Instant Pot Orange Chicken
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Orange Chicken with a sweet and sticky orange sauce and fluffy rice. This orange chicken recipe is easy to make and everything cooks at once in your Instant Pot – even the rice!
If given the choice between ordering take-out and making a homemade version of my takeout favorites at home, I’ll always choose the latter. Cooking from scratch allows me to use fresh, wholesome ingredients to make healthier versions of my favorite dishes. See my Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe for another delicious example.
You can have this crave-worthy Instant Pot orange chicken on your table in about the same amount of time that it would take you to run to your local takeout spot. You won’t have to leave your house and your meal will be fresh, flavorful and, the best part, homemade.
This is one of my favorite Instant Pot meals because everything cooks together in the pressure cooker. The chicken and sauce cook in the bottom of the pot and the rice cooks in a bowl above the chicken, at the same time! This is called pot-in-pot cooking and I’ll explain all the details of how it works below. The ability to cook pot-in-pot is one of my favorite advantages of Instant Pot recipes because it is so convenient.
This orange chicken recipe starts with tender bites of chicken coated in a sweet orange sauce made with fresh orange juice and orange zest. The sauce ingredients also include ginger, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar, to make it tangy. Instant Pot orange chicken is healthier than what you would get in a restaurant and every bit as delicious!
How to Make Orange Chicken in an Instant Pot
This Instant Pot orange chicken recipe is simple to make. I’ve limited the ingredient list to the essentials while also making sure that this Instant Pot recipe has all of the best orange chicken flavors.
Make the Orange Chicken Sauce
The first step to making Instant Pot orange chicken is to make the fresh orange sauce. You’ll whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl: orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic and fresh ginger. If you want some spice to your homemade orange chicken, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
I tested different amounts of brown sugar in this recipe. I wanted to use the minimum amount of sugar that would still give you the sweet orange flavor that you crave in an orange chicken recipe. I found that 1/4 cup was the perfect amount – any less and the flavor wasn’t right. If you prefer, you can substitute honey or pure maple syrup for the brown sugar in this healthier orange chicken recipe.
Sear the Chicken
Next, you’ll brown the chicken using the Instant Pot’s sauté setting. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts but chicken thighs or tenders also work well.
Before you sear the chicken, cut it into bite-size pieces. Heat some olive oil in the Instant Pot using the sauté setting. Sear the chicken, stirring it occasionally, until it begins to brown. The sauté setting isn’t hot enough to get a really good sear, but the chicken will brown a little and this step adds flavor.
Pressure Cook the Instant Pot Orange Chicken
Now you’re ready to pressure cook your orange chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the Instant Pot and stir it in. You can now pressure cook just the chicken in the sauce, or you can use a trivet and oven-safe bowl to also cook rice at the same time! If you don’t have an appropriate dish for cooking pot in pot, just skip those instructions and cook your rice separately as you normally would.
Now, let me tell you more about this pot in pot method for the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot “Pot in Pot” Method
To cook pot in pot means that you cook one part of your meal in the very bottom of the Instant Pot and then a second part of your meal in another dish higher up in the pot. See the pictures below. You’ll need an oven-safe dish that you can set on top of a metal trivet in the pot. I use this oven-safe dish and it works perfectly and fits in both my 6 quart and 8 quart Instant Pots. For the trivet, I use one of these egg racks that you can also use to make Instant Pot hard boiled eggs.
If you want to pressure cook rice at the same time as your orange chicken, put a 2.5-inch tall trivet in the pot with the chicken and sauce. Then set the oven-safe bowl with rice and water on top of the trivet. You will need to use a long grain white rice, such as basmati or jasmine rice. Long grain white rice will cook in 4 minutes in the Instant Pot, which is the perfect amount of time to also cook the small pieces of chicken.
Instant Pot Natural Release
After pressure cooking the chicken, you’ll allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes. A natural release means that you just leave the Instant Pot alone, so that the pressure can release slowly. This helps to keep the chicken tender. After the 10 minute natural release you’ll quick release any pressure that’s left in the pot by carefully turning the steam release valve to the venting position. Once the pin drops down you can open the Instant Pot lid.
Thicken the Orange Sauce
After the natural release, carefully remove the bowl with the rice and trivet if cooking pot in pot. You’ll thicken the orange sauce right in the Instant Pot, by stirring in a cornstarch slurry and using sauté mode to heat the sauce until it thickens.
Serve with rice and top with your preference of green onions and/or sesame seeds.
Tips for this Instant Pot Orange Chicken Recipe
- When you first stir the orange sauce into the chicken, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. If browned bits are stuck to the bottom of the pot during pressure cooking they can cause a burn warning.
- Be sure to use long grain white rice if using the pot in pot method for this recipe. You cannot substitute brown rice because brown rice takes much longer (about 22 minutes) to cook in the Instant Pot. If you want to serve your orange chicken with brown rice, here’s how to cook brown rice on the stove.
- When you thicken the sauce after pressure cooking, you’ll want to stop the sauce from cooking as soon as it reaches your desired consistency. To quickly stop the cooking process, press Cancel to turn off sauté mode and remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot base.
What to Serve with Orange Chicken
- Vegetables, such as roasted broccoli, green beans or roasted carrots
- If you don’t want to cook white rice pot in pot, you can cook brown rice on the stove or make Instant Pot rice or Instant Pot brown rice if you’re like me and have two Instant Pots.
- Cauliflower rice
More Instant Pot Chicken Recipes
- Honey Garlic Instant Pot Chicken Breasts
- Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- How to Cook a Whole Chicken in an Instant Pot
- 28+ Instant Pot Chicken Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings
Instant Pot Orange Chicken
For the Orange Chicken:
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup orange juice (from 1 large orange)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (or honey or pure maple syrup)
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs or tenders)
For the Rice:
- 1 cup long grain white rice such as jasmine or basmati (rinsed and drained (see note))
- 1 cup water
For the Cornstarch Slurry:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
Optional for Serving:
- 3 green onions (sliced)
- sesame seeds
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes (if using).
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces.
- Pour the 1 tablespoon olive oil into the Instant Pot and turn on saute mode. Once the pot is hot, add the chicken and brown it for 4-5 minutes. The chicken will not brown too much in the Instant Pot, but this step adds flavor. Press Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot.
- Pour the orange sauce into the Instant Pot with the chicken. Stir and scrape up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- For pot in pot cooking with rice, place a 2.5-inch tall trivet in the Instant Pot, over the chicken and sauce. Combine the rice and 1 cup water in a 7-inch oven-safe bowl and place it on top of the trivet. (Cook the rice separately according to package instructions if you do not have an oven safe pot that fits inside your instant pot.)
- Close the Instant Pot lid and turn the steam release valve to the sealing position.
- Use the Manual/Pressure Cook function and set the cook time to 4 minutes at high pressure. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to reach pressure and then the cook time will begin counting down.
- When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes by leaving the Instant Pot alone. Then quick release any remaining pressure by carefully turning the steam release valve to the venting position. Press Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot warm setting.
- When the pin drops down, open the Instant Pot lid. If cooking rice pot in pot, use oven mitts to carefully remove the bowl with the rice and set aside. Remove the trivet.
- In a small bowl, stir together the 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Pour this cornstarch slurry into the Instant Pot and turn on saute mode. Stir until the sauce thickens. This should only take a minute or two. As soon as the sauce has thickened press Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot and then remove the inner pot from the base to stop the cooking process.
- Serve the chicken and sauce over the rice, with chopped green onions and sesame seeds as garnish, if desired.
- If you do not want to cook rice in the pot with the chicken, skip the ingredients and steps for the rice.
- Do not substitute brown rice or any other kind of rice. Be sure to use long grain white rice because the cooking time will be different for other types of rice.
- See notes in the post above about which trivet and oven-safe bowl I use and recommend.
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