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Easy Southwest Chicken Recipe, Juicy and Tender

My easy slow cooker Southwest Chicken recipe is savory, tangy, 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
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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 the 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, water, 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! Try it in this delicious Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl from a Taste for Travel. Or give some of these recipes a try:

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. Or use it in these scrumptious Chicken Melts sandwiches.
  • 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!
  • Serve it next to my Green Beans and Potatoes for a satisfying meal with very little effort!
  • Serve it with a refreshing Bell Pepper Salad or Creamy Coleslaw.

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


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5 from 20 reviews

  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 1215 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, water 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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glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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






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