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Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken [VIDEO]

Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken is one of the easiest dump-and-cook meals. It is very tasty and flavorful, yet ready in just 30 minutes. It features juicy chicken meat soaked in garlic and ginger brown sugar sauce. The dish is sweet and savory, with a little spiciness from the red pepper flakes. It is served topped with crunchy toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken is quickly becoming my go-to weeknight meal! I love using my Pressure Cooker to make easy weeknight meals, and this dish is so flavorful and easy to make that it will quickly become a staple in your house too.

I love to make copycat recipes of my favorite meals, and this is one of them that was especially challenging. Although the garlic and sesame were obvious, there was a hint of something else I could not figure out. After trying many different ingredients, I finally figured out it was the grated ginger that was missing, and it made a big difference to the flavor of this dish.

Also, this quick and easy instant pot recipe is way better than takeout. If you are looking for an easy, yet super flavorful Chinese dish, then this recipe is the one to go. Give it a try, and you will be making it over and over again!

All you have to do is dump all the ingredients in the pressure cooker and sip on wine, while a great meal in 30 minutes or less, which is considering the pressure and natural release time! Winner, winner – tasty, easy, and with just one pot to clean!

Why you will love this recipe

  • It is easy to make: There is no prep work to worry about. Just dump everything in the pot, set it, and let it cook.
  • You can have dinner in minutes: Instead of waiting an hour or more, you can have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.
  • Easy clean up: You only have one pot to clean. The instant pot.
  • Better than takeout: It is perfect for busy weeknights and also for entertaining guests.
  • Yummy leftovers: Even if you don’t have a huge family, you can have delicious leftovers the next day.

What you’ll need to make instant pot garlic sesame chicken

Special items:

  • Instant Pot – I use an Instant Pot Duo Plus to make this delicious dish.
  • Wooden spoon – To keep from scratching the pot, I always use a wooden spoon.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken – I use boneless skinless chicken thighs because they are juicy and have a bold flavor. You could also use chicken breasts if you like.
  • Sesame oil—This is the main ingredient besides the chicken, so make sure you do not substitute it. You want high-quality sesame oil for the freshest nutty taste. You will not need much because it is so robust, but you must get a good brand you trust.
  • Soy sauce—I always use low-sodium soy sauce because it is so salty that sometimes it overpowers the other flavors.
  • Garlic – The fresher the garlic, the better the flavor. I like to mince my own from fresh garlic cloves just before using them for a robust and rich garlicky taste and aroma.
  • Ginger – I keep a knob of ginger in my freezer so I can get freshly grated ginger whenever I need it. You get a nice tangy flavor with a kick. You could use ground, but you get a better flavor from freshly grated ginger.
  • Brown sugar – I love this with dark brown sugar because it is so rich; it almost tastes like molasses.
  • Chicken broth – I prefer organic low-sodium chicken broth for the best flavor without the extra saltiness and additives.
  • Rice vinegar—With a subtle sweetness and a milder flavor, rice vinegar is one of my favorites for making Asian dishes.
  • Red pepper flakes – You will not notice the spiciness of the flakes, but you will notice if they are not in there.
  • Water – Just to mix in the sauce so all the ingredients get distributed well.

For the slurry:

  • Cornstarch – To thicken up your sauce.
  • Water – For dissolving the cornstarch for the slurry.

For garnish:

  • Sesame seeds—I love to toast these myself before using them to enhance their nutty flavor. Simply heat them in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • Green onions – Roughly chopped fresh green onions for the best flavor.

How to make instant pot garlic sesame chicken?

  1. Dump and cook: First, add all the ingredients to the instant pot and stir well to combine. Then, close the lid and cook for five minutes on high pressure.
  2. Release the pressure: Afterward, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure and opening the lid.
  3. Thicken the sauce: Set the pot to sauté. Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch in the same water until it dissolves. Then, add it to the pot and stir gently as it cooks for five minutes.
  4. Rest and serve: Now, let the sauce set for five to seven minutes until it thickens to your liking. Then, serve warm.

Expert tip

Bone in or bone out

You may notice that most of my chicken recipes use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I do this because it is easier and works well for what I am making. Although it is true that chicken with bones still in it has a better flavor and is moister, the boneless stuff is just as good if you cook it correctly. When making quick dishes like this garlic sesame chicken, I prefer boneless and skinless, but I use thighs because they are a bit juicier and more robust.

However, there are certain recipes in which I prefer bone-in or skin-on chicken. For example, when baking or roasting, I like to leave the bones in and the skin on so the chicken stays juicy as it cooks. If you bake or braise a chicken breast for a long time, you will likely get a rubbery piece of chicken with no flavor. Fried chicken is another dish in which I would prefer the skin on and bone in. It makes more sense to me, and I like the crispy fried skin.

When it comes to nutrition, the skinless breast wins, hands down. The skin has the most fat in the whole chicken, so without that, you cut a lot of fat and calories as well as cholesterol. A medium-sized chicken breast with skin has 75 milligrams of cholesterol, while the same breast without skin only has 63 milligrams. The bone really does not make much difference as far as nutrition, though, so you can leave the bone in. It adds flavor to the bone marrow without making it any less healthy.

Recipe variations and add-ins:

      • Different cuts: If you prefer chicken breasts, the cooking time will remain the same, but the flavor will be slightly different.
      • Spice it up: Those spicy food lovers enjoy it when I add extra red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the sauce.
      • No sugar: For a sweet flavor without white sugar, you could substitute a half-cup of honey or pure maple syrup. Also, you can use erythritol or Monk fruit sugar.
      • Other meat: I have made this recipe with other meats for different flavors like turkey, pork, or beef chunks. My kids really love it with ham, too.
      • Different seeds: If you cannot find sesame seeds, substitute them with toasted almond slivers, sunflower seeds, or pepitas.
      • Gluten free: Make this recipe GF by using amino acids instead of soy sauce.
      • Slow cooker: If you don’t have an instant pot, try this slow cooker garlic sesame chicken thighs.

Serving suggestions:

    • The traditional way to serve garlic sesame chicken is on rice so I usually use my instant pot stick of butter rice for a scrumptious meal. Yes, you need a whole stick of butter for this rich buttery recipe.
    • Another way to serve this dish is on top of a bed of pasta of any kind. I prefer Chinese noodles.
    • For a healthier choice, serve it with a few romaine lettuce leaves underneath or cauliflower rice.
    • It also pairs well with a bowl of Chinese hot and sour soup. I make mine with shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and tofu.
    • If you want a simple side dish, try some steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
    • The kids love garlic sesame chicken with a side of chow mein, I also add some crispy egg rolls on the side.

Frequently asked questions

Why does my instant pot chicken come out rubbery?

Rubbery chicken is usually a direct result of overcooking. As it cooks, it loses moisture, and the fibers become elastic and rubbery. Because your Instant Pot cooks so quickly, it is easy to overcook it. That is why you have to follow the directions exactly. When I make my recipes, I ensure the temperature and cooking time are always precise because cooking is a science.

Why is my instant pot chicken hard to shred?

Another common issue when cooking chicken in an instant pot is undercooking it. When it is not cooked all the way, the meat is still chewy, so you will not be able to shred it easily whether you use two forks or a mixer. You may be able to shred it in a food processor, but if it is undercooked, you will still have chewy chicken. Make sure it is done by checking the meat thermometer. It should read 165 degrees F. Also, shredding chicken when it is warm is much easier to do.

How do you know when chicken is cooked without a thermometer?

If you cut into it and the juices run clear, it is done. However, cutting your chicken open will let all the juices run out of it, which causes dry meat. Instead, try this easy way to tell how chicken feels in different stages of cooking. Raw meat feels like pinching the flesh of your hand under your thumb while your hand is relaxed. For medium-rare, touch your middle finger to the tip of your thumb and pinch the same area. When done, it should feel like touching your ring finger or pinkie to your thumb.

What is the difference between garlic sesame chicken and General Tso chicken?

One thing I feel is different is the cut of the chicken. I use chicken thighs for garlic sesame chicken and chicken breast for General Tso chicken. Also, General Tso chicken is spicier as it contains Sichuan peppercorns and hoisin sauce. General Tso chicken is often fried with carrots and broccoli instead of sautéed with sesame seeds.

How to store:

  • Refrigerate: To keep your leftovers fresh, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. 
  • Freezing: If you cannot finish it within a few days, put it in a freezer-safe container, and you can freeze it for three months.
  • Defrost: Always defrost frozen leftovers overnight in the fridge for the best texture and taste.
  • Reheating: To reheat, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it for two to three minutes. 

Recipe tips:

  • You do not have to adjust the cooking time if you use boneless chicken breasts instead of thighs.
  • Instead of sesame oil, you could try olive oil or avocado oil. However, it will not have the nutty flavor you get with sesame oil.
  • Do not use flour instead of cornstarch in this dish. It is one of the key ingredients.
  • Also, mix it with water until it dissolves before adding it to the pot or it will clump.
  • If the sauce is too runny after adding the slurry, mix another 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch with the same amount of water and add it to the Instant Pot. Please note, that the sauce will get thicker with time, so definitely wait a bit before adding more cornstarch.
  • Do not skip the 10-minute natural release. Otherwise, the chicken will be tougher due to the quick change in pressure.



Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken

Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken is one of the easiest dump-and-cook meals made with juicy chicken in a garlic and ginger brown sugar sauce.

Instant Pot Garlic Sesame Chicken
  • Prep Time10 MIN
  • Cook Time25 MIN
  • Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

Dump & Cook:

  • 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ginger grated
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cornstarch Slurry:

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Garnish:

  • 2 green onions sliced
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients from the "Dump & Cook" section to the Instant Pot: chicken, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, chicken broth, and water.
  • Please make sure to stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  • Close the lid, and make sure the pressure cooker is sealed. Set up the pressure Cooker to cook on High Pressure for 5 minutes.
  • Use a 10-minute Natural Release. Turn off the heat. Release the remaining pressure. Open the lid.
  • Select the Sauté function on LOW.
  • In a small bowl, combine two tablespoons of cornstarch with two tablespoons of water and whisk until well combined, with no lumps.
  • Add the mixture to the Instant Pot and gently stir to combine. Cook on Sauté function for a few more minutes, stirring gently, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • If you want the sauce to be even thicker, mix one more tablespoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of juice and add it to the pressure cooker.
  • Let the chicken stand for 5-7 minutes; the sauce will thicken more.
  • Serve over rice and garnish with fresh chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Nutrition Facts

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Comments

(95)
Karen Shive

Karen Shive

Can you please add more crock pot recipes. I do not Have an instant pot. Thank you..

Susan

Susan

I made this last night and it tasted delicious but mine was much lighter in color and I'm not sure why. Ideas?

Shawn Workman

Shawn Workman

Just for fun I doubled the recipe. Added bamboo shoots. Instead of the cornstarch slurry I added two packets of S&B Golden Curry (medium hot). Yeah, I know this is way off of the original recipe but I know the S&B Curry mix will thicken things up. That and jazz it up with curry flavor!! Thanks so much for the base recipe to go off from!!


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

Great idea!

Scott Semanski

Scott Semanski

I made this tonight using boneless breasts and it was fantastic! I halved soy sauce since I didn't have the low-sodium kind, and I thought the saltiness level was perfect. I normally find chicken cooked in the instant pot to be too dry and stringy, but this was perfectly tender. I will definitely use this recipe again, and I might also experiment with other sauces using this same cooking method for the chicken since I just loved the way it came out.

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