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Healthy Crack Chicken {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

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This healthier crack chicken recipe is easily made in your instant pot or slow cooker! Loaded with better for you ingredients, but still packs a ton of flavor. This gluten-free chicken is great in tacos, sandwiches, quesadillas, enchiladas, salads or by itself for a low carb meal.

I love recipes that have multiple uses, make once, use or freeze and eat in a variety of ways!

Love easy chicken recipes? Try this Easy Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya or Copycat Chipotle Chicken, they are on repeat in our home!

blue ceramic bowl filled with shredded crack chicken on a wooden plate with a bowl of salsa, limes, tomatoes and corn tortillas.

What IS Crack Chicken?

According to the all knowing internet (insert tongue in cheek), crack chicken is shredded chicken, cream cheese, bacon and ranch dressing, addictively good. Does it make you cringe hearing that term, yeah, me too, and hopefully you’ll forgive me and trust that this stuff is really, really good!

As per my norm, I am late to the party (again), crack chicken and other recipes like these Peanut Butter Cup Crack Brownies started coming out back in the early 2000’s time frame, oh well, better late than never as “they” say!

I’m not a huge fan of the famous package of ranch dressing mix, you know the one, but that ingredient list, yes, I have used it; but I love to find ways to replace it if I can, which is what I did here. Just look at these beautiful, fresh ingredients.

ingredient shot for crack chicken with neufchatel cheese on white plate with a lime, grater with shredded pepper jack cheese, 4 chicken breasts, a bowl of salsa, black beans in white bowl, and onion powder, chili powder, salt, cumin and garlic powder in small white bowls with a mini measuring cup with lime juice.

Instant Pot Crack Chicken AKA Creamy Salsa Chicken

I started making this chicken for my ravenous teen boys, I needed something they loved, was easy and filling and was mom and kid approved.

I think you’ll like it; it’s lightened it up, the long unpronounceable ingredient list of dressing mix is removed, but it still has tons of flavor. Oh and it’s ready in about 45-60 minutes in the Instant Pot.

Why Is It So Good!?

  1. Super tender chicken with rich, aromatic spices, lime juice and salsa, finished with cream cheese and pepper jack cheese.
  2. It takes minutes to throw together.
  3. Throw it in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a delicious meal, this is my favorite crock pot
  4. Or make it last minute, even with frozen chicken in your instant pot <–this is the one I use.
  5. Make on Sunday and eat all week – great for meal planning!
  6. It’s healthier and has whole food ingredients you can pronounce!

7 Different ways to eat Crack Chicken

  1. Delicious as taco meat, fresh, and bright. Chop tomatoes, avocados, add a little cheese and it’s dinner!
  2. Add to your favorite enchiladas (try in these!)
  3. Make a Mexican salad with crack chicken, greens, maybe some charred corn, avocado and bacon, the sauce is it’s own dressing.
  4. Serve between brioche or hamburger bun, if you want to stay true to the original recipe top with some crisp bacon pieces and a little extra cheese.
  5. Keep it low carb (keto) and eat it by itself (omit beans), would be delicious in a roasted or fresh tomato or scooped out zucchini boat and baked or barbecued.
  6. It’s naturally gluten-free!
  7. Serve as a warm dip with corn chips or tortilla chips, celery, cucumbers and a side of ranch dressing. Try this homemade ranch by my friend Julia at Julia’s Simply Southern!!
  8. Make tortilla roll-ups or a quesadilla.
man's hand holding three hard shell corn tortilla crack chicken tacos with salsa in background.

Recipe adapted from Tidbits.

Crock Pot vs. Instant Pot

I love it both ways, depends on my schedule for the day!

  • Crock Pot or Slow Cooker | Dump in everything except the pepper jack cheese, give it a little stir, cover and cook on high 3 hours or low 5-6 hours; if cooking all day; I will sometimes put my chicken in frozen or partially frozen. Which is a chicken safety no-no — but I’m a risk taker that way!
  • Instant Pot | Place chicken in single layer (cutting breasts in half lengthwise will yield more even and tender chicken) all except cheeses, stir if you like, set pressure for 20 minutes, with natural release.
platter of salsa chicken tacos with fresh avocado, lime, tomatoes and a little shredded cheddar cheese on a white oblong plate.


Contrary to what you may have heard, you do not need to cook frozen chicken breasts longer in a pressure cooker. It will do the math for you in that it will take longer for the pressure to build with frozen vs. fresh chicken, thereby cooking it through. This is a great article on this topic.

Can I freeze Crack Chicken?

Yep, yep, yep! I have been known to make a double batch in my crock pot (unless you have an 8 qt Instant Pot it’s a little too much) have for dinner, freeze the other half for another dinner.

Allow to cool completely before freezing in an airtight baggie or container. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave and enjoy!

MAKE INTO A FREEZER MEAL | Place a freezer baggie inside your cold pressure cooker insert, layer chicken in one layer on bottom of baggie and add salsa, lime juice, and all of the spices. Seal and freeze in INSTANT POT until solid, then remove and store in freezer up to 3 months. See recipe for cooking instructions.

Close up of tacos with crack chicken, fresh avocado, tomatoes and shredded cheese.
  • My favorite slow cooker — cause it goes from stovetop to slow cooker so you can brown meats right in the crock!
  • Or if you haven’t yet bought an Instant Pot, this is the one I use, it’s perfect for our family of 4 with two hungry teenagers!
  • A good knife, wooden spoon and cutting board.
  • These are my favorite measuring spoons, the narrow ends easily fit into spice jars and they nest together and are magnetic too!
  • If you want to get cute and do some meal prep, these prep pots are perfect and pretty! (how’s that for an alliteration!)

Sides for Crack Chicken

Bowl of healthy crack chicken made in the Instant Pot with tortillas and salsa in background.


Like this recipe?
Don’t forget to give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating and comment below the recipe!

Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

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  1. I first read the freezing portion and thought my instant pot had freezing option that I didn’t know about. Now I get it, you freeze the entire bag and instant pot container, duh!

  2. Kathleen

    I love instant pot recipes especially during the hot days. Chicken is so easy and versatile to cook in instant pots and your recipe sounds a treat. Thanks for yet an amazing chicken recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    This chicken recipe was so good that I was eating it right out of the instant pot! We loved how easy it is and served some in a taco and the rest of it over rice. Delish!

  4. 5 stars
    This is a snap to make in an Instant Pot and very tasty. I served served the chicken in sliders. Next time it will be tacos.

  5. My favorite chicken is Southern Fried Chicken. It brings back beautiful memories of my Mother and Grandmother.

    Besides you can eat Fried Chicken hot or cold and it is easy to grab and go!

    1. Hi Shirley — those are beautiful memories and yes, the great thing with Fried Chicken is eating it hot or cold! Thank you for sharing and entering the giveaway! Have a great weekend! Good Luck! Kathleen

  6. I love chicken and am always looking for new recipes. I can’t wait to try this. Thanks for posting! And you are entered in the cookbook giveaway!