I'm a Dietitian & This Is the One Protein I Always Make in the Instant Pot

It makes this budget-friendly meat undeniably tender and super versatile to use. 

two chicken breasts on a platter
Photograher: Greg Dupree Prop Stylist: Christine Keely Food Stylist: Karen Rankin.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

I don't use my Instant Pot as much as I should. I say that because every time I do use it, I think, "I should use this more often." But along with a big batch of brown rice, I use it almost every week for one specific meal-prep ingredient: chicken breast. Here's why I turn to my Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker) to cook this budget-friendly and versatile protein—and you should, too.

Chicken breast has a reputation for being notoriously dry and honestly not that appealing. And for a long time, I pretty much avoided it for that reason. Instead, I would roast a whole chicken and use the breast meat instead of cooking the boneless, skinless cuts themselves. While I love spending time cooking , I usually don't have time to roast a whole bird each week. However, I still prefer to have some protein at the ready starting each week. I started using my Instant Pot to cook chicken breasts initially because it allowed me to walk away while it cooked, and I could even let the pressure naturally release for as long as I needed if I was working from home. But once I saw the result, it was a revelation.

Chicken breast cooked in the pressure cooker is incredibly tender and juicy, something that's hard to say about the meat when it's cooked any other way. It's easy to make, too. If you want a sliceable chicken breast for sandwiches, salads or to add to a main, you simply season the meat, sear it for a few minutes on each side (in the Instant Pot on sauté mode), then add some water and close to cook on high pressure for about 10 minutes (check out our Instant Pot Chicken Breast recipe for more specifics). But if I want more shreddable meat or can't be bothered with searing, I just add all of the ingredients to the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breast.

Once the chicken breast is cool enough to handle, it can be either sliced or shredded and saved in the fridge for my weekly meals. I use the shredded chicken in tacos, soups, grain bowls, casseroles, pasta and basically anything that I want to add protein to in a pinch. My weeknight meals have gotten so much easier since I've started using my Instant Pot for easy, quick and budget-friendly chicken breast, and it's probably the only way I'll cook that cut of meat going forward. For more budget- and beginner-friendly cooking tips and recipes, check out Thrifty.

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