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Easy Southwest Chicken Recipe, Juicy and Tender

My easy slow cook­er South­west Chick­en recipe is savory, tangy and spicy deli­cious­ness! You’ll love this juicy, melt-in-your-mouth ten­der chick­en! Use it in a wide vari­ety of meals through­out the week. It’s chick­en meal prep heav­en! And, it’s a nat­u­ral­ly gluten free recipe.

slow cooker southwest chicken whole in a serving bowl with sprigs of cilantro
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

These juicy, fla­vor­ful slow cook­er chick­en breasts are slow cooked with my scrump­tious home­made South­west­ern Sea­son­ing. I add some lime juice and zest, a jar of hatch green chilies and a bay leaf to cre­ate a delec­table, savory chick­en with a bold kick of spice. 

This deli­cious chick­en will be the cen­ter­piece of mul­ti­ple sim­ple meals for your week. It’s easy to make South­west Chick­en. Just let the slow cook­er do the work. And, enjoy spicy vari­ety that leaves you and your fam­i­ly want­i­ng just one more bite.

slow cooker southwest chicken sliced on a plate with tomatoes and quartered limes

What Is Southwest Flavor?

The Amer­i­can South­west is both geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tur­al. It includes Ari­zona and New Mex­i­co, but also por­tions of states that touch their bor­ders at some point. Think Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Neva­da, Okla­homa, Texas and Utah.

Imag­ine then, tak­ing the cul­tur­al food influ­ences of Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors explor­ing South Amer­i­ca. Then, com­bin­ing them with those of Mex­i­can and Native Amer­i­can soci­eties in that region. Last­ly, mix it all up with the fla­vors and tra­di­tions of cow­boys and West­ern set­tlers mov­ing to the area. The result is a melt­ing pot of food tra­di­tions often labeled southwestern.

Con­se­quent­ly, my South­west­ern Sea­son­ing is a key ingre­di­ent in this easy slow cook­er south­west chick­en recipe. It pulls ingre­di­ents like chipo­tle chili pow­der and cumin, (along with sev­en oth­er spices and herbs), from those south­west fla­vors and traditions. 

Southwest Seasoning Blend in a jar and spilling out of a measuring spoon on a concrete counter top

FAQs About Southwestern Foods

What foods are the Three Sis­ters of South­west­ern cui­sine?

At the heart of south­west­ern cook­ing is an ingre­di­ent com­bo fond­ly known as the three sis­ters. Maize (corn), win­ter squash and climb­ing beans, (like black beans, pin­tos, Anasazi and tepary). Not only were these beloved foods packed with nutri­tion, but they grew well together.

What Foods are Native to the South­west?

Blue Corn, chiles, pin­to beans and black beans, cal­abaci­ta squash and many veg­eta­bles are cen­tral to South­west­ern Cook­ing. See the Descrip­tions and Images, below.

A Common Question about Slow Cooker Chicken 

Can I real­ly cook the chick­en in the slow cook­er in only 2 1/2 hours?

Absolute­ly! Most peo­ple over­cook chick­en in the slow cook­er, to the point that it is dry, stringy and tough. In 2 1/2 hours you’ll have juicy, ten­der chick­en breasts that can be neat­ly sliced, with­out hav­ing to be shred­ded. It will be per­fect as a main dish or to use in dozens of oth­er recipes where shred­ded chick­en would­n’t work.

Foods that are Native to Southwest Cooking

Blue Corn

Blue corn is more promi­nent in South­west cook­ing than yel­low. his­tor­i­cal­ly, the crop was first cul­ti­vat­ed by the Hopi tribes of New Mex­i­co and north­ern Mex­i­co. This col­or­ful veg­etable is cen­tral to a lot of South­west­ern cuisine.

Today, blue corn is most com­mon­ly made into flour, which is in turn used to make tor­tillas. More recent­ly, it can be found in cere­als and pan­cake mix. It is also used to make a tra­di­tion­al hot bev­er­age known as atole.

Green Chiles

green and red hatch chilies

Green chiles, whole fresh pep­pers, also fig­ure promi­nent­ly in South­west cui­sine. The mild Hatch chili is one of the most preva­lent, because hatch chilies have only about 1/3 the heat of a jalapeno. 

Because of the low­er spice fac­tor, hatch green chiles are easy to add to just about any­thing. Con­se­quent­ly, in the south­west­ern states you may find hatch chilies roast­ed and piled on cheese­burg­ers, as a piz­za top­ping or even a bagel fill­ing. You prob­a­bly know hatch chilies from the canned or jarred green chilies you pur­chase at the gro­cery store.

Oth­er impor­tant chiles in South­west fla­vors are jalapenos, ser­ra­no pep­pers, cayenne pep­pers, ana­heim and poblano pep­pers, plus the chile pequin. Chipo­tle is very com­mon. Chipo­tle are smoked and then dried jalapenos.

Other Significant Native Southwestern Ingredients

  • Beans: Though we often think first of black beans, the most com­mon­ly used bean in South­west­ern cui­sine is the pin­to. You may also find both Anasazi and tepary beans along­side pin­tos and black beans.
calabacitas-squash
  • Squash: The tra­di­tion­al squash of South­west cook­ing is known as the cal­abaci­ta. It’s a type of zuc­chi­ni with lighter green skin. It can also be pear shaped. It’s ori­gins are South Amer­i­can. Zuc­chi­ni and crook­neck squash­es also fig­ure promi­nent­ly in Amer­i­can South­west cuisine.
  • Rice: Rice is fair­ly com­mon across all the var­ied south­west food tra­di­tions. Both brown and white rice are used.
  • Herbs, Seeds and Nuts: Cilantro (and its seed, corian­der), tomatil­los, cumin, pepi­tas (a spe­cif­ic vari­ety of pump­kin seeds), pine nuts are also preva­lent in South­west­ern dishes.
  • Cit­rus: (espe­cial­ly lime juice) Regard­less of the cho­sen fruit, both the juice and zest can be used.
  • Fruits and Veg­eta­bles: South­west food actu­al­ly relies heav­i­ly on veg­eta­bles. Toma­toes, sweet pota­toes, plan­tains, bell pep­per, nopales (cac­tus), cin­na­mon, oregano, jica­ma, gar­lic and onion all have their place in the tra­di­tion, as well.
  • Meat: Beef, pork and chick­en are the most com­mon­ly used pro­teins in the Amer­i­can South­west. Though the south­west­ern food tra­di­tion leans heav­i­ly toward plant-based ingre­di­ents, you will still see these pro­teins in tra­di­tion­al dishes.
slow cooker southwest chicken whole in a serving bowl with sprigs of cilantro

Southwest Chicken Ingredients

Bring­ing some of those South­west­ern fla­vors and ingre­di­ents into my own kitchen was impor­tant as I devel­oped this recipe. Like­wise, the recipes that this one has inspired have relied on those same deli­cious ingredients. 

To make South­west chick­en in a slow cook­er, you will need:

  • bone­less skin­less chick­en breast 
  • jarred green chilies, mild or medium
  • South­west sea­son­ing 
  • lime juice and zest
  • bay leaf
  • water

ingredients for slow cooker southwestern chicken in a slow cooker

How to Make this Easy Southwestern Chicken Recipe

  1. Arrange bone­less skin­less chick­en breasts in a sin­gle lay­er in the bot­tom of your slow cook­er [affil­i­ate link].
  2. Then, add in the South­west­ern sea­son­ing, lime juice and zest, along with the bay leaf and green chiles.
  3. Stir every­thing, turn­ing the chick­en a time or two to ful­ly dis­trib­ute the ingredients.
  4. Cook on LOW for 2 1/2 hours or until a meat ther­mome­ter insert­ed into the thick­est part of the chick­en breast reads 160°.
  5. Final­ly, remove chick­en from the slow cook­er and allow to rest on a plat­ter or cut­ting board. Loose­ly tent the chick­en with foil and let it rest about 10 min­utes. The resid­ual heat, should bring the chick­en up to the USDA rec­om­mend­ed inter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 165° as it rests. This rest­ing peri­od is crit­i­cal for juicy, ten­der chicken.
  6. Serve with Mex­i­can Rice and a green sal­ad. Or, allow to ful­ly cool and cut into thin slices for use in future meals. 
  7. Store in the fridge for 5–7 days or in the freez­er for 3 to 6 months.

southwest chicken ingredients combined and ready to cook inside a slow cooker

What to Do With Leftover Chicken

I LOVE that this easy chick­en recipe makes an abun­dance of left­overs. I can give you so many ideas for what to do with left­over chick­en. And this South­west Chick­en recipe is no different.

It does­n’t mat­ter whether you’re work­ing with left­over chick­en from din­ner, a rotis­serie chick­en or have made an easy chick­en recipe like this one. Pre-cooked chick­en will get din­ner on the table quick­ly even on busy weeknights.

Southwest Chicken as Comfort Food 

Sink it into a com­fort­ing bowl of south­west chick­en and black bean soup or add slow cook­er south­west­ern chick­en to a creamy, dreamy south­west chick­en casse­role. Regard­less of which you try, you’ll enjoy deli­cious, homey, com­fort food satisfaction. 

slow cooker southwest chicken whole in a serving bowl with sprigs of cilantro

Southwest Chicken for Breakfast

  • You can also add South­west chick­en to a break­fast frit­ta­ta, an omelet or your favorite quiche. Top them with sour cream, diced toma­toes, green onion and cilantro. Delectable! 
  • Toss it into huevos rancheros.
  • Plus, you can nes­tle a few slices into a bis­cuit break­fast sand­wich with some cheese, my home­made South­west Sal­ad Dress­ing and slices of toma­to and avo­ca­do. Or to tem­per the spicy heat and enjoy a deli­cious cool­ing sauce, use this Keto Tzatzi­ki Sauce, from Jenn, at Keto Cook­ing Wins.
  • Or, sim­ply stir it into some scram­bled eggs with bell pep­per and red onion. 

Easy Crockpot Southwest Chicken for Lunch and Dinner

Pair South­west chick­en with black beans or pin­tos, diced toma­toes, onions, corn, avo­ca­do, cheese and/or bell pep­per in ANY form and you are going to love it!

Southwest Chicken Salad and homemade southwestern dressing
  • With this same bold­ly fla­vor­ful and easy chick­en I can show you how to make the buf­fa­lo chick­en grilled cheese of your dreams. 
  • And, you’ll swoon for my south­west chick­en sal­ad with pin­to beans, bell pep­per, toma­to, avo­ca­do, red onion, corn and creamy home­made South­west dress­ing on a bed of your favorite greens.
  • Stir south­west­ern chick­en into bowls of ramen or use it’s spicy good­ness to top a bar­be­cue chick­en piz­za.
  • Of course it’s per­fect in tacos, bur­ri­tos, que­sadil­las and chimichangas.
  • Build a rice bowl with corn, black beans, toma­toes, bell pep­pers, red onion and South­west chick­en served over my 10-Minute Mex­i­can Rice and driz­zled with South­west Dress­ing and Avo­ca­do Ranch Sal­ad Dress­ing. Heav­en!

Eas­i­ly put all these scrump­tious meals togeth­er in only min­utes, because the per­fect south­west­ern chick­en is already done. You’re going to love south­west Chicken!

I can’t wait for you to make the recipe and to hear all the ways you use it!

slow cooker southwest chicken sliced on a plate with tomatoes and quartered limes

Storing Chicken for Quick and Easy Meal Prep

  1. Be sure the chick­en is com­plete­ly cool before storing.
  2. I like to slice this chick­en very thin­ly (about 1/8″ thick). Then it’s ready to toss into any of our favorite recipes.
  3. If I am stor­ing the chick­en in the fridge to use through­out the week, I use an air­tight con­tain­er. This is a Rub­ber­maid Bril­liance con­tain­er [affil­i­ate link] and they’re my favorite for in the fridge. They seal tight­ly and I can see what’s in them. They stack neat­ly and help keep my fridge organized.
slow cooker southwest chicken stored in a refrigerator container for meal prep throughout the week
  1. For stor­ing in the freez­er, I pre­fer zip-top freez­er bags. I por­tion the sliced chick­en into the bags in amounts that work for prepar­ing a recipe. Push as much air as pos­si­ble out of these bags as you seal them. You can safe­ly freeze the South­west chick­en for 3 to 6 months.
  2. I store the bags flat until they are frozen and then I can stand them up and orga­nize them “file cab­i­net style”.
  3. Be sure to label and date all the freez­er bags.
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southwest chicken on a platter

Southwest Chicken Recipe


  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 serv­ings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

My easy slow cook­er South­west Chick­en recipe is savory, tangy and spicy deli­cious­ness! You’ll love this juicy, melt-in-your-mouth ten­der chick­en as a main dish and in a wide vari­ety of meals through­out the week. It’s a nat­u­ral­ly gluten free recipe that is also dairy free.  It’s chick­en meal prep heaven!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 45 pounds bone­less skin­less chick­en breast (5 — 7 pieces)
  • 1 cup jarred green chilies (8 oz), mild or medium
  • 2 Table­spoons of my South­west sea­son­ing (Use store-bought if it’s all you have, but the chipo­tle chili pow­der and oth­er spices in my sea­son­ing are what real­ly brings the South­west fla­vor to this chicken.)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 Table­spoon lime zest
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions

  • Arrange chick­en breast pieces in a sin­gle lay­er in the bot­tom of your slow cooker.
  • Add in the South­west­ern sea­son­ing, lime juice and zest, along with the bay leaf and green chiles.
  • Stir every­thing, turn­ing the chick­en a time or two to ful­ly dis­trib­ute the ingredients.
  • Cook on LOW for 2 1/2 hours or until a meat ther­mome­ter insert­ed into the thick­est part of the chick­en breast reads 160°.
  • Remove the chick­en breast pieces from the slow cook­er and allow to rest on a plat­ter or cut­ting board. Loose­ly tent the chick­en breasts with foil and allow them to rest about 10 min­utes. The resid­ual heat, should bring the chick­en up to the USDA rec­om­mend­ed inter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 165° as it rests. (This rest­ing peri­od is crit­i­cal for juicy, ten­der chick­en breast pieces.)
  • Serve with Mex­i­can Rice, black beans or pin­to beans and a green sal­ad. Or, allow south­west chick­en to ful­ly cool and then cut into thin slices for use in future meals.
  • Store in the fridge for 5–7 days or in the freez­er for 3 to 6 months.

Notes

South­west Sea­son­ing Recipe

 
  • 2 Table­spoons chipo­tle chili powder
  • 2 Table­spoons smoked paprika
  • 2 Table­spoons ground cumin
  • 1 Table­spoon gar­lic powder
  • 1 Table­spoon dried oregano
  • 1 Table­spoon kosher salt
  • 2 tea­spoons ground corian­der
  • 2 tea­spoons onion pow­der
  • 1 tea­spoon ground black pepper
  1. Stir all the ingre­di­ents togeth­er in a small bowl.  Take care to be sure all the ingre­di­ents are even­ly distributed.
  2. Store South­west­ern sea­son­ing in an air­tight con­tain­er in a cool dry place.  It should last up to one year.
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 150 min
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Main Dish, Meat, Chicken
  • Method: Slow Cook­er
  • Cui­sine: South­west­ern

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39 thoughts on “Easy Southwest Chicken Recipe, Juicy and Tender”

  1. This tast­ed so amaz­ing! Thanks a lot for shar­ing this super easy to make chick­en recipe! Fam real­ly loves it! Will sure­ly have this again! High­ly recommended

    Reply

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