Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄

Classic Taiwanese Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄: tender chicken in fragrant, savory-spiced, slightly sweet secret sauce.

Have a taste of Taiwan with this Classic Signature Comfort Food – Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄! One bite after another, you’ll be captivated by the tender chicken soaked in this fragrant, savory-spiced & slightly sweet secret sauce!!

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Taiwan will always hold a special place in our hearts.

It was where we had our first real vacation together (besides our honeymoon)! 😀

Taiwan - Taipei Liberty Square (Freedom Square)
Liberty Square (aka Freedom Square) 自由廣場 in Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is often known for bustling night markets filled with countless cheap street food & shopping. Definitely a battleground to challenge yourself with some haggle fun. 😛

Taiwanese Street Food Recipe: Taiwanese Pressure Cooker Corn on the Cob (台式烤玉米)

Or breathtaking scenes in famous destinations like Alishan 阿里山, Kenting National Park 墾丁國家公園 , or Sun Moon Lake 日月潭.

But, what captured my heart were the beauties in the Taiwan Old Streets 台灣老街.

Taiwan - Taipei Jiufen Old Street
JiuFen Old Street (九份老街) – one of our favorite places!

There are hundreds of Old Streets scattered around the country. Each with their unique culture, buildings, and stories.

Every time we stroll down an Old Street, I would be mesmerized.

It felt like each brick had a story to tell.

The red brick walls, the rigged cobblestone pavements, rusted fences, luring smell of classic street food…

It seemed like the time has frozen or perhaps we pulled a Marty McFly and traveled through time?

Old fashion kitchen and stove in Taiwan
A historic kitchen we saw in a nostalgia shop in JiuFen Old Street.

And of course, how can we miss having a nostalgic taste without FOOD?! 😉

Three Cup Chicken is one of the classic Taiwanese favorites! From homes to restaurants, this simple yet flavorful dish has won many hearts & tummies, young & old.

So, what’s the secret? Why the funky name 3 Cup Chicken?

It’s simple.

The fragrant sauce is the soul of this signature dish. Deliciously savory, slightly sweet with a wee bit of spice… 

The traditional myth has that the inventor used 1 cup of Sesame Oil, 1 cup of Rice Cooking Wine, and 1 cup of Light Soy Sauce. Hence the name 3 Cup Chicken.

However, be prepared for a heated debate if you raise the question about what’s the best or most authentic way to cook Three Cup Chicken!

Time for some Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)!

Classic Taiwanese Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄: tender chicken in fragrant, savory-spiced, slightly sweet secret sauce.

You’ll Enjoy Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Because:

  • Easy to make weeknight meal
  • Satisfying classic comfort food packed with flavors & fragrance
  • Very appetizing dish that goes very well with rice
  • The Sauce!! Uniquely savory, slightly sweet, with a wee bit of spice

Ingredients for Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken


Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe Ingredients

Optional Thickener:

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water

Tools for Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken


Instructions for Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken


Preparation

Ingredients

8 chicken drumsticks (827g)
32 grams ginger
14 garlic cloves

First, peel & thinly sliced the ginger. Then, peel & crush the garlic cloves.

Optional Step: chop the chicken drumsticks in pieces (as shown in photo below).

Three Cup Chicken Recipe: Chopped chicken legs

Pro Tip: The authentic Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken dish uses chopped chicken drumsticks. But, you can opt out from chopping if you like.

However, the chopped chicken came out more flavorful than the whole chicken drumsticks as we were testing this recipe. This is because the chopped chicken were able to absorb more flavors during the cooking process.

Step 1
Prepare Pressure Cooker

Tool

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

Heat up your pressure cooker over medium heat (Instant Pot: press Sauté button).

Instant Pot Saute

Make sure your pot is as hot as it can be (Instant Pot: wait until indicator says HOT).

Step 2
Sauté Ginger and Garlic

Ingredients

1/4 cup (63ml) sesame oil
32 grams ginger, peeled & thinly sliced
14 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed

Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe: Saute garlic and ginger

Add ¼ cup (63ml) sesame oil, 32g sliced ginger, and 14 garlic cloves in the pressure cooker. Sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Step 3
Sauté Chicken Drumsticks

Ingredients

8 chicken drumsticks (827g), chopped (or whole)
1/4 cup (63ml) Chinese rice wine or Shaoxing wine

Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe: Saute chicken drumsticks

Add in the chicken drumsticks. Then, sauté for 3 minutes.

Pour in ¼ cup (63ml) rice cooking wine and let it boil for a minute to evaporate some of the alcohol content.

Step 4
Pressure Cook Chicken

Ingredient

1/4 cup (63ml) light soy sauce (not low sodium soy sauce)
3 dried Chinese red chili
15 grams (1 tbsp) rock sugar (raw cane sugar) 黃冰糖

Add ¼ cup (63ml) light soy sauce, 3 dried Chinese red chili, and 15g (1 tbsp) rock sugar.

Close the lid and pressure cook at

  • For Chopped Chicken Drumsticks: High Pressure for 5 minutes + 10 minutes Natural Release or
  • For Whole Chicken Drumsticks: High Pressure for 8 minutes + 10 minutes Natural Release

Open the lid carefully.

Step 5
Thicken Sauce

Ingredients & Tool

½ tablespoon (7.5ml) dark soy sauce
chicken pieces
Optional: 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water

Large serving bowl

Place chicken pieces in a large serving bowl.

Heat up your pressure cooker (Instant Pot: press Sauté button), and bring the sauce back to a boil.

Add in roughly 1/2 tbsp (7.5ml) dark soy sauce to give it some color and sweeten it a little.

Optional: Mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water, and stir the mixture into the sauce one third at a time until desired thickness.

Step 6
Taste & Adjust Seasoning

Ingredient

10 – 16 fresh Thai basil leaves

Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with more light soy sauce if necessary.

Pro Tip: be sure to taste & adjust the dish because different bottles of soy sauces have varying levels of saltiness (even from the same brand).

Stir in 10 – 16 fresh Thai basil leaves.

Step 7
Serve Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken


Pour the sauce into the large serving bowl with chicken. Mix well.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dish (it goes very well with white rice).

Classic Taiwanese Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄: tender chicken in fragrant, savory-spiced, slightly sweet secret sauce.

Watch: How To Make Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe

Can’t see the cooking video? Watch it here.

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5.0 from 12 reviews
Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄
 
Prep
Cook
Total
 
Have a taste of Taiwan with this Classic Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄 in a fragrant, savory-spiced & slightly sweet secret sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Easy
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Serving: 2 - 4
Ingredients
Optional Thickener:
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water
Instructions
  1. Prepare Pressure Cooker: Heat up your pressure cooker over medium heat (Instant Pot: press Sauté button). Make sure your pot is as hot as it can be (Instant Pot: wait until indicator says HOT).
  2. Sauté Ginger and Garlic: Add ¼ cup (63ml) sesame oil, 32g sliced ginger, and 14 garlic cloves in the pressure cooker. Sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Sauté Chicken Drumsticks: Add in the chopped or whole chicken drumsticks. Then, sauté for 3 minutes. Pour in ¼ cup (63ml) rice cooking wine and let it boil for a minute to evaporate some of the alcohol content.
  4. Pressure Cook Chicken: Add ¼ cup (63ml) light soy sauce, 3 dried Chinese red chili, and 15g (1 tbsp) rock sugar. Close the lid and pressure cook at
    For Chopped Chicken Drumsticks: High Pressure for 5 minutes + 10 minutes Natural Release or
    For Whole Chicken Drumsticks: High Pressure for 8 minutes + 10 minutes Natural Release.
    Open the lid carefully.
  5. Thicken Sauce: Place chicken pieces in a large serving bowl. Heat up your pressure cooker (Instant Pot: press Sauté button), and bring the sauce back to a boil. Add in roughly ½ tbsp (7.5ml) dark soy sauce to give it some color and sweeten it a little.

    Optional: Mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water and stir the mixture into the sauce one third at a time until desired thickness.
  6. Taste & Adjust Seasoning: Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with more light soy sauce if necessary. Stir in 10 – 16 fresh Thai basil leaves.
  7. Serve: Pour the sauce into the large serving bowl with chicken. Mix well. Serve immediately with your favorite side dish.

Looking for more Instant Pot Chinese Recipes?

Classic Taiwanese Instant Pot Three Cup Chicken Recipe (San Bei Ji) 三杯鷄: tender chicken in fragrant, savory-spiced, slightly sweet secret sauce.
Food Lovers in our 30s who worked directly with Instant Pot CEO, Manufacturers, and 35+ Restaurants. Culinary Families & Food Magazine Publishers.
  1. This was so delicious that I just ate all 8 legs in one sitting.
    Another fantastic recipe on my go to site.
    Since I found your webpage, I’ve hardly bought a takeaway. They’re so disappointed compared to your recipes.
    Thank you for all your efforts.

  2. I’m new to using an Instant Pot and this was only the 3rd recipe I’ve tried on it. I AM HOOKED! This is so delicious, Amy + Jacky! My kind of comfort food, and my family really enjoyed it as well. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Tomorrow making Umami Instant Pot Pot Roast 🙂

    1. Hi QueenRulez,

      Late Reply! (We were on a trip to Asia) Thank you so much for your kind words on the recipe 🙂

      Have fun cooking & please take care
      Jacky

  3. Thank you for the great recipes. Can I use whole chicken cut up in pieces? How long to cook for? No Chinese chili, can I use pepper flake?

    1. Hi Mimba,

      Hope you had a wonderful New Year 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words & question. As long as they are cut up to similar sizes in picture, the cooking time will be the same.

      Pepper flakes can be used, please be caution as it should be more spicy than Chinese chili.

      Happy New Year & please take care
      Jacky

  4. I made the this with chicken drumsticks a few days ago and it was amazingly tasty and I’m craving it again. What would the cooking time be with 6 pcs of frozen thighs?

    1. Hi Isabelle,

      Hope you had a wonderful New Year & Christmas 🙂
      Thank you so much for your kind words on the recipe!

      Frozen thighs will take roughly 8 minutes and 12 minutes natural release.

      Happy New Year & please take care
      Jacky

  5. I made this dish and it was so delicious. I want to give you a big huge thank you for the work that you do. Keep up the good work on teaching and inspiring us in our kitchen. I look at your website everyday to find something to make and it’s all so yummy. I’m ABC and a stay at home mom with 2 little kids and also doesn’t know how to cook. My husband has been very impressed with all the dishes I served. Even my mother in law was impressed since she stops by constantly to check if I am cooking a proper Chinese meal. Big hugs and thank you!

    1. Hi Lyndi,

      So happy to hear from you! Hope you had a wonderful New Year & Christmas 🙂
      Thank you so much for your kind words and support!

      Happy New Year & please take care
      Jacky

    1. Hi Miriam,

      thank you for your kind words and question 🙂

      If they are not chopped, it will be 5 minutes and 10 minutes natural release.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  6. I saw this 3 Cup Chicken recipe and decided to try it. While finding all the ingredients was challenging at the time (I’ve since found just where to purchase everything) I was determined to make it. I am so glad I did as it was delicious. I’ve made it a few times and look forward to making it many more times going forward. I only increase the Chinese Pepper an additional one or two otherwise I follow the recipe exactly. Very good, very delicious!

  7. Hi guys!

    My mom’s side is Taiwanese and we tried this tonight. While it was yummy, my parents said it was severely lacking in basil. Would you please confirm that it is only 10-16 LEAVES rather than sprigs or a specific weight?

    Also, is there a conversion for the ginger? We don’t have a scale…

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Elsie,

      thank you for your feedback and questions 🙂

      I am thinking the chicken you used had more moisture in them and it diluted the flavor of the basil. Feel free to adjust and add in more for personal preference.

      As for the ginger, it is about 2 tablespoons.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  8. I tried this recipe tonight and it was delicious. The only change I made was adding goji berries after pressure cooking for a few minutes.

  9. Hi,
    Wondering if it’s possible to use frozen cut up chicken drumsticks and if so, how long would you cook it for? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for your question 🙂

      Depending on the thickness, I would recommend 6 – 7 minutes and natural release.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  10. I plan to make 3 cup chicken and serve with white rice. What else could be good with this meal?
    Thank you.
    Lynn

  11. I’ve never had this dish before, but it has so many of my favorite flavors (Garlic, Ginger, Soy Sauce, Rice Wine, Basil, and some Hot Peppers) that I just know it’s going to be delicious. My question is whether you just use the Ginger, Garlic, and Hot Peppers for flavor during the cooking process, or is the dish intended to have chunks of Garlic and Ginger in the sauce (to be eaten along with the meat)? Also, I plan to chop up boneless skinless chicken breast. I think I saw your recommendation of 3 minutes cooking time, but wanted to confirm it is at HIGH pressure and that you estimate 7-8 minutes for the steam to naturally release, correct? I can’t wait to give this a try!

    1. Hi Nick,

      thank you so much for your kind words and question 🙂

      This Taiwanese dish is intended to have chunks of Garlic and ginger in the sauce, but most people would just pick out the chicken with chopsticks and skip the garlic & ginger.

      The cooking time will be 3 minutes at high Pressure. I would release the pressure after 7 minutes as white meat can overcook easily.

      Take care!!
      Jacky

  12. In this recipe, it calls for 32 grams of ginger. Am I correct to say that this is 5/8 of a cup? Thank you and looking forward to your response. 🙂

  13. Such an awesome dish and so easy to make! This is now a staple dish at our dinner table. Thanks Amy and Jacky for another excellent recipe!

    1. Hi Tanya!!

      So happy to hear from you. Hope you are enjoying the nice summer weather 🙂

      Thank you so much once again for your kind words!!

      take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  14. I usually don’t comment but this recipe was so good that I had to drop by and say thank you for the recipe!!

    It’s so easy to make and tastes so good too. For more of a kick, I add a few more chili peppers in there and more basil leaves.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Victoria,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      For the Instant Pot, it will not matter as the Keep warm function will not kick in well after the IP has natural released.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  15. Thanks for your great recipe!

    If I want to add potatoes, how should I do that to avoid having the potatoes dissolve into the sauce? Same question if I want to add some vegetables such as baby bok choy.

    Any advice? Thanks.

    1. Hi Scott,

      Thank you for your question and kind words 🙂

      For chopped chicken legs, you can use quartered potatoes.

      For whole chicken legs, use halved potatoes.

      As for baby bok choy, you will probably want to cook them on saute mode after pressure cooking.

      Take care & have fun cooking!
      Jacky

  16. Just stumbled across your guys’ website and I am hooked! I’ve tried your congee with pork and preserved egg, as well as this recipe today. So far everything has been delicious! I’ve also subscribed to your YouTube channel. Keep it up guys, thank you!!

  17. If I wanted to double the recipe and use 16 chicken legs, would you recommend doubling everything else in the recipe as well? And would the cooking time need to change? Thanks!

    1. Hi Connie,

      Thank you for your question 🙂

      Doubling everything will work. I would reduce the cooking time to 6 minutes and 10 minutes natural release due to the increased get up to pressure time.

      Happy New Year to you and your family
      Jacky

  18. We love this dish in the restaurant but this is the first time I’ve made it at home. So glad you posted this recipe for the pressure cooker/ Instant Pot. It is easy and everyone loved it! We used the sauce to make companion dish by cooking sliced tofu in it on the Instant Pot slow cooker setting for an hour. Yum!

  19. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup liquid in all. I don’t have an instapot but rather a different brand of electric pressure cooker, and 1/2 cup would not reach the minimum requiement. Is instapot different?
    Thanks for your great recipes.

    1. Hi Iris,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      Most electric pressure cookers are quite similar.
      The official minimum requirement for Instant Pot is 1 1/2 cup, but it will get up to pressure fine with this recipe.

      Take care & have a great week
      Jacky

  20. Is this recipe appropriate for young children, in terms of sodium content as well as the alcohol? It is so delicious and I just want to make sure it is alright to serve to my little ones, as they love it too! Thank you!

    1. hi G,

      thank you for your kind words and question 🙂

      The alcohol left in this recipe will be super minimal. As for the sodium content, as long as not too much sauce is served with rice, it will be fine.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  21. Thank you for all your great recipes! I just bought an instant pot so still new to everything but anxious to try b/c it looks so easy.

    Question: you suggest 10 minutes of natural release…so after 10 minutes, I turn off the instant pot and immediately remove the lid? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Congrats on your new Instant Pot and thank you for your kind words 🙂

      After the Instant Pot has finished cooking, wait 10 minutes then turn the venting knob from the sealing position to venting position to release the remaining pressure 🙂

      After the floating valve has dropped, remove the lid. If you want to keep the food warm, you can keep the Instant Pot at keep warm mode.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  22. Any tips on how to chop the chicken legs? I tried to chop it was very difficult to get through the bone. I’ve seen my mom do it and she just wacks (I should have learned more from her before I moved away). I feel like there’s some kind of trick….

    1. Hi Nampung,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      You will need a Heavy-Duty Cleaver to chop through the bones.

      You can chop thru the chicken legs with one smooth chopping motion with a heavy cleaver.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

    1. Hi Cindy,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      Thai chili is a lot more spicy than Chinese Chili. If you are substituting with Thai chili, you will only have to use 1 – 2 chilies.

      We haven’t done a side by side taste test with Shao xing wine so I don’t have a favorite brand yet.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

    1. Hi Susan,

      thank you for your kind words and question 🙂

      Whole chicken breast will take 5 minutes at High Pressure + 7 – 8 minutes Natural Release.

      If you are cutting them up, it will take about 3 minutes + Natural release.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  23. Hi Amy and Jacky,
    Would the dried red chili make the dish spicy? What would be a good substitute? My daughter is 5 and won’t tolerate anything spicy 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi Carol,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      The dried red chili will give a hint of spiciness to the dish and can be omitted. On a scale, I would say 0.5/10.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

    1. Hi Diana,

      thank you for your question 🙂

      You can find rice cooking wine in any local Chinese Market. It is transparent in color.

      If you can’t find it, you can substitute with sherry wine.

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  24. Hi Amy +Jack,

    I followed this recipe and the dish was so easy and tasted delicious. Thank you for sharing it.

    Recently I heard about the benefits of eating ginseng. Could you post some recipes using ginseng?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      thank you so much for your review on the recipe 🙂

      Thank you for your suggestions. We have added ginseng to our long to-make list!

      Take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  25. I have just made this and OMG it’s so nice. Didn’t have a clue what Chinese chillies were so used normal red but still it was yummy. I made it in a pressure king pro and even though there was a lot to do I still only used one pot

    1. Hi Jennie,

      thank you for your kind words and review on the recipe 🙂
      Chinese chilies can be found in Asian supermarkets!

      take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

  26. Amazing! It is easy to prepare and taste fabulous; as a Taiwanese myself this is very true to my roots and I would recommend to anyone 🙂

    1. Hi Sophie,

      thank you for your question 🙂
      yes, you can use boneless/skinless chicken thighs

      Use 6 minutes at High Pressure + natural release!

      take care & have fun cooking
      Jacky

    1. Hi Blissbar,

      thank you for your question.

      Yes you can! For whole chicken thighs with bones, use 7 minutes + natural release.

      For chopped up chicken thighs, you can use the same cooking time as the chopped chicken drumsticks.

      Take care & have fun cooking!
      Jacky

  27. I’m excited to try this recipe tonight! I don’t have rock sugar though, is regular cane sugar or brown sugar ok as substitute? Should I use the same amount? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenn,

      thank you for your question.

      Regular cane sugar or brown sugar in piece will work the best as substitutions. Brown sugar or white sugar are also “okay”. The amount will be the same 🙂

      Take care and have fun cooking
      Jacky

  28. Love this recipe. I’m going to give it a try this weekend. If I want to make it for 6 people, should I double it? If so, do I need to double everything – even the garlic, ginger etc? Thanks for continuing coming up with great Instant Pot recipes.

    1. Hi Winnie,

      thank you for your question.

      You can probably just double the amount of chicken without doubling the rest of the recipe!

      You may have to reduce the sauce longer and balance it with more sesame oil and soy sauce in the end as there will be more juice from the chicken drumsticks.

      Take care and have fun cooking 🙂
      Jacky

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