Instant Pot Chicken Tagine
While it’s true that the beauty of Instant Pot is its promise of set-it-and-forget-it freedom, that ease belies the little appliance’s ability to cook up a meal with real complexity. In fact, we were drawn to this recipe because it uses a few different cooking techniques — browning, sautéing, and pressure-cooking — and it’s packed with fresh herbs and spices. It’s the rare dish that cooks in half an hour but has all the rich flavor of a long-simmering stovetop stew.
We start by browning the chicken in the Instant Pot, to save a pan, of course, but also to capture the chicken fat — so we can sauté the aromatics in it. What a heavenly smell! First the onion, ginger, and garlic, and then come all the spices, a Morrocan-inspired blend that runs the gamut, from sweet to smoky. A little tomato paste and chicken stock pulls it all together in a sauce. And once the Medjool dates, chicken, and butternut squash are nestled in there, we cook it with high pressure, so the flavors meld and saturate the meat and veggies.
Spooned over tender pearls of couscous and garnished with yogurt, toasted almonds, and fresh green herbs, this tagine feels like a whole meal and, oh my, does it taste wonderful. It’s a dish that knows exactly who it is, and isn’t afraid to say so — the spices infuse everything with their rich, savory-sweet warmth. And we love how all the soft, chewy textures come together, too.
Yes, Instant Pot chicken tagine is definitely a dish that fits into the “weeknight easy” category, but it’s also the one we’ll keep in our back pocket for special dinners — the ones we need to knock out of the park with cool confidence. (Go ahead and think big, like the first time your partner’s parents come to dinner.)
Tip: If you’re avoiding gluten, this one would be great over rice, too. If you’re super into gluten, that aromatic sauce is delicious mopped up with a buttered slice of whole wheat honey-pepita bread.
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 lb Gelson’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt, to taste
1 large red onion, small diced
1 4” piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about ¼ cup)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Gelson’s cinnamon stick
2 tsp Gelson’s sweet paprika
1 tsp Gelson’s ground turmeric
¾ tsp Gelson’s ground cumin
½ tsp Gelson’s smoked paprika
½ tsp Gelson’s ground ginger
¼ tsp Gelson’s ground cayenne pepper
⅛ tsp ground cloves
Freshly ground Gelson’s black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 ½ cups chicken stock
8 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
2 ½ lb butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1x3” wedges
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
Cooked pearl couscous, for serving
Plain yogurt, for serving
Sliced or slivered almonds, toasted, for serving
In the Instant Pot, warm the grapeseed oil on the sauté setting.
Season both sides of the chicken thighs with kosher salt. Add half the chicken to the pot, and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Add the red onions, season with kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the fresh ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the cinnamon stick, sweet paprika, turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, and cloves. Season generously with black pepper. Stir well.
Add the tomato paste and stir until fully combined, fragrant, and brick red in color, about 30 seconds. Turn the Instant Pot off.
Add the lemon juice and scrape up all of the browned bits that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Note: Don’t skip this step. If you don’t get up all of the browned bits, your Instant Pot may switch to burn mode and turn off.
Stir in the chicken stock. Add the chicken with its juices and the dates, and stir to combine.
Place the butternut squash wedges on top of the chicken and season generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Seal the lid, close the pressure valve, and cook on high for 16 minutes.
Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually before opening the lid.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add the parsley and green onions, and gently fold everything together. Taste and season with additional lemon juice and kosher salt, if necessary.
Serve over pearl couscous and garnish with plain yogurt, toasted almonds, and additional green onions.
Recipe adapted from: The New York Times