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.