Tacos are a delicious and popular dish that is enjoyed by many people around the world. While tacos can be cooked on a stovetop or an outdoor grill, using a crockpot to cook tacos is a great alternative. Not only does it save time and effort, but it also allows the flavors to meld together, creating a perfectly cooked, savory and spicy taco. In this article, we'll show you how to cook tacos in a crockpot and all the key steps to take to make perfectly cooked crockpot tacos every time.
Why the Crockpot is the Perfect Cooking Tool for Tacos
The crockpot, also known as a slow cooker, is an excellent cooking tool for making tacos because it allows the flavors to be distributed evenly throughout the dish. The long cooking time means that the meat, vegetables, and seasonings are evenly cooked, creating a balanced and flavorful dish that is hard to achieve using other cooking methods. Plus, the crockpot is easy to use and requires minimal effort on your part after you've added the ingredients and pressed the 'on' button. It's also a great tool for slow-cooking tougher cuts of meat to make them tender and juicy.
Another benefit of using a crockpot for tacos is that it frees up your time to focus on other tasks. Once you've added the ingredients to the crockpot, you can leave it to cook for several hours without having to check on it constantly. This makes it a great option for busy weeknights or when you have guests over and want to spend more time socializing than cooking.
Additionally, using a crockpot for tacos can be a healthier option than other cooking methods. Because the ingredients are cooked slowly over a long period of time, the flavors are able to develop without the need for added fats or oils. This means that you can enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal without worrying about consuming excess calories or unhealthy ingredients.
The Benefits of Slow-Cooking Your Tacos
When you cook tacos in a crockpot, the slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, creating a savory and delicious dish. Cooking the meat slowly means that it stays tender and juicy, making it easier to shred and serve. Slow cooking also means that the spices and seasoning are distributed evenly throughout the dish, making every bite delicious and perfect. Plus, the long cooking time means that you can cook larger quantities of food, making it ideal for feeding a large family or group of friends.
Another benefit of slow-cooking your tacos is that it allows you to be hands-off in the kitchen. Once you've added all the ingredients to the crockpot, you can set it and forget it, freeing up your time to do other things. This makes it a great option for busy weeknights or when you have guests over and want to spend more time socializing. Additionally, slow-cooking your tacos can be a healthier option as it allows the fat to render out of the meat, resulting in a leaner dish.
Essential Ingredients for Crockpot Tacos
Before we get into how to cook tacos in a crockpot, let's look at the essential ingredients you'll need. You'll need boneless, skinless chicken or beef, spices such as chili powder, cumin, and paprika, an onion, garlic cloves, diced tomatoes, canned chilies, and chicken stock. You'll also need corn or flour tortillas, as well as your favorite toppings such as cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes. You can customize your taco recipe by adding additional ingredients such as bell peppers, jalapenos, or black beans.
One important thing to keep in mind when making crockpot tacos is the cooking time. It's best to cook the meat on low heat for 6-8 hours, or on high heat for 3-4 hours. This will ensure that the meat is tender and flavorful. Additionally, you can use a slow cooker liner to make cleanup easier. Simply place the liner in the crockpot before adding the ingredients, and then discard it after cooking. With these tips and the essential ingredients, you'll be able to make delicious crockpot tacos that are perfect for any occasion.
Choosing the Right Meat for Your Tacos
The type of meat you choose will determine the flavor and texture of your tacos. For beef tacos, you can use flank steak or chuck roast, while chicken tacos are best made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. You can also use ground beef or turkey, but shredded meat usually provides a better, more authentic taste. When you select meat for your tacos, opt for lean cuts with as little fat as possible.
Another important factor to consider when choosing meat for your tacos is the cooking method. Grilling or searing the meat can add a smoky flavor, while slow-cooking can make the meat more tender and flavorful. You can also marinate the meat beforehand to add extra flavor. Additionally, consider the seasoning you will use on the meat. Traditional Mexican seasonings include cumin, chili powder, and paprika, but you can also experiment with other spices to create your own unique flavor profile. Remember, the meat is the star of the taco, so take the time to choose and prepare it carefully for the best results.
Preparing Your Vegetables for Crockpot Tacos
To prepare your vegetables, dice the onion and garlic cloves and mix them with the spices. If you're using bell peppers or jalapenos, dice them as well. You can also chop up lettuce and tomatoes to serve as toppings. You can prepare your vegetables in advance and store them in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to cook your tacos.
Another great vegetable to add to your crockpot tacos is corn. You can use canned corn or fresh corn on the cob. If using fresh corn, simply cut the kernels off the cob and add them to the crockpot. Corn adds a sweet and crunchy texture to the tacos.
If you're looking to add some extra protein to your tacos, consider adding black beans or pinto beans. Drain and rinse a can of beans and add them to the crockpot along with the other ingredients. Beans are a great source of fiber and will make your tacos more filling.
Seasoning Your Tacos Perfectly
Seasoning is one of the most critical steps in making delicious tacos in a crockpot. Mix together chili powder, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, and use this mixture to season your meat and vegetables. You can also add salt and black pepper to taste. If you like your tacos to be extra spicy, adding cayenne pepper or hot sauce can also give them a kick.
Another important tip for seasoning your tacos is to let the seasoning mixture sit on the meat and vegetables for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This allows the flavors to fully penetrate the ingredients and results in a more flavorful taco. Additionally, consider using fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley to add a burst of freshness to your tacos. Finally, don't forget to squeeze some lime juice over your tacos before serving to add a tangy and bright flavor to the dish.
How to Layer Your Tacos in the Crockpot
Once you've fully prepped your ingredients, layer the meat and vegetables in the crockpot and pour in the canned tomatoes, canned chilies and chicken stock. Ensure that the meat and vegetables are fully covered by the mixture. Cover the crockpot with a lid and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours for chicken and 8-10 hours for beef.
Tips for Achieving Perfectly Cooked Meat in the Crockpot
The key to perfectly cooked meat in the crockpot is to cook it low and slow. The longer you cook the meat, the more tender it will be. To ensure that the chicken or beef doesn't dry out, make sure that the meat is fully submerged in the liquid, so it remains moist. If you're short on time, you can also cook the meat on high for 4-5 hours, but this may result in dry meat.
How Long to Cook Tacos in a Crockpot
The length of time you cook your tacos in the crockpot depends on the type of meat you're using and the temperature you choose. As a general rule, chicken tacos should cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, while beef tacos should be cooked on low heat for 8-10 hours. Alternatively, you can cook your tacos on high heat, which reduces the cooking time by half. However, the low and slow cooking method is best to achieve tender, juicy meat and melded flavors.
How to Serve and Garnish Your Crockpot Tacos
Once your tacos are cooked, it's time to serve them. Fill each tortilla with meat and vegetables and add your desired toppings such as cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes. If you want a more authentic taste, you can also serve a side of pico de gallo and guacamole. The great thing about tacos is that you can customize them to your taste buds.
Adding a Little Spice to Your Crockpot Taco Recipe
If you like your tacos to be spicy, you can add additional spices to your mix. Aside from the chili powder and paprika, you can add cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and other seasonings such as chipotle powder or adobo sauce. But be careful, as too much spice can overpower the other ingredients. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.
Low Carb Crockpot Taco Options
If you're following a low-carb diet, you can still enjoy crockpot tacos by using lettuce cups instead of tortillas or substituting with low-carb wraps. You can also cook your meat with low-carb vegetables such as zucchini or bell peppers and omit any high-carb toppings.
A Vegan Twist on Classic Crockpot Tacos
If you're following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can substitute beef or chicken with plant-based protein such as tempeh, tofu, or beans. You can also add more vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms, and corn to create a savory and filling vegan taco dish.
Delicious Side Dishes to Accompany Your Crockpot Tacos
No taco meal is complete without delicious side dishes. You can serve your tacos with Mexican rice, beans, corn on the cob, or a side salad. For those that are feeling extra adventurous, you can make your own chips and salsa or add a fruity twist with watermelon salsa.
Cooking tacos in a crockpot is an excellent way to bring out the flavors of your ingredients and create tender, juicy meat that's perfect for shredding and serving. With these key tips, you can cook delicious tacos that are full of flavor and texture. Whether you're a meat eater, a vegetarian or following a specific diet, crockpot tacos are perfect for any occasion. So next time you're looking for a quick and simple meal that everyone will love, try cooking tacos in a crockpot.