Intstant Pot Kung Pao Chickpeas are a tasty vegetarian meal inspired by your favorite Asian takeout. Saucy chickpeas and fluffy rice cook at the same time for a quick and easy meal!
Sometimes, you just want a quick and easy meal that feeds everybody, tastes good, and doesn’t cost a fortune. Instant Pot Kung Pao chickpeas with rice is one of those meals!
Something you should know about me: I actually love meat. I adore a tender pot roast, a roasted chicken, a hearty meatloaf, a juicy burger, and a good steak.
But sometimes, I’m in the mood for lighter fare. Sometimes, I use meat more as a part of a meal (such as chicken in a soup or ground beef in a casserole) instead of as the main attraction of the meal. And then there are other times when we include meatless meals in our weekly meal plan.
So with these kung pao chickpeas, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t even miss the meat! This is a quick and easy meal that won’t disappoint!
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Why I Love Instant Pot Kung Pao Chickpeas
First of all, this recipe is super easy. The chickpeas and sauce cook in the bottom of the Instant Pot’s insert pot, and the rice cooks in a pan above them. So everything cooks at the same time!
Don’t think for a minute that the pot-in-pot method is complicated. It is truly SO simple. In fact, having a couple of well-chosen accessories for pot-in-pot cooking can really expand your Instant Pot’s capabilities!
I also appreciate that this is a frugal meal. Chickpeas are so inexpensive, yet a great source of fiber and protein. So you can feed your family a tasty meal for next to nothing.
Check out this list of more cheap and easy Instant Pot recipes for dinner!
What is Kung Pao Sauce?
If you aren’t familiar with it, Kung Pao sauce is typically thought of as a spicy-sweet sauce. There’s a little bit of sour, from vinegar, but not as much as with a sweet and sour sauce.
From what I’ve read, in traditional versions of this sauce, the spice usually comes from frying dried red chili peppers. Ginger, soy sauce, garlic, and sugar bring out even more flavors.
So first and foremost, I need to tell you that this is not going to be an authentic, traditional Kung Pao sauce.
That requires ingredients I don’t have (Sichuan pepper, anyone?) and more time than I’d like to spend.
This is a dump and start meal.
Rather, this is more comparable to the Americanized Kung Pao sauce we might find at our favorite takeout joint.
How to Make These Kung Pao Chickpeas in the Instant Pot
You’ll start by adding some canned chickpeas, red onion, bell pepper, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, ground ginger, minced garlic, sweet chili sauce, and water to the insert pot of your Instant Pot. Give everything a good stir, then place the trivet on top of that mixture.
In a separate pan or dish (I used this pan), add rice and water.
Lower that pan into the insert pot, placing it on top of the trivet.
Lock the lid into place and select a cook time of 4 minutes at high pressure. Once the cook time is complete, allow a 10 minute natural release, followed by a quick release of any remaining pressure.
Carefully remove the lid and lift out the pan of rice and trivet.
Add a cornstarch slurry to the chickpeas mixture while it’s still hot, give it a stir and the sauce should thicken pretty quickly. Stir in a bit of toasted sesame oil for a hint of flavor (this step is optional–I’ve made this both ways and I like it both ways–the sesame oil just gives a hint of additional flavor).
Serve the chickpeas over the rice and garnish with some sliced green onions.
Notes and Adaptations for Instant Pot Kung Pao Chickpeas
- This sauce is not very spicy. I’m a wimp when it comes to spice, so I prefer things a bit on the milder side. That being said, feel free to up the spice factor by adding crushed red pepper flakes to your desired level of spiciness. You could also increase the amount of sweet chili sauce.
- The toasted sesame oil at the end is optional. I’ve made this both with and without the oil, and I like it both ways. It’s not a “make it or break it” ingredient. If you already have toasted sesame oil on hand, go ahead and add it. If you don’t have it, skip it.
- I had to fold down the handles of my trivet in order for my pan of rice to slide on top of it. This wasn’t a problem, as I was able to easily lower and lift the pan by using the hole in the center, but you may prefer to use a foil sling for your pan.
More Meatless Instant Pot Recipes You’ll Love:
- Instant Pot Potato Corn Chowder
- Broccoli Soup in the Instant Pot
- Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili in the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Tomato Basil Soup
- For the Chickpeas:
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tbs brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp sweet chili sauce
- Optional: crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 Tbs cornstarch + 1 Tbs water
- Optional: 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- Optional: Sliced green onions for garnish
- For the Rice:
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 1/4 cup water
- In the insert pot of an Instant Pot, combine diced onion, chopped bell pepper, chickpeas, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sweet chili sauce, red pepper flakes (if using), and water. Stir to combine.
- Place the Instant Pot trivet on top of the chickpea mixture. In a separate dish (I used this 6-cup bundt pan), combine rice and water. Place the dish on top of the trivet in the Instant Pot.
- Close the lid and set the vent to the sealed position. Select a 4 minute cook time at high pressure (use the Manual/Pressure Cook button).
- Once the cook time is complete, allow a 10 minute natural release of pressure, followed by a quick release of any remaining pressure.
- Carefully remove the dish of rice and the trivet. Fluff rice with a fork and set aside.
- While the chickpea mixture is still hot, create a slurry of cornstarch and water and stir it into the chickpea mixture to combine. Sauce will thicken very quickly.
- If using toasted sesame oil, stir in at this time.
- Serve chickpeas with rice and garnish with green onions, if desired.
- This sauce is not very spicy. I'm a wimp when it comes to spice, so I prefer things a bit on the milder side. That being said, feel free to increase the spice factor by adding crushed red pepper flakes to your desired level of spiciness. You could also increase the amount of sweet chili sauce.
- The toasted sesame oil at the end is optional. I've made this both with and without the oil, and I like it both ways. It's not a "make it or break it" ingredient. If you already have toasted sesame oil on hand, go ahead and add it. If you don't have it, skip it.
- I had to fold down the handles of my trivet in order for my pan of rice to slide on top of it. This wasn't a problem, as I was able to easily lower and lift the pan by using the hole in the center, but you may prefer to use a foil sling for your pan.
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Adapted from Detoxinista's Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chickpeas
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- Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer
- HapWay Steamer Rack Trivet with Heat Resistant Silicone Handles Compatible with Instant Pot 6 & 8 qt Accessories, Stainless Steel Steaming Rack Trivet Stand for Pressure Cooker
- Nordic Ware 51322RD 51322 6 Cup Bundt Pan 8.4" x 2.9" Size Multicolor
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 329 Total Fat: 5g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 1368mg Carbohydrates: 58g Fiber: 12g Sugar: 15g Protein: 16g