Instant Pot Sesame Chicken is a delicious weeknight meal that the entire family will love. This hearty dish comes together quickly and has tender chicken covered in a sweet and savory sauce.
I love putting my Instant Pot to work, especially when I need a healthy and delicious meal on the dinner table fast. And there’s no shortage of tasty meals made with this kitchen appliance. Check out Lentil Soup, Pork Tenderloin, or Chicken Curry - all made magically with the help of the Instant Pot.
And then we have this lovely dish that’s sure to become part of your weekly meal rotation.
Instant Pot Sesame Chicken recipe comes together quickly and effortlessly thanks to very simple ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. This kid-friendly meal is best enjoyed with chopsticks, as is customary for Chinese sesame chicken.
Such an easy weeknight meal starts with sauteing chicken pieces directly in your pressure cooker. Next, you’ll add all the flavors needed for that coveted sweet and spicy sauce. Lastly, let the Instant Pot take it from there while you enjoy a few minutes before gathering around the dinner tonight.
Check out this simple ingredient list in the honey sesame chicken recipe:
- Sesame oil - a few tablespoons of sesame oil is needed to brown the chicken
- Chicken - boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces; I used three large chicken breasts or 1 ½ pounds
- Honey - adds flavor and sweetness but also has an important role in creating that sticky sauce
- Tamari sauce - this is simply gluten-free soy sauce; regular soy sauce works also if not gluten-free
- Minced garlic - use dried minced garlic (not granulated or powdered); this will give great texture and flavor
- Crushed red pepper - adds great spiciness
- Sesame seeds - sesame chicken is not the same without sesame seeds
- Cornstarch - to slightly thicken the sesame chicken sauce and help it stick to the chicken
- Garnish - additional sesame seeds - try a combination of regular and black sesame seeds, green onions, cilantro, red pepper flakes for extra heat and flavor
How to Make Instant Pot Sesame Chicken
This easy chicken recipe comes together quickly in your Instant Pot. The printable recipe is in the recipe card for your convenience.
Pat dry the chicken breast and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Add sesame oil to the inner pot of your Instant Pot and heat it on saute setting. Add chicken in a single layer to the inner pot and saute on all sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes. You may need to brown the chicken in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Add more oil as needed.
Transfer browned chicken to a bowl and set aside. Press the cancel/off button.
Whisk to combine the honey, tamari, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
Transfer the chicken back to the Instant Pot and pour sauce over it. Toss to combine well. Cover and seal the Instant Pot lid and set it to poultry setting, and cook for 4 minutes.
After the cooking time has been completed, do a quick pressure release (QPR) by turning the pressure release valve to venting (loosely cover it with a dish towel).
If you want a more tender chicken that falls apart, increase cook time by a few minutes and do a natural pressure release (NPR).
Open the lid and press the Instant Pot to saute setting. In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and water together. Add the cornstarch mixture to the chicken and saute for a minute or two until the sauce thickens to your liking. Give a quick stir to combine everything.
Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds.
Pressure cooker sesame chicken can easily be modified to satisfy personal taste preferences and meet the needs of dietary constraints. This easy meal is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, but you can make minor tweaks to accommodate any healing diet.
- Whole30: sub coconut aminos for tamari sauce and use date paste in place of honey; thin out the date paste with water in a 1-to-1 ratio; sub tapioca starch for cornstarch to thicken the sauce
- Paleo: sub coconut aminos for tamari sauce and swap out cornstarch with tapioca or arrowroot starch
- Keto: sub coconut aminos for tamari or soy sauce and use sugar-free, low carb honey alternative. Omit the cornstarch slurry entirely for a thinner sauce. Or cook down the sauce by keeping it on saute setting for a few minutes. Keep in mind this may also overcook the chicken, so it would be best to remove the chicken first, cook down the sauce, then transfer the chicken back.
This Instant Pot chicken recipe comes together quickly and easily. But a few helpful tips may help as you make this easy meal.
- Brown chicken. In order for the chicken to brown and not steam, it’s important to let it sear undisturbed and with plenty of heat circulating in the pot. That means do not overcrowd the pot and brown the chicken in batches.
- Don’t brown to doneness. Similarly, do not brown to doneness because we want to create that golden crust.
- Change up the rice. Jasmine rice is our favorite type of rice to serve sesame chicken with, but basmati rice comes a close second. Try brown rice or even cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.
- Meal prep idea. Make this recipe on the weekend to have a healthy dinner on busy weeknights. All that’s needed is to throw some rice in the rice cooker and reheat the sesame chicken for an easy meal.
- Avoid burn notice: Instant Pot is notorious for throwing you a burn notice when browning meat. To avoid this, add a little water to the pot after removing the chicken and saute to deglaze, scraping up all of the browned bits on the bottom with a flat spatula. Do not discard that - that’s flavor! Follow the rest of the recipe per instructions.
Should I brown the chicken before pressure cooking?
Before setting it to pressure cook, any searing or browning of the chicken must happen first. If you have an Instant Pot, you can use both settings in the same pot but not simultaneously. Press saute setting first and wait for the pot to warm up. Add oil and sear the chicken on all sides. To get a good sear, the pot must be free from any moisture.
How can I thicken the sauce in Instant Pot chicken recipes?
The best way to thicken sauces is to add a cornstarch slurry at the end of the cooking time. When all pressure has been released and it is safe to open the lid, select saute setting on the Instant Pot. Add a cornstarch slurry (or arrowroot powder slurry if grain-free) and cook for a minute or two until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Can I use chicken thighs in sesame chicken?
Yes. Chicken thighs can often be a great substitute for chicken breasts, which is true in this sesame chicken recipe. It’s important to note that chicken thighs have less protein and more fat and therefore have different macronutrients than what is in the recipe card but otherwise can be easily swapped in this recipe. If using chicken thighs, follow the directions as written in the recipe card.
Tender chicken pieces covered in a sticky-sweet sauce is begging for a nice bowl of white rice. Serve this Instant Pot garlic sesame chicken over jasmine or basmati rice or another family favorite. If you’re tired of rice, scoop this tasty chicken over a bowl of rice noodles for a change. Don’t forget to garnish with sliced green onions for a nice finishing touch.
To make this a complete meal, pair it with a light salad like Keto Cucumber Salad or Tomato Salad. Or accompany this delicious entree with a simple roast vegetable like this Best Broccoli Ever or Roasted Green Beans.
Check out these More Instant Pot Recipes to Get You Through The Week:
- Instant Pot Chicken Soup
- Instant Pot Curried Pumpkin Soup
- Gluten Free Instant Pot Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Turkey Quinoa Chili
- Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Instant Pot Sesame Chicken
- Instant Pot
- 1 ½ pound skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces, I used three large
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten free)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (dried)
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 3 teaspoon water
- Turn Instant Pot to saute. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil into pot and saute half the chicken. Get a bit of browning on all sides, about 3-4 minutes, then remove to a bowl. Add more sesame oil and saute the second half.
- In a small bowl mix the honey, tamari, garlic and red pepper with a whisk.
- Put chicken back into pot and add sauce. Turn chicken to cover with sauce. Turn Instant Pot to poultry and set timer for four minutes. Lock the lid in place.
- Turn off the heat when the timer beeps. Carefully use a dishtowel to do a quick pressure release.
- Whisk the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and turn pot to saute. Add mixture and stir well. Saute for a minute or two until sauce thickens to your taste.
Adapted from PressureCookingToday.