Quick and Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken, Lentil, and Bacon Stew With Carrots

A simple chicken-lentil-pancetta stew, brightened with a splash of sherry vinegar.

A bowl of chicken, lentil, and bacon stew in a shallow white soup bowl.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • A pressure cooker will get your chicken fall-off-the-bone tender in just about the same time as it takes to cook the lentils.
  • Minimal ingredients and only a few steps make for a quick-and-easy, one-pot meal packed with flavor.
  • Sherry vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil add brightness and fresh flavor to the finished dish.

My wife has taught me many things, but few as mind-blowing and useful as this five-ingredient, one-pot, 30-minute Colombian chicken stew with potatoes and tomatoes. It works like this: Add chicken, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, and bay leaves to a pressure cooker. Seal the lid and heat it. As the tomatoes and chicken heat, they give off liquid which in turn cooks the potatoes while the onions add flavor to the whole thing. Because the high heat of a pressure cooker cooks so efficiently, you end up with spoon-tender chicken and potatoes in an intensely flavored broth all in 30 minutes or less. How do you like that!

The concept of using minimal, but carefully selected ingredients and relying on the pressure cooker to extract flavor was an intriguing one, so I decided to try my hand at coming up with a few more one-pot meals in a similar style, this time using a combination of chicken and various legumes. The goal? Dinner for four with inexpensive ingredients, a few minutes of actual labor, one pot on the stove, and all in between 30 to 45 minutes start to finish.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

When I'm in the mood for a fast meal, that also means using the absolute minimum number of ingredients to make shopping and prepping faster as well. In this case, we've got a total of eight.

Overhead view of the eight ingredients needed to make chicken, lentil, and bacon stew.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Chicken and lentils form the backbone of the stew. I'm using a whole chicken broken down into eight serving pieces here, mainly because I'm thrifty and like using the backbones for chicken stock (a task which is also best done in the pressure cooker). The breast meat does have a tendency to come out a little drier than the leg meat, so if you prefer, you can use all thighs and drumsticks. Either way, bone-in and skin-on is the way to go for best flavor and texture. The lentils are French Le Puy lentils, but again, any lentil will do. This is pretty simple stuff here.

The diced pancetta I'm using does more than just add flavor (though it does that quite well). While thin sliced pancetta would melt into the background, by cutting it into big fat lardons (that's French for "unreasonably-sized hunks of bacon"), it adds another meaty textural element to the stew. For the record, if you prefer the smoky flavor of slab bacon, it'd work just as well.

Onions, carrots, and bay leaves are the main flavoring. The onions I like to soften up a bit in the pancetta fat before adding the liquid, chickens, and lentils; sautéing the pancetta and the onions is just about the only real work involved in this recipe. Even the carrots I like to leave in big chunky pieces so that they add flavor and also texture to the final dish. Bay leaves, the stems from a few sprigs of parsley (I save the leaves to chop and stir in at the end), some chicken stock, the lentils, and the actual chicken are all that's left before sealing the lid and bringing it all to pressure.

The lardons also help to thicken up the liquid in the pot by rendering some fat that emulsifies with the chicken stock and the starch coming out of the lentils. To really maximize this richness, I like to boil the stew down for about five minutes after taking off the pressure to allow the liquid to reduce.

Overhead view of the chicken, lentil, and bacon stew plated in a shallow white soup bowl.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

I mean, just look at how rich and creamy it becomes!

That final few minutes of stovetop reduction is a great opportunity for you to pull the skin off of the chicken pieces (the skin helps add flavor and keep the chicken moist, but it isn't particularly tasty once it's been boiled). You can serve the chicken in whole pieces with the lentils, carrots, and pancetta forming a bed, or you can do what I did here: shred the meat off the bones (it should come off very easily) and stir it back into the pot.

For a final hit of bright, fresh flavor, I stir in a bit of vinegar (I used sherry, though red wine, white wine, or even lemon juice would work), the chopped parsley leaves, and a big glug of extra-virgin olive oil.

January 2015

Recipe Facts



Cook: 45 mins
Active: 10 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 8-ounce slab bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch lardons

  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 8 ounces dried French lentils, such as Le Puy

  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped, stems tied together with a piece of kitchen twine

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (a mix of thighs and drumsticks for best texture, though breasts will work as well)

  • 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more to taste


  1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add bacon and cook until starting to crisp around edges, about 1 minute. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes longer. Add carrots, lentils, parsley stems, bay leaves, chicken legs, and chicken stock. Season gently with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

  2. Seal pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook for 20 minutes. Cool pressure cooker under a cold running tap (if using an electric cooker, use the quick release valve), and open. Using tongs, transfer chicken pieces to a bowl. Discard parsley stems. Return lentils to high heat and continue cooking, stirring, until reduced to a thick, stew-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, shred chicken, discarding bones and skin.

  3. Stir chicken and vinegar into beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in half of chopped parsley, and serve, passing remaining parsley, sherry vinegar, and olive oil at the table.

Special Equipment

Electric or stovetop pressure cooker

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
927 Calories
63g Fat
8g Carbs
78g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 927
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 63g 80%
Saturated Fat 19g 94%
Cholesterol 401mg 134%
Sodium 1350mg 59%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 78g
Vitamin C 19mg 95%
Calcium 90mg 7%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 1268mg 27%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)