Do not put away your slow cooker for the winter! Slow cookers are a great option for cooking inside during the warm summer months. They make less heat than the oven, and you don’t have to stand over the heat of the stove top. You’ll want to choose recipes with a focus on lighter ingredients: chicken, curries, bean dishes with lots of veggies. Or, use the slow cooker to make a meaty main dish you can serve with raw or lightly cooked vegetables to make use of all the great fresh produce coming your way.
Barbecue pork shoulder, sloppy joes, or this chicken taco meat are great examples of using the slow cooker to make a “filling” that can be used in a variety of ways. These main dishes can top a salad, fill a taco or burrito, or even be tossed with cold pasta. Paleo and gluten-free eaters can use spaghetti squash, ribbons of lightly steamed summer squash, or strips of peppers for a great alternative to noodles.
I’ve taken a shortcut in here an used a packet of gluten free and starch free natural taco seasoning from Trader Joe’s. To make your own taco seasoning at home try this recipe with similar ingredients, and play around until you get the seasoning mix you like best (Trader Joe’s is a bit heavier on the paprika). You will need 3-4 tablespoons for the larger recipe below, so make a triple batch. Leftover spice mix can be sprinkled on wings or chicken legs as a dry rub for the grill. The chipotle pepper, a smoked jalapeno, makes the dish spicy and a bit smoky. If you prefer, use a more mild pepper or hot sauce that suits your heat level.
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Filling
4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 cup of diced tomato with juice, or whole tomatoes in juice that have been chopped or crushed up
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced or chopped up in blender with tomatoes
3/4 cup of chopped green onions (I had a lot of green tops to use up. Regular onions work well too, reduce to a half cup)
1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 package of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning mix or about 4 tablespoons of a taco seasoning blend
Juice of one lime
For serving (depending on your preferences):
taco shells or tortillas
baby greens or chopped lettuce
zucchini or yellow squash
Blend the tomatoes and chipotle pepper in the blender, until the chipotle is chopped. No blender? Just chop the chipotle very fine and mash up the canned tomatoes if they are not already diced. Add the tomatoes, chipotle pepper, chopped bell pepper, green onion, and spice mix to the dish of the slow cooker. Mix with a spoon. Add the chicken and stir the pieces so they are coated with the sauce. Make sure the chicken is evenly distributed. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3.5-4 hours. When done, use two forks to shred the chicken in the slow cooker dish.
The dish makes its own salsa and the shreds will absorb some of the liquid making it very juicy. If you want the sauce to be thicker, you can remove the cooked chicken before shredding, reduce the sauce on the stove and/or use a gluten-free or low-carb thickening agent such as tapioca or xanthan gum. After thickening, shred the chicken and return it to the thickened sauce.
Use as topping for a taco salad or filling for tacos with topping of your choice.