Tex Mex Quinoa

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This simple slow cooker Tex-Mex Quinoa casserole is packed with nutritious ingredients and a killer seasoning blend. This quinoa dish is fairly hands-off, letting the slow cooker do all the work! After it’s done cooking, finish it off with fresh lime, herbs, and freshly grated cheese.

Pair this Tex-Mex Quinoa with a light and crunchy side dish like this cucumber salad or this easy pasta salad with fresh corn.

Overhead image of theTex-Mex Quinoa.

Tex-Mex Quinoa made in the Slow Cooker

After sharing this Quinoa Enchilada Crockpot recipe, I’ve had so many requests for similar recipes; I’m excited to share this recipe today. My family can’t get enough of it, and I’m thrilled because it’s not only simple to assemble, it’s also loaded with nutritious ingredients.

When I first got a slow cooker years ago, finding a good, filling, vegetarian slow cooker recipe was extremely rare, so I’m thrilled that this recipe fits all of those categories. While meat can certainly be added or served on the side, you won’t miss the protein in this recipe. Quinoa and black beans are two great plant-based sources of protein. And alongside that, we’ve got lots of veggies and an amazing seasoning blend. The best thing to tie everything together? Cheese of course! So let’s start by talking about that very ingredient:

Let’s talk cheese

  • Pre-grated cheese has a cellulose coating that keeps it from melting nicely. While you can use it in Tex-Mex Quinoa, it will get a little greasy and won’t melt as smoothly. I recommend freshly grating the cheese. If you have a food processor with a grater attachment, it will only take a few seconds!
  • We love pepper-jack cheese in this recipe; it’s has a little bit of a kick with a spicy flavor and delicate mouthfeel. It also melts really well into the dish.
  • If you aren’t a fan of pepper-jack cheese, I’d recommend a sharp Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese. Monterey jack is fairly mild, so you may want to amp up the spices a bit if using that.

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients going into the crockpot and being cooked; adding fresh lime, cilantro, and cheese on top.

Slow cooker cooking temperature

  • Unfortunately, Tex-Mex Quinoa doesn’t cook well on low temperatures; the quinoa absorbs liquid too slowly and has a tendency to become mushy. I recommend cooking this recipe on high.
  • Not all slow cookers cook at the same rate; some cook faster or hotter than others. I’ve tested this recipe in three different slow cookers and in one it was done in 2 hours 40 minutes while the other two batches took around 3 hours to finish. At around 2 and a half hours of cooking time, check on the dish, watching for the quinoa to have popped and liquid to be absorbed.
  • While it’s tempting to lift the lid to check on the dish or sample a bite, slow cookers work by trapping heat and cooking food for a longer period of time. So, every time the lid is removed, the heat escapes and takes a while to build back up again.

Tex-Mex Quinoa variations

  • Add heat: A tablespoon or two of diced jalapeños, hot sauce, and/or fire-roasted diced green chilies all add in some heat. Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes also add in heat but add slowly– a little goes a long way!
  • Reduce heat: If you’re concerned about spiciness in this dish, you may want to slightly reduce the chili powder (or make sure to use a mild chili). I also recommend swapping out the pepper-jack cheese for Cheddar.
  • Make vegetarian: Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. Even without meat, this dish has a good amount of protein in it, thanks to the quinoa and black beans.
  • Add meat: Brown some ground turkey in a skillet and stir it into the finished dish or add some shredded cooked chicken to the finished dish. 
  • Convert this recipe to a pressure cooker: I haven’t personally made this recipe in a pressure cooker, but this is a great article for converting slow cooker recipes into a pressure cooker.

Overhead image of Tex-Mex Quinoa in the crockpot with a spoon in the pan.

Tex-Mex Quinoa tips

  • Use fire-roasted diced tomatoes for more flavor. I love Muir Glen’s® fire-roasted diced tomatoes (not sponsored).
  • Don’t forget the toppings. They add so much flavor, texture, and freshness to this dish. Our favorite toppings for this dish are chopped avocados, fresh cilantro, fresh lime, and fresh cherry tomatoes. Other options: sour cream, additional cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, green onions, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder may sound like a lot, but that’s the correct measurement! The heat in chili powder can certainly vary brand to brand and country to country. I use a non-spicy chili powder like McCormick® (not sponsored).
  • Crockpot® is a specific brand of slow cooker. You can use any type of slow cooker you prefer for this Tex-Mex Quinoa.

Leftovers

As good as this dish is the day it’s made, it only gets better over time! One of our favorite way to repurpose leftovers is by warming through and using as a filling for a burrito. Add a few spoonfuls of the Tex-Mex Quinoa mixture into a large tortilla, add a little extra cheese (if desired), roll up tight, and place in a skillet to brown the edges (1-2 minutes, switching sides every 30 seconds at medium heat). 

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Tex-Mex Quinoa

4.89 from 27 votes
This simple slow cooker Tex-Mex Quinoa casserole is packed with nutritious ingredients and a killer seasoning blend! This quinoa dish is fairly hands-off, letting the slow cooker do all the work. After it's done cooking, finish it off with fresh lime, herbs, and freshly grated cheese.
Print Recipe

Tex-Mex Quinoa

4.89 from 27 votes
This simple slow cooker Tex-Mex Quinoa casserole is packed with nutritious ingredients and a killer seasoning blend! This quinoa dish is fairly hands-off, letting the slow cooker do all the work. After it's done cooking, finish it off with fresh lime, herbs, and freshly grated cheese.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword Tex Mex, tex mex quinoa
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Calories 198kcal
Cost $6.32

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (270g) white quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 large sweet bell pepper, finely diced (I use red)
  • 1 poblano chili pepper finely diced (or use a green pepper)
  • 1 can (15 oz.; 432g) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.; 411g) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup (135g) frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (~2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup (65g) yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons ground chili powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups (763g) chicken or vegetable broth (use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (140g) freshly grated Pepper-jack cheese shredded
  • Optional: additional cilantro, diced avocado, diced cherry tomatoes, additional lime wedges

Instructions

  • PREP: Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray (or use a slow cooker liner). Add the uncooked quinoa to a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water for 1 minute. (This removes the natural bitter coating on quinoa).
  • VEGGIES: Finely dice the sweet peppers and poblano chili pepper (remove seeds from both). Add the chopped peppers, minced garlic, and diced onion to the slow cooker.
  • SLOW COOKER: Place the rinsed quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, undrained diced tomatoes, and corn in the slow cooker. Add in the seasonings: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste (I add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Stir everything together and put on the lid.
  • COOK: Set to high and cook for 2-1/2 to 4 hours (See Note 1) or until the broth is completely absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through ("popped"). All slow cookers cook a little differently so make sure to occasionally check the dish to make sure the quinoa isn't burning or sticking all to the sides.
  • FINISHING: Once cooked through, fluff quinoa with a fork and then gently stir in the chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, and any additional salt/pepper as needed. Sprinkle the freshly grated cheese on top and cover with the slow cooker lid to melt for 5-10 minutes. Once melted, gently stir the cheese through the dish (it will continue to melt more and make everything extra cheesy). Serve with any desired toppings (additional cilantro, diced avocados, diced cherry tomatoes, additional lime, etc.).
  • LEFTOVERS: We love adding this mixture into a large tortilla (with extra cheese), rolling it up tight, and placing it in a skillet to brown the edges (1-2 minutes, switching sides every 30 seconds at medium heat). So good!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This recipe doesn’t cook well on low temperatures; the quinoa absorbs liquid too quickly and has a tendency to become mushy. I recommend cooking this recipe on high. Not all slow cookers cook at the same rate -- some cook faster or hotter than others.
Note 2: While it's tempting to lift the lid to check on the dish or sample a bite, slow cookers work by trapping heat and cooking food for a longer period of time. So, every time the lid is removed, the heat escapes and takes a while to build back up again.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 8servings | Calories: 198kcal | Carbohydrates: 31.6g | Protein: 14.8g | Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 5.7mg | Sodium: 810mg | Fiber: 6.9g | Sugar: 4.4g

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99 Comments

  1. That looks awesome! I love tex-mex flavors, no better way to enjoy them healthily than in some good fluffy quinoa! 🙂

    1. If I want to add chicken should I brown it first? I am.assuming so since this recipe only cooks for 30 minutes in the crockpot. I have been using my crockpot so much in this hot weather.

      1. I think the recipe says on HIGH in the crock pot for 3-4 hours. Double check your recipe. Also she mentioned if using boneless skinless breast, just pop it in raw with other ingredients. If using ground turkey, brown separately and add during last 30 minutes of crock cook time.

        This looks delicious. I can not wait to try it! Thanks!!!

  2. Wow. Sounds so simple. I’ve gotta give it a try. Hoping even my kids will love it!
    Have a wonderful Wednesday Chelsea!

  3. Nothing like throwing a bunch of delicious things into a slow cooker, to see it magically transform into something delicious without slaving over a stove 😀 Love the flavors in this, and your use of quinoa! A comfort meal, that’s healthy! Love the cilantro and lime juice! I bet a nice chunk of avocado would be perfect to garnish too!

  4. I can taste the flavors in my mouth. I love this tex-mex slow cooker recipe because its super easy and make a great dinner for the entire family!

  5. I love quinoa with black beans! This looks really good! I just made a cold salad with similar ingredients the other day!

  6. Yay for crockpot meals! I love them for busy days – chop a few things in the morning and then dinner at night is so easy! This looks absolutely delicious – love me some tex mex!

  7. I’ve totally been neglecting my crock-pot since the weather got warmer….I should start using it again since I’d rather be outside enjoying the weather too. This quinoa casserole looks incredible – I love the tex mex flavors.

  8. A crock pot is perfect in the summer, especially since I try to keep my energy bills low by not running the ac too much. This still looks like the perfect light summertime meal

  9. Slow cooker, Tex-Mex, Quinoa, Casserole — these words are like music to my ears! I love that they are all in one dish! I’m also loving the idea of adding chicken. It’s so hard to find good slow cooker recipes for the summertime, but this is just perfect.

  10. I have been wanting to try this as soon as I saw it….tomorrow we are going to a BBQ, but I think Saturday is the day. Yum!

  11. 5 stars
    This looks so delicious and perfect because I am looking for some easy recipes for the Summer. Thank you for sharing! SB

  12. This sounds awesome, Chelsea! I love that you made this in the slow cooker – I had no idea you could cook quinoa in one!!

  13. This looks delicious, and I love how you can just dump everything in. That’s my kind of cooking! Pinned this one, because I’m working on adding more quinoa to my diet.

  14. 5 stars
    OMG, I made this today….and it is SO delish! Shared it with another family, who also raved. Thanks for sharing

    1. Hey Valerie! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! 🙂 so glad you enjoyed it! Have a great week!

  15. Now this is what I’m talking about! I’ve decided to try to quit eating meat again (with the exception of seafood but no more chicken, beef or pork!) so this recipe is perfect. Plus, who doesn’t love using their slow cooker, especially during the summer! Thanks for the recipe, Chelsea!

  16. I love quinoa, but have only used it in salads. Can’t wait to try it in the slow cooker, especially with a Tex-Mex twist.
    And the added bonus is that this is such a healthy meal. The idea of starting it in the morning and coming home to a meal just waiting to be eaten will just add less stress to the day. Your presentation in the bowl is a great idea–makes everything clear and simple. Thanks for sharing.
    Lisa

  17. 4 stars
    I made this last night. The flavors were great! I think I did something wrong though because the texture was really not what I was expecting. It came out kind of like a mush pile with the consistency of oatmeal. I didn’t wash the quinoa first. Also, I added two boneless skinless chicken breasts. Maybe that was the cause? Outside of the kind of gooey consistency it was awesome!

    I recommend that if you do add chicken to make sure to season it individually before sticking it in the pot.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment! I can’t figure out why your consistency was so off. I’ve made this with chicken and had the same consistency with or without it. I wonder if you maybe cooked it too long? How long did you cook it for?

      And great idea about pre-seasoning the chicken!

      1. I cooked it on low for 6 1/2 hours but then it sat on warm from probably another 3 hours probably. I went to bed and didn’t wake up when I planned on it :). Didn’t even think about that! Maybe next time I’ll try it on high and actually make sure I can take it off the heat when it is done.

        I’m actually eating it right now and it really is quite yummy! Thank you for the recipe! I look forward to making it again – and better! Ha!

    2. 5 stars
      ****UPDATE****

      I made this again and cooked it for the RIGHT about of time. I did 3 hours on high. I also added the chicken breasts and seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, and homemade taco seasoning first.

      It came out EXCELLENT! I even got a compliment from my boyfriend, which is unheard of when it comes to food!

      1. And this is why you should always read the comments first…
        Mine also turned out mushy but I did the same thing, cooked on low for 6-7 hrs instead of the recommended high for 3 hrs. I’ll have to try it again 🙂

        1. Yes, unfortunately cooking it on low doesn’t work with this recipe so that’s why I didn’t include an option for cooking on low in the instructions! Hope it works out better for you next time 🙂

          1. I cooked mine on low for 3.5 hours and it turned out very good. Though I have always thought my crockpot runs hot.

    1. When it is dry. I put mine in a fine mesh sieve and wash it really well. Rinsing the quinoa removes the saponin that had a very bitter and earthy taste.

    1. It will work without cheese, but I think a lot of the flavor comes from the cheese, so it will definitely be more bland without it.

  18. 5 stars
    Happy to have found this on Pinterest! I made it tonight and it is delicious. I too cooked it too long as I didn’t fully read the instructions while rushing to get out the door this morning. Happily, in it’s “mushier” state, it was great as a burrito filling topped with cheese and hot sauce.

  19. 5 stars
    I’ve never felt compelled to leave a review for a recipe…until now! This is my new delish, healthy go-to. I make it weekly for myself, and even my meat-loving carnivore of a boyfriend can’t get enough of this meat-free tastiness. Thanks so much for this tasty recipe!

    1. I am so happy you loved it Jenn! Haha my husband is a huge carnivore too! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review and kind words 🙂

    1. Thanks Tammy! I haven’t tried the recipe with anything else, so I’m not sure what would work in its place. You could try brown rice, but I can’t say if that would or wouldn’t work! Sorry!

  20. Has anyone tried to make this a freezer meal? I was thinking you could maybe add the spices and canned items to a freezer bag and add the grain, water, and fresh peppers later, but would that really save that much time in the long run?

  21. My husband made this for last night’s dinner. It was fantastic! We didn’t have enough chilli powder so he used a tbsp of chipolte chili powder as a substitute. Added a bit of a wonderful bite to it! Put it in a little corn tortilla with a dollop of sour cream and avacado slices….to die for! So glad I found this recipe!

    1. I have GOT to try chipotle chili powder – sounds delicious! Thanks so much for giving this a try and leaving a comment 🙂

  22. 5 stars
    LOVED this recipe 🙂 Quick, easy, and nutritious! We topped ours with fat free sour cream, salsa, and chopped avocado. My husband promptly grabbed the baby from me and offered to entertain her while I got him seconds 😉 great recipe!

  23. This was delicious! I added 3 chicken breasts, and I added 4 T taco seasoning, but left out the additional cumin and chili powder. I used Colby jack cheese. Hubby said it was awesome and got 3 helpings! All my kids loved it too- veggies and all! Thank you!

    1. SO glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for leaving a review and so glad your kids liked it 🙂 Have a good one!!

  24. Hi Chelsea! I’m brand new to your blog, but I tried this recipe tonight, and I’m a huge fan! I’m excited to explore your blog more and try more of your recipes. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Laurie! I am so glad!! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment – it means a lot to me! Have a wonderful day 🙂

    1. Hey Julie! The nutrition facts are one comment above yours; there are 660 calories if you divide this recipe into 6 servings! 🙂

  25. I think there was too much liquid in this recipe. I just made it, and it has been cooking for 3.5h on high(the last 30m without the lid) and is still very liquidy. The quinoa was cooked around the 3h mark, but it was more like quinoa soup. Tastes good, but I’d cut the liquid by a drastic amount if I made this again.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and feedback. So interesting you had lots of extra water; I’ve never had any whenever I’ve made this! I wonder if it’s a difference of slow cookers? Did it still taste good if you drained off all the water?

      1. It could be from a difference in quinoa also. I have noticed that the red quinoa that I normally use doesn’t need as much liquid added to it as does the white quinoa.

  26. 5 stars
    This was delicious! Wow I was amazed at how easy this was to make and how good it came out. The flavor profile really works great and add a little cheese & green onion to the top AMAZING! Great recipe thank you!!

  27. 4 stars
    I made this for dinner last night. When my husband walked in the door after work he said, “It smells amazing in here! When can we eat?” I love the flavor combination in this recipe, but like a few previous commenters, mine came out a bit mushy. That certainly didn’t stop us from eating it though! Super deliscious. I only cooked it for 3 hours, but maybe it’s my crockpot? Next time I’ll try decreasing the water a little as I can always add more if needed. Thanks for the recipe; we will definitely be making this again. And if it turns out a bit mushy again, we will just throw it in some tortillas for some amazing burritos!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Robyn!! It seems to be that if you have a crockpot that runs to hot or leave this in too long it gets mushy! It’s hard to know exactly since slow cookers can cook so differently so no matter how many times I test a recipe, you can never know what happens in different slow cookers! But let me know if reducing the water is the answer or just less time in the slow cooker if you do try this again 🙂 So glad it still tasted good!! Have a great day 🙂

    1. I’ve never tried freezing it, but you could definitely give it a try. Sorry to not be of more help. If you do try it out, I’d love to hear the results!

  28. 5 stars
    I just made this for dinner tonight – we’re vegan so I used veggie broth and will be leaving out the cheese. It’s delicious, though! I actually only cooked it for 2 hours on high in my Stay or Go, and it’s perfect consistency!

  29. This looks like a terrific meal to make on the weekend for the week ahead. I post a weekend healthy recipes roundup on my blog and had to link to your recipe. It looks like a real family pleaser.

  30. What size crockpot do you use? I have a 6 quart and the new Crockpot Casserole which is about 3 1/2 quarts (9×13 crock). I understand that the size of the crockpot can have a large effect on the results (overlooked, dry, etc).

  31. 5 stars
    I meant to make this tonight with the crockpot, but wasn’t able to time it right. Instead I sauteed the chopped veggies in a 6Qt stock pot, then added the seasonings. After letting the seasonings cook a few moments, I added the liquids and then the rinsed quinoa. I brought the mix to a boil and then cooked for 20 minutes. Last step was to add some more chili powder, the lime juice and cheese. Not as low stress as your recipe, but still do-able if you don’t have the three-four hours needed for the crock pot.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Christi – this is so helpful for other readers! I appreciate it and I am glad it all worked out well 🙂 Thanks again!

  32. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! We made this for a potluck dinner party. There weren’t poblano peppers at the store, so we substituted with a can of green chili peppers. The flavor got a lot of compliments. The texture was definitely not at peak consistency due to transport time and keeping on low during social hour – it turned more into a hearty dip for nachos. Even my sister, who is an extremely picky eater and actively dislikes most of the ingredients, really enjoyed a bowl.

  33. 5 stars
    Just made this! I used organic shredded cheddar cheese & sour cream, and it came out AMAZINGLY! I am so obsessed! Can you tell me how I should reheat the leftovers? I know you suggested in a burrito, but if I just want to eat it as is, could I reheat it in a glass pan in the oven? Thanks so much!

    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed it! I’ve never tried reheating it in a glass pan in the oven, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. I’ve only ever reheated leftovers in a burrito or quickly microwaved it 🙂

  34. I hope this worked out for you Melanie! And perhaps other readers who have tried chicken can comment. I have found that first cutting the chicken into smaller pieces and then putting the chicken at the bottom of the crockpot works really well!

  35. 4 stars
    This was excellent. I did not have a poblano so instead used a few chipotles (in Adobo sauce) and it gave a nice smoky heat. Thanks for the recipe — great combination.

    1. Ooo love the idea to add in some chipotles! So glad to hear you enjoyed this dish; thanks for the comment!

  36. This sounds really good, I will try it in the Nu Wave oven with chicken drumsticks, because I can’t put anything in a slow cooker for 3-4 hours. I work an hour from home so it would be more like 10-12 hours in the slow cooker for me!

  37. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight. We loved it! 3 hours on high was perfect. Easy to make, and we loved the flavor. We’ve never had quinoa before, but after this recipe, we want to make it more! Thanks so much!

  38. I just tried this for supper tonight. It was awesome! So easy and quick. We have been trying to eat healthier and have gotten tired of salads and chicken. So excited to try something different. Will be adding this to the meal rotation.

  39. This was great! Husband loved it too…couldn’t believe it was a vegetarian meal and that he would like quinoa. Thanks for sharing!!

  40. I was wondering if I could substitute couscous for quinoa? My family just enjoys it more but not sure about the cooking time in a crock pot.

    1. I’ve actually never had success with couscous in a crockpot 🙁 But you could make this on a stovetop and use couscous instead!

  41. 5 stars
    Just made this and got a taste of it. It’s so delicious and flavorful. I added chicken, forgot I didn’t have cilantro, but otherwise followed exact, and everything came out perfectly. There’s tons and I can see tortilla chips scooping it in my future. Thanks for a great recipe that’ll lasts us days!

  42. 5 stars
    I’ve made this successfully about 15 or more times now in my slow cooker and we love it! I just got a new instant pot and was wondering if anyone has tried cooking this in the instant pot.

  43. I’m going to try this as a vegetarian option at a group function I’m hosting. I’ll definitely need more than 6-8 servings, though. Do you think a 6qt crock pot could handle a double batch? Triple, even? If it’s as tasty as these reviews suggest, I may have a riot if I make too little! 🙂

    1. This recipe almost fills a 6 quart crockpot, so I think you’d need to use separate crockpots! (I don’t think recipe doubled would fit in a 6 quart.)

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