The theme in my kitchen these days is ease and flexibility. My best-laid meal plans are often subject to last-minute changes if I can’t find what I need at the store, and the recipes I select tend to be suggestions more than rigid outlines. I need workhorses: recipes that scale, freeze well, and can be turned into multiple dishes (so that I don’t get sick of the leftovers).

This recipe hits all of those notes. Keep almost any kind of chicken in your freezer—this recipe is for boneless thighs but also provides instructions for breasts or bone-in chicken—and a can of tomatoes, and you’re pretty much set. You could use canned chicken and canned tomato with chiles (such as Rotel) if you can’t get a fresh jalapeño. Or omit the jalapeño if you’ve got kids who aren’t into spicy foods.

You can use this chicken as a filling in tacos or enchiladas, combine it with shredded cheese for quesadillas, fold it into King Ranch casserole, or add chicken stock for a tortilla soup base. Sauté whatever vegetables you have on hand, and eat it over rice with diced avocado. Make a batch on Sunday and keep it in the refrigerator for quick weekday lunches, or freeze for future weeknight dinners. It doubles—or, depending on the size of your Instant Pot, triples—quite easily. And “quite easily” is exactly the mood I am going for right now.

Photograph by Jenn Hair

All-Purpose Instant Pot Chicken With Tomato and Chiles

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

  1. Combine the salt, pepper, and cumin in a small bowl. Season the chicken on both sides and set aside.
  2. Set the Instant Pot to sauté. Add the oil, onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Sauté 2–3 minutes or until softened. Turn off the sauté function.
  3. Add the can of tomatoes and place the chicken on top. Cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. Release the pressure manually.
  4. Open the lid, and remove the chicken with tongs. Set aside to cool slightly, then shred with a fork. Add back into the Instant Pot and stir to combine with the tomato mixture. Season to taste.

Note: You may want to set the Instant Pot to sauté for a few minutes at the end to simmer off excess liquid, depending how juicy your chicken and tomatoes are.

If you can’t get thighs, cook boneless skinless chicken breasts for 6–7 minutes at high pressure, depending on size. Cook bone-in chicken thighs 10–11 minutes, again depending on size.