a variety of reasons why on a particular day your chicken doesn’t end up cooked through. I can tell you that I have followed the below recipe hundreds of times at this point, and perhaps 5% of the time, I have some pink chicken. It is best to always cut into a piece and make sure it’s not pink before serving, or better yet, use an instant-read thermometer to make sure that it is at 165F.
Anyhow, if you open up your Instant Pot and cut into a piece of chicken and it’s pink, don’t panic. It’s going to be fixed really quickly and easily like this:
Put the lid back onto the Instant Pot immediately. Turn the valve to Sealing. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 3 minutes. Let it come up to pressure, which will be quick because everything is still hot in there. Then it will pressure cook for 3 minutes. Then do a natural release for 5 minutes. The chicken should now be fully-cooked. If it isn’t, there is probably something wrong with your Instant Pot. You might need a new sealing ring or valve. That is the most likely situation.
Searing The Thighs First
This is an optional step, but you can absolutely sear the chicken thighs first to get some nice brown color on them. This doesn’t work for frozen thighs though.
You would do this browning step if you’re serving the chicken thighs as is. If you are instead planning to shred the chicken, or chop it up to use it in another recipe, then you really don’t need to do this.
To sear the chicken, before doing anything else, set the Instant Pot to saute on high. Season the chicken with salt and anything else you’d like. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Swirl it around and then add the chicken thighs in a single layer. Cook them for 3-4 minutes until they are nice and brown. Then flip them over and do the other side.
The next step is really important whenever searing anything in the Instant Pot. You need to make sure that nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot before you proceed or else you get a Burn notice later when pressure-cooking. So, use tongs to remove the chicken thighs from the Instant Pot and put them on a plate. Then, add your liquid to the Instant Pot. When I do this, I tend to go with a minimum of 1 and 1/2 cups because some is going to evaporate before we get to pressure-cooking. Once the liquid is in there, use a wooden spoon to scrape anything up from the bottom. The liquid will help to loosen it as it heats up.
Once you’re certain that there is nothing stuck to the bottom, then add in your trivet and put the chicken thighs on top. The rest of the recipe is the same as below with the same cooking times.
Whether you sear the chicken thighs, or leave them and then shred them, or use the cooked chicken in another recipe, I know you’re going to love how juicy and tender Instant Pot chicken thighs turn out. Have a wonderful day! -Christine xo
More Chicken Thigh Recipes
You can browse all my delicious chicken recipes, but here are some more great chicken thigh dishes for you.
- Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs
- Breaded Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
- BBQ Chicken Thighs Recipe
- Boneless Skinless Ranch Chicken Thighs
- Easy Baked Chicken Thighs
Podcast Episode: Pressure Cooking Chicken Thighs
Listen to our editor, Christine Pittman, explain briefly about how to make this chicken, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:Print
- 6–8 chicken thighs, fresh thighs or individually frozen thighs, with or without bone, with or without skin
- 1/2 small onion (optional)
- 2 cloves peeled garlic (optional)
- Season thighs liberally with salt and pepper.
- Measure 1 cups water into the bottom of your Instant Pot insert.*
- Add onion and garlic to Instant Pot, if using.
- Put the trivet or a steamer basket on top of the water/veggies. Put the thighs on top of the trivet in a single layer (it’s okay if they overlap a little bit but not much).
- Seal the Instant Pot and set the valve to sealed. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for the times listed in notes.
- Once the pressure cooker has counted down, let it do a natural release for 5 minutes before turning the valve to vent.
- Once the pressure button moves down, remove lid. Remove chicken thighs. Strain liquid if desired for use as a stock.
*1 cup is the minimum amount of water you can use for a 6-quart Instant Pot and 1 and 1/2 cups for an 8-quart Instant Pot. Use up to 4 cups of water total and you will have nice chicken stock under the chicken thighs once they’re finished cooking.
Bone-in skin-on thighs: 12 minutes
Bone in skinless thighs: 12 minutes
Boneless skinless thighs: 10 minutes
Frozen thighs bought fresh, then frozen at home: 14 minutes.
Frozen thighs that came individually frozen as flatter pieces that have a 4% water or solution (such as Kirkland): 14 minutes.
Thighs frozen in a single layer on a tray touching each other such that they’re frozen together: 6 minutes, quick release the pressure, use tongs to separate thawed thighs, then pressure cook for an additional 10 minutes for boneless, 12 minutes for bone-in, then the 5 minute natural release.
This post originally appeared in September 2018 and was revised and republished in May 2023.