Salsa chicken helps me avoid the take-out trap.  It’s easy and ready the moment you walk in the door—perfect for families on the go.

I discovered this recipe last year when my boys were going through a high-maintenance phase.  For six months, they melted the minute we got home from daycare. They cried and clung to me and needed lots of hugs and books while they waited for dinner (which of course kept me from making dinner.)  By the time I got everyone to the table I could barely think, let alone be patient, nurturing and kind.

salsa chicken quesadilla

Aidan enjoys salsa chicken in a quesadilla.

This is why every parent needs a recipe like salsa chicken. Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, whether you work at home or away, you need a go-to meal for the days you know are going to be hectic.  Salsa chicken is my go-to meal.  With a little forethought and some preparation in the morning (or night before), I can have a hot, nutritious dinner on the table within ten minutes of walking through the door.  Beautiful!

Salsa Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (2 large chicken breasts)

1 cup salsa (1/2 of a 16 ounce jar)

In the morning (or at lunch), put the chicken in a crock pot. Pour the salsa over the chicken and cook on high for 5 – 6 hours or on low for 8 – 11 hours*.  Use salsa chicken as a filling for burritos or soft tacos, serve it with cooked rice, or use it as a substitute for beef in taco salads.

Yield:  4 adult servings (this recipe doubles easily!)

*Note: Cooking times vary depending on the size of your crock pot, how hot it gets, and how tightly your lid fits.

Ten Minutes from Door to Table:

Step 1: The night before, I place the chicken and salsa on the second shelf of my refrigerator along with a glass dish full of corn and all the fixings for a Mexican burrito bar (whole wheat tortillas, shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, beans, guacamole etc.).

Step 2: In the morning, I put the salsa and chicken in the crock pot and turn it on.

Step 3: When we walk through the door at night, my boys put away their jackets and shoes while I stick the corn in the microwave.  We wash hands, then the boys put the burrito fixings on the table (with occasional help from mommy), while I put the chicken in a serving dish and finish the corn.  We set the table together, and “Ta-dah” dinner is served!

Variation 1:  My friend Misty adds half a jar of apricot preserves (I use the all fruit variety) and calls this recipe Dump Chicken. She prevents it from getting too juicy by cooking the chicken in the crock pot alone (yes, just set the chicken in there and turn the crock pot on low).  When she is ready to serve dinner, she mixes the salsa and preserves and pours the mixture over the cooked chicken. You may also cook the chicken, preserves and salsa in the crock pot together—my preferred way.  Dump Chicken makes a fabulous nacho topper or a dip for crackers.

Variation 2: Add a 15 ounce can of pineapple tidbits, drained, to the chicken and salsa before cooking.  Serve this over brown rice instead of in tortillas as it tends to be very juicy.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Serving salsa chicken as part of a burrito bar should give most picky eaters something nutritious to eat.  Aidan likes to make his salsa chicken into a burrito with the works, but Cameron prefers to eat the chicken, cheese and tortilla separate with plain yogurt for dipping. You may also reduce the salsa content of this dish or cook the chicken without the salsa (see Variation 1).  My friend Maria drains the salsa “juice” into the crock pot with the chicken, reserving the chunky parts to add later at the table.  This gives the chicken the yummy flavor of the salsa, but keeps the offending peppers and onions out—a good family compromise.

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