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I have a not-so-basic version of a core recipe that is essential to our dinner (and therefore our general) well-being: Crockpot Mexican Chicken. This healthy southwest-spiced chicken is tender and juicy, a little bit smoky, and crying to be tucked into tortillas, scattered over chips, mixed with rice burrito-bowl style, and more.

mexican shredded chicken in a slow cooker with a serving spoon

From quesadillas to even salads, we haven’t run out of ways to use this crockpot chicken yet. I’m not concerned. It’s so darn tasty and healthy to boot, I am content to continue to brainstorm more ways we can enjoy it. So far, I’ve come up with 10 different ideas—be sure to check them out later in the post!

Making Mexican chicken in the slow cooker is one of those “coming of age” foundational kitchen hacks that will suit you at any and every phase of life.

  • New to cooking? This recipe is easy and indisputably delicious.
  • Cooking for a busy family of picky eaters? These flavors are appealing, the chicken isn’t too spicy, and the prep work is short.
  • Working on your meal prep game? This chicken is the make-ahead, freezer-friendly, and all-around “I got this” dinner for the deities.
  • Trying to eat healthy? This chicken is lean and mean, but doesn’t skimp on flavor.
  • Just love Mexican food? <—This is every life phase (thanks, Chicken Nachos!).

No matter your season of life, chances are you’ve gone the route of dumping a jar of salsa and pile of chicken breasts in the slow cooker together, then call it a day, and you know what? THAT’S FINE. This is just not that recipe.

While I love the ease of the salsa + chicken slow cooker formula, to me it’s always tasted exactly like what it is: bland chicken with some salsa on top.

I want to do better. I know that we can.

a bowl with crockpot mexican shredded chicken with lime slices

Thus, I set off to come up with an easy crockpot shredded Mexican chicken that was still reasonably quick and easy to prep (I mean, isn’t that half the selling point of making it in the first place?). It lead me to these Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos.

It’s a stellar recipe and lead me to unlock the two top secrets to making shredded Mexican chicken with superior flavor (both of which I used in this crockpot version!), but I know we don’t all own an Instant Pot.

And even if we do, it’s not always the appliance we need on a particular night. Whether it’s for its make-ahead ease or the set-it-and-forget it appeal, sometimes only the slow cooker will do.

This recipe is your starter, better-than-salsa, Mexican-style chicken breasts. Or make slow cooker Mexican chicken thighs (this recipe works for either cut). Mix the shredded chicken with corn and beans to bulk it up or add rice (or both!). Or, make the recipe exactly as it is, then use and love it for all of your Mexican food whims.

slow cooker mexican chicken in a crockpot

How to Make Crockpot Mexican Chicken

Three key tips give this Mexican chicken authentic flavor:

  • Brown the Chicken. I KNOW. I’m asking you to get an extra skillet dirty. I promise the flavor it locks into the meat is well worth it.
  • Use Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes. A can of these beauties imparts more taste than plain diced tomatoes. The chicken cooks in their liquid, absorbing more flavor.
  • Chipotle Peppers in Adobo. Smoke city! Chipotles are smoked jalapeños that you can purchase in a can at almost any major grocery store. They make recipes taste complex. Adobo is a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce that these chipotles come packed in. It’s a two-fer when you buy them, and this recipe takes advantage of both.

Once you’ve embraced these three, this recipe is a snap to make and uses spices any Mexican food lover will already have in his or her pantry.

The Ingredients

  • Chicken. While in the slow cooker, the chicken meat will become incredibly tender, moist, and flavorful. Watch it carefully for over cooking. I opted to use boneless skinless breasts for this recipe, but you could use thighs as well. Thighs are also less prone to drying out.
  • Spices. No bland chicken here! I used a mixture of salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried oregano to create robust flavor with a hint of heat.
  • Tomatoes. Fire-roasted diced tomatoes add a subtle smokiness to the chicken and help it stay moist.
  • Chipotle Peppers in Adobo. A powerhouse of smoky flavor wrapped up in the convenience of one can. (You’ll have some left in the can—use it in any of these recipes.)
  • Optional Additions. I loved adding a can of black beans and Mexican corn for additional flavor and texture. You can stir them in at the end if you’d like to make the chicken even more substantial.

The Directions

  1. Coat your slow cooker with nonstick spray. Season the chicken.
  2. Sauté the chicken, searing each side until brown. Transfer chicken to the slow cooker.
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the chicken, and pour in the tomatoes. Scatter the peppers on top.
  4. Cover and cook until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Shred the chicken, either on a cutting board or right in the slow cooker.
shredded chicken thighs in a slow cooker with mexican spices and flavors
  1. Return the chicken to the slow cooker, and stir. Add in the beans and Mexican corn (if using). Cover and cook on low for a few additional minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Use for any of your favorite Mexican recipes, and DIG IN!

10 Ways to Use Crockpot Mexican Chicken

  1. Mexican Chicken Nachos. Scatter over chips with black beans. Sprinkle with cheese then bake. Smother with any of your favoring nacho toppings.
  2. Burritos. Wrap inside a warmed tortilla with beans, rice, salsa, and cheese.
  3. Tacos. Especially delicious topped with the avocado slaw from these Shrimp Tacos.
  4. Tostadas. Add the chicken to these Black Bean Tostadas.
  5. Salad. Use it in place of turkey in this Healthy Taco Salad or add it to this Mexican Salad.
  6. Creamy Mexican Chicken. Mix with cream cheese, mashed avocado, and Greek yogurt. Season to taste then use in any of the other suggestions on this list.
  7. Mexican Chicken Taquitos. Wrap tortillas around a handful of cheese and a spoonful of the chicken (or the creamy Mexican chicken suggested above). Coat a foil-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray and arrange the taquitos on top. Spritz the top of the tortillas with nonstick spray, then bake in a 350 degree F oven until the filling is hot and the tortillas are crisp (about 10 minutes).
  8. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Pile a baked potato or baked sweet potato with the filling, then add all of your favorite Mexican toppings.
  9. Burrito Bowl. Serve the Mexican chicken and rice with beans, corn, salsa, and all of your favorite toppings. (If this sounds good to you, be sure to check out my knock off Chipotle Burrito Bowl.) Or add it on top of this Mexican Quinoa.
  10. Quesadillas. Don’t let tacos or burritos have all the fun. Layer the filling inside of tortillas with cheese, then cook them in a skillet with a bit of butter or oil to prevent sticking, until they are golden and crisp.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers 

  • To Store. Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • To Reheat. Reheat gently on the stove with a splash of chicken stock or extra salsa to keep it from drying out.

More Favorite Mexican Chicken Recipes

Looking for more crock pot inspiration? Be sure to check out my full list of healthy slow cooker recipes.

Looking for slow cooker recipes with chicken specifically? Don’t miss this helpful post with everything you need to know about how to cook healthy chicken in the crockpot. It includes my best tips and a collection slow cooker chicken recipes too! This post on Crock Pot Shredded Chicken is another great resource.

shredded mexican chicken in a bowl

Tools Used to Make this Recipe

  • Slow Cooker. A prized appliance in my kitchen, and the perfect size for this recipe.
  • Skillet. Perfect for browning the chicken.
  • Instant Read Thermometer. The best way to ensure your chicken is cooked through and to avoid overcooking the chicken.

If you try this crockpot Mexican chicken, I’d love to hear how it goes! Please leave a comment letting me know how the recipe came out. It keeps me so motivated each time I hear from you.

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

4.85 from 72 votes
An easy, healthy recipe to make the best crockpot Mexican chicken. See the blog post for 10 ways to use it to make fast, wholesome meals any night of the week!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 4 hours 20 minutes
Total: 4 hours 30 minutes

Servings: 11 servings

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CHICKEN:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts about 4 small/medium or 3 medium/large
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes in their juices 14 ounces
  • 2 – 3 chipotle peppers in adobo individual peppers from a can; NOT 3 cans, finely chopped (three peppers has a definite, though not unbearable kick. Used 2 if you are more sensitive to spice, 1 if you do not want it to be spicy at all)

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS & SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

  • Canned reduced-sodium black beans rinsed and drained
  • Canned Mexican corn drained
  • Prepared brown rice or quinoa
  • Your favorite Mexican toppings: fresh cilantro and/or nonfat plain Greek yogurt, diced jalapeno, thinly sliced radishes, cheese, additional salsa, diced avocado

Instructions
 

  • Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Season both sides of the chicken with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot and shimmering, add the chicken. Sear each side for 2 to 3 minutes each, just until brown (the chicken does not need to be cooked through). Do not disturb the chicken while each side sears. Transfer to the prepared slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour in the tomatoes including their juices. Scatter the chipotle peppers over the top.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or on high for 1 to 2 ½ hours, until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. The cooking time will vary based on your slow cooker and the size of your chicken breasts. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then shred with two forks, either on the cutting board or return it to the slow cooker and shred it directly in the slow cooker with two forks (or for even faster shredding) a hand mixer.
  • Return the chicken to the slow cooker (if needed) and stir in with the cooking liquid. Add in the optional beans and Mexican corn (if using). Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes to allow the chicken to absorb the flavor and cooking juices. Taste and season with additional salt as desired. Serve the chicken hot, on top of brown rice, inside enchiladas, for quesadillas or tacos, or any way you like.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • TO FREEZE: Place leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • TO REHEAT: Reheat gently on the stove with a splash of chicken stock or extra salsa to keep it from drying out.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 11); about 1/2 cupCalories: 121kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 18gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mgPotassium: 323mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 589IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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108 Comments

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    1. Hi Maryam! I haven’t tried this recipe in an Instant Pot, but this Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos recipe is very similar. I hope this helps!

  1. This was terrific! I made this last night for my family and even my eight year old loved it! (Unfortunately, there are not enough leftovers for a second meal, but there will be the next time!) I did make mine in our instant pot. The only thing I did differently was a manual setting of 25 minutes, followed by about 5 minutes of sauté mode with the beans to cook off some of the excess liquid. It was great! Thank you for another amazing recipe!5 stars

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share this kind review, Lesan! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe!

  2. We made this today for meal prep burritos. It’s absolutely delicious.  This is so versatile I know we will make it again. Really good flavors!  Thanks Erin! 5 stars

  3. Another winner! Made as written, easy to put together. We used this for baked chimichangas (whole wheat tortillas) with pico de gallo, sour cream, Mexican rice. Thinking of incorporating leftovers with a breakfast casserole or omelet. Thanks Erin!5 stars

  4. Yummy recipe! I added the chipotles along with the adobo sauce, fresh cilantro, and lime juice. This is a keeper. Thank you.5 stars

  5. Really great! This is the first time that I have felt my chicken had strong flavor when doing a crockpot recipe. It seems in other recipes that the meat comes out bland even with lots of steps. This is really good. Will definitely use again.5 stars

    1. Can you double it? 
      And in your dialogue you say that you use both the peppers and the sauce. I don’t see in the recipe how you incorporated the sauce. I’m sure I missed it! 

      1. Hi Teresa! I haven’t tried to double this recipe, but you could try it as long as you have a slow cooker large enough to fit it all. You’ll add the peppers in adobo at the end of Step 3. I hope this helps and that you enjoy the recipe!

    1. Hi Benjamin! Are you referring to raw, pounded chicken that would typically be used for chicken paillard? If so, you could experiment with it, but the chicken will cook very quickly. I’d recommend cooking on LOW and checking it early and often. I hope this helps!

  6. I made this earlier in the week.
    Here in Norway I couldn’t find the peppers that were in the ingredients list, so I bought red chilis instead. Since our 9-year old is not too keen on hot food, I only used one, without the seeds. Added black beans and corn in the end as suggested.
    My husband and I added Hot taco sauce as a topping.

    I folded it into an enchilada, and had salat, avokado and herbs as a side.
    DELICIOUS!

    We have enough for at least one more dinner, perhaps even two for this portion!5 stars

    1. I’m so happy to hear that the recipe was a hit, Pernille! Thank you for sharing this kind review!

    1. Hi Katie! This would be a total experiment, but I think it could be tasty. If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  7. Made this today as written and served quesadilla style with just the meat and cheddar cheese in toasted tortillas. It was fantastic! Very flavorful. While preparing I felt a little bad only using two chipotle peppers out of the can and was thinking about leaving them out next time to simplify, but after actually eating this I suspect those peppers and adobo sauce make a huge difference in the flavor and shouldn’t be left out.

    My only minor complaint is that they were pretty messy to eat, since the meat was drippy. I think I just needed to remove some of the cooking juices

    before adding the shredded meat back to the pot. Thanks for the great recipe!5 stars

  8. I have been dependent on your website ever since it was shared by a friend months ago. I never write reviews but they have all turned out well and repeated many times. I normally avoid my crockpot but this turned out really well. Thank you!5 stars

  9. I never cook so when I was looking up how to shred chicken I stumbled on your Mexican chicken recipe. I almost moved past it because I was intimidated by the list of ingredient that mostly I did not have or was unfamiliar with. Then I read your system most Me Ivan chicken tastes bland like plain salsa on top of unseasoned chicken. I followed your recipe to the T and it was quite easy. This is one of the best dishes I have ever cooked. I made Tacos and added the blank beans and corn; my husband loved it!! I cooked a second batch to attempt Tortilla soup, I so wish you had included a recipe for it as well because your instructions are so clear and straight forward. If you have one please direct me to it. Thank you again, from a cooking failure that you helped  have a win. You exposed me to different ingredients, and techniques that have helped boost my confidence.  ?5 stars

    1. I’m SO happy to hear that it was a hit, Cynthia! Thank you for sharing this kind review! I think the cooked Mexican chicken would be delicious stirred into this Easy Taco Soup.

    1. Hi Michelle! I think you could stir it in when the recipe says to add the Mexican corn. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

  10. Would crushed fire roasted tomatoes work as well as diced fire roasted? I have the former on hand…

    I made this once already and it was great! Wanting to make again…thanks!

  11. So good! I made this tonight and doubled the recipe, my family loved it and went back for seconds. It was mild and slightly spicy and paired so well with Spanish rice, salsa and homemade tortillas. Definitely adding this to my re-do recipes!5 stars

  12. I make this over and over again – it’s one of the tastiest and most versatile chicken recipes ever!5 stars

  13. Loved this recipe. Super simple to put together and very flavorful! Great for a family dinner or a potluck dinner.5 stars

  14. Such a great, versatile recipe! I used bone in, skin on chicken thighs because it’s what I had on hand and lets face it, I’m extremely lazy at both 545am when I’m prepping my slow cooker meal as much as I am at 545pm when I’m leaving work so I didnt bother removing any of that. I was able to season it per your recommendations and based on my own preferences like adding Adobo and some chicken broth. You cannot mess this recipe up. We made tostadas, quesadillas and soft tacos but what I’m really excited about is using the next batch as an enchilada filling! It was a crowd pleaser to say the least. Thank you for helping this tired mom out.5 stars

  15. I have tried so many recipes and made so many personal attempts at trying to replicate my favorite mexican restaurants shredded chicken. Theirs isn’t bland and THIS recipe is so close to theirs. My ex husband almost died when he ate it, declaring it, the best shredded chicken you’ve ever made! So this is the recipe we are keeping forever and ever. Just wanted to say thank you!5 stars

  16. This was delicious! So I substituted a couple thing for what I had, fresh diced tomatoes and bell peppers instead of the canned tomatoes and Adobo chipotles. Flavor was still on point! Also added some corn the last few minutes. We had tacos, while our toddler had it “a la carte”. It was a super quick and easy meal to put together, thank you!5 stars

  17. Thank you so much. This is the best tasting chicken I’ve ever made. We did tacos the first night and quesadillas the second! So delicious! Two thumbs up!5 stars

  18. Prepped this at lunchtime and dinner was ready before everyone left the house for activities. Some had it in a tortilla, others had it with chips, and I (as Erin is so fond of saying) literally ate it right out of the pot. And it was healthy! Added canned black beans and cut fresh corn off the cob and those were definite enhancements.5 stars

  19. Absolutely loved this recipe! Tasted amazing – so much flavor, and made a ton for leftovers which is always the best for easy week day meals! I love crockpot recipes that allow for some flexibility and this one was just that. I am so excited to enjoy it the rest of this week and will be making it again and again!5 stars

  20. I made this and used it in quesadilla form and added corn and black beans to it with some cheese. Super good! I plan on using the rest of the filling for taquitos tonight as they are easier for little hands to eat :)! I love how versatile it is.
    Thanks so much for sharing!5 stars

  21. Great family dinner and a large causal party dinner. I omitted the peppers.
    This will be served again in my house. Everyone loved it.5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Katherine! Thank you for sharing this kind review!

  22. I really enjoyed this chicken stuffed into sweet potatoes. It was easy and so flavorful! Looking forward to trying it in other ways now too!5 stars

  23. My husband and I both loved this for tacos, and he even called it “exceptional”! We eat a lot of Mexican, usually with chicken, and I’ve made many different recipes and non-recipes. This one is a keeper for sure!5 stars

  24. Love this easy recipe. I used chicken tenders and didn’t have the chili adobo to add but it was still very good! Served with black beans and yellow rice.5 stars

  25. In this dreary, cold, pandemic winter it was so great to add a little spice to our lives!
    Family loved it!
    Gracias :)5 stars

  26. Hello Erin
    This recipes looks like what I need for letting my slow cooker do the main cooking while I work. I was wondering if you thought Queso cheese melted and mixed in would be good. Fixing for a crowd and I wanted to double it, but add the queso cheese since they are cheese lovers and I like the pollo chicken at Mexican restaurants.5 stars

    1. Hi Tammy! I’ve only tested this recipe as written, so I wouldn’t be able to advise how the queso cheese would work. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes.

  27. This is a new family favorite. Everyone can have it their way! This is replacing my former crockpot Mexican chicken recipe for sure! Have shared it with all my friends too.5 stars

    1. Hi Erik! No water is needed! You’ll find all of the ingredients in the recipe card! Hope you enjoy it!

  28. First chicken enchiladas I’ve made that I actually liked and I think this chicken had a lot to do with it! I added black beans in with the chicken and it turned out great. I used two peppers and I’ll try 3 next time. I’m definitely not a huge spicy fan, but another one might be nice. Great flavor chicken, thank you!5 stars

  29. This meal is SO delicious and full of FLAVOR!!! I am doing WW and for me, it is only ONE point per serving! Easy to make and so very yummy to eat! I plan to make this over and over!!5 stars

  30. There’s some spice in adobo we don’t care for. What can I replace this ingredient with?

    1. Hi Marty! I’m sorry, I’ve only tested the recipe with the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce so I am unsure what would be a good substitute. If you decide to experiment with something else, let me know how it goes!

  31. I added no salt taco seasoning and both salsa and fire roasted diced tomatoes. Used bone in chicken thighs and cooked on low 4 hours. Added drained salt free corn and black beans. Very yummy5 stars

  32. Is it necessary to sear the chicken before putting it in the crockpot? I’m an extremely lazy cook and kinda just want to dump it all in the pot without having to pre-cook anything. XD

    1. Hi Amy! It’s my preferred method, but I guess you would try to make it without searing it! If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  33. Mahalo Erin for a delicious recipe! I also appreciate how clearly it was written. I didn’t have to re-read it repeatedly the way I often do. Definitely a keeper.5 stars

  34. This was. Very good and so easy. Made a few slight changes, used what I had on hand. I only use two chipotle pepper. It was two hot, so added some fresh lime juice which toned in right down. So very good! Thanks.5 stars

  35. The recipe was very good with the following changes. I found the amount of salt to be excessive when using the chipotle peppers, and I like salt. I added lime juice and another can,14oz, of diced tomatoes to counter it. That worked perfectly.

  36. This is amazing. So simple but yet so tasty, in tortillas with avocado and shredded cheese, in a bowl with rice and black beans. I use thick boneless , skinless chicken breasts. Season as instructed with the exception of the salt, sear for about 3 or 4 min on each side and into the crock pot. This has become a favorite in our house.5 stars

  37. Made this with black beans and corn, and it was absolutely delicious! My family loves salt, so I added a generous dash at the end, and it was perfect! It’s even delicious without cheese for Whole30 :)5 stars

  38. Yum! I used a can of tomato sauce instead of diced, added maybe 1/2 tsp cumin, and stirred in a spoonful of brown sugar at the end to balance it out. So far we’ve enjoyed chicken burritos, tacos, and nachos.4 stars