Slow Cooker Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Casserole
Published Feb 27, 2019, Updated Oct 14, 2022
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A vegetarian Mexican quinoa casserole made entirely in the slow cooker. Packed with sweet potatoes, black beans and taco seasoning, this is sure to be a family favorite! Vegetarian and gluten-free.
You’re in for a treat with this slow cooker meal! Cheesy casserole goodness with verrrrry little effort. In case you didn’t know, you can throw dry, uncooked quinoa directly into your slow cooker with liquid (in this case, water or broth) and it will cook right up! For this particular dish, just add in the quinoa, liquid, veggies and spices and turn your slow cooker on. When it finishes cooking, stir in the cheese and top with some more for good measure and voila! A healthy, cheesy casserole is ready to eat.
This recipe is inspired by my Quinoa Fiesta Bake, which is delicious BTW, but I have to say that I might like the slow cooker version even better than the original. I think it has to do with the cheese being melty and gooey with the slow cooker version. The cheese tends to get hard and crispy on top. I know some people love that crispy cheesy layer, but the melty and gooey cheese speaks to me with this dish.
So let’s talk about quinoa for a minute, because it is the powerhouse ingredient behind this recipe!
What is Quinoa?
Although it’s grain-like, quinoa is not technically a grain (like wheat or rice) but a seed more closely related to spinach and amaranth. Weird, I know! Having said that, it’s basically a grain! You prep it the same, eat it the same and it tastes really similar to other grains.
Quinoa is considered a superfood. It’s classified as a carbohydrate but it’s also high in protein and fiber and a good source of antioxidants and minerals. It’s naturally gluten-free, so perfect for anyone with gluten sensitivities or allergies.
How Do You Cook Quinoa in a Slow Cooker?
I had to check this before recipe testing! It was my first time making quinoa in a slow cooker and I honestly didn’t know if I should put it in uncooked or cooked. I wasn’t sure if the slow cooker would get hot enough to cook the quinoa but turns out it does!
Through my research, I also found that you can cook plain quinoa in your slow cooker too. Here’s how:
- Add 1 cup of quinoa, 1 3/4 cups of water or broth into your slow cooker. You can also add any seasonings you want, like sea salt and pepper.
- Cook the quinoa on low for about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. The time will vary based on the brand and size of your slow cooker. The first time you try this method of cooking quinoa, make sure you’re nearby so you can watch the slow cooker and figure out the appropriate cooking time. The quinoa is done when it’s fluffy and cooked through.
How to make this Mexican Quinoa Slow Cooker Meal:
This is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of slow cooker meal. Hooray! Simply add the liquid, uncooked quinoa, sweet potato, black beans, salsa, bell pepper, onions, cilantro and seasoning to your slow cooker. Seriously, dump it all in there! Give it a good stir to combine all of the ingredients and then cover. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 6 hours.
To decide which cooking time to choose, look at your schedule! If you’re starting this in the afternoon and need a quick turnaround, cook on high. If you’re starting this in the morning and have the flexibility of it going all day (or won’t be home), cook it on low.
It’s ready when the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. You’ll remove the lid and give everything another stir at this point. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and then top with another cup. Cover and cook a little longer, just until cheese melts. You don’t need to turn your slow cooker back on – if it’s still on the “warm” setting, it should be giving off enough heat to melt the cheese.
When the cheese is nice and melted, scoop out portions, top with desired toppings and serve!
This might just be one of my favorite slow cooker meals to date. The combo of sweet potatoes and black beans with the taco seasonings and cheese is so good and so comforting. One thing to note: the dish does tend to get a little mushy if you let it cook for too long. I don’t mind this at all and honestly, think it makes a great dip this way BUT if you want more texture with the sweet potatoes and quinoa, just be sure not to overcook the dish.
More Quinoa Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Quinoa Salad with Kale and Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
- Southwestern Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Meal Prep Bowls
More Slow Cooker Options
Be sure to check out the full collection of healthy Mexican recipes on EBF!
Slow Cooker Mexican Quinoa Casserole
- 1 cup water or veggie broth
- ½ cup dry quinoa
- 3 cups diced sweet potato, about 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1½ cups prepared salsa, mild, medium or hot
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ small yellow onion, chopped
- ¼ cup sliced green onion + more for topping
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons taco or fajita seasoning
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
- Toppings: Greek yogurt or cashew sour cream, avocado, green onion, cilantro
- Tortilla chips, for serving (optional)
- Add water, quinoa, chopped sweet potato, black beans, salsa, bell pepper, yellow onion, green onion, cilantro and taco seasoning in your slow cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours, or until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.
- Remove the lid and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and sprinkle 1 cup on top. Put the lid back on and cook until the cheese melts, about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings and tortilla chips if using.
- This quinoa dish can get a little mushy if you let it cook for too long. I don’t mind this at all and honestly think it makes a great dip for tortilla chips this way, but if you want more texture with the sweet potatoes and quinoa, just be sure not to overcook.
- Make this dish in the oven by following this recipe: Sweet Potato Quinoa Fiesta Bake.
- This recipe can is part of my vegetarian freezer meal prep series. <– Check out the post to learn how to prep and freeze it in advance.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
My family liked this recipe served with tortilla chips! Next time I make it, I might serve over lettuce or inside a tortilla.
Woo! So glad to hear your family loved this recipe, Eloise. Serving with tortillas or lettuce is a great idea! Thanks for leaving a review, I really appreciate it.
This recipe was as delicious as it was easy! Can’t wait to try your other slow cooker recipes!
Yay! I’m so glad to hear that, Lauren! Thanks for making this and coming back to leave a review and star rating, I really appreciate it.
Easy and delicious! Also a win with my vegetarian son who used it as a healthy filing for his tacos! Thank you for this meal idea.
Yay! Using it as a taco filling is a great idea, I’ll have to try it. Thanks for sharing, Sarah 🙂
What size slow cooker did you use?
Hi Pam! I use a 6-quart crock pot slow cooker!
I made this in a pressure cooker (instant pot). I put it in for 20 minutes and immediately released the pressure when it was done, and it turned out perfectly! I added an extra 1/4th cup water because I was afraid of the burn sign (but idk if that was necessary)!
Hi Lanna, glad it turned out well! Thank you for leaving a review and comment, I so appreciate it!
Brittany, I love every part of this EXCEPT I really dislike sweet potatoes. Not sure using regular potatoes would be the answer here, doesn’t sound that great. Any ideas?
You could always skip the sweet potatoes if you aren’t a fan or use regular potatoes! Let me know if you end up trying it and how it turns out.
Before I make this, will this whole recipe work in a 3.5 quart slow cooker, or do I need to cut it in half?
It should work! Let me know how it turns out for you.
family hit! I skipped the quinoa and used 1C dried white beans instead of a can of black beans, so I increased the liquid amount to 1.5C and it came out great. My two kids (4yr & 6yr) loved it rolled in a tortilla like a taco while we ate it with chips. We will definitely make again, thank you!
WOO! I am so pumped to hear that this recipe is a hit for you and your whole family, Rachel. Thank you so much for sharing your review + star rating, I truly appreciate it!
I make this one ALL the time! It’s so quick and easy to put together early in the day and let cook. It’s so comforting and the kids love it. We add chips and then for leftovers, roll it in tortillas or make quesadillas with it. I usually add a lb of ground turkey. It’s a good weekday meal because it lasts a few rounds. Thank you!
Woo! This sounds absolutely delicious, Sonya. I am excited to hear that this recipe is a hit for you and your family! Thank you so much for coming back and sharing your review + star rating, it means so much to me.
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