Instant Pot 3 cup chicken is an easy dish to make, using the signature 3 cups of condiments. With the additional basil and chilis, this famous Taiwanese version is a burst of flavours. I love the convenience of using Instant Pot to make 3 cup chicken for a stressless meal, and the extra broth required for pressure cooking is ultra-delicious to pour over rice. See recipe below for a gluten-free option.
Because this is a well-known classic dish, there are different versions out there. The northern Chinese version I grew up eating is a little different in terms of the ingredients and the flavour profile; here I am sharing the Taiwanese version that’s more flavourful and popular.
What is Three Cup Chicken?
3 cup chicken is famously known as “sanbeiji” (三杯鸡) in Chinese. The “3 cup” refers to the 3 main condiments in this dish that make up the core flavour. This dish originally comes from the Jiangxi province. However, it is well-known around the country. The northern Chinese version I grew up eating uses 1 cup each of the soy sauce, red wine and sugar. But when the dish went to Taiwan, it uses 1 cup each of the soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil.
It’s worth noting that, you don’t have to use 3 whole cups of the condiments either. Depending on how much chicken you are cooking and the cooking method, you can use a lot less than a cup each of the 3 condiments, as long as they are about equal in volume in the dish.
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Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken Ingredients and Substitutions
Besides the 3 main condiments, the Taiwanese 3 cup chicken also includes a few other ingredients, and is distinguished by the use of fresh basil leaves. Here is everything you will need.
- Chicken legs (drumsticks or thighs): You can use either bone-in or boneless pieces. I prefer bone-in because they are more flavourful.
- Soy sauce: Chinese light soy sauce, or all-purpose soy sauce, or tamari soy sauce for gluten-free.
- Cooking rice wine: Taiwanese rice wine is clear in colour and that’s what I used in this recipe. If you only have the yellow rice wine (eg. Shaoxing wine), you can use that as well. Note that Chinese cooking rice wine is not the same as the Japanese mirin, therefore I would not recommend substituting with mirin.
- Sesame oil
- Sugar: Traditionally this dish uses rock sugar, but you can substitute it with cane sugar or a sweetener of your choice.
- Fresh birds eye chili: You can substitute it with other red chili peppers such as cayenne, or a dried red chili pepper.
- Fresh Thai basil: You can substitute it with fresh sweet basil.
Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken
Most people make this dish on the stovetop, using chopped up chicken leg pieces. However, my mother always made it in the pressure cooker. I think it was because pressure cooker can cook the larger chicken leg pieces faster, and therefore this was a simpler method for my mother as she didn’t have to chop up the chicken legs. Inspired by my mother’s method, I have made this classic Taiwanese 3 cup chicken in the Instant Pot.
Cooking this dish in the Instant Pot requires plenty of liquid to bring the pot to pressure and to cover the chicken pieces. But don’t you worry about the extra broth. It is so tasty and amazing to soak rice in, or you can use it in the soup base for a comforting bowl of chicken noodle soup.
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Instant Pot 3 Cup Chicken
- Put the chicken in a large pot covered in cool water. Heat the pot uncovered over high heat. As the chicken pieces are heating up, they will slowly release foams. When the water is fully boiling, turn off the heat. Discard the foamy water. Rinse the chicken and drain thoroughly.
- Press the "sauté" button on the Instant Pot. Pour the sesame oil into the inner pot. When the oil is hot, add ginger slices and garlic, then cook them for 2 minutes to release the fragrance.
- Immediately add the chicken, sugar, rice wine, soy sauce, and chilis and stir to combine.
- Press the "cancel" button on the Instant Pot. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, then close the pressure valve. Set the Instant Pot to high pressure cooking, for 10 minutes. When cooking is completed, let the Instant Pot naturally release pressure for 5 minutes. Open the pressure valve to release the remaining pressure.
- Remove the Instant Pot lid. Add the basil leaves into the inner pot and stir to combine. Press the "sauté" button and cook the chicken pieces with the basil leaves for 2 more minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot.