Seriously the most tender pulled chicken in a blend of spices that’s ready in under 30 minutes. It’s a Flavor Fiesta perfect for your favorite Mexican night meal. Plus it’s so easy for meal prep and freezer meals!
With moving to Arizona, my already existing love for Mexican cuisine has grown exponentially. The fact that I’m so fortunate to have all of these new spices and local chilis to work with has awakened that passion even more.
I’ll definitely be sharing a lot more of those flavors but in ways that don’t necessarily require hard-to-get ingredients. I mean Amazon pretty much carries everything these days and most local groceries have a pretty awesome Latin-inspired section.
A Recipe Worth Repeating
I’ve been making this recipe for decades but over the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve really honed in on what spices work best and making it more flavorful without that heat that makes your ears feel like they are bleeding. Oh, you can totally do that with this dish, but I’m keeping it more even keel.
It wasn’t until the last month or so did I finally come to my ‘this is absolutely perfect’ recipe. And it was perfect timing.
We were having company for dinner and one of the guests couldn’t have any carbs or sugars. She needed a high-protein meal. And since I was already serving pizza I decided to whip this up with some cilantro lime cauliflower rice.
Since that night, I’ve made this recipe 5 times and broke one of my rules, and gave her the recipe before posting.
Let’s Get Our Ingredients
Yes, the spice mixture is long but each component plays an important part here.
- Chicken – boneless, skinless breasts, thighs, or a combination of both
- Chicken Stock
- Seasonings – assorted chili powder, pepper powders, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, dried arugula, and salt
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Tomato Paste
- Chili Peppers – green chilis or jalapenos per your heat preference
Grab the Instant Pot and Let’s Create Deliciousness!
I’ve done the following steps two ways – dump it all in and close the lid as well as coat each piece of chicken with the mixture first then add it to the pot. Honestly, there’s no difference in flavor or taste. So it’s totally your call.
- In a bowl, add all of the seasoning mixture and whisk gently to combine.
- Add the chicken to the pot then sprinkle the seasoning over the chicken.
- Using tongs, flip the chicken to ensure the seasoning coats all sides.
- Add in the stock and lime juice. Place the lid on, seal, and cook for 10-12 minutes under HIGH pressure.
- When the time is us, carefully perform a Quick Release.
- Remove the chicken to a rimmed bowl/plate. Set the Pressure Cooker to sauté and add in the tomato paste and green chilis. Whisk or stir to combine
While the sauce is thickening, shred or pull the chicken apart with 2 forks into as big or little pieces as you like.
Chef’s Tip about Shredding Chicken
To get smaller shredded pieces you can use 2 forks OR place the hot chicken in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn on to low and slowly increase the speed until the chicken is shredded finely.
If you’d like larger pieces, leave some of the larger chunks.
Soak The Chicken
Once you pull or shred the chicken, place it back into the instant pot with the sauce, shut it off. Add in the cilantro and stir to combine. Allow the chicken to rest in the sauce for 15 minutes.
When you store the chicken in the fridge or freezer, leave it in the sauce. This will help keep it super moist.
Using Frozen Chicken
I’m guilty of it – forgetting to take the meat out for dinner later that night. That’s where the Instant Pot is a huge lifesaver in the kitchen. If you have frozen chicken, you can put them directly in the pot and cook. I would recommend adding 2 minutes to the cooking time. Now if the breasts are ginormous (like they look like they were on steroids, you may want to go 3-4 minutes though personally, I’ve only had to do 2 minutes at most).
Ways to Serve Mexican Pulled Chicken
Gosh, there are so many ways I’ve served this. You really can’t go wrong. Here are some of my favorites
- Enchilada or Burrito – Place a few spoonfuls in a warm tortilla or burrito with some rice, salsa, and black beans
- Rice Bowl – Add rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa to a bowl, top with charred corn, pinto beans, avocado, radishes, cilantro, and chicken
- Nachos – Warm tortilla chips, elote, black beans, red onions, jalapenos, radishes, cotija, chicken, queso, and cilantro
- Pizza – I actually created a pizza with this over on my Pizza Instagram account. It was a wood-fired pizza topped with cheese, chicken, charred corn, banana peppers, picante, cilantro, and cotija cheese. It was AMAZING!!!
Slow Cooker Instructions
Hey, I get it, not everyone is on the Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker train. You either don’t have the space for another kitchen gadget or they intimidate you. I can certainly help with the latter part but not the space part.
So if you have a larger slow cooker, you can most definitely make this in there with a few minor tweaks. Go with an 8qrt slow cooker like this one.
- Increase the chicken stock to 3 cups.
- Cook on low for about 7 hours or high for about 4 hours
- To thicken the sauce, you may need to transfer the juices to a stovetop pot.
- Fridge – store it in an air-tight container for up to 5 days
- Freezer – place in portion control, freezer-safe containers, and store for up to 3 months
- Freezer – place the container in the fridge to thaw overnight. You can reheat in a large pot over medium heat or the microwave
- Fridge – transfer the mixture to a pot or skillet and reheat over medium. You can microwave if you choose but I prefer the stove.
- 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) – make sure the chicken is pounded to even thickness
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2–3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4–8 ounces green chilis
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon dried arugula flakes (FYI… make your own, it’s EASY!)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoon Red Hatch Chili Powder
- 2 teaspoon Smoky Chipotle Powder
- In an 8 qt or larger Instant Pot (or preferred pressure cooker), add the chicken. In a bowl whisk together all of the ingredients in the spice mixture. Sprinkle all of the seasonings over top of the chicken and, using tongs, flip the chicken to coat all sides. *Or if preferred, dredge the chicken in the spice mixture and then put it into the pressure cooker.
- Next, pour the stock and 1 tablespoon of lime juice into the pressure cooker, close the lid, and set the timer to 10 minutes for HIGH pressure. *If your chicken is over 1” thick or frozen, set the pressure cooker to 12 minutes. When the time is us, carefully perform a Quick Release.
- Remove the lid and, using tongs, remove the chicken to a rimmed bowl/plate. Set the Pressure Cooker to sauté and add in the tomato paste and green chilis. Whisk or stir to combine. As the sauce is cooking (for ~5 minutes), use 2 forks and shred/pull the chicken into as big or little pieces as you like. Taste the sauce to see if it needs more lime juice or seasoning. Add the chicken back to the pot, shut it off, and stir to coat all of the pulled pieces. Add in the entire bunch of chopped cilantro and stir.
- Serve over rice, in a burrito, nachos, pizza, sandwiches, etc. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
*Note, time does not include the 5-15 minutes it takes your pressure cooker to build up pressure
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