I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe for Instant Pot Hawaiian Chicken with you! This one was definitely a labor of love and I’m so glad it’s finally ready to be shared!
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Since I was little, my mom would always make a dish she called Pollo Hawaiiano (Hawaiian Chicken). I remember, when I came home from school, if there was an electric skillet on the kitchen counter it meant she was making Hawaiian Chicken!
The chicken would sit in that electric skillet all day it seemed until it was time for dinner. The dish was loaded with cubed chicken breasts, pineapple, onions, and peppers. As a young child, I wouldn’t dare eat onions and peppers, EXCEPT when they were in the Hawaiian Chicken. Everything tasted amazing and it wasn’t worth picking anything out of the dish. It was the perfect sweet and savory combination!
I’ve always wanted to make the Hawaiian Chicken for my family, but if you’ve followed along with the blog for a while, then you know, my mom doesn’t do exact recipes, which proves to be a huge challenge for me when trying to recreate her dishes. In addition to her vague recipe instructions, I also had to convert the recipe so it would work in the Instant Pot!
The First Time Was a Mess
OK, I have to admit. This recipe took a few rounds of trial and error.
The first time I made it, the chicken was not brown enough, I burned the macadamia nuts, the vegetables had completely disintegrated and when I released the pressure, foam sprayed everywhere.
Not my idea of perfect Hawaiian Chicken!
The macadamia nuts pictured here are toasted. These were the ones I used in this first round of cooking. I do not recommend toasted nuts because they burn too easily. You will want to get raw, untoasted macadamia nuts for this recipe.
But all was not lost!
There was something good that came out of the whole ordeal. The chicken actually tasted amazing! I knew that I couldn’t give up. So, for the second round, I made a few adjustments to keep the vegetables from getting too mushy. I also used some tricks I learned from making Mac & Cheese to help avoid the mess from the pressure release.
The Second Time Was Much Better
The second round was sooo much better! The taste was perfection and the veggies were perfect. Not too soft and not too crisp. Just right.
The color of the chicken was better. And, while the pressure release was much cleaner this time, I thought it could be better. It was worth one more try.
Needless to say, we were eating Hawaiian Chicken all week!
Like They Say: “Third Time’s a Charm”
So, the third time I made a minor adjustment to the way I released the pressure and PERFECTION!
No more mess.
You can learn exactly what I did further below. It could also help with other recipes that can potentially cause a mess.
Making Hawaiian Chicken in the Instant Pot
So, here we go. After a few tries, here is my step-by-step recipe for Hawaiian Chicken in the Instant Pot. It has quickly become a family favorite.
Gather the Ingredients
First, make sure you have everything you need. This recipe is loaded with all kinds of Hawaiian goodies. Chicken, pineapple, onions, peppers, macadamia nuts, coconut oil… yummm!! The full list of ingredients can be found in the recipe box at the bottom of this post.
This is what your macadamia nuts should look like before sautéing them. These are raw and untoasted
Set the Instant Pot to Sauté
Set your Instant Pot on the Sauté function and allow it to warm up for a few minutes. This is a good time to start cutting your vegetables.
Prep the Onion and Peppers
I use red and yellow bell peppers and a sweet yellow onion. I rough cut my onion and peppers because I like having larger pieces in this recipe. If you prefer a smaller cut, that will work fine as well.
Add the Coconut Oil to the Instant Pot
First, add coconut oil to the pot. I recommend using coconut oil because it complements the Hawaiian flavors of this recipe.
Allow the oil to heat up for a minute or two.
Sauté the Macadamia Nuts in the Instant Pot
Next, sauté the macadamia nuts in the coconut oil until they begin to brown slightly. In my first trial of this recipe, I accidentally bought toasted macadamia nuts. Once I started sautéing them, they very quickly started burning. This did not occur once I went back to the store and bought the regular raw macadamia nuts. These are usually found in the baking section of the supermarket, next to all the other nuts for baking.
You’ll need to continually stir the nuts while they sauté to ensure that they do not burn.
It should take no more than a few minutes for the nuts to start browning. This is what the macadamias should look like when you are done with this step.
Add the Onion to the Instant Pot
Next, add the onions to the macadamias and sauté them together.
You’ll want to mix them into the nuts and periodically stir the onions and nuts around as they sauté.
Once the onions start to brown around the edges like this, you can go on to the next step.
Add the Red and Yellow Peppers to the Instant Pot
Now you can add the mixed peppers to the pot.
Fully mix them into the onions and macadamia nuts and allow them to sauté until they just start to get tender. This shouldn’t take any longer than 4-6 minutes. Make sure to mix the vegetables periodically.
Now is a good time to start preparing the chicken thighs.
Prepare the Chicken Thighs
While the vegetables are sautéing, quarter the chicken thighs. This is a job I leave to Ryan because, as you probably know, I hate raw chicken! I mentioned above that my mom used chicken breasts in her recipe, and she still does. Ryan insisted we use boneless, skinless thighs because of the better flavor in them, and I must say I agree with his choice! You can definitely make it with breasts if you choose though.
Remove the Vegetables from the Pot and Set Aside
At this point, you’ll want to remove the sautéed vegetables and set them aside in a large bowl. If you leave them in the pot and cook them with the chicken, they will end up being too soft and almost disintegrate. Which, as I mentioned above, is what happened on my first test run.
This is what the yummy mixture of macadamias and veggies sautéed in coconut oil should look like when you take them out.
Add the Chicken Thighs to the Instant Pot
Now you’ll want to add some more coconut oil to the pot which will be used to brown the chicken thighs.
Allow the oil to get hot and then place the thighs in the pot.
Don’t move the chicken while it’s sautéing. We just want it to be slightly brown on one side. We’re not browning it on all sides, so just let it sit, undisturbed for a few minutes.
After a few minutes, turn the chicken and go to the next step. The chicken is just slightly browned on the edges.
Add the Soy Sauce to the Chicken
You will now add the soy sauce to the pot and continue to sauté the chicken in the sauce. It is important for the steps to be done in this order so the chicken gets a pretty dark brown color when all is said and done.
Pour the soy sauce over the chicken and then mix the chicken into the sauce well so that all the pieces are fully covered in soy sauce.
Let the chicken continue cooking in the soy sauce while you prepare the pineapple sauce for the next step.
Prepare the Hawaiian Pineapple Sauce
While the chicken sautés in the soy sauce, prepare the pineapple sauce. The mixture includes pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic. For measurements, see the recipe below.
Mix everything very well together. I like putting the liquids in a large measuring cup like this one and using a whisk to mix everything together. The measuring cup makes it easier to pour when it’s time to do so.
Add the Pineapple Sauce to the Instant Pot
Once everything is mixed together, you can pour the pineapple sauce over the chicken thighs.
Add the Pineapple Chunks
Next, you will need to add the pineapple chunks. I like using Dole Pineapple chunks in pineapple juice. Make sure to reserve ¼ cup of the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple chunks and then drain out the rest.
Add the drained pineapple chunks to the Instant Pot.
There is no need to stir them into the chicken, just let them sit on top.
Make a Thickening Agent for the Sauce
Finally, you will take the reserved pineapple juice and add cornstarch to it. Mix well.
Pour the cornstarch mixture over the chicken and pineapples.
It is important to not mix the cornstarch mixture into the chicken. Just allow it to sit on top. It will naturally mix in during the cooking process. I’ve noticed that this helps to keep the sauce from thickening too quickly and possibly causing issues with the pot not coming to pressure.
Start Cooking the Chicken
Now, hit cancel to turn off the Sauté feature, close the pot and set it on Manual High Pressure for 6 minutes.
The Trick to a “No Mess” Pressure Release
Once cooking has completed, you will need to allow for a 4 minute NPR (Natural Pressure Release). This allows any foam that may have built up from the cornstarch mixture to settle before releasing the pressure. The first time I made this recipe, I did a 10 minute cook time with a QPR (quick pressure release) and it ended up causing a big mess. The foam from the cornstarch spewed out all over the place. Allowing the pot to do a natural pressure release for the 4 minutes has eliminated that issue.
Another trick I use to help avoid a mess is to do a slow and controlled release after the Instant Pot has completed the 4 minute NPR. I do this by only opening the pressure release valve a half turn instead of opening it up all the way. This really does minimize the chance of making a mess. I also do this when making mac and cheese, and it helps a lot!
This was all that came out of the pressure release valve using the 4 minute NPR with the slow and controlled release.
Open the Instant Pot
Once the pressure has been fully released, and the pin has dropped, open the pot and:
Look at those pineapples sitting in that delicious sauce. The smell is so sweet and delicious.
Set the Instant Pot on Sauté Once More
Now, set the Instant Pot on the Sauté function once more and allow the pot to come to a boil (usually just a minute or two).
Add the Vegetables Back In
Now it’s time to add the mixture of sautéed vegetables back into the pot.
Mix them in well and allow them to continue to cook in the pot on Sauté mode for about 5 minutes. This will allow the vegetables to soften up just a bit more. It will also allow the sauce to thicken up a little more as well.
Serve Your Instant Pot Hawaiian Chicken
Now it’s time to serve this mouth-watering chicken over your favorite rice. I prefer using plain white rice since the chicken is so flavorful and the juice makes the rice taste delicious!
There you have it folks, Instant Pot Hawaiian Chicken! I know it’s not the easiest recipe on my blog, but once you get comfortable with your Instant Pot, it will be so worth it to try this recipe. Definitely a sweet and savory taste of Hawaii in your kitchen!
Instant Pot Hawaiian Chicken
TENDER CHICKEN, BELL PEPPER, SWEET ONION, PINEAPPLE, AND TOASTED MACADAMIA NUTS IN A HOMEMADE HAWAIIAN SAUCE
- 4 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs quartered, approximately 12-16 thighs
- 2 cups sweet onion rough cut
- 2 cups red bell pepper(s) rough cut
- 2 cups yellow bell pepper(s) rough cut
- 1 can pineapple chunks 20 oz, in 100% pineapple juice
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup macadamia nuts raw and untoasted
- 1 ¼ cups pineapple juice
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup dark brown sugar tightly packed
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- Turn the Instant Pot on Sauté. Allow it to heat up for a few minutes so that it’s really nice and hot.
- Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to the Instant Pot and allow it to heat up.
- Once the coconut oil is hot, add the half cup of chopped macadamia nuts into the pot and sauté, stirring often, until they begin to brown very slightly (no more than a few minutes). Be careful because they can begin to burn easily. IMPORTANT: When purchasing the macadamia nuts, make sure to get raw, untoasted nuts. The toasted nuts end up burning too easily.
- Add the 2 cups of roughly cut onion to the pot and mix well into the macadamia nuts. Sauté the onions until they have turned translucent and begin to get golden around the edges (usually 4-6 minutes). Mix periodically.
- Add the 2 cups of roughly cut red pepper and 2 cups of roughly cut yellow peppers and sauté until they begin to get tender-crisp (4-6 minutes). Mix periodically.
- While the vegetables sauté, begin quartering the chicken thighs.
- Remove the vegetable mixture from the pot and set aside.
- Add 1 more tablespoon of coconut oil to the Instant Pot and allow it to heat up.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs to the pot and allow them to start browning on the bottom. Do not move them around so that they will brown more easily.
- After a few minutes of browning, add the ¾ cup of of soy sauce to the pot. Mix into the chicken well so that all of the chicken pieces are covered in the soy sauce. Now is a good time to deglaze the bottom of the pot to make sure that no chicken pieces are stuck to the bottom.
- Allow the chicken to cook in the soy sauce while preparing the pineapple sauce.
- To prepare the pineapple sauce measure 1 cup of pineapple juice and add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar and 4 cloves of minced garlic. With a whisk, mix all the ingredients very well.
- Add the pineapple sauce to the Instant Pot and mix into the chicken.
- Open the can of pineapple chunks and reserve ¼ cup of the pineapple juice from the can. Discard the rest of the pineapple juice from the can and add the pineapple chunks to the pot. There is no need to mix the pineapple chunks into the chicken. Just allow them to sit on top.
- Prepare a thickening agent by adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the ¼ cup of reserved pineapple juice and mix well.
- Pour the cornstarch mixture over the top of everything. IMPORTANT: Do not mix the cornstarch mixture into the liquid in the pot. Just pour it over the top. It will naturally mix into the pot during the cooking process. This will help prevent the sauce in the pot from thickening too quickly.
- Turn off the Sauté feature, close the pot, move the pressure release valve to Sealing and set the Instant Pot on Manual / Pressure Cook, High Pressure for 6 minutes.
- After the 6 minute cooking time has completed, allow for a 4 minute NPR. This will allow any foam that may have built up in the pot from the cornstarch to settle before releasing the pressure. Additionally, to further ensure that you avoid a mess, after the four minute NPR, do a slow and controlled release. To do this, give the pressure release valve a half turn instead of opening it up all the way.
- Once the pressure has been fully released and the float valve has dropped, open the pot and set it to Sauté once more. Allow the contents in the pot to start to come to a boil. This should only take a minute or two.
- Once the pot has started to boil, add the vegetable mix back into the pot the cook for an additional 5 minutes. This will help soften the vegetables a little bit more and allow the sauce to continue thickening.
- Once the vegetables have finished cooking for 5 minutes, turn the Sauté setting off.
- Serve this delicious Hawaiian Chicken over your favorite rice and enjoy!
What to serve with Hawaiian Chicken: Hawaiian Chicken is always great served over white rice or brown rice. You could also serve it over quinoa or couscous as alternatives to rice.
What is a good side dish for Hawaiian Chicken? Hawaiian bread is a must! We use it to soak up all the leftover sauce from the chicken. Yum! Roasted vegetables like roasted broccoli also make a good side. Salads are also great options as a side dish.