Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili

1 protein – 3 vegetables – 1 starch

I know a lot of you are very excited to see this week’s recipe because it is a delicious dish that you can make in your slow cooker, and I receive slow cooker requests more than any other. If you have been following the Foodie Flavor blog since its beginning, you have noticed that I work hard to spread the love between poultry, fish/seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes. For every two poultry dishes I make, I try to make at least one dish in each of those other categories. While this week’s recipe is written with ground sirloin as an ingredient, it is also delicious as a vegetarian or vegan dish–one you’ll enjoy even if you are not a vegetarian. Why? Because it contains quinoa as a main ingredient.

Just last week, Kim C. wrote a great post about whole grains (you can find it here), highlighting quinoa (she had no idea what recipe I had planned for this week’s blog). In her post, Kim explains that quinoa is higher in protein than any other whole grain. In this chili, the quinoa offers protein, structure and a great texture, too. I was inspired by the red quinoa I found at the market, but you can use any kind. The cauliflower was a last-minute add-in for me, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t replicate the texture of beans. Be sure to chop into bean-sized pieces if you would like to enjoy the same experience.

As for preparation, those of you who are slow-cooker fanatics will love it. You can get everything into your slow cooker (except the water) in the evening and keep it in the fridge overnight. You can layer your ingredients and not even stir them. In the morning, just drop the insert into your slow cooker, add the water, set it to low and head to work. When you get home, you can enjoy the smells and taste of a very yummy dinner with just a stir and a scoop. I also made this as one of the freezer meals I prepared for the family member I mentioned last week, and without cooking anything, I combined all ingredients in a bowl (except the water) and then transferred the mixture to a gallon-sized freezer bag. To make this chili, all they have to do is thaw and cook in their slow cooker with some water.

You probably already know that I like to experiment with my chili recipes, and for this particular dish, I’m glad I did. Happy dance!


  • 2 red bell peppers, cut in half with seeds and veins removed
  • 2 poblano or pasilla chilies, cut in half with seeds and veins removed
  • 2 tomatoes, halved with core removed
  • 4 C. zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. (16 ounces) ground sirloin, divided (omit for a vegetarian/vegan dish)
  • 20 green onions, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Morton® Lite Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C. uncooked red quinoa (can use regular quinoa)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 2 C. cauliflower florets, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 C. cilantro, minced

Preheat the broiler on your oven to its highest setting.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with zero-calorie cooking spray. Arrange peppers and chilies on baking sheet, flattening with palm of hand so that they are flat. Spray with cooking spray and place under broiler for 10-15 minutes or until charred. Remove and place in a paper lunch sack. Close and set aside until peppers are cool enough to handle.

On same baking sheet (no need to replace the foil), arrange tomato halves, skin side up and spray with cooking spray. Place under broiler for 5-10 minutes or until skin is charred and well separated from tomato meat. Remove from oven and let cool on pan until cool enough to handle.

Arrange zucchini chunks in bottom of slow cooker. Using your fingers, break up half of ground sirloin into pieces and scatter on top of zucchini. Top with green onions and garlic. Add other half of ground sirloin in the same manner, breaking it into pieces on top of vegetables.

Add chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, sprinkling evenly on top of meat. Add quinoa and water. Do not stir.

Remove skins from peppers, chilies and tomatoes. Chop all ingredients and add to slow cooker on top of quinoa. Add cauliflower last. Do not stir.

Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Remove lid and add cilantro. Stir. Served topped with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt and additional minced cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Entrees, Foodie Flavor

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