I’m beginning to wonder if my appetite has some sort of homing beacon that orients itself toward Mexican food. If it’s been a few weeks since we’ve eaten it, the next time I enter the grocery store, I’ll find myself drifting toward the enchilada sauce and chili powder, as if being pulled by an invisible string connected to the end of my grocery cart. Such was the case the week I made this Crock Pot Mexican Casserole. My homing beacon called, and this healthy Mexican slow cooker recipe answered!
I attribute my regular cravings for Mexican flavor to my mother, who I’m convinced needs a dose of Mexican food at least twice a week in order to maintain her equilibrium. Growing up, at least 50% of the meals we ate out were Mexican (or “Mexican,” depending upon your perspective). We cruised the Hispanic area of town, stopping at whichever eatery looked the most legitimate. The less English visible in the window, the better. We indulged in Mexican-ish fast food. On Sundays after church, we frequented our city’s local version of On the Border.
Of all the flavor profiles I could have been reared to love, I’m happy that one of them is Mexican. It’s the right mix of comfort and freshness, the spices are rich but not overpowering, and for the most part, Mexican food tends to be an all-around crowd pleaser any time I serve it.
Now, I will not for a second pretend that the Mexican recipes I make at home, such as this Crock Pot Mexican Casserole, are authentic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious.
This particular Mexican casserole recipe is ultra easy to make, reasonably healthy, and offers the convenience of the slow cooker too. No, you won’t find it on an actual Mexican restaurant menu, but when your family is fighting each other for second helpings and you are congratulating yourself on serving an easy meal that’s loaded with fiber and protein, that detail will be less of a priority.
A few key ingredients make this Crock Pot Mexican Casserole a) extra satisfying and b) extra simple to prepare.
On the fill-you-up front, we have black beans, quinoa, and ground turkey. All three pack mega fiber and protein, which means this Crock Pot Mexican Casserole will keep you full and happy long after it is served. If you or your family prefer, you can use ground chicken or lean ground beef instead, or you can keep the Mexican casserole vegetarian by swapping in extra black beans.
On the let’s-keep-it-easy front, we have ready-to-go pantry items, including Old El Paso Red Enchilada Sauce, one of my at-home Mexican cooking staples. It keeps the Crock Pot Mexican Casserole prep simple and is easy to combine with fresh ingredients, such as the bell peppers and onions in this recipe.
This healthy Mexican slow cooker recipe yields a generous amount, but the leftovers reheat like a dream. For those interested in meal prep, you can sauté the ground meat and chop the veggies in advance, then just dump everything into the crock pot whenever you are ready to make it.
This Crock Pot Mexican Casserole also freezes exceptionally well. Make it tonight, then stow some away for the next time you need a fast, healthy dinner…or for when your own Mexican craving strikes!
Tools I used to make this recipe:
- Slow Cooker (the insert can also be used on the stovetop, so you can actually brown the meat directly inside it before you set it to slow cook. Let’s hear it for fewer dishes!)
Crock Pot Mexican Casserole
Super easy and DELICIOUS Crock Pot Mexican Casserole with quinoa, black beans, and ground chicken or turkey. Healthy, gluten-free comfort food!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey or chicken (I used 93% lean ground turkey)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 (10-ounce) cans Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce (mild or medium; I used medium)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
- For serving: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, chopped green onion, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high. Add the turkey and onion. Cook and stir, breaking up the turkey as you go, until the turkey is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the bottom of a large slow cooker.
- To the slow cooker, add the quinoa, enchilada sauce, black beans, tomatoes, corn, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, then cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or low for 5 to 6 hours, until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
- Remove the lid and stir. Taste and adjust any seasonings as desired. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cover and cook on high until the cheese melts, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with any desired toppings.
- Make it ahead: You can sauté the turkey and onions up to 1 day in advance and chop the peppers 1 day in advance as well. Store in the refrigerator in separate containers, then add to the slow cooker according to the directions when ready to cook.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave or in a casserole dish, covered, in the oven.
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