Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken
Perfect Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken, with a sticky-sweet sauce and a little kick!
Everyone in our family is crazy over Asian cuisine, especially the kids.
In fact, as much as Lt. Dan loves stir fry or a steamy bowl of ramen, he often rolls his eyes when we ask the kids where they want to go out to eat. The answer is always a resounding, “Anything Asian!”
Although we think they should get to have a say in family plans, we sometimes steer them toward barbecue or other ethnic cuisines, just to mix things up.
At home it’s the same. If I ask either of my kids what they want me to cook for dinner it’s almost always Chinese Hot Pots, Korean Pajun Veggie Pancakes, Beef Bulgogi, Cantonese Lo Mein, Thai Panang Chicken Curry, and so on.
Now that I’ve (finally) bought an Instant Pot, I decided to try cooking some beloved Asian dishes in it, and I think I’ve got a winner!
Today’s Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken, is so fast and easy to make. Plus, it’s a healthy sesame chicken recipe, compared to takeout sesame chicken.
Our Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken is not deep fried, so you lose the fat and calories from breading and fry oil, yet it still offers bold spicy-sweet flavors, and a deep nutty sesame note.
What’s the Difference Between Sesame Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, and Orange Chicken?
People often get these three dishes confused, due to their similarities. All three are traditionally deep-fried chicken recipes, bathed in a sticky-sweet glaze.
Think of sesame chicken as the “mother” recipe. It’s salty, sweet, and light on heat, with rich undertones and sesame seeds sprinkled over the bites of chicken.
The glaze is usually brown to reddish-brown from the addition of soy sauce, brown sugar (or honey for Honey Sesame Chicken Recipes,) and sometimes tomato.
General Tso’s is very similar. However, it usually does not contain sesame seeds, but does offer a good bit of spice from the addition of chiles. Of the three, General Tso’s chicken is the most likely to be served with additional vegetables mixed in, like bell peppers and onions.
Orange chicken is usually the sweetest of the bunch. It is not normally spicy or covered in sesame seeds. However, it does have a unique orange essence from the inclusion of orange peel and/or orange juice.
Although there is a stand-out element in all three dishes, they are very much alike, so recipes do overlap at times.
In today’s Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe, I’ve included all the best attributes of classic sesame chicken, yet have cut the fat and added a touch of spicy heat.
Does this make it General Tso’s Chicken? Nah.
How to Make Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken
Start by sautéing onions, garlic, and ginger in sesame oil.
Coat chunks of chicken breast in cornstarch and then brown them in the oil.
Add the ingredients for the sauce and stir to coat the chicken.
Then lock the lid into place and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook for 3 minutes.
Once it’s done, safely release the steam and remove the lid.
Sprinkle your perfect pressure cooker sesame chicken with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve it with rice, or steamed vegetables for a low(er) carb meal!
PS – You can also make rice in your Instant Pot.
If you want to make the chicken and the rice in the pressure cooker, I would make the rice first, then clean out the pot and move onto the sesame chicken.
Check out our recipe card below!
Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken
- 2 - 2.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes, and toss the cubes with cornstarch to coat. Prepare all the herbs and vegetables.
- Set the Instant Pot on Sauté. Pour in the sesame oil. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the chicken pieces. Stir and brown for 3-5 minutes, until the chicken pieces are golden on most sides. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a metal spatula to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom. (This can cause the "Burn Notice" on your IP.)
- Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, sherry, chili garlic sauce, and 2 tablespoons water to the Instant Pot. Stir well to coat the chicken.
- Cover and seal the pot. Set on Pressure Cook High for 3 minutes. Turn off the pressure cooker, and perform a Quick Release. Once the steam valve button drops, and it is safe to open, remove the lid. Stir the sesame chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve warm with rice, quinoa, or with steamed vegetables.
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!
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This came out awesome- everyone in the house loved it. And it was very easy. We will definitely make this again!
Hi all, tried this tonight after a Chinese craving. Really powerful tastes complemented by a nice gewurtztrmiener wine. Question: my chicken breast pieces seemed a little dry. Any tips, or would this be as good with thigh meat?
Is it possible you browned the chicken too long? That’s the only thing I can think of that might have dried out the chicken. And yes, boneless thighs would be a great option as well. :)
Great recipe , super easy and definitely gets your Asian tastes satisfied. Didn’t have garlic chili sauce so substituted sriracha (2 tbsp) use less if you dont want it spicy. Served with sauteed string beans- a great companion
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Made this tonight, so good! I scraped the bottom of the pot with a lil water and had no burn notice. Thanks for the recipe.
Delicious, easy and authentic tasting. Substituted sriracha for chili garlic sauce
Served with skillet sauteed green beans – YUM
I have finally made a Chinese dish that is as good as any I’ve had from a restaurant!! Thank you–awesome recipe!!!
My first time preparing this dish and using the instant pot. Turned out surprisingly well! Do not underestimate the power of the chili sauce it has some heat to it. Kids loved it and they are talking about it to their mom which is a good sign :)
Just made this tonight and it was really really good! I added a little broccoli and green pepper and also added a corn starch slurry at the end to thicken it. It was way too spicy for me, so next time I’ll cut the chili garlic sauce in half. My husband loved the spiciness though.
I made this tonight, after craving Chinese. I followed the recipe with the following exceptions. I did not have sherry so I used chicken broth, I only used 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and did a NPR. It was so very good and it hit the spot. I did scrape the bottom of the pot just as you suggested to keep from getting the burn notice. Thank you for a delicious meal!
This is SO good. Like the recipe says, you have to scrape the bottom to avoid the burn notification. We added peppers and broccoli to it, so so good.
This didn’t taste anything like sesame chicken (at least any I’ve had), but it was delicious! I would add more corn starch next time to thicken it, dry the chicken first before coating (it was a gooey mess when I added it to the pot), and sauté in batches. Definitely a keeper!
The sauce is great, however after two times trying this recipe I keep getting a burn notice. I’ve tried adding more water, but it has to do with the cornstarch burning and overheating the pot. It takes multiple attempts to get the pressure to build. Not good!!
Yes, you need to scrape the bottom of the pot, before adding the ingredients for the sauce. This keeps the burn notice from going off.
Photos show red pepper flakes in the sauce, but ingredients list doesn’t. Also, chicken needs to be split into two batches in order to brown appropriately .
The red you are seeing is coming from the chile garlic sauce. You can definitely split the chicken into batches if you want, but it does not need to be fully caramelized or crisp on the outside. It’s pressure cooked and bathed in sauce, therefore browning it a little in one batch is fine. Happy Cooking!
This was amazing! Thank you so much for sharing.
Can I use xanthan gum or almond or coconut flour instead of cornstarch? Would that change anything?
I haven’t tried xanthan gum, but I know from experience you can use arrow root in the same proportions. Hope this helps!
The sauce in the recipe tastes fantastic, however while cooking I received the burn error several times while cooking. Since I couldn’t tell if my dish was cooking or not I ended up with very dry, over cooked chicken. I would try this again but on the stovetop.
I received a burn notice too. How do you avoid that with this recipe?
I read somewhere when I first got my Instant Pot that cornstarch will stick to the bottom and create the burn error. Something about coating the bottom and not distributing heat. Many recipes will call for cornstarch after slow cooker mode. Hope that helps, I think it was in the actual owners manual.
I was surprised to see you saute with sesame oil since it has a low burning point. Wouldn’t it be better to saute in canola and add the sesame oil with other liquid ingedients after sauteing the chicken, garlic, ginger, etc.?
My other question was about low sodium soy, which I do keep on hand with regular. Would the dish be way too salty with regular soy?
The sauté setting on an Instant Pot is pretty low, so you don’t have to worry about burning the oil.
Yes, I think I might reduce regular soy sauce a little bit so it’s not overly salty. Maybe use 1/4 cup?
If I had doubled the chicken and the sauce do I double the pressure time too?
No, I believe you double the ingredients, but keep the cooking time the same. Here’s a link with Instant Pot doubling tips: https://www.hippressurecooking.com/how-to-double-a-pressure-cooker-recipe/ Hope this helps!
Can I omit or replace the sherry?
Yes, you can swap it for water or broth, but it does really add to the flavor. You can buy small bottles of cooking sherry at your local grocery chain.
If converting to a slow cooker, how much time should this cook?
I would say 2-3 hours in the slow cooker. Let me know how it turns out. :)
Between the sherry and the scallions there is something that just says “3 tbsp”. Is that just a typo or is there another ingredient?
Thanks for pointing this out! We are in the middle of switching our recipe format to a new system and there have been some glitches.:( The recipe should be fixed now. :)
Your Chinese Sesame Chicken sound wonderful , but I do not have and instant pot . Can I use a Dutch oven pan in place of an Instant Pot ?
Hi Mary! Yes, you could definitely convert this to a slow cooker recipe. :)
This was a huge hit tonight. I doubled it and there was not one crumb left!
Yay!! I’m so glad to hear it. :)
I am using an 8 qt and keep getting a burn notice until I add extra water. It takes about three times to get the pressure cooker to work without getting the burn notice. Any ideas on what I am doing wrong? Otherwise the taste is fantastic. We love it!!
Hmmm… Mine is a standard 6 quart, and after testing this recipe multiple times, I’ve not had that same issue. It must have to do with the size. If it were me, I would figure out how much extra liquid you need, then make that adjustment with all the pressure cooker recipes you try. Good Luck!
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I got my Instant Pot for Christmas and finally tried it out. I love Sesame Chicken and this was so quick and easy. It was delicious too! I might go a little lighter on the Spicy Garlic Chili next time but it wasn’t so spicy that it made me cry like some spicy foods.
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