Air Fryer + Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken (Paleo, Low FODMAP, Gluten-Free)
Combining the incredible powers of both the air fryer and the Instant Pot, I happily present this amazing take-out fake-out sweet and sour chicken! This sweet and sour chicken is so mouthwateringly sweet and tangy, your friends will never guess it’s made with whole, unprocessed Paleo and low FODMAP ingredients. If you don’t have an air fryer – don’t worry! Although most deliciously and easily made using both appliances in tandem, I’ve also included instructions for making this dish solely with an Instant Pot.
Why Air Fryer + Instant Pot for sweet and sour chicken?
I initially wrote this recipe to be made solely in the Instant Pot; however, I felt that just searing the breaded chicken in the Instant Pot was not effectively creating the breaded effect that I was going for. In other words, the chicken didn’t really taste breaded and fried as it does in sweet and sour chicken dishes you get at a Chinese restaurant.
Air frying the chicken, while not creating exactly the same flavour as deep frying it, results in a much more satisfying breaded chicken. Plus, I found it somewhat less labour intensive to just leave the chicken to cook in the air fryer while cooking the produce and sauce in the Instant Pot as opposed to standing watch over the Instant Pot while the chicken sears in two batches. I’m not sure that makes sense to anyone else, but I did feel like it was easier.
I have still included instructions for how to make it all in just the Instant Pot in case you don’t own both appliances or you’d just like fewer appliances to clean in the end. It still tastes incredibly yummy cooked this way.
Is this recipe for the Instant Pot Duo Crisp or Ninja Foodi?
I anticipate getting this question, and the answer is: no. I’ve written this recipe to use the air fryer and the Instant Pot in tandem, using two separate appliances simultaneously. Although I have yet to use either, from what I understand of the Duo Crisp and Ninja Foodi, you’d have to air fry the chicken first and then cook the produce and sauce after. The cooked chicken would just be sitting there while the pressure cooker completed a 14-minute cooking cycle to cook the sauce and produce. This is not ideal. However, you will be coating the chicken in hot sauce, thereby warming it back up, so…? Regardless, I’ve written it to be made using two separate appliances. Whether you choose to experiment with it is entirely up to you; but, if you do, I’d love to hear about how it turned out!
The equipment I use to make this Air Fryer + Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe includes:
- Air fryer (I use this one, which is 3.7 qts)
- Instant Pot Duo (I use this one, which is 6 qts)
- Three large bowls
- Two large plates
- Two sets of tongs
- Stirring spoon (such as a wooden spoon)
- Slotted spoon
- Small bowl or measuring cup
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Hot pads
- Instant read thermometer
Air Fryer + Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken: Ingredients and Success Tips
I actually started testing this recipe with way more ingredients than I ended up with in the final version below. I think simple is better when it comes to most recipes.
The recipe calls for 1 lb of chicken breasts – this usually ends up being around 2 large breasts. A little more or a little less than 1 lb is okay, too. Endeavor to chop these up into 1 inch cubes – it’s impossible to make them perfect cubes.
I bread things sort of lazily, but it works for my purposes and is way less arduous than some other methods. First, I put the chicken pieces into a large bowl and then cover them with tapioca flour (a.k.a. tapioca starch), tossing with my hands to coat. Then, I cover them with garlic-infused olive oil and toss them again. In another large bowl, I combine cassava flour, salt and pepper and then dredge the chicken pieces in this mixture a few at a time, shaking off the excess. I use this same “technique” to bread the chicken in my Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders Salad recipe.
Then, I gently spray the breaded chicken with a Paleo compliant cooking spray – coconut oil achieves the best flavour for this recipe, but avocado oil or olive oil will work fine as well.
If you are using the Instant Pot only method, you will need 2 tbsp of regular coconut oil, not spray, in which to sear the breaded chicken.
For the sweet and sour sauce, I use maple syrup for the main sweetness factor and apple cider vinegar for the main sourness factor. Coconut aminos (a.k.a. soy sauce substitute) and the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple also add some sweetness, while the tomato paste adds some umami flavor.
I season the sauce first with ground ginger – fresh ginger could be used here instead, but I use ground ginger just to simplify things. I then bring out the flavour with sea salt and add a smidgen of heat using red pepper flakes, which you can leave out if you don’t like or your body does not react well to spicy food.
After the Instant Pot cooking cycle has completed, I thicken the sauce using tapioca flour and cold water.
In terms of produce, I use low FODMAP options, such as red bell pepper and pineapple, which is deemed tolerable for folks with IBS by Monash University in servings of 1 cup or less. With this recipe you’re getting about a half cup of pineapple per serving.
Instead of including red or white onion like traditional recipes might, I add the green tops of scallions, also known as green onions, at the very very end. The green tops of green onions don’t really maintain their flavour when they’re heavily cooked, so I just use the residual heat from the sweet and sour sauce to soften them a bit.
If you’re not concerned with FODMAPs, you can always use white or red onion instead of scallions.
This is where things get tricky in Paleo/low FODMAP Land. I often suggest serving certain dishes on my Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe, but in this instance, I’m afraid that it it it is too savoury to serve this dish on. I personally serve mine on white rice as pictured below, but that option may not work for those on a strict grain-free, Paleo diet. Although I have not tried it, plantain rice might work well with this. If you’re not concerned with FODMAPs, cauliflower rice may also be a great, grain-free, Paleo option.
- 1 lb chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), chopped into 1" cubes
- 3 tbsp tapioca flour
- 2 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
- 3 tbsp cassava flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- If making in the Air Fryer + Instant Pot: Paleo compliant cooking spray - coconut oil (preferably), avocado or olive oil
- If making in the Instant Pot only: 2 tbsp coconut oil (not a spray)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1" squares
- 1 14 oz can pineapple pieces, with juice
- ½ cup scallions, green tops only, chopped
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tsp tapoica flour
- 2 tsp cold water
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish (optional)
- 2 tbsp scallions, green tops only, chopped, for garnish (optional)
- Get all ingredients chopped and ready to go before starting to cook.
- Preheat air fryer to 400° F for 10 minutes.
- While the air fryer is preheating, place chicken in a large bowl. Add tapioca flour and toss chicken with your hands to coat. Add the garlic-infused olive oil and toss again to coat. In another large bowl, add cassava flour, sea salt and ground black pepper and whisk to combine. Dredge chicken pieces in cassava flour mixture a few at a time, shake off the excess flour, and place on a large plate.
- Once the air fryer has finished preheating, spray air fryer pan with cooking spray. Using tongs, add half of the chicken pieces to the air fryer pan, leaving a little space between each piece as best you can. Air fry for 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Using a fresh set of tongs, place cooked chicken pieces on a fresh plate. Repeat these steps for the other half of the chicken.
- While the chicken is cooking, add sauce ingredients, maple syrup through red pepper flakes, to the Instant Pot and whisk to combine. Add red bell pepper and can of pineapple pieces and juice, and stir to coat in the sauce.
- Close the Instant Pot lid and set pressure release valve to "Sealing." At the point that you flip the first batch of chicken pieces in the air fryer, hit the "Pressure Cook" or "Manual" button on the Instant Pot and set the cooking time to 1 minute.
- Once the Instant Pot cooking cycle completes, hit "Cancel" on the Instant Pot, quick release the pressure, open the lid, and allow the steam to dissipate for a minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove red pepper and pineapple from the pot to a large bowl, leaving the liquid behind.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2 tsp tapioca flour with 2 tsp cold water. Hit the "Saute" button on the Instant Pot and wait a few seconds for the liquid to start boiling. While slowly whisking the liquid, add the tapioca mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Hit "Cancel" on the Instant Pot, and using hot pads, remove inner pot from the Instant Pot and place on a hot pad.
- Once the chicken pieces are finished cooking and resting on a plate, check the temperature of the thickest piece using an instant read thermometer. Chicken must be at least 165° F to be safely consumed. If the chicken pieces are the proper temperature, add them to the bowl containing the red pepper and pineapple. Cover with sauce and stir to coat. Allow to sit uncovered for 5 minutes.
- Add scallions and stir to combine. Garnish with more scallions and toasted sesame seeds (if using) and serve on its own or with a starch component, such as plantain rice (Paleo and low FODMAP), cauliflower rice (Paleo but not low FODMAP) or white rice (low FODMAP and gluten-free but not Paleo).
- INSTANT POT ONLY INSTRUCTIONS: Follow the same steps for #1 and #3 above. Once the chicken pieces are all breaded, hit the "Saute" button on the Instant Pot and add 2 tbsp coconut oil. Once the display on the Instant Pot reads "Hot," using tongs, add half the chicken pieces to the pot and sear for 1 minute per side. Remove to a plate and repeat for the remaining chicken pieces.
- Hit "Cancel" on the Instant Pot and add the can of pineapple with juice to deglaze the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot clean with a plastic spoon. Add sauce ingredients maple syrup through red pepper flakes and stir. Add the red pepper and the chicken pieces and stir to coat in the sauce. Using a spatula, scrape any juices left by the chicken on the plate (leave no flavour behind!!!). Close Instant Pot lid, set the pressure release valve to "Sealing," press the "Pressure Cook" or "Manual" button, and set timer for 1 minute. Turn off "Keep Warm" function.
- Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure and remove lid from Instant Pot. Check the temperature of the thickest piece of chicken using an instant read thermometer. Chicken must be at least 165° F to be safely consumed. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken, red pepper and pineapple to a bowl so that only liquid remains in the Instant Pot. Complete step #8 above to thicken the sauce.
- Once the sauce has been thickened, pour on chicken and produce and stir to coat. Complete step #10 above, and enjoy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 419