Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, one of my all-time favorite holidays.
If you ask me, there isn’t much better than a taco. The endless combination of flavors is magic in my mouth. I love everything from a Mexican restaurant hard shell filled with cheese more than anything else, to the gentlest dollop of meat and guac on a soft corn tortilla. Yes, folks, you can have a delicious cheese-free taco, believe it or not!
Growing up in Florida, I started early with my fixation. I am pretty sure the very first thing I ever cooked was tacos, ground beef mixed with a packet of Old El Paso taco seasoning. Served with grated cheddar (pre-shredded bags didn’t exist yet, thankfully), chopped tomatoes, onion, shredded lettuce, and jarred mild (always mild) salsa. All set out in individual bowls, because even at such a young age, I thought that was damn fancy.
Man, I’ve come a long way. Cilantro was unknown to me. Spice was minimal. Cheese was the main ingredient.
Granted, I was probably, like, 9. But still.
It’s amazing how different food seems to me today. Now, I can’t imagine just eating a hard shell taco like that. I mean, what’s so special about it?
Nowadays my tacos are a little different. I’ve matured a bit in my cooking skills. Better ingredients are within my grasp. I have a more sophisticated palate. But I still love a damn good taco. I’ve moved on from a ground meat version. We just don’t eat much beef in our house, and ground turkey tacos always taste…not right. I tend to make them with shredded chicken, and I am sure to load on the veggies. And the guac. It’s not taco night without some guac!
I made this version of the shredded chicken in the crock pot; the set-it-and-forget-it method works amazingly well with these flavors and it’s ready when you want it to be. I love getting the crock pot ready while I’m cooking dinner the night before; I just leave the pot in the fridge overnight and start it in the morning. Foolproof. All you have to do is shred the chicken with two forks, which takes less than 10 minutes, and sprinkle on some fresh cilantro!
As for the slaw, you could very easily make this the night before, too. It doesn’t take much work (thanks, food processor) and the flavors meld the longer it sits. I personally don’t mind a slightly, ah, soft cole slaw. I do mind one that’s coated in mayo — which this is not. Healthy and delicious! The corn tortillas I used were frozen from a previous batch of homemade; you can almost certainly find a brand at the grocery store that uses minimal (real food) ingredients if you don’t have the time/wherewithal to make homemade.
Keep in mind that you can make chicken in the crock pot with almost any sort of culinary infusion. I just happen to lean toward Mexican almost 100 percent of the time…so sue me.
The slaw is just as simple and provides a bit of delicious crunch. I actually ended up eating more of this than the chicken! This would be great for a summer picnic, since it is mayo/dairy-free and a nice spin on a classic. I, for one, strongly dislike traditional slaw in all its wilted, mayo-y glory. I recognize I am in the minority. But I love cabbage for reasons I can’t explain, and this lets me enjoy those fresh farm flavors with zero guilt!
The food processor does double duty here, shredding the veggies and making the dressing. I had some extra time so I salted and drained the veggies to leach out the excess water (place in a colander with some cans in a bowl on top for weight).
The dressing is so similar to a pesto it’s not even funny. The only thing missing was some cheese. Plus, it tastes amazing. I may or may not have licked the bowl. Don’t judge me.
I added chia seeds to boost fiber and omega-3’s while soaking up excess water and because I love them. Win-win!
Top everything off with guacamole and serve with rice and beans. Cheese isn’t even necessary (I can’t believe I’m saying that!).
Crock Pot Mexican Chicken
Feel free to add a can of black or pinto beans for a one-pot meal if you’re not in the mood for tacos.
Active: 20 mins; Inactive: 3-6 hours.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp each: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper powder
- salt and pepper
- Finishing: chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice
- Add all ingredients in crock pot, layering in above order.
- Cook on low for about 6 hours or high for about 3.
- Remove chicken, shred using 2 forks, and return to crock pot; mix well. Mix in chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice before serving.
This would also be delish with jicama and/or mango.
Active: 20 mins; Inactive 1 hour (optional)
Serves an army.
- 1 half red cabbage, shredded
- 2 carrots or 1 cup baby carrots, shredded
- 1 green bell pepper, shredded
- 2 cups cilantro
- 1/2 jalapeno (more or less to your spice level)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
- Shred cabbage, carrots, and pepper using the shred disc of your food processor, or by hand. You could also buy cole slaw mix from the store, doesn’t bother me.
- (Optional, based on time) Place veggies in a colander, add salt and place a heavy bowl filled with cans or some sort of weight on top to press out excess moisture. Let this drain for about an hour. Press out any additional moisture by hand.
- Pulse cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, almonds, vinegar, and lime juice in food processor (no need to clean) until combined. Slowly drizzle in olive oil with food processor on until dressing comes together. Add chia seeds.
- Add dressing to the veggies and stir well to combine.
- Try not to eat too much in one sitting, I dare you.