One way that I keep things as easy as I can on weeknights is that occasionally I take the time to make a large batch of an item that I can use in multiple ways over the month or two. Instant Pot Salsa Chicken is one of my go-to items. It’s one of the most versatile items that I make. As added bonus, the kids love it and it freezes beautifully.
When I make Instant Pot Salsa Chicken, I generally make 5-6 pounds at a time. Most of the time I use it for the meal that night and freeze my leftovers, but occasionally I will just make it on a Saturday afternoon because I found a good price on chicken. When you have four kiddos, you have to take the deals when you can find them. I simply put the leftover cooked chicken into freezer bags, about two cups each, lay them flat, remove all the air, and label the bags. Laying the bags flat and spreading the chicken evenly into a thin layer serves two purposes. If I forgot to pull my chicken out ahead of time, it will thaw more quickly. It also saves space and keeps things looking nice and neat in my freezer so I can find it when I need to. I just pull out one or two bags the morning I want to use them.
Here are a few of our favorite uses:
- Bowls – use rice or cauliflower rice (try making cilantro lime rice), pinto or black beans, avocados, tomatoes, frozen corn, limes, or other toppings
- Burritos – fill a flour tortilla with rice, beans, chicken and then serve immediately or wrap in foil and keep warm in a low temperature oven until you are ready to eat.
- Tacos – soft or hardshell along with your favorite taco toppings
- Taco Salads – Top romaine or iceberg lettuce with toppings and crushed tortilla chips
- Baked Potato Topper – Slice baked potatoes, fluff with fork and top with the chicken, cheese, extra salsa, and any other toppings you like.
- Quesadillas – Top a flour tortilla with Mexican shredded cheese blend, chicken, and another tortilla. Heat in a non-stick pan or on a griddle until cheese is melted and the tortillas are light golden brown
- Sheet Pan Nachos
- Cheesy Salsa Chicken Spaghetti
I am sure the list could be longer and some of the options above are healthier than others, but all are delicious! We do have a couple favorites though. My crew are big fans of the Salsa Chicken Sheet Pan Nachos. Most of the time they only eat chips, cheese, meat, beans, and corn, but occasionally they will dabble in jalapeno eating contests and have some fun with it. I usually make one “boring pan” and one “fun pan”. They also absolutely love that when it’s time to eat, I just put one or two sheet pans of nachos in the middle of the table, and they can serve themselves.
Another one of our favorite ways to use Salsa Chicken is to make Cheesy Salsa Chicken Spaghetti. This is a little more of a splurge because it’s so rich and cheesy, but sometimes after cold soccer or football games, it’s just the warm, comforting meal that we all need to warm up. It’s also a great dish to assemble ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake. If you are going to make it ahead of time, just increase your bake time by 20 minutes to ensure that everything is heated through.
Instant Pot Salsa Chicken
5-6 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts, raw, not frozen (can also use thighs)
16 ounces salsa, medium heat
2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed or from a bottle
Place all ingredients in the instant pot. Stir. Lock and seal the lid. Cook on manual – high pressure for 12 minutes. Use the natural release method. Once all of the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid and remove the chicken from the juice. Make sure it has reached 165 degrees. Shred the chicken using either 2 forks or the paddle attachment to a stand mixer. Once the chicken is shredded return it to the sauce in the instant pot and let it rest for 5 minutes to soak in. The chicken is now ready to use or let it cool and freeze into 2 cup packages to use later.
Yields 10 cups shredded chicken (will vary depending on brand and cut of chicken used)