For busy weeknights, the slow cooker is a dream. But I’ve always had a hard time finding vegetarian recipes aside from chili. With baseball season upon us, I took matters into my own hands modifying a meat-based recipe to create a Mexican-inspired, rainbow-packed staple vegetarian meal for our family. It’s forgiving and easy to make substitutions for your preferences.

Quinoa is a super food

“Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all pernine essential amino acids.” Learn more about the nutritional benefits.

Slow cooker vegetarian quinoa with a Mexican flare

hyatt-family-eats-slow-cooker-vegetarian-quinoa-recipeThis recipe makes a lot. We eat it for at least two dinners and weekend lunches; you may choose to make a half batch. I found in my tests of this recipe that the slow cooker significantly mellows spicy foods such as jalepenos, so fear not of the four I list. The forgiveness of the recipe means you can modify to your heart’s content. The leftovers are also great as burrito filling!

A note on cooking time: Meat is forgiving when you cook it forever in the slow cooker. Veggies just turn to mush if you over cook them, which is why we probably don’t see a lot of variety in vegetarian slow cooking. As soon as the liquid is absorbed and sweet potatoes are cooked enough, I turn it off. I’ve only cooked it on high, but in theory you could cook on low for 6-7 hours.


  • 1 1/2 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cans organic black or kidney beans
  • 1 C frozen corn
  • 1 15 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced in rings
  • 4 jalepenos seeded and thinly sliced into strips
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato cut in to 1-2 inch chunks
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 cups enchilada sauce (canned or see below for my homemade version)
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • Garnish with:
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • sliced avocado or guacamole
  • shredded sharp cheddar (melted during the last few minutes of cooking time)



1. Prep ingredients by chopping all the veggies.
2. Add everything except garnishes to slow cooker. I put the raw veggies first followed by the quinoa so they cook most in the liquid. Generously salt the top.
3. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally beginning at around 3 hours.
4. Add optional shredded cheese to the top for the last few cooking minutes.
5. Serve and top with green onions, cilantro and avocado.

The leftovers from this meal are a great. I re-heat them in a serving bowl in the oven. Original inspiration for this recipe came from Bobbie’s Kozy Kitchen and personal trainer Erin Seekins.

Homemade enchilada sauce

I’ve been making this sauce for years with a few tweaks to the original version I clipped from the Oregonian’s Food Day (yes, I have a paper copy from the newspaper – that long!). It’s great in the recipe, or as traditional sauce for vegetarian enchiladas. I often make a double or triple batch and freeze the extra in quart jars.


  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 pinches of cinnamon
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced in rings
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 3/4 C vegetable or mushroom stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of honey (optional)
  • salt to taste



1. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and chile powder, cook stirring constantly for one minute. Add the flour and continue to cook and stir for one minute.
2. Reduce heat to medium, and gently stir in the tomato sauce and stock. Let simmer and stir occasionally until it starts to bubble.
3. Add bay leaf, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer and stir occasionally until the sauce has a nice coating consistency.
4. Taste, add honey if it seems bitter and salt to your preference.

Hyatt family eats are occasional posts devoted to sharing some of the things our family is cooking. We believe in a whole-foods, minimally-processed approach to nutrition that is realistic for a busy family of four. We’d love to hear about what you’re eating too! Email us at