Instant Pot BBQ Chicken thighs are sticky sweet and perfectly smoky. The best part? You don’t need a grill to make them.
Have you ever had plans to make barbecue chicken, but the weather isn’t cooperating to be out by the grill? Thanks to this Instant Pot BBQ chicken thigh recipe, you’ll never need to worry about those things again. I’ve got a special ingredient that brings that grilled flavor and tips about when to add the BBQ sauce.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
Liquid Smoke For Grilled BBQ Flavor
To make these chicken thighs, you’ll start by following our standard method for how to cook chicken thighs in the Instant Pot, but with one difference: add ¼ teaspoon of liquid smoke to the water. You just need a little bit!
This might not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference in the flavor of the chicken thighs. They come out with the perfect amount of smoky flavor throughout every bite of chicken. You won’t believe they weren’t cooked on a grill.
The only downside to this method is that the cooking liquid will be very smoky. You can add it to collard greens, but if you’re used to adding extra water to the pot to make chicken stock, you’ll probably want to skip that for this chicken recipe.
Use Fresh or Frozen Chicken Thighs
Once your water and liquid smoke are in the pot, it’s time to add your chicken thighs. I use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. I love how versatile they are. You can use them to make BBQ chicken sandwiches, chop them up and add them to a salad, or serve them as-is with a few of your favorite side dishes like coleslaw and potato salad.
Depending on the size of the thighs (and what size Instant Pot you have) you should be able to fit 6-8 into the pot without them overlapping too much.
I also love that you can use individually frozen thighs for this recipe. Don’t worry about defrosting them, just increase the cooking time from 10 minutes to 14 minutes. You can see more about how to cook chicken thighs in the Instant Pot from frozen.
How to Finish Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs
Most Instant Pot barbecue chicken recipes call for you to brush the chicken with sauce and then broil it in the oven to cook the sauce onto the chicken. We’re not going to do that. It dirties a baking sheet, and I hate creating extra dishes to wash, so I figured out a better way.
Instead of broiling the cooked chicken thighs, you can brush the pressure cooked chicken with sauce and then add them back to the pot with the Sauté function turned on. It takes just 2-3 minutes per side to cook the sauce onto the chicken. This helps the sugars in the sauce caramelize and helps the chicken brown.
More Great BBQ Recipes
Podcast Episode About Making Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs
Listen to our editor, Christine Pittman, explain briefly about how to make this recipe, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:Print
- 6–8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
- 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper.
- Measure 1 cup water into the bottom of your Instant Pot insert. (*1 and ½ cups for an 8-quart Instant Pot.)
- Stir in the liquid smoke.
- Put the trivet or a steamer basket on top of the water. Put the thighs on top of the trivet in a single layer.
- Seal the Instant Pot and set the valve to sealing. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes (14 minutes if frozen).
- 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 drops, remove the lid.
- Remove the chicken thighs, trivet, and the water. Discard the water (or save to use as cooking broth). Brush the chicken with the BBQ sauce.
- Set the Instant Pot to Sauté. Add the oil.
- Return the sauced chicken to the pot and cook, with pot uncovered, until the sauce is caramelized and the chicken begins to brown in spots, 2-3 minutes per side.
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This post originally appeared in August 2020 and was revised and republished in July 2023.