The slow-cooker salsa chicken that makes three dinners

January 6 | Guest post by Trystan L. Bass

salsachicken1

I can cook, but I don't like to, and frankly, I don't have much time for it, what with an hour-long commute, and three awesome little kittens at home with my sweetie, and a million crazy hobbies that I'd far more prefer to spend my time on. But my husband and I should probably eat more homemade food than expensive, unhealthy takeout or frozen pizzas, so we each force ourselves to cook sometimes.

The following recipe is one I use to get out of cooking three times. Not sure where I found the original slow-cooker recipe, but I've honed it down to its bare essence, plus added how I use the results.

This is all based on servings for two people, so adjust as necessary for more or less.

What you'll need for the chicken:

  • Slow cooker
  • 5 to 6 frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
  • One 28-ounce jar of salsa

Before you go to work, or school, or whatever you do all day, set up the slow-cooker. Put in the chicken breasts, and pour salsa over. Mix it around a bit so the chicken is coated with salsa. Put the lid on the slow-cooker and turn it on to "low." Leave it for about eight hours or until you're done with work or school. Then turn off the slow-cooker because that part is done.

salsa chicken dinner

For the first meal, salsa chicken dinner:

  • about 2 cups of rice
  • rice cooker (or pan to cook rice in)
  • one 8-ounce can of black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans, your choice
  • a handful or two of shredded cheese (I like one called "Mexican cheese blend")
  • a couple dollops of sour cream

When you come home, fire up the rice cooker (or you can make rice on the stove, if you're handy like that). Make about two small servings of rice. While that's cooking, open the can of beans, put into a microwave-safe bowl, and nuke for a minute or two until hot (you may want to turn and stir the beans halfway through cooking).

You can check out your slow-cooker's contents now. Give it a gentle stir round — the chicken may want to fall apart, so be careful. When the rice and beans are done, serve those up with one chicken breast per person. Top with sour cream and shredded cheese. Add some chips and salsa, plus a tasty beverage like agua fresca, horchata, a margarita, or a beer, and it's almost like a home version of some cheap taqueria.

Before the night is through, divide the rest of the salsa chicken in two portions. Freeze one, and stick the other in the fridge. Within the next five days, you can make a killer taco salad out of the un-frozen one.

For the second meal, taco salad:

  • one bag of chopped romaine lettuce
  • one bag of tortilla chips
  • your choice of salad toppings (see below for suggestions)

Take the chicken out of the fridge and shred it up using a fork. Pop it in the microwave for a minute or so to heat it up. Get the leftovers from your original can of beans from the first dinner, and nuke those too (if you don't have leftovers, get another can, if you want, but if you have a lot of toppings, it's no biggie to leave out the beans).

Meanwhile, get out a bag of chopped romaine lettuce (or your preferred crunchy salad green). Lay some lettuce out on one big plate or bowl for each person you're serving. Add a nice ring of tortilla chips around the edge of each plate/bowl. Get the shredded salsa chicken out of the microwave, and add a helping of it to the center of each salad plate/bowl. Add beans, if you're using them.

Now deck out the salads with your choice of toppings such as chopped tomatoes, avocado slices, chopped black olives, chopped onions, shredded cheese, guacamole, salsa (I like a fresh pico de gallo here), sour cream, etc. Enjoy!

For the third meal, enchiladas:

  • rectangular baking pan
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 4-6 flour tortillas, 8-10" size (often labeled "taco"; don't get the giant "burrito" size)
  • one small jar of salsa
  • at least 8oz of shredded cheese

For the final meal, you'll use the frozen salsa chicken to make enchiladas. You've frozen it so some time passes, and you don't overload on faux-Mexican food all in one week. Optional, but nice. When you're ready for the third version, let the chicken thaw in the fridge overnight or use the microwave to thaw it out (but don't fully reheat it). Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and shred the chicken using a fork.

Get out a rectangular baking dish, flour tortillas, salsa, and shredded cheese. Spray the dish with non-stick cooking spray, including the sides. Pour some salsa in the bottom of the baking pan, just enough to lightly coat it. Scoop some of the chicken into a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Roll the tortilla into a loose tube, and lay it, seam side down, in the pan. Continue until you've filled the pan (at least four tortillas-worth, up to six, depends on how fat you pack them). Pour some salsa on top, and then top the whole thing with more cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, if you like. We find that this is filling enough with just chips and salsa, but if you have more than two people, maybe you'll want side dishes like rice and beans or a salad or something, so plan that in advance.

None of this is super fancy, but it's simple and hearty. Hope you Homies enjoy it as much as we do!

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  1. I make a version of this as well! The only thing I do extra is add a can of rotel. I typically will make tacos one night and enchiladas the next since we never have enough chicken for a third night!

    1 agrees
  2. haha wow! I put on a version of this just this morning! I add some taco seasoning to my salsa before i dump it over the chicken in the crockpot and use this for soft tacos ๐Ÿ˜€ If I'm feeling a little extra jazzy, I'll add cream of mushroom soup to the crockpot. The leftovers get used for a chicken tortilla soup for the next days dinner. But the enchilada's sound amazing! If I used more chicken, I could totally add that to the menu, super awesome!!

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    • A friend on Facebook just suggested doing this with pork or beef shoulder too — I just use frozen chicken breasts because they're cheap. But yeah, add stuff & mix it around! This makes a decent base since it's so dang simple.

      • Yes! I use a pork roast with salsa, brown sugar and Dr. Pepper to make pork quesadillas with & it's fantastic, but that only ever makes one meal for us ๐Ÿ˜› It's a great way to switch it up every now and then when I'm tired of chicken!

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  3. I love cooking, but I'm disabled and often spoonless. Easy meals that work well for more than just one days food are super important for me! I love the ideas here and I think I can adapt them well for my needs and taste. I do have a question – is there enough salsa left in the pot to make a sauce for the rice dish?

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1 agrees
    • Yep! I use a big 28-ounce jar of salsa & that provides a little bit of sauce with the rice. You can also spoon in a little sour cream (or vegan equivalent) to extend the sauce out a bit. Or just use more salsa & get a TON more sauce — you won't waste it, not with multiple meals & especially not if you freeze some of it

  4. Do the chicken breasts have to be frozen when you put them in the slow cooker, or can you use fresh (not previously frozen) ones?

    • Frozen is optional! I've used either raw or frozen, & it turns out the same (weird, huh?). Frozen meat can have more water in it, so there may be a little more 'sauce' in the end, but it's not a big deal either way. Slow cooking results in super-tender, falling-apart meat, pretty much whatever you start with.

  5. I have been debating getting a slow cooker for ages. This about seals the deal. This weekend, I am definitely getting one. That said, if you have any more recipes that turn so wonderfully easily into multiple meals please do share!

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  6. This was awesome! We had the chicken the first night with rice & beans and some sauteed onions and peppers the first night, skipped salad (because who wants to eat salad in the middle of winter?) and made the enchiladas tonight served with some corn and refried beans. I didn't have another can of salsa, but i did have some crushed tomatoes and a can of green chilies. Mixed them up and used them instead on the enchiladas. This will be happening again in my house!

    3 agree

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