Slow Cooker Creamy Quinoa Dippers

Can we have a little heart to heart about quinoa? What are your deepest thoughts and feelings about it? Do you love it? Hate it? Does the texture make you shudder or do you crave the stuff?

I have heard from a lot of you lately that you really, really want to love quinoa but quite honestly, you are struggling and aren’t sure if everyone on the quinoa bandwagon is lying to your face about how good it is or if you are missing the quinoa-loving gene.

We’ve been official quinoa eaters (official meaning it has a permanent place in my pantry and we eat it in some form at least once a week) for upwards of a year now. I was a skeptic at the beginning. I first tried it in a sweet breakfast oatmeal-ish type recipe and…I…I just couldn’t. I was expecting creamy, soft oatmeal and instead I got an unexpected blast of not-oatmeal-quinoa texture that I wasn’t adequately prepared for. I had to step away from it for a month before I dared again.

But once I tried it in a few savory dishes, it started to grow on me and my family. In fact, I make it alongside rice anytime we are serving a stir-fry or gravy-type dish and the majority of my family chooses quinoa over rice now (I mentioned that here a while ago). These little quinoa patties are food from the heavens and are my go-to if other dinner plans fall through or it’s leftover night without any leftovers. I can’t even count the variations we’ve made with them (added spinach or kale, swapped out different cheeses, changed up the spices, etc.). If I could give anyone advice about quinoa, it would be to keep trying. I am a total quinoa success story (and you can be, too!).

Slow Cooker Creamy Quinoa Dippers

The recipe I’m sharing today is perfect for those who may be starting out as newbies in the quinoa world as well as for the more experienced quinoa eaters. First of all, it’s simple. All the ingredients except the last three are thrown in the slow cooker which means there’s no need to cook the quinoa beforehand – it plumps to quinoa perfection in the slow cooker along with the other hearty, nutritious ingredients. After stirring in cream cheese, fresh lime juice and cilantro, you have an exceptionally delicious creamy pot full of love and quinoa goodness. Plus, the quinoa melds with all the other ingredients into a tender mess of yumminess so the texture is almost unnoticeable.

I’ve made this three or four times, once as a contribution to a potluck and also as a main dish meal for our family. I said this last week, but even though it’s summer and the weather is heating up, I still use my slow cooker all the time because it keeps my kitchen much cooler than turning on the oven. This is a delicious, perfect meal for those that don’t have a lot of time to cook it, plan it, or slave over it. Plus, it’s so tasty, you’ll be wondering where quinoa has been all your life.

What To ServeFresh Green Bean Salad
Fresh Fruit
Tortilla chips (baked or regular)

One Year Ago: Father’s Day Guide: Gifts & Grub! {by Brian}
Two Years Ago: Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Three Years Ago: Jackson’s Wacky Cake

Creamy Tex-Mex Quinoa Dippers

Yield: Serves 6-8

Creamy Tex-Mex Quinoa Dippers


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced or petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4-8 ounces light or regular cream cheese, cubed (depending on how creamy you like it)
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Handful of chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker, toss the chicken, corn, black beans, tomatoes and quinoa together.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the broth, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the slow cooker and give it all a good stir (scrape down any quinoa that may be stuck to the sides of the slow cooker above the liquid).
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Toss in the cubed cream cheese and cover the slow cooker for 5-10 minutes to let it soften.
  5. Stir all the ingredients together until the cream cheese is mixed in well.
  6. Add the lime juice and cilantro and give it another quick stir.
  7. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (inspired from a recipe my sister Em sent me that was more of a Ranch-style quinoa slow cooker meal; altered it to be Tex-Mex without any prepackaged seasonings)

88 Responses to Creamy Tex-Mex Quinoa Dippers

  1. This looks absolutely divine! I always throw quinoa into my rice when I cook it!

  2. Allison says:

    Any thoughts on how to convert this for the Instant Pot? I need it to be ready in 2 hours so don’t have time to slow cook it.

    • Mel says:

      I’d probably try it at high pressure for 10 minutes?? I don’t know, that’s just a guess, but the quinoa should definitely be done in that amount of time.

  3. Wendy says:

    I made this before, as written, and loved it! This time I happened to have cooked quinoa and cooked chicken in the fridge, so I made this on the stovetop, eliminating the chicken broth and simmering the initial ingredients for just a bit without the chicken and quinoa. Then I added the cooked quinoa, cooked chicken, cream cheese, lime juice and cilantro all at once and heated through. It worked perfectly and my four boys gobbled it up. Thanks for another fantastic recipe!

  4. Sarah says:

    I made this for the second time last night. But this time I (almost) doubled the spices/seasonings. I don’t have onion powder so i added diced onion from half a yellow onion. I have to say for my family and i, extra seasonings is needed. Very much enjoyed 🙂

  5. Amanda says:

    This is such a fabulous recipe. My kids LOVE it and the fact that it is so easy makes me love it even more! It has been a regular in my rotation since you posted it! I buy bags of cooked rotisserie breast meat at Costco, so I chop up a couple cups of that and throw it in towards the end of the cook time instead of using raw and I use less cream cheese but add in shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack. The kids love it wrapped in a tortilla but I love it with the crunch of a chip. Thanks Mel for saving me so much hassle. I know if you have posted a recipe, it is going to be good! Just made the chocolate sugar cookies today for an after dinner treat!

  6. Joan says:

    Love your recipes, Mel. Quick question from this quinoa rookie – how do you rinse it? The seeds or kernels or whatever they are, are so tiny that they fall through both of my strainers. So I used cheesecloth – is that the way to go? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Joan – do you have one of those fine mesh strainers? The metal kind with a plastic handle? If not, cheesecloth could certainly be a good option.

  7. Christina says:

    This looks amazing and I might be able to fool my husband into eating quinoa. Can this be frozen? It’s just the two of us and our toddler.

    • Mel says:

      Christina – Definitely worth a try. I haven’t frozen it yet so I’m not sure how the texture would fare…might defrost a bit on the dry side but stirring in a bit of extra broth could help.

      • Christina says:

        This was delicious and my husband had no clue there was quinoa. I made chimichangas using it as filling with some shredded cheese. So yummy and easy!

        I froze the rest with out the cream cheese. Crossing my fingers that it defrosts well.

  8. Sara R. says:

    I’ve never commented before but I just wanted to say that I made this for dinner tonight and it was YUMMY! We’ve never had quinoa before so we were nervous about it but it turned out delicious. And I even messed up the recipe and put an entire can of chicken broth in (about 2 cups worth) instead of just 1 cup and it still turned out great. I will definitely be making this again! Thank you for getting me to finally try out quinoa, and especially in such a quick and easy recipe! Hopefully my picky 15-month-old will eventually learn to like it as well. He is still a work in progress when it comes to food! But the hubby and I definitely approved!

  9. Salem says:

    Hey! This is my new favorite recipe! It was so delicious! However, I wanted to try it with dries beans instead of canned, or frozen which is what I normally do, because I often haven’t taken the time to cook any beans and put them in my freezer. :). Any ideas before I try it tomorrow?

    • Mel says:

      Salem – If it were me, I’d soak the beans overnight in cool water and then add them to the recipe – and probably add a little more liquid to the tex-mex ingredients. You could also try this quick soak method.

  10. meghan says:

    Hi Mel,

    I made a vegetarian-style version of this dish on the stove top tonight. It was so so creamy and delicious!! Since I saw some comments above asking about stove top and veg-style, I figured my experience was worth sharing. I just combined everything in a large pot on the stove, omitted the chicken, and increased the broth, adding it slowly as needed. Overall I used about 3.5 cups of broth. Once everything was cooked I added goat cheese in place of cream cheese, lime juice, and cilantro. It pleased my boyfriend,
    who is a picky vegetarian, and I loved it with my whole heart as well! Thanks for another super tasty, healthy meal, Mel! Big air high-five from NYC!

  11. Lauren says:

    This was so delicious! My son has a dairy allergy, so I left out the cream cheese and just added some guacamole and salsa (to the individual bowls) to loosen the mixture up a bit. We all loved it. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Jocelyn says:

    My family loved this! (However, I had to add some more liquid to the mix around the fifth hour of cooking because the mixture was drying out and getting stuck to the sides of the slow cooker. ) Thanks so much!

  13. Kamber says:

    I made these for dinner yesterday. It made a lot! Good stuff!! Even my picky eater kids — who have NOT liked quinoa in the past — were pleased and ate seconds. I added a can of green chiles, and a can of olives, as per my family’s taste. I appreciate the note about rinsing the quinoa first… A big help! Thank you!

  14. Barbara says:

    My husband and (very picky) son are absolutely wild over this recipe. I’ve tried several quinoa recipes that just weren’t able to win them over. This will become a “regular” for both home and work! Thank you for this and all of your recipes. I actually found myself thinking today, “I’m such a rock star in the kitchen.”

  15. Julie says:

    Every single time I try making quinoa (even having rinsed it before hand) it turns out gritty and I feel like I’m eating something that has fallen in sand! It has made me toss out entire bowls of the stuff after one “bad” bite. Any suggestions?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Julie – what brand of quinoa are you using? I’m not sure if it depends on brand but maybe it’s worth a try to switch and see if that helps. I rinse my quinoa for 2-3 minutes – probably excessively – so you could try tacking on some extra time rinsing to see if that helps. I also cook it in chicken broth if using it in a savory recipe. Good luck!

  16. Emily says:

    Mel, how do you think this would taste using a taco seasoning packet? I try to avoid the packets but I’m heading to the beach for a family vacation and the packet will be so much easier to use at our condo. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Emily – I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure…worth a try. You could also measure out and combine the seasonings for the recipe in a bag so it could be added quickly to the recipe. Good luck.

  17. Michelle says:

    Do you think mine ended up thick because I only used 2 oz. of cream cheese? It was good, just a little thicker than I would’ve liked.

    • Mel says:

      Michelle – Probably – especially because the light cream cheese (which I use) tends to be slightly runnier than full fat cream cheese so I can see the amount of cream cheese making a difference (especially 2 ounces vs. 8 ounces).

  18. Samantha says:

    I hated quinoa too until I realized I wasn’t rinsing it long enough (to get rid of the bitter coating on the seed) and that I also prefer it on the more tender side. I started cooking it with a little extra water (compared to what most “make plain quinoa” recipes call for) and what I got was fluffy and yummy, not crunchy and chewy. This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it!

  19. Lani says:

    Tried this recipe the other night but instead of using chips I went ahead and used it on tortillas to make burritos. I like things spicier so I topped it with pepper jack cheese and some nacho jalapeños, but even before I did this the flavor was wonderful. My husband loved it and he loved that we were eating healthy quinoa. Super easy meal to throw together and there was plenty for leftovers! I ran out of time to slow cook on low so boosted it to high (and reduced the time) and it still came out great.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Hi Mel,
    How much cream cheese did you use to achieve the level of creaminess shown in your picture? Thanks so much!!

  21. Jolene P says:

    I made this for dinner tonight with some trepidation as we are not really Tex Mex fans, but (almost) everyone loved it. I think the highlight for my kids was the fact that they could eat chips for dinner :). I have never had quinoa before, but to be honest, I don’t think you can actually taste a distinct quinoa flavor in this dish. All the flavors blend together, and the texture is masked by the other ingredients. I think it would make great party food. Loved that my dinner was cooking all day while I gardened in the sunshine.

  22. Michelle says:

    Hi Mel, I made this for dinner last night. Side note- it’s becoming embarrassing how often my husband asks “Is this what Mel just posted?” because he sees your FB posts too… you post it, I make it! 🙂 Anyway, I was really impressed by how easy this was and how well it worked. I will definitely make it again, the only thing I might try to change is to somehow make it less thick. Maybe at the end I’ll stir in some grated cheddar and sour cream?

    Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Jill says:

    This was delicious but it looked NOTHING like your picture. It all got mashed together and looked more like refried beans. I wonder if my crock pot cooks too high?

  24. Felicia says:

    Hi, Mel! I’m sure this will also good for wraps filling! I love quinoa but due to difficulties in getting hands on them (& the price here!) I rarely cook it unless for some “special” dishes worth to make..

    I’ve been playing with wraps lately & had thought of using one of your quinoa salad recipe as the filling but I think this will be the one that works for my Mom, Pops & the rest of my fam. BTW, have you tried the Red Quinoa version? I haven’t tried the neutral-white one, instead I jumped directly to the red one & for me, it’s yummy! (note: more complex flavor)

  25. Amy Wolin says:

    My entire quinoa gagging family LOVED THIS!!! So delicious!!!! Thanks so much for changing our minds. 🙂

  26. Vicky says:

    Hey Mel, do you think I could double this and still fit it in a large slow cooker?

  27. I’m a quinoa newbie so I’m always looking for a yummy way to try it. I usually default to rice because it costs less, but I know that quinoa is an even healthier alternative. Thanks for the recipe – this one I will definitely be trying!

  28. Betsy says:

    Any thoughts on how this would be cold, like as a dip?

  29. Help! I almost forgot the quinoa, so ran downstairs to the pantry grabbed my box, measured it and poured it in…yep..I for to rinse and drain it…will I be throwing it out?

    • Mel says:

      Diana Elliott – It depends on if the quinoa you have is “pre-rinsed” – I rinse my quinoa no matter what because it can leave a pretty bitter taste. I am not sure if the other ingredients in this dish will help mask that. Good luck!

  30. Julie B. says:

    I just want you to know that your blog is my personal cookbook. I have been reading it for a few years and now most things on my weekly menu are your recipes. I have 4 children and there is always something that will please both the kids and adults alike. Our favorite recipe (my 16 year old son gets a bit miffed when there is non in the fridge) is the massaged kale salad. We are addicted!!! Southwest chicken wraps, quinoa and black bean salad, and many others are on our favorites list. Just wanted to say thank you and for you to know that your blogging is benefitting one very happy So. California family!!!!

  31. Carlie says:

    I LOVE quinoa but every time I make it it turns out horrible. How do I make it?! I thought it was just like rice. But apparently not?

    • Mel says:

      Carlie – If I’m going to use quinoa in a savory dish, I almost always cook it in low-sodium chicken broth or salted water. I take 1 cup quinoa and rinse it really, really well in a fine mesh strainer (so important so it isn’t bitter) and then put it in a pot with 2 cups broth or salted water and bring to a boil uncovered. Then, I turn it down, cover, and let it simmer for 14-15 minutes. Take it off the heat, leave it covered and let it rest for five minutes or so.

  32. Dawn says:

    Had to come back and say I put this in the crockpot on high for about 3.5 hours and then threw in the cream cheese. It worked out great! It got rave reviews from my husband and my kids aged 2.5 and 5. I personally couldn’t even really taste the quinoa and we all agreed it would be a fine meal even without the chicken. Thanks for another great recipe that doesn’t make me turn on my oven!!

  33. Annie says:

    Thanks for saving my bacon yesterday! I had no clue what to make for dinner but saw your post and had all the ingredients so I threw them in the crockpot while my baby played on the floor. This was literally the first meal I’ve ever made fast enough that he was happy the whole prep time. Thank you for saving dinner and my sanity!

  34. Mel, I love this recipe. I love quinoa depending on the recipe. I like it in picnic style salads, in casseroles, and other recipes. I don’t really love it on its own, but I always love the additional protein you get instead of consuming pasta or rice. Thanks!

  35. Great job! That looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  36. Pauline says:

    Mel: I LOVE quinoa and have for years!!!! Can’t wait to try this. I just happened upon probably the best recipe EVER last week. If you’re needing a pasta-like baked side dish, try the Creamy Caprese Quinoa Bake found on Honestly, this was the best quinoa dish I have ever made. Perfect when you’re trying to stay away from those simple carbs but need a good Italian side dish.

  37. Amy says:

    Looks awesome, Mel! I have a quick question: Where do you find your quinoa? I used to buy mine at Costco until the price more than doubled. . . Suggestions? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Amy – I’m not sure what the price is in stores, but the last couple of times I’ve bought the TruRoots brand on amazon.

      • Whitney says:

        Mel, I think you’ve mentioned before that you have access to a Sam’s Club, right? Our Sam’s has just recently started carrying quinoa! On my last trip, I noticed that they now have coconut oil and chia seeds too! I was very excited!! 🙂

  38. Sharon says:

    I love quinoa and am always looking for new recipes that I can use as a main dish, especially since I have a daughter that doesn’t like most meat, but who loves quinoa. I may have to try this one without the chicken. Thanks for the yummy recipes.

  39. Jen T says:

    We are brand new to quinoa–have an upopened bag in my pantry. This recipe is perfect for us. Thanks!

  40. Nina says:

    I was wondering if you thought plain greek yogurt could be substituted for the cream cheese? I have an anti-cream cheeser in the family but want to retain that creamy texture! What do you think?

  41. Isabelle says:

    Looks great! How many would you say this serves? Would there be a way to substitute rice (husband is not on board with quinoa)?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Isabelle – it kind of depends what you are serving it with (if it’s a main dish or a side dish/appetizer) but it easily feeds my family of 7 (5 kids and 2 adults) with a bit of leftovers.

      • Mel says:

        PS – I’m not sure how to convert the recipe to rice – maybe it’s a good chance to see if it could convert your husband to quinoa??

  42. Lori Orr says:

    I have issues with raw chicken (ESPECIALLY when I’m pregnant). Since it’s in the crock pot, would it be ok to just throw the chicken breast in whole and frozen so that I don’t have to deal with it?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Lori – yes, I’ve made it that way before and then I take out the chicken at the end, shred it and put it back in. Should work great!

  43. Kelly says:

    I feel like this would be a good meal without the quinoa. I have a box sitting in my pantry that I’m trying to get the courage to use but I’m afraid if we don’t like it it will ruin this whole meal so maybe I better use it on a one serving type dish first.

  44. Dawn says:

    I’m getting ready to put this in the crockpot right now. I’m a bit late for 6-8 hours of cooking, so I am going to put it on high and hope for the best! But you solved my dinner dilemma for tonight, so thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  45. i love quinoa! this sounds amazing! (and i think i’ve had the recipe you adapted it from, or at least a very similar variation).

  46. Stephanie says:

    I am so excited to make this right now for dinner this evening! I think I will pair it with the lemon bars, so delicious! You save me all the time in getting a good meal on the table for my family amid the crazy sports schedules. Thank you from my whole heart!

  47. I love quinoa but am always looking for new recipes. This one looks like a keeper for sure! Pinning.
    Have a wonderful Wednesday Mel!

  48. Lisa Clawson says:

    Love the stuff! My sister made your Mango Black Bean Quinoa salad for a baby blessing Sun. and it was a huge hit…………BUT I still think quinoa is the best breakfast on the planet! With roasted pears and honey and a little drizzle of milk, it’s my absolute favorite thingL:) Isn’t is crazy that we’re all so different? That’s what makes the world go round:) xoxo Lisa

  49. Great idea to use quinoa in a dip!

  50. auntie M says:

    My favorite restaurant scatters quinoa in one of their main dish salads and that’s the way I like it. Just a little of the stuff to add a bit of texture and interest. I can’t get past the price to cook with it at home.
    The gluten free trend and the need for expensive substitutions is puzzling to me since very few people need to eat that way,

  51. Kristen says:

    This looks amazing! Any thoughts on if it would work without the chicken? I’ve got a house full of vegetarians here!

  52. Lynn says:

    I do love quinoa but am mindful that it is a bit of a super food AND a protein. I try to use recipes including quinoa as my main course instead of pairing them with other proteins (meat especially) or adding meats directly to them. I’m also mindful of what Angela has written about third world countries that are loosing their food to our importing it here… it has yet to be cultivated successfully in the US


  53. Angela says:

    Hi Mel!
    I love, love, love your recipes. Thanks for all you do!
    When it comes to quinoa, I love the stuff. However, I’m careful not to eat it too often. Yes, it is a super food, and super good for you. However, the growing popularity of it outside the Andes region (and limited supply) is causing the price to increase significantly. Unfortunately, many of the native peoples who have relied on quinoa as a staple for thousands of years can no longer afford to buy it. As a result, there is increasing malnutrition.
    This is not to say should never eat quinoa. But we should be judicious about it’s over use, and aware of the ramifications of our purchasing.
    Thanks for letting me share the word!

  54. Karly says:

    Looks amazing! I love using my slow cooker in the summer too!

  55. Mona says:

    Looks absolutely amazing! Any suggestions on how to make this for those who don’t have a slow cooker?

    • Mel says:

      Mona – I suppose you could try simmering everything in a pot on the stove until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed – and then stir in the cream cheese and other ingredients. Good luck if you try it!

  56. Amanda Cluff says:

    So you put the chicken in the slow cooker raw?

  57. Teresa R. says:

    Another great recipe. Thank you!

  58. Sheila says:

    Mel, you are amazing! Thanks for listening — a rare quality today. And thanks for the encouragement to get out of the box and think healthy, nutritious, and tasty. My quinoa has been a constant in my cupboard also — been there for a year after using once. 🙂 We, as a family, are still trying hard to exchange white flour (we have a love affair with this type of carbs) for whole white wheat and like it as much as the white stuff. Your recipes inspire me to keep trying.

  59. Kim in MD says:

    It took me a while to jump on the quinoa bandwagon, but I have to say I really love it. I cook it in chicken broth for extra flavor. I don’t think I would like it in sweet dishes, though. This looks so delicious, Mel!

  60. I’m a fan of quinoa, but this sounds amazing! So creamy and flavorful, mmm 😀

  61. Emily F says:

    I definitely don’t love quinoa as much as the food bloggers do. I’ve tried your patties and ham and cheese bites and several salads (had the black bean and sweet corn quinoa salad last night, actually!), all of which are good, but I can’t handle it as a breakfast cereal, and I don’t think I could do it as a sub for rice. I could definitely handle this, however. Some of our favorite flavors and I need more recipes that don’t require turning on the oven or standing over the stove, or even being in the kitchen at all!

  62. Helen says:

    This looks and sounds GLORIOUS !!! Can’t wait to try it !!! You always know just what I need in the food world 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *