Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken
Enjoy takeout made healthier with this Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken. Tender chicken, colorful vegetables and juicy pineapple chunks are coated in easy homemade sweet and sour sauce.
If you’ve been reading awhile, you probably know: I don’t LOVE boneless, skinless chicken breast in the way that most Americans seem to.
I think unless you have time to marinate it, like my orange ginger chicken, it often turns out dry and tough, and lacks flavor.
I remember chicken breast being particularly dry the last time I tried to make sweet and sour chicken on the stove with it.
But, I’m never one to back down from a challenge, and I’m always looking for ways to make one of America’s favorite proteins actually . . . delicious.
The way to do it is the Instant Pot, friend. We’ve already established that Instant Pot short ribs are delicious. But let’s be honest, short ribs are always delicious, just about any way that you cook them.
But chicken breast needs more love, and the Instant Pot pressure cooks it until tender while infusing flavor into the meat. This Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken is currently my favorite way to eat chicken breast.
What you’ll need to make this Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken:
- oil – vegetable or canola oil is best for browning the chicken.
- chicken – just like with my chicken stroganoff, you will need 1-1/4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes for this Instant Pot chicken recipe.
- salt and pepper – always season your chicken before cooking it!
- garlic – you will need two cloves, minced up.
- chicken broth – store bought is always fine around here, or use this chicken broth recipe to make your own if you’re ambitious.
- tomato sauce – this adds acidity and gives the sauce its distinctive red/orange color.
- light brown sugar – this is the “sweet” part of sweet and sour.
- apple cider vinegar – this is the “sour” part of sweet and sour.
- soy sauce – this seasons the sauce and adds umami. It’s also the secret ingredient in my homemade gravy!
- ginger – I used dried ground ginger, but you could also use freshly grated ginger. If using fresh, double the amount and use 1/2 teaspoon.
- pineapple – you will need 2 cups of pineapple chunks. Use any extra pineapple you bought to make a quick pineapple salsa for grilled sockeye salmon. Can’t eat or don’t like pineapple? I have an alternative, below!
- bell pepper – I used red, but just like with my fajita vegetables recipe, you can use any color of bell pepper you like best.
- onion – I used a small yellow onion here, but white onion works too, for this sweet and sour chicken in Instant Pot.
- cornstarch – for thickening the sauce. Also a key ingredient for General Tso’s meatballs, and believe it or not, my heart thumbprint cookies!
- rice – I like to serve Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken with white or brown rice.
- green onions – thinly sliced, for garnish.
How to cook sweet and sour chicken in an Instant Pot:
You’ll be using the Instant Pot itself, on the Sauté setting, to brown the chicken before you begin pressure cooking it. I love this option because I don’t have to get a separate skillet dirty to brown the chicken!
While the chicken is browning, you can stir together the garlic, chicken broth, tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and ginger. This is your sauce.
Brown the chicken, and then add the pineapple, bell pepper, yellow onion and sauce mixture to the pot with the chicken.
Seal the Instant Pot and select Pressure Cook or Manual Setting and set cooking time for 1 minute at low pressure. The pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure before the cooking time begins.
When the cooking time ends, perform a quick pressure release by moving Pressure Release to Venting.
While the pressure is releasing, whisk the cornstarch and remaining broth in a small bowl, and then stir this mixture into the Instant Pot.
Change the pot setting to Saute and cook for 1 minute or until the sauce thickens right up! Cornstarch is magic, isn’t it? It’s also what thickens the sauce for my beef stroganoff.
This Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken is ready to serve!
A quick tip for using the pressure cooker:
I’ve found that the Instant Pot gives off SO much steam while it’s cooking, and if I place it on my counter, it gets the undersides of my kitchen cabinets dripping wet.
So, I place a large sheet pan on my stove, and then place the Instant Pot on top of the pan, so that I am able to use my stove exhaust fan to suck up all the steam while the Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken is cooking!
You can make Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken without pineapple!
Pineapple is classic in sweet and sour chicken, and I love it. Unfortunately, my daughter has a sensitivity to pineapple that we’re still figuring out (she’ll take baked ham with pineapple sauce, hold the pineapple sauce).
I wanted to find a way to make Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken without pineapple. So, on a whim, I tried this recipe using chopped up apple instead of pineapple, and you know what? It was GREAT!
And in this Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken, once the apples are pressure cooked and the sweet and sour sauce soaks into them, they honestly look like pineapple, and have a very similar texture, too!
This can also be made with pork!
Not in the mood for chicken? You can use 1-1/4 pound boneless pork sirloin chops, cut into 1-inch cubes, in place of the chicken in this recipe. The cooking directions stay exactly the same.
What to serve with sweet and sour chicken:
If you would like to continue the takeout-at-home vibe with an appetizer course, I recommend my shrimp wonton soup!
Other than that, I think the only thing you need here is some rice. You can serve this Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken with white or brown rice, as noted in the recipe card below, or take it to the next level with kimchi fried rice.
I also think Asian noodle salad would be a perfect side dish!
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon chicken broth
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups cubed pineapple (1-inch pieces)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- Add oil to 6 Quart Instant Pot and select high Sauté setting. Allow oil to heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then add chicken to pot in even layer and cook 6 to 7 minutes or until chicken begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together garlic, 1/2 cup broth, tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and ginger.
- Add bell pepper, yellow onion, pineapple and broth mixture to pot and stir to combine. Secure lid and set Pressure Release to Sealing. Press Cancel button to reset cooking program. Select Pressure Cook or Manual Setting and set cooking time for 1 minute at low pressure (pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure before cooking time begins).
- When cooking time ends, perform quick pressure release by moving Pressure Release to Venting. While pressure is releasing, whisk cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon broth in small bowl until smooth.
- Open pot and stir in cornstarch mixture. Press Cancel button to reset cooking program. Select Sauté setting and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sauce should thicken during this time.
- Divide rice between 4 plates and divide chicken mixture over rice. Serve garnished with green onions.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 621Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 970mgCarbohydrates: 74gFiber: 4gSugar: 20gProtein: 51g
Nutritional information reflects serving chicken mixture with white rice. This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.