Skip the takeout and make this easy Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai! Made with homemade sauce and plenty of vegetables, you will love how easy it is to make this healthier version of pad Thai at home.
If you’re looking for more takeout-inspired meals, try my Instant Pot Chicken “Fried” Rice!
Lately, I’m really into making at-home versions of our favourite takeout dishes. We’re eating out a lot less these days, but sometimes we miss a particular meal. This Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai has quickly become a go-to recipe.
This version of pad Thai is definitely not authentic (well, of course, it’s made in a pressure cooker!), but I love that it uses easy-to-find ingredients. Traditional pad Thai sauce includes tamarind paste, but it’s not easily found in my local grocery store and I bet not everyone has it on hand. I don’t think you’ll miss it, once you taste the sauce in this recipe!
Here’s what you’ll need to make Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai. See the recipe card below for detailed ingredients and instructions.
For the homemade pad Thai sauce
- Soy sauce – or wheat-free tamari, if you follow a gluten-free diet
- Brown sugar – for sweetness
- Chicken broth – water works, too
- Rice vinegar – you can substitute apple cider vinegar in a pinch.
- Fish sauce – I used the Thai Kitchen brand. I highly recommend fish sauce for the umami flavour it brings, but you can substitute more soy sauce if you don’t have it.
- Peanut butter – the creamy, natural variety. This makes the sauce (in my opinion). I tried it without peanut butter and it tasted great, but didn’t have the same wow factor.
- Garlic – because garlic makes everything better
- Sesame oil – for flavour
- Sriracha – for some heat. The recipe as written is mildly spicy with 1 tablespoon. Add more if you like it hot!
For the pad Thai
- Chicken breast – one pound, 1.5-inch dice. You want the pieces to be bite-sized, but fairly large so they stay juicy once cooked.
- Carrot – cut into matchsticks
- Green onion – sliced. Pressure cook the white and light green parts and reserve the dark green tips for garnish.
- Rice noodles – flat stick noodles that are typical of pad Thai, not the super thin kind
- Zucchini – I like it spiralized, but you could also cut it into matchsticks if you don’t have a spiralizer. I’ve linked to a spiralizer similar to the one I have in the recipe card below.
- Bean sprouts
- Red bell pepper – thinly sliced
- Lime wedges – highly recommend
- Chopped peanuts – so awesome, if you like peanuts
- Cilantro – unless it tastes like soap to you (haha)
- Sliced green onion
How to make it
First, make the sauce. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
Next, pressure cook the chicken and cook the noodles. Place the diced chicken in the Instant Pot and pour the sauce on top. Put the carrots and diced green onion on top of the chicken. Pressure cook on Manual High pressure for 4 minutes. At the end of cooking time, let the pressure release naturally (NPR) for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions, until they just reach your desired texture. Drain and set aside.
Now, steam the vegetables. After the 5-minute NPR, quick release the remaining pressure. Add the zucchini, bean sprouts and bell pepper. Stir until well combined and let the vegetables steam with the lid on top for about 3 minutes.
Add the cooked rice noodles and use tongs to gently toss them until they’re evenly coated in sauce and warmed through. Then serve with your chosen garnishes!
- Change up the added vegetables. Use any vegetable that would steam nicely in about 3 minutes.
- Add some scrambled egg. I tend to skip this because I don’t want to wash another dish, but egg is a great addition.
Can I cook the noodles in the Instant Pot with the chicken?
You can, but I don’t recommend it. After many tests, I wasn’t as happy with the texture of the noodles or the chicken when I cooked them together. There are 3 main reasons:
- Rice noodles are starchy. If you’re not draining the cooking water, they get really sticky due to the starch. It tastes okay, but it’s not the best texture for Pad Thai.
- Inconsistent pressure cooking results with different noodle brands. I want you to have success when making this recipe. There’s a better chance you’ll be happy with the result if you make the noodles on the stovetop and have control over the finished texture.
- Natural pressure release results in a better meat texture. If you pressure cook with the noodles, you need to do a quick release or they’ll turn to mush. Cooking the noodles separately means you can give the chicken some time to hang out in the cooking liquid, resulting in a juicier, more tender texture.
Okay, but I still want to cook the noodles in the Instant Pot. How do I do that?
If I didn’t convince you with my reasons above (I admire your determination!), you can add 1.5 cups of water along with the sauce and sit the noodles just on top of the vegetables (spread out the carrot and green onion in a layer on top of the chicken first).
Pressure cook for 3 or 4 minutes (depends on your noodle) and quick release pressure at the end of cooking time. Steam the added vegetables as written in the recipe.
Tips for Success
- Don’t skip the natural pressure release. It makes the resulting chicken texture so much more tender and juicy!
- Rinse the noodles in cold water if they’re done cooking well before the chicken. This will stop them from cooking further and reduce stickiness.
- Test your noodle texture. I found the package timing wasn’t always long enough. Some manufacturers may assume you’ll continue to stir fry the noodles. We want the texture to be just reaching your desired finished texture, so they’ll be perfect once they sit in the sauce for a minute or two.
More Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Thai Chicken Curry
- Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup
- Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta
- Instant Pot Stuffed Pepper Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie
Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or sub with more low-sodium soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or to taste)
For the Pad Thai
- 1 lb chicken breast, 1.5-inch dice
- 1 cup matchstick carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
- 1/4 cup diced green onion, white and light green parts only (reserve dark green part for garnish)
- 8 oz rice noodles
- 2 zucchini, spiralized or cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- sliced green onion
- lime wedges
- chopped peanuts
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients.
- Place the diced chicken in the Instant Pot and pour in the sauce. Put the carrots and green onion on top. Pressure cook on Manual High pressure for 4 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of cooking time, allow for a 5-minute Natural Pressure Release (NPR).
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop and cook the rice noodles according to package directions, until you just reach your desired texture. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- After the 5-minute NPR, quick release any remaining pressure in the Instant Pot. Stir in the zucchini, bean sprouts and bell pepper. Put the lid on the Instant Pot to steam the vegetables in the heat of the sauce for about 3 minutes (see note 6).
- Add the rice noodles to the Instant Pot and use tongs to carefully toss them with the chicken and vegetables, until they're evenly covered in sauce. Let them sit for a minute to warm up, if necessary. Serve immediately with your chosen garnishes. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.
- This recipe was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot model.
- Nutrition estimate does not include optional garnishes.
- Inactive time indicates the time it takes the Instant Pot to come to pressure and release pressure.
- To make this in an 8-quart Instant Pot model, you can double the entire recipe or double everything but the noodles.
- See my comments and recommendation in the post about pressure cooking the noodles along with the chicken.
- Some Instant Pot models have a “Steam” function. Do not use this as it will pressure cook your vegetables and they will turn to mush! Just steam them in the heat of the cooked chicken/sauce.
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