Mexican Quinoa is a simple “dump it and forget about it” slow cooker meal. We add uncooked quinoa, veggies, beans, and a seasoning mix to the slow cooker and let it work its magic to deliver this tasty, nutritious, and satiating meal! Top your bowl with your favorite toppings — like cheese, sour cream, avocado, and lime.
These Quinoa Tacos are wildly popular in my home and truthfully, I don’t think meal prep gets much easier than that recipe. Everything gets thrown in the slow cooker (no advance prep) and you’re left with an ultra-tasty, meatless, taco filling that is hearty and satiating.
I wanted to take the concept of having loads of flavor with crazy-easy prep time from those tacos and apply it to another nutritious and vegetarian meal. Enter: Mexican Quinoa. Equally easy, filling, and packed with good-for-you ingredients.
This dish does pack a bit of a spicy punch, but nothing too overwhelming. You can adjust the seasonings to your preference, and with some cheese, sour cream, and/or avocado topping the bowl, the spice is greatly minimized. Even my two-year-old can’t get enough of this dish!
Mexican Quinoa Ingredients
The three main ingredients that impact the spiciness level of this dish are the enchilada sauce, taco seasoning packet, and jalapeño peppers.
- Enchiladasauce. Enchilada sauce can vary greatly in heat from brand to brand. This recipe calls for quite a bit of it, so I recommend using a mild sauce. Personally, I love and recommend Old El Paso’s® mild red enchilada sauce (not sponsored). I would say this particular brand keeps this dish more on the mild side. If you aren’t able to find this specific brand, I’d recommend tasting the enchilada sauce first and making sure it isn’t overly spicy. If it is, I’d recommend using only one can and supplementing the other can with additional chicken or vegetable broth/stock instead.
- Tacoseasoning. Taco seasoning packets can also vary in spice level and in overall flavor. I’ve generally found the cheaper the taco seasoning packet, the less flavor. Our personal favorite is McCormick’s® Mild Taco Seasoning (not sponsored). If you don’t mind spending a couple of extra minutes of prep time, you can always make your own. Check out my “quick tip” box below!
- Jalapeños. We like the slight kick that jalapeño peppers add, but they’re completely optional. To keep the heat to a minimum, I recommend scraping out the ribs and seeds first before dicing the jalapeño. And using the same amount of chopped poblano pepper will provide a less-intense seasoning.
If you’d prefer to make your own taco seasoning blend instead of using a store-bought mix, here’s my go-to taco seasoning blend (this mix perfectly replaces the store-bought mix):
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (McCormick for mild chili powder)
- 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, fine sea salt, and pepper
Make up several batches of this seasoning and put in individual plastic bags for your own grab-and-go mixes.
Mexican Quinoa is great on its own, but the toppings really seal the deal. Our “must-have” toppings include extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and diced avocado. Here are some other ideas:
- Grated sharp (or extra-sharp) Cheddar cheese
- Chopped cherry tomatoes
- Fresh chopped cilantro or thinly sliced green onions
- A squeeze of fresh lime
- A large scoop of sourcream (we use fat-free to keep these on the light side); you can also use Greekyogurt.
- Sliced avocado or scoop of guacamole
- Pickled redonions (I share a quick pickled red onion recipe on these Chicken Tinga Tacos.)
- Buy pre-peeled and cubed squash. Although it is a bit more spendy, buying prepared squash virtually removes any prep time on this Mexican quinoa. Cubed squash can be found in the produce section of many grocery stores.
- Use frozen, cubed squash. I’ve also made this recipe with frozen squash and it worked great. The one caveat to buying cubed squash is to make sure the pieces are small enough. We’re looking for small 1/2-inch cubes. Too much larger and the squash won’t cook in the time that everything else is done.
- Pick minced garlic. Instead of mincing your own garlic, buy a jar of pre-minced garlic to save time. A garlic press is also a nice time saver and a way to still use fresh garlic cloves.
- Look for pre-rinsed quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter saponin coating that needs to be rinsed before cooking. Some brands advertise pre-rinsed quinoa so if you’d like to save a minute or two, grab pre-rinsed!
Mexican Quinoa Tips
- Cut the squash into even, small (1/2-inch) cubes. If the squash pieces are too large they won’t get tender in time.
- If you do opt to cut the squash yourself, I recommend a good cutting board, a very sharp chef’s knife, and a quick refresher on cutting butternut squash if it’s been a while!
- Cook on high. Unfortunately, this recipe doesn’t cook well on low. The quinoa needs higher heat to “pop” and cook through.
- Generously grease the slow cooker or use a liner.
- Use good-quality vegetable or chicken stock and fire-roasted tomatoes. I highly recommend Swanson’s® vegetable or chicken stock (not sponsored) which I’ve found to have the most robust flavor for a store-bought stock. I love what fire-roasted tomatoes do for this Mexican Quinoa — they add a depth of flavor with no additional work required on your end!
- Vegan: As written, this recipe is vegan. Keep toppings, such as sour cream and Cheddar cheese off, or use vegan alternatives.
- Vegetarian: As written this recipe is also vegetarian. Be sure to use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock to keep it vegetarian.
- Gluten-Free: Be sure to check the labels of all the ingredients used to make sure they weren’t processed in a facility with gluten. A lot of enchilada sauces and seasoning mixes do have gluten; Old El Paso enchilada sauce doesn’t typically contain gluten (just be sure to check the can). You can also cut down gluten risk by using my homemade taco seasoning blend instead of a store-bought seasoning blend.
- Dairy-Free: Use a dairy-free cheese and/or sour cream for toppings.
More simple quinoa recipes
- Quinoa Enchilada Bakewith sweet potatoes and black beans
- Quinoa Salad with avocados and a lemon vinaigrette
- Tex Mex Quinoaeasy slow cooker recipe
- Quinoa Chiliwith lots of veggies and black beans
- Quinoa Black Bean Saladwith a cilantro vinaigrette
- 1.25poundspeeled and cubed butternut squash (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) about 4 cups
- 1cup (138g)frozen corn
- 1can (15.25 oz.; 432g)black beans,drained and rinsed
- 1cup (180g)uncooked quinoa,rinsed
- 1teaspoonminced garlic
- 1can (14.5 oz.; 411g)petite fire-roasted diced tomatoesundrained
- 1small diced jalapeño (~2 tablespoons),optional Note 1
- 2cans (19 oz.; 538g EACH)mild red enchilada sauceNote 2
- 1cup (225g)vegetable or chicken stock (or broth)(we love Swanson vegetable stock best)
- 1packet (1.25 ounces)taco seasoningNote 3
- Optionaltoppings: freshly grated sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, fresh lime juice, sour cream, chopped cilantro, diced avocado, etc.
PREP: Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Be generous! Alternatively, use a liner for the pan.
BUTTERNUTSQUASH: Prep the butternut squash by peeling, removing the seeds and cutting into small 1/2-inch cubes. (It is important the cubes are small so everything will cook in time.) Add cubes to the prepared slow cooker.
SLOWCOOKER: Add in the corn, black beans, rinsed quinoa (I rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve), minced garlic, tomatoes, optional jalapeño, enchilada sauce, the vegetable or chicken stock/broth, and the packet of taco seasoning.
COOK: Give everything a really good stir, cover and cook on high for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours (4 hours is perfect in my slow cooker) or until the quinoa is cooked through (it has «popped») and the butternut squash is tender. Remove the lid and stir everything together really well. It’s a bit soupy here, but the quinoa continues to absorb the liquid, so keep the slow cooker uncovered and switch heat to low. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for 15-25 minutes or until most of the liquid has absorbed. This is the perfect time to assemble toppings and whip up a side dish if you’d like.
SERVE: Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve Mexican Quinoa in bowls with your favorite toppings. Our «must-have» toppings include freshly grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a diced avocado. Freshly chopped cilantro and lime juice add some nice freshness and acidity.
Note 2: Make sure you pick the right-sized can of enchilada sauce — these are the slightly larger cans. Enchilada sauce can vary greatly in heat from brand to brand. With the amount of enchilada sauce in this dish, I recommend using a mild sauce. Personally, I love and recommend Old El Paso’s mild red enchilada sauce I would say this particular brand keeps this Mexican Quinoa much milder. If you aren’t able to find this specific brand, I’d recommend tasting the enchilada sauce first and making sure it isn’t overly spicy. If it is spicy, I’d recommend using only 1 can and supplementing the other can with additional chicken or vegetable broth/stock instead.
Note 3: Taco seasoning packets can vary in spice level and in overall flavor. Our personal favorite is McCormick’s Mild Taco Seasoning. If you don’t mind spending a couple of extra minutes of prep time, you can always make your own: whisk together: 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (McCormick for mild chili powder), 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, fine sea salt, and pepper.
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