Pulled Chicken with Tomatoes, Vinegar, and Brown Sugar
Our IP Version of SONNY’S BBQ’S Pulled Chicken with Tomatoes, Vinegar, and Brown Sugar.

Texas and Kansas City barbecue mavens are going to have to sit down. We love the sweet and tangy pulled chicken from this Florida chain.

To make it in the pot, we must use LOW pressure to keep the liquid as minimal as possible; otherwise, the chicken becomes soupy with sauce before it’s ready to be served. Don’t go too far when shredding the chicken: Leave it in somewhat bigger chunks, the way the restaurant does. We actually find cooling the meat and hand-tearing it (with clean hands, of course) yields the best texture.

Sonny’s BBQ also offers a side with each sandwich: potato salad, corn, green beans, or coleslaw, among others. You should consider doing the same, although none are included as part of this main recipe — which produces really flavorful but fairly straightforward pulled chicken. At home, we deviate from the original and add pickle relish as well as pickled jalapeño rings to the sandwiches.
Servings Prep Time
4-6servings 10minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4-6servings 10minutes
Cook Time
  • 1/2cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 small roma or plum tomatoesquartered
  • 6 medium scallionstrimmed and thinly sliced (1½ cups)
  • 2tbsp mild paprika
  • 2tsp onion powder
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp table salt
  • 1/2tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground dried cayenne
  • Five 5- to 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2cup ketchup
  • 2tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 4 to 6 hamburger buns
  1. Stir the broth, vinegar, tomatoes, and scallions in the insert set in a 5- or 6-quart Instant Pot. Set a pressure-and-food-safe rack or trivet in the insert, moving the tomatoes out of the way.
  2. Mix the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, salt, allspice, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl until uniform. Use clean hands to rub this spice mixture all over the chicken breasts. Set them on the rack in as close to one even layer as you can. If they must overlap, make sure thin ends go over thin ends. (And wash your hands carefully with lots of soap because they now have cayenne on them!)
  3. Whisk the ketchup, brown sugar, and honey in a small bowl (maybe even the same bowl the spices were in) until the brown sugar dissolves. Pour and scrape this mixture over the chicken breasts, keeping it on the meat without letting it fall into the liquid below. Lock the lid onto the cooker.
  4. Set the Instant Pot for PRESSURE COOK or MANUAL on LOW pressure. Make sure the valve is closed. Set the time for 25 minutes with the KEEP WARM setting off.
  5. When the pot has finished cooking, turn it off and let the pressure return to normal naturally, about 15 minutes. Unlatch the lid and open the cooker. Transfer the chicken breasts to a nearby cutting board. Remove the rack or trivet from the pot. (Kitchen tongs work best for all of this.)
  6. Press SAUTÉ and set to MEDIUM, NORMAL, OR CUSTOM 300°F for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir the sauce as it comes to a simmer. Cook, stirring quite often, until the sauce has reduced to about a third of its volume from when you opened the pot, about 4 minutes. Turn off the SAUTÉ function.
  8. Use two forks to shred the chicken breasts. Stir this shredded chicken into the sauce in the pot until well combined. Serve warm in hamburger buns.
Recipe Notes

Other Pots

• For a 3-quart Instant Pot, you must halve almost all of the ingredient amounts except you must use ½ cup broth.

• For an 8-quart Instant Pot, you must increase almost all of the ingredient amounts by 50 percent except you must use 1 cup broth.

• For a 10-quart Instant Pot, you must double almost all of the ingredient amounts except you must use 1½ cups broth. (You must then also use a very large pressure and-food-safe rack or trivet.)