Between the quick hustle of the food truck and the casual fun of make-your-own taco get togethers, it’s easy to forget that the process behind making many of Mexico’s most iconic dishes is more than just tortilla + meat + topping. Mexican (and Tex-Mex) cuisine centers around braises, stews, and sauces that feature a crucial element along with the chilies and spice: time. Dishes like mole and barbacoa are famed for their low and slow methods of cooking, during which they build up layer upon layer of flavor. And while these recipes may have their roots in the stewing pot or roasting pit, luckily, we can also bring them into our own kitchens through the use of another device: the slow cooker.
The best part about these dishes is that they are ideal for warm-weather enjoyment, whether it's on Cinco de Mayo or beyond. So don’t put away that crock pot just yet: here are nine slow cooker recipes that can be enjoyed with little more than a stack of fresh, warm tortillas at the ready.
1. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Chicken breasts can easily turn bland and dry unless you pair them up with the right accessories. Chiles and citrus do the trick here, for taco meat that is light yet moist and flavorful. Get our Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos recipe.
2. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Enchiladas
This recipe is a two-in-one treat of oozy, sumptuous goodness. First, pork shoulder gets slow cooked into a tender, saucy heap. Then, it’s topped with tortillas and a mass of cheese and sour cream that seeps and creeps into the crevices. This one practically melts on the fork. Get our Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Enchiladas recipe.
3. Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Verde
If you haven’t tried cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker, it’s well worth it. This chili gets infused with deep chicken-y flavor by nestling the bird on top of a mix of vegetables until the meat falls off the bone. Get our Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde recipe.
4. Chicken Tinga Tacos
Smoky chicken tinga is based around chipotles and tomato, for a taco-appropriate meat that packs plenty of deep, earthy flavors. Get the recipe here.
5. Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Traditional barbacoa is made by slow-roasting a whole animal in a pit in the ground, covered by maguey leaves. There’s no need to get out the shovel, however, if you’re looking to make it at home. Spare yourself the digging and simply nestle a brisket into the crock pot—you’ll get nearly as big flavors at the push of a button. Get the recipe here.
6. Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas
Out of all the things you could do to pork, carnitas might just be the most delectable of them all. When done right, it consists of meltingly soft, delicately spiced meat and lightly crisped edges that need little more than a sprinkle of cilantro and a dash of salsa to finish. Get the recipe here.
7. Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita pibil features the forward flavors of the Yucatan: a bracing glug of citrus, some earthy achiote, and an array of fragrant spices. Topped with pickled onions, this one is for the lovers of all things tart and juicy. Get the recipe here.
8. Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup With All the Fixings
Although the slow cooker may be well-loved for churning out perfectly braised meats, it can also work its magic on soups and stews. Here, it makes the most out of a fully-rounded array of spices and seasonings, from chipotles to cumin, cocoa and more. Get the recipe here.
9. Slow Cooker Chicken Mole
Traditional mole can be intimidating—it’s got a lengthy list of ingredients and, in some cases, can take days and lots of labor to prepare. But with a slow cooker in hand, it’s possible to do it all in a few simple steps, and cook the chicken to go with it while you’re at it, too. Get our Slow Cooker Chicken Mole recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.