The Instant Pot Version of Sonny’s BBQ’s Pulled Chicken

Last Updated on February 21, 2023

To make a copycat version of the pulled chicken from this Florida chain, we have to use low pressure to keep the liquids as slight as possible. Otherwise, the dish becomes soupy with sauce before it’s ready to be served. The chicken shouldn’t be shredded until it’s little shards. Leave it in somewhat bigger chunks, the way the restaurant does. 

The Instant Pot Version of Sonny's BBQ’s Pulled Chicken

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Servings: 6


  • 1/2 cup chicken broth 
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar 
  • 4 small Roma or plum tomatoes, roughly chopped 
  • 6 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (roughly 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 tbsp mild paprika 
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika 
  • 2 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1 tsp table salt 
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice 
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground dried cayenne
  • 2 lb ButcherBox boneless skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar 
  • 2 tbsp honey 
  • 4-6 hamburger buns 


  • Stir the broth, vinegar, tomatoes, and scallions in the insert set in a 5- or 6-quart Instant Pot. Set a pressure-and-food-safe rack or trivet in the insert, moving the tomatoes out of the way. 
  • Place a chicken breast on the cutting board and place the edge of a sharp knife along the long side of the chicken with your knife parallel to the cutting board. With your other hand on top of the chicken slice through the meat opening the chicken breast into 2 thinner pieces.  Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.  
  • Mix the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, salt, allspice, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl until uniform. Use clean hands to rub this spice mixture all over the chicken breasts. Set them on the rack in as close to one even layer as you can. If they must overlap, make sure thin ends go over thin ends. (And wash your hands carefully with lots of soap because they now have cayenne on them!)
  • Whisk the ketchup, brown sugar, and honey in a small bowl (maybe even the same bowl the spices were in) until the brown sugar dissolves. Pour and scrape this mixture over the chicken breasts, keeping it on the meat with its falling into the liquids below. Lock the lid onto the cooker.  
  • Set the machine to Pressure Cook or Manual (either setting will work for all models). Set the level to Low. Ensure that the valve is closed and set the time for 25 minutes with the Keep Warm setting off and if necessary (depending on model), press Start. 
  • When the pot has finished cooking, turn it off and do a quick release. Unlatch the lid and open the cooker. Transfer the chicken breasts to a nearby cutting board. Remove the rack or trivet from the pot. (Kitchen tongs work best for all of this.)
  • Set the machine to Sauté (this setting will work for all models). Set the level to Medium, Normal, or Custom 300°F. Set the time for 10 minutes and if necessary (depending on model), press Start
  • Stir the sauce as it comes to a simmer. Cook, stirring quite often, until the sauce has reduced to about a third of its volume from when you opened the pot, about 4 minutes. Turn off the Sauté function.
  • Thinly slice or chop the chicken with a knife. Stir this cut up chicken into the sauce in the pot until well combined. Serve warm on buns. 
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