Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken thighs are sticky sweet and perfectly smoky. The best part? You don’t need a grill to make them.

chicken thighs with bbq sauce on them on sheet pan

Have you ever had plans to make barbecue chicken, but then a last-minute rainstorm hits? Or worse, you remember you forgot to buy gas for the grill? Thanks to this Instant Pot BBQ chicken thigh recipe, you’ll never need to worry about those things again.

How to get maximum flavor in Instant Pot chicken thighs

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.

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.

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 thighs for this recipe. I love how versatile they are: you can use them to make a BBQ chicken sandwich, chop them up and add them to a salad, or serve them as-is with a few of your favorite side dishes.

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 to 14 minutes. You can see more about how to cook chicken thighs in the Instant Pot from frozen here.

How to Finish Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs

Most Instant Pot barbecue chicken recipes call for you to brush the cooked chicken with sauce and then broil it to cook the sauce onto the chicken. We’re not going to do that. It dirties an extra pan, which I hate doing, so I figured out a better way.

Instead of broiling the chicken thighs, you can brush the chicken with sauce (check out our barbecue sauce series for a new favorite!) 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.


Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs

white plate with black speckles on white cloth with black stripes; chicken thighs with bbq sauce on plate; instant pot in background and light green condiment bowl with bbq sauce in it in background

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken thighs are sticky sweet and perfectly smoky. The best part? You don’t need a grill to make them.

  • Author: Lauren Keating
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings


  • 68 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce


  1. Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Measure 1 cup water into the bottom of your Instant Pot insert. (*1 and 1/2 cups for an 8-quart Instant Pot.)
  3. Stir in the liquid smoke.
  4. Put the trivet or a steamer basket on top of the water. Put the thighs on top of the trivet in a single layer.
  5. 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).
  6. Once the pressure cooker has counted down, let it do a natural release for 5 minutes before turning the valve to vent.
  7. Once the pressure button drops, remove the lid.
  8. Remove chicken thighs and brush with sauce.
  9. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté. Add the oil.
  10. Return the chicken to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until the sauce is caramelized and the chicken begins to brown in spots.

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Thighs

Lauren Keating

Lauren has been cooking for as long as she can remember and shares her recipes at, where she features on easy weeknight meals with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. She completed the professional plant-based cooking certification from Rouxbe cooking school and enjoys using plant-based cooking techniques to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and grains into traditional recipes in unique ways. Food-obsessed from a young age, her first words included “cookie” and “eat meat!”