Wait? Where are the cookies? Taco soup isn’t a very festive meal to share in December. This month is all about sweets, treats, and fun gift ideas.
That’s what the little food blogger that lives inside my head has been telling me all weekend. Is it crazy that I’ve been struggling with the idea of sharing something other than cookies this week? Crazy, right?!
Last night, I looked at Dustin while cleaning up the dishes and boldly declared, “We still have to eat dinner in December. We need dinner recipes!” Clearly Dustin didn’t know what I was talking about. He looked at me as he should, with absolutely no context surrounding my sudden outburst. Poor, Dustin. After a few seconds of awkward silence, I finally explained to him the whole taco soup versus Christmas cookie dilemma. He just smiled and agreed, “Yes, I think you’re right.”
What a good husband!
Today, let’s break away from peppermint cookie bites, cowboy cookies in a jar, and holiday air fresheners. It’s time to talk about dinner. Because dinner doesn’t magically take its own holiday vacation during this festive month.
Our family is currently in preparation mode. In just two weeks, just as the kids break for the winter holiday, we’re leaving behind our home for a three week vacation. We’ve never done anything like this before, so leaving everything behind: my kitchen, actively working on content for the blog, the hamster, and the dogs, is kind of a big deal. Don’t worry, the dogs and the hamster will be cared for thanks to Dustin’s family.
Our plan is to spend a week in Orlando, then venture over to an Airbnb on the East Coast of Florida, and finally meet my entire family (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins) for a week-long cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. That’s quite the daring plan.
As we get ready to leave, I’ve been working on finishing up end-of-the-year freelance recipe development and photography projects for clients, and finalizing a few weeks worth of recipes for Live Simply. Today’s recipe, Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Taco Soup, was initially inspired by one of the slow cooker soup recipes that I’ve been working on for a client. This soup was so easy to make, and so incredibly flavorful, that I just had to recreate a version for Live Simply. And bonus, the soup was a huge hit with everyone in the family: myself, Dustin, and the kids.
That’s a huge win for this mom.
I’ve been adding this soup to our weekly dinner rotation, during these busy weeks of vacation preparation, since the last thing I really want to do after recipe testing and photographing food all day is dirty more pans.
This soup does require a bit of prep work: browning chicken and chopping veggies. But that’s it! Once the initial prep work is done, the ingredients are added to a slow cooker and my job is complete. There’s great satisfaction in knowing that a family favorite dinner will be ready in four hours, and that I don’t have to do anything else to make that happen (well, besides shred chicken and chop cilantro).
I think we could all use a warm and cozy fix-it-and-forget meal in our lives right now, and this soup is exactly that kind of meal.
Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Taco Soup
A simple and flavorful slow cooker taco soup made with shredded chicken, black beans, corn, quinoa, tomatoes, and fresh lime juice.
- 1 TB oil extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil
- 1 lb chicken thighs boneless and skinless* (3-4 thighs)
- 1 medium bell pepper chopped** (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 large yellow onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- 6 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 6 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1 15 ounce can black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 14 ounce diced tomatoes no salt added; regular or fire roasted
- 1 4 ounce can diced green chilis
- 1 1/3 cups frozen corn kernels
- 1/3 cup quinoa rinsed***
- 1 1/2 TB chili powder
- 1 TB cumin
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt****
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 lime juiced
Additional Toppings (optional):
- tortilla chips
- shredded cheddar cheese
- sliced green onions
- sliced or chopped avocado
Pat the chicken dry. Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and pepper (additional from the amounts listed in the recipe above) over each chicken thigh. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the oil of choice. I use extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on each side for 5 minutes. If the chicken is difficult to flip, let it cook for another minute. The chicken should easily pull away from the skillet when it's perfectly brown on that side. Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
With the stove-top heat still on, add the chopped bell peppers, onions, and chopped garlic to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add this mixture to the slow cooker.
Add all the remaining ingredients, except the fresh cilantro and lime juice, to the slow cooker. Stir the ingredients.
Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook the soup on high for 4 hours.
After 4 hours, the chicken should be cooked through. Remove the whole chicken thighs from the slow cooker, and shred the chicken with two forks.
Place the shredded chicken back in the slow cooker, and stir in the fresh cilantro and lime juice. Serve warm with any optional toppings.
*I prefer to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs in this recipe. If you'd like to use bone-in chicken thighs, you'll just need to remove the bones from the chicken before shredding the meat (after about 4 hours of cooking). I don't recommend leaving the skin on the chicken thighs, since the extra fat gives the soup a greasy feel/taste. I also recommend trimming any extra fat on the thighs before browning the meat.
**I've been using a red bell pepper in this soup, but any color bell pepper will work.
***I like to rinse the uncooked quinoa under water before adding it to the slow cooker. To do this, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under water (about 1-2 minutes). I believe this step helps to take away the bitterness.
****The amount of salt you need in the final soup will depend on the saltines of your broth. I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon and then salting the soup to taste after the 4 hours. If your tomatoes contain salt, you may want to reduce this amount to 1/2 teaspoon, just to be safe, and increase the salt at the end. It's always better to under-salt then to over-salt a slow cooker meal, at least in the beginning.
At first, I added 1 cup of quinoa to this soup. This was too much. If you'd like more quinoa, try increasing the amount to 1/2 cup or 2/3 cup. The cooking time will remain the same.
This soup is freezer-friendly.
Vegetarian Note: I think you could make this soup vegetarian-friendly by skipping the chicken and increasing the beans and maybe upping the quinoa to 1/2 cup. I haven’t tried this, but my thought is to add a can of pinto or kidney beans to the soup versus the chicken. If you try this, I would love to hear about the final result.
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