An easy, Instant Pot version of a classic French dish, this Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee offers tender and flavourful chicken thighs and hearty vegetables in a rich, luscious sauce. Chicken fricassee is a rustic dish featuring simple ingredients and a great meal for any occasion, even if it is just to satisfy your comfort food cravings. This recipe is also Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP.
What is Chicken Fricassee?
In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child describes a fricassee as “halfway between a saute and a stew.” I tend to agree with Julia – it’s not quite a sauteed dish as the amount of sauce is more abundant, but it also does not have as much liquid that is typically contained within a stew. The Instant Pot is a great cooking apparatus for a fricassee as it both sautes and pressure cooks food in or over liquid.
There are many versions of fricassee that have been developed by other cultures as well as many variations of the traditional French version. It actually reminds me a lot of chicken cacciatore; however, I haven’t found any evidence that the Italians were influenced by the French dish or vice versa. Both are rustic, no-frills type dishes with simple ingredients; chicken fricassee just has a cream based sauce instead of a tomato based sauce.
I first heard of chicken fricassee years ago from one of the best cookbooks ever written, The Joy of Cooking. What piqued my interest was the option to use either chicken or turkey. Not wanting to go through the effort to cook a traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving that year, I was looking for alternative turkey recipes that just used turkey parts and required less effort. I ended up making their turkey fricassee recipe for Thanksgiving that year, and it was a delicious, less labour-intensive alternative to a full-blown traditional turkey dinner. While turkey fricassee tastes nothing like a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings, it gave my husband and I our turkey fix for the year and introduced us to a new, wonderful dish.
Creating an Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee Recipe
I started developing my own Instant Pot version of fricassee with the intention of using turkey parts to create a Paleo, Whole30, low FODMAP alternative turkey dinner recipe for the holidays. These dreams were soon crushed when I could not find turkey parts locally, only whole turkeys. As I was not ambitious enough to ask a butcher to chop up a turkey for me or to chop one up on my own, I decided to test the recipe with chicken until I could locate a turkey part supplier.
If you think that’s just lazy – well, it is. However, going these extra steps for this particular recipe would defeat the whole purpose for creating a alternative to traditional turkey dinner in the first place, which is to make life easier during the holidays.
If I come across turkey parts locally in the future, I may add instructions for that option to this recipe. I would not recommend just substituting turkey parts for chicken parts and cooking them the exact same way. Turkey parts require more cooking time. Plus, I’m not sure how well turkey parts will fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot. Logistically, it may not even be possible. I may need to acquire a whole new 8-quart Instant Pot to create a turkey version of this recipe. Wouldn’t that be terrible? 😉
Although it isn’t turkey or holiday-specific, chicken is just as yummy in a fricassee. It’s also way easier and probably also cheaper to acquire in parts. I use bone-in chicken thighs for this recipe but have seen recipes that use other parts of the chicken as well.
The equipment I use to make Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee include:
Small bowl or measuring cup (if thickening the sauce)
Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee: Ingredients & Success Tips
As mentioned, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in this recipe, but any parts of the chicken can be used. If you use other parts, simply adjust cooking times accordingly using the Instant Pot Cooking Time Tables as reference. After adding ghee and avocado oil to the pot and waiting until the display reads “Hot,” sear half of the chicken parts, skin side down, until the chicken releases easily from the pot, about 5-6 minutes. You don’t want to jump the gun on flipping the chicken as the skin will tear, making it look like it’s been brutally massacred. Sear the other side for 2 minutes and then remove the chicken to a plate. Repeat the same steps with the remaining chicken parts.
If you’d like to speed this process up, you can sear all of the chicken at the same time in a large skillet on medium-high heat on the stove. This creates more dishes and requires more appliances but cuts the saute time down by about 7 minutes.
Depending on how fast of a chopper you are, you could potentially chop all of the veggies – leek, king oyster mushrooms, and carrots – while the chicken is searing, which takes about 14 minutes if doing it all in the Instant Pot. As I am not a particularly fast chopper, I typically chop the leek before starting to cook. I then chop the mushrooms and carrots and get the fresh thyme ready to go while the chicken is searing. After searing all the chicken, add the chopped veggies and stir fry for 3 minutes.
I only use the dark green parts of the leek as they are low FODMAP in servings of up to 2/3 cup per Monash University’s Low FODMAP Diet App. To prepare the leek, I slice the dark green leaves horizontally, put the pieces in a bowl of water, separate them with my hands, and allow the dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then, I remove them to a paper towel to dry and then finely-chop them. I clean them this way as leeks can be very dirty, although the dark green leaves tend to be less dirty than the white parts.
If you are not concerned with FODMAPs, you can chop up one medium onion and use that instead. Personally, I think the leek tastes better in this recipe.
I prefer to cut my carrots on the bias so they’re relatively the same thickness. Plus, I think they’re more visually appealing this way, giving a mostly monochromatic dish some nice, bright colour. Briefly explained, cutting on the bias means to cut them at a 45 degree angle. To see a more detailed explanation and process photos, check out my Instant Pot Glazed Carrots recipe.
Broth, Herbs & Seasonings
Chicken Bone Broth
After stir frying the veggies, add the broth to deglaze the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a plastic spoon if needed. The veggies typically do a good job cleaning up the bottom of the pot, but I always check anyway.
The herbs and seasonings I add to this recipe are fresh or dried thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. This brings me to the question:
Do bay leaves matter?
This is a question I’ve asked myself repeatedly over my years of cooking. Does throwing 1-3 bay leaves into a pot of whatever make the whatever taste any better? A friend posted this same question to Facebook a few months ago, and I told her I’d get to the bottom of this mystery that has plagued me, and apparently others, for years.
I tested this fricassee recipe with and without dried bay leaf. I’m sorry to report that my results were inconclusive. I believe the one with the bay leaf tasted better, but as I didn’t taste them side-by-side or even within a day of one another, I can’t be 100% sure.
After my inconclusive test, I did some Googling and came across this hilarious article, “The Vast Bay Leaf Conspiracy” by Kelly Conaboy. In the article, Conaboy records interviews with several professional chefs on the subject of whether or not “bay leaves are bullsh*t.” Most of the chefs said they believe they are not bullsh*t; however, dried bay leaves tend to be as they are typically in your spice rack for several years until they get used. The chefs tended to concur that fresh bay leaves were the way to go and were definitely not bullsh*t.
To conduct an easy test, one chef suggested that you heat up two cups of hot water, put bay leaves in one of them, let them steep for awhile, and then taste them both. I tried this test with dried bay leaves (that are not that old). I had to let them steep for 15 minutes before I could taste anything but water. Even then, the taste was incredibly subtle. Letting it steep for 25 minutes delivered a stronger flavour; alas, I imagine this still faint flavour has a hard time competing with all of the other flavours in a dish. The smell of the bay leaves, which I actually love, was stronger than the taste. I’ll have to continue my tests with fresh bay leaves before I can conclusively determine whether or not bay leaves truly matter.
What I can conclude at this point is this: bay leaf tea isn’t half bad. Why isn’t it a thing?
Coconut Cream & Lemon Juice
In this recipe, I call for the cream of coconut milk, not just coconut milk. The coconut cream brings the level of richness that I think this recipe requires, which is that of heavy cream. Whether it reaches it entirely, I’m not sure, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
To separate the cream from coconut milk, put the can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before you make the recipe. By the time you need to open it, the cream will have risen to the top of the can. Scrape it off the top of the milk with a spoon into a measuring cup until you have 1/2 cup. Reserve the rest of the milk for other recipes.
While you can buy canned coconut cream, I am unable to find a quality brand I like locally. Not all coconut milk and cream is created equal, I’m afraid.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, remove the chicken and veggies to a platter or bowl using a slotted spoon. Then, wait a few minutes for the broth to cool. If you add the coconut cream too quickly after you open the lid, the sauce will become very thin.
To balance the richness of the dish, I add 2 tsp of lemon juice. You may want to add more or less depending on how rich you like it. After you’ve added it, taste the sauce to see if it is to your liking. If not, adjust the lemon juice and seasonings as desired. If the sauce tastes too coconutty, add salt and pepper until the coconut flavour dissipates.
To Thicken the Sauce
If you’d like a thicker sauce, after you’ve adjusted your seasonings and lemon juice, mix together 2 tsp cold water with 2 tsp of tapioca starch to make a slurry. Hit “Saute” on the Instant Pot and wait until the broth starts to boil (this should only take 20-30 seconds). While gently stirring the sauce using a whisk, pour in the slurry and stir until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot. Either add the chicken and veggies back to the pot and serve or pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies that you’ve set on a platter or bowl.
Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee: Serving Options
This dish is hearty enough that it can be eaten on its own without serving it with anything else. If you go this route, plan on two chicken thighs per person for a total of four servings.
However, I highly recommend serving the chicken fricassee over some sort of starch element. The sauce makes neutral-tasting starches like potatoes and rice taste absolutely heavenly. To keep this dish Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP, you could serve it over the low FODMAP option of my Instant Pot “Garlic” Mashed Potatoes recipe. In this instance, I imagine having two Instant Pots comes in particularly handy.
If you are eating low FODMAP but don’t mind an occasional gluten-free grain, try serving this fricassee over white rice. This is the option our family usually goes with, and it is SOOOO good. If you don’t care about FODMAPs and would like to keep this recipe Paleo and Whole30-complaint, I suggest serving it over cauliflower rice.
If you serve it over a starch, you may be able to stretch the number of servings to six or even eight. This depends on how hungry your people are and how big of chicken parts you have. My husband and I typically eat two chicken thighs each even when serving this over rice. We can’t help ourselves – it’s so delicious.
An easy, Instant Pot version of a classic French dish, this Instant Pot Chicken Fricassee offers tender and flavourful chicken thighs and hearty vegetables in a rich, luscious sauce. It’s also Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP.
Parsley, freshly-chopped, for garnish (if you’d like it to look extra pretty)
You can chop all of the veggies before starting to cook, or you can chop them while the chicken is searing (14 minutes if doing it in the Instant Pot).
Dry chicken thighs well with paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper.
Press the “Saute” button on the Instant Pot. Add the ghee and avocado oil to the pot. Once the display reads “Hot,” ensure the oil and ghee are fully-covering the bottom of the pot. Using tongs, add half of the thighs, skin side down, and sear for 5 minutes or until the chicken skin releases easily from the pot (do not jump the gun on this or the skin will tear). Flip and sear on the other side for 2 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and follow the same steps for the remaining thighs. If you’re in a hurry, you can sear all 8 thighs at the same time in a large skillet on medium high heat on the stove.
After all the chicken thighs are seared on both sides, add the oyster mushrooms, leek and carrots and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot. Pour in chicken bone broth and scrape the bottom of the pot clean with a plastic spoon if needed.
Add ½ tbsp thyme, 1½ tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and bay leaves (if using them) to the pot and stir.
Lay the chicken in one layer (it will be a tight fit, but you can do it!), skin side up, on top of the veggies and broth. Using a spatula, scrape any juices the chicken left on the plate into the pot (leave no flavour behind!). Close the lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing,” hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button, and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and veggies to a platter. Using an instant read thermometer, check the temperature of the thickest piece of chicken (without touching the bone). Chicken must be at least 165° F (75° C) to be safely consumed.
Add coconut cream and lemon juice to the broth in the Instant Pot and stir. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings and lemon juice as desired. If the sauce is too coconutty, add salt and pepper until the coconut flavour dissipates.
If you would prefer a thicker sauce, whisk 2 tsp tapioca flour (or starch of your choice) with 2 tsp of cold water in a small bowl or measuring cup to make a slurry. Hit “Saute” on the Instant Pot and wait until the broth begins to boil (this should only take a few seconds). While gently whisking the broth constantly, slowly add the slurry to the broth and whisk until the sauce is to your desired thickness. Hit Cancel on the Instant Pot; add chicken and veggies back to the pot and cover with the sauce OR pour the sauce on top of the chicken and veggies in the platter or bowl.
Serve the chicken fricassee on its own or over potatoes like my Instant Pot “Garlic” Mashed Potatoes (Paleo, Whole30, low FODMAP), white rice (low FODMAP), or cauliflower rice (Paleo, Whole30).
*If you are not concerned with FODMAPs, substitute white button mushrooms for the king oyster mushrooms and 1 medium chopped onion for the leek if desired.
**To separate the cream from a can of full-fat coconut milk, stick a can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before you make the recipe. When you’re ready to add it, open the can and skim the thick cream off the top of the can into a measuring cup until you’ve measured out 1/2 cup. You can also buy canned coconut cream, but I have not found a brand that I like locally, so I usually just use a can of full-fat coconut milk and save the rest for other recipes.
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