Mexican Restaurant Foods You Can Make in Your Crockpot

Many of the Mexican dishes we love involve pretty simple techniques, relying on a lengthy cook time to build flavor. This often prevents people from cooking the south-of-the-border cuisine because some recipes take nearly half a day to complete. As long as you have a slow cooker, time can actually be a huge advantage. These devices are designed to braise or stew all day without requiring any monitoring along the way. When you walk in the door, dinner is pretty much ready.

This method does usually require a little bit of additional time in the morning to prep, so set your alarm accordingly. Don’t worry — these seven Mexican recipes are so delicious, you won’t mind rising a bit earlier.

1. Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

enchiladas

Cheesy enchiladas | iStock.com

Looking for a way to eat more meatless meals without going to bed hungry? These vegetarian enchiladas from The Kitchn will do the trick. They’re filled with black beans and corn for loads of protein and fiber. Because this recipe uses jarred salsa, it comes together so much faster than most other versions. This also makes it easy to customize with different flavors and heat levels depending on which variety you choose.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack, colby, or other melting cheese
  • 2 (16-ounce) jars salsa
  • 12 to 15 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Optional ingredients

  • 1 cup leftover meat or veggies

Directions: In a medium bowl, mix onion, bell pepper, black beans, corn, spices, additional leftovers, if using, and ½ cup cheese. Spread roughly 1 cup of salsa over the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker insert, spreading to coat.

Fill each tortilla with about ⅓ cup filling, then roll tightly. Arrange filled tortillas, seam-side down, in the slow cooker until you have one layer. Top with another cup of salsa, and sprinkle with ½ cup of cheese. Repeat with remaining ingredients, reserving last ½ cup of cheese for later

Cover and cook on high for 2 to 4 hours. When 15 minutes remain, sprinkle on remaining cheese, cover, and let finish cooking. Serve enchiladas with additional salsa.

2. Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita pibil with rice

Cochinita pibil with rice | istock.com

Making a true cochinita pibil requires a whole pig and a massive cooking pit. After the swine gets a coating of achiote marinade, it’s wrapped in banana leaves, placed in a bonfire-type pit, covered with hot embers, then buried. About six hours later, it’s dinner time. The technique is pretty cool, but doing this in your own backyard is a very bad idea, and you’ll end up with an unsightly lawn once you’re through.

Instead of running the risk of disrupting a gas line, try Port and Fin’s slow cooker pork. And don’t skip the pickled onions because they really help to cut through the richness of the pork. You can make them way in advance if necessary.

Ingredients:

Pork

  • 1 (4½-pound) pork butt
  • 3 tablespoons achiote paste
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 1 habanero, seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pickled onions

  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns

To serve

  • Small corn tortillas
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Crumbled queso fresco

Directions: Rub pork with achiote paste to coat, massaging into the meat. Combine citrus juices, white wine vinegar, habanero, and spices in a large bowl. Transfer pork to mixture, and let marinate in the fridge for 4 to 24 hours. Turn pork halfway through.

In a small bowl, combine cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Arrange onions in a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over the top. Add the peppercorns and fill with enough water to just cover. Set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Transfer pork and marinade to a slow cooker, and add 1 cup of water. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove pork, shred with two forks, and mix back into juices in the slow cooker. Serve with tortillas, pickled onions, cilantro, and cheese.

3. Posole

posole stew with vegetables

Bowl of posole soup | iStock.com

Think of this traditional soup as Mexico’s ultimate comfort food — sort of the way we think about chicken soup. We particularly like Oxmoor House’s version because you just have to brown the meat and then add it to the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients. Feel free to use whatever toppings you like. We think a bit of cilantro tastes fantastic.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1⅔ cups chopped onion
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (4.5-ounce) cans diced green chilies
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
  • ½ cup thinly sliced radishes
  • ½ cup diced, peeled avocado
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Directions: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, swirling to coat. Add pork, and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker and add broth, onion, cumin, oregano, black pepper, cloves, red pepper flakes, garlic, hominy, and green chilies. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve in bowls topped with cabbage, radishes, and avocado. Pass lime wedges for squeezing.

4. Cowboy Beans

pinto beans with jalapenos

Stewed pinto beans | iStock.com

Not many people keep dried beans on hand because they take a bit of time to cook. You might want to rethink this strategy because they have one huge advantage over canned legumes: price. Dried beans are one of the last true bargains at the grocery store, often costing around $1 per pound. The Bean Institute reports one pound of dried cooks up to substantially more than what you get from a can, so it really does make a difference in your grocery bill.

Cost aside, beans are delicious. This is even more true when you add a little bit of smoky bacon with this easy recipe from Rick Bayless. You can serve this dish alongside any of your favorite entrées or turn it into a simple meal with some rice.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded if desired and cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes in juice
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • Salt
  • 1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro

Directions: In a stove-safe slow cooker insert or a large skillet set over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring, until fat renders and meat browns. Add onion, and cook until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes longer. Stir in garlic and jalapeños, and cook until garlic is fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and cook 1 minute longer.

Transfer insert to the slow cooker, or pour mixture into the slow cooker from your skillet. Add beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and 7 cups water. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. When tender, hold on the warm setting.

Remove 2 cups of beans to a blender and purée until smooth. Stir back into remaining beans along with cilantro. Season with salt and serve.

5. Easy Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Thighs

chicken mole

Chicken mole | iStock.com

Few people ever make mole at home because it just takes too long. Before you book a flight to Mexico for a taste, try Boulder Locavore’s crockpot version. This recipe isn’t exactly traditional, but using more readily available ingredients means you won’t have to drive to four different markets to get everything. If you can’t find Mexican chocolate, sub a dark chocolate that doesn’t contain too much sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 4 chipotles in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons of sauce
  • 2 Mexican chocolate disks, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 12 (bone-in, skin-on or boneless, skinless) chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked rice or warmed tortillas

Directions: Toast pumpkin seeds in a large skillet set over medium-high heat, tossing frequently until fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Combine onion, garlic, tomatoes, raisins, cumin, ancho powder, chili powder, oregano, chipotles, adobo sauce, Mexican chocolate, oil, and cooled pumpkin seeds in a blender. Purée until smooth.

Pat chicken dry, and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Transfer chicken to slow cooker, then pour sauce over top, mixing to coat evenly. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked, stirring very occasionally.

Serve chicken with rice or tortillas.

6. Crockpot Chile Rellenos

stuffed chili peppers

Chile rellenos | iStock.com

The process of roasting, filling, battering, and frying chile rellenos makes them one of the fussiest recipes around. This recipe from Tasty Kitchen has all the same components, but cuts a few corners to speed things up. This recipe only takes a few hours to cook, so save it for a day when you’ll be home at a reasonable time.

Ingredients:

  • 8 poblano chilies
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 4 teaspoons cornmeal
  • ½ cups sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup beer
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Canned or jarred salsa verde

Directions: Preheat broiler. Cut tops from chilies and remove seeds. Grease a baking sheet and broil chilies, turning every few minutes, until skins darken and bubble. Let cool for 1 minute. Transfer to a zip-top bag, and let steam until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cheese, corn, cornmeal, sunflower seeds, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Mix yolks with salt and beer in another bowl.

Grease the insert of a slow cooker with the oil. Peel chilies with your hands, trying to leave them intact, and fill each with an equal amount of the cheese mixture. Transfer chiles to the prepared slow cooker.

Gently fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the yolks. Fold in remaining whites, then pour over the chilies. Cover and cook on high for 1½ to 2 hours. Top with some salsa verde and any remaining cheese during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Serve with additional salsa.

7. Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa

Dried chili peppers

Peppers for lamb barbacoa | iStock.com

Most people think of chicken, pork, or beef when it comes to traditional Mexican food, but lamb is actually one of the more popular proteins. Consider barbacoa. Anyone who eats at Chipotle knows it as a dish made with braised beef. Head south, and you’ll find it’s more frequently made with lamb.

Since this dish requires cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time, it translates perfectly to the crockpot. Give it a try with this recipe from Autumn Makes & Does. Add some tortillas and some simple slaw to complete your meal.

Ingredients:

  • 5 dried guajillo chilies
  • 2 dried pasilla chilies
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4-pound) boneless leg of lamb, tied

Directions: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, toast chilies until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and cover with boiling water. Submerge chilies by topping with a small plate. Let soak for at least 20 minutes.

Drain chilies, remove stems and seeds. Transfer to a blender with garlic and chicken stock. Blend until mostly smooth, then strain through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on solids with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard pulp.

Mix in vinegar, herbs, and spices. Add lamb, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Transfer lamb and liquid to a slow cooker, and cover and cook for 6 hours on low heat. When ready, pull meat with two forks and serve.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec