Instant Pot Chicken Drumsticks In Italian Sauce

Rich in Italian tomato sauce with herbs and garlic and meat falling off the bone, these Instant Pot chicken drumsticks are great for the whole family. Serve them with pasta, rice or veggies. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo and Whole30-friendly. 

Bathed in a tasty garlic and thyme tomato sauce and with meat falling off the bone, these Italian chicken drumsticks make are a fabulous family meal. Making this dish in an Instant Pot pressure cooker means you can have it done and dusted in no time. It’s healthy and budget-friendly, too.



You can use chicken drumsticks or/and wings or chicken thighs in this recipe. Diced chicken breast or turkey meat is also lovely in this dish. This Italian garlic and thyme sauce is really versatile and would work superbly well as a base for a beef or lamb stew as well. And for a vegetarian version, you can use the sauce with beans or lentils and mushrooms.

Instant pot drumsticks with tomato sauce - ingredients

You might notice that I am not using any additional stock or liquid except for 2/3 cup of tinned tomatoes. For the amount of the ingredients in this recipe, that was perfect. If you use more chicken, you may need to add a little more stock or tomatoes to the mix.

How to make saucy Instant Pot Chicken Drumsticks


Once cooked, you can serve the drumsticks over rice, pasta, potatoes or vegetables together with the gorgeous, rich sauce poured over the top. I like to peel the meat off the bones and mix it through the sauce.

Instant Pot Chicken Drumsticks In Italian Sauce With Garlic & Thyme



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Instant Pot Chicken Drumsticks In Italian Sauce

  • Author: Irena Macri
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Italian


Bathed in tasty garlic and thyme tomato sauce and with meat falling off the bone, these Italian chicken drumsticks make are a fabulous family meal. Making this dish in an Instant Pot pressure cooker means you can have it done and dusted in no time. It’s healthy and budget friendly, too.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 red onions, peeled, halved and cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 chicken drumsticks (skin on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder or flakes (optional)
  • Handful of thyme sprigs or dried thyme leaves (about 1.5-2 tablespoons of leaves)
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2/3 cup diced tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet balsamic vinegar (see notes)


  1. Press the Sauté key on the Instant Pot (it should say Normal, 30 mins). Add the oil and once hot, add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, until lightly golden.
  2. Add the chicken drumsticks and sprinkle with the rest of the salt, pepper and chilli, then add the thyme, lemon zest and whole garlic cloves. Follow with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Spread ingredients evenly between the chicken drumsticks. Cancel the Sauté function by pressing Keep Warm/Cancel button.
  3. Place and lock the lid, make sure the steam releasing handle is pointing to Sealing. Press Poultry (High Pressure, 15 minutes). After 3 beeps the pressure cooker will start going.
  4. Once the timer goes off, allow the pressure to release for 2-3 minutes and then use the quick release method before opening the lid.
  5. Serve the chicken and the sauce over rice, pasta or potatoes or with a side of vegetables. I like to peel the meat off the bone and mix it in with the broth it cooked in.


  • Serving Size: 2 drumsticks
  • Calories: 546
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Sodium: 911.7 mg
  • Fat: 28.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 20.1 g
  • Fiber: 3.8 g
  • Protein: 51.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 244.7 mg


Instant Po Drumsticks In Italian Sauce

By Instant Pot Eats

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  1. It was good but kind of bland. I recommend putting some chicken bouillon in it before cooking. Also use as little fluid as possible to get a more flavor or reduce the sauce after cooking. Maybe using diced fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes?

  2. I enjoyed this! Made a double batch because it was so easy and gave it to some friends for their meal train. Even my toddler seemed to really enjoy her drumstick. 🙂 My husband wasn’t a fan, though. : / And we were a little weirded out by how the leftovers solidified into jelly in the fridge. No idea how that happened! Was there really that much fat in the drumsticks?! I even took off the skin before cooking!

    1. Hey Melinda, that jelly is all the nutritious, good stuff!!! Drumsticks have a lot of cartilage/connective tissue and when they are cooked, you get a lot of gelatine in the sauce, which solidifies into a jelly once cooled. It’s basically collagen, very good for gut health, joint health, hair and skin etc. The fat would separate from the jelly and look much lighter, you can almost scrape it off. The jelly will melt back into the sauce once reheated.

  3. Absolutely amazing, this will be a regular, so cheap and the most amazing flavours. Thank you Irena.

    1. Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. We usually get good feedback on this recipe. Did you add all the seasoning, salt etc? We had quite a bit of stew in ours, perhaps differently measured?

  4. I don’t see the notes for sweet balsamic. I’ve made this recipe twice before, but can’t remember what to use to make sweet balsamic if you don’t have that. Also, are there cooking modifications for frozen drumsticks?

    PS. I’ve made this with a creamy Parmesan polenta and it’s divine.

  5. I posted three comments in regard to this recipe which I love. None are posted, perhaps because I suggested the Instant Pot directions and manual (and most recipes) don’t take the size of the pot into account when telling people how much liquid is minimal. Although I wrote that I discovered it by “trial and error.” The error was burning a unit out after two years of use. It was actually someone I messaged at Instant Pot that suggested using more water. I am disappointed that you don’t see fit to post my replies, as I spent some time composing them and thought i was doing the questioners/cooks a favor! I hope you will reply to this; I don’t expect you to post it.

    1. Hey Barbara, just saw your comments which we posted a couple of days ago. Our team has to moderate all the comments before they get posted as we often get Spam and it was the weekend so it can take a couple of days before they appear. Thanks for your feedback and suggestions about the pot size and water quantity and I am glad you managed to figure out what the issue was. I am sure this will be super helpful for our readers and we will specify the size of the pot in the recipe. The largest percentage of IP users have the 6q unit, so we make all of our recipes and instructions for that size.

  6. This was delicious and I will make it often. It’s also a good template, and it’s forgiving about quantities. I didn’t have lemon zest. I used two whole red onions, and used a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes and half a 14 oz can of whole tomatoes, snipped with scissors. When cooking was finished, I put it back on saute for a little to thicken the sauce, and I added a tablespoon of tomato paste. Beware- the amount of liquid this recipe, and most online recipes, calls for is for a 6 quart instant pot! If you have an 8 quart pot, you need to use a minimum of 2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups of liquid. I found this out through trial and error. Neither online recipes or the Instant Pot manuals make this clear.

      1. Yes, we use the tomatoes and the juice, which provided all the liquid you need. The chicken will give out quite a lot of juice while cooking as well.

  7. Hi, I tried the recipe and all tasted well except that I boiled pasta on a side and when they were almost done I cooked them on the broth/sauce left from this recipe and the end result ended up having a bitter hint when I was eating the pasta. Chicken did not have the bitter taste. Could that be because of too much thyme?

    1. Hi Angela. I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe! I can’t pinpoint exactly where that bitter taste was coming from in the broth and sauce, but thyme could be the answer. If you try the recipe again, I might suggest reducing the amount to taste.

    1. By 5 minutes should be sufficient, the pressure might take a little longer to build up anyway.

  8. do you brown the chicken before cooking, or just throw it in the pot with the rest of the ingredients?

    1. You can choose to if you like a crispier skin. You can also just choose to brown the drumsticks after cooking which can help to seal in flavour.


      1. I thought so. I used a little over a couple of crushed tomatoes instead of 2/3 cup of diced tomatoes. Do you think that may a difference? I’m new to the Instant Pot. Thanks.

        1. Yes, it could have made a difference. While some substitutes work well on the stove top or with another cooking method, IP recipes can be tricky and the substitutions may not always work as you plan.

    1. It’s likely that this recipe, like most online recipes, is written for a 6 quart instant pot! If you have an 8 quart pot, you need to use a minimum of 2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups of liquid. I found this out through trial and error. Neither online recipes or the Instant Pot manuals make this clear. It’s good of course to stir from the bottom with a wooden spoon as your sauce is sauteing, giving one last stir before you switch from saute to pressure. Especially with a recipe like this, you can’t go wrong with erring on the side of too much liquid. This lessens the probability of burning, and you can always finish the sauce adding a little tomato paste and putting it back on saute for a minute if it needs thickening at the end.

    1. I would say you can, but you would need to increase the cooking time slightly. Also, I would add less liquid as the thawing during cooking will produce extra liquid.

    2. I made it with frozen- or almost frozen, drumsticks. I did take them out of the freezer an hour before I cooked then, pulling them gently apart to drop them into the sauce. I used the regular pressure setting for what I thought was a generous 13 minutes. (I thought the recipe said 10 minutes!) Being busy with other things, I let them stay on warm for 13 minutes after they were cooked. They turned out perfect.

  10. Tried my IP for the first time last night with this recipe. I’m pretty terrible at following to the T in general… I used a fresh tomato and broth since I didn’t want to open up a can of diced tomatoes. Once the chicken was done, I took it out and separated it from the bone like you’ve suggested. While I was doing that, I had the lid off of the IP and had it on sauté to thicken up the broth. By the time I was done deboning the chicken, the broth was a good consistency… added it all back and put it over rice. When I was preparing the chicken, I went ahead and had some fresh veggies in the oven roasting… timing was perfect! Husband was satisfied, I was satisfied, and had some left overs for lunch the next day. While I was heating up, someone said “that smells so good!!” And it is. It’s delicious. Thank you for this recipe!

    1. Hey Joy, sounds like you had a delicious meal. Yes, sautéing the sauce at the end is a great idea and thickens it (plus intensifies the flavor too). Great idea to roast some veggies or make a salad while the chicken is cooking. Glad you enjoyed it!

  11. Made this for company. This was absolutely delicious! I did drumsticks as well as thighs seperately. Once cooked, I removed the chicken and boiled down the sauce to make it thicker. Everyone enjoyed it.

    1. The IP can create a really liquid-y base, but it tends to thicken up if I leave it on warm for 20-30 minutes or I’ll do a reduction. Hope the company loved every last bite!

  12. I don’t see a note about the sweet balsamic vinegar. Is this just regular balsamic vinegar with sugar added? Thanks!

    1. Hi Tiffany, we’ll check the recipe and make sure the note is added. You can often buy aged balsamic vinegar, it’s thicker in consistency and sweeter. Regular balsamic vinegar is also fine, in which case you can add a little bit of honey or sugar (like a teaspoon or so).

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