Dinner With My Family #24: Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole Recipe

Once a month or so, we try to make something interesting and new using our slow cooker. Often, we try to make modifications of ordinary dishes to see if they’ll work in the slow cooker.

Sometimes this works well and you end up with a good replication of the original dish. Sometimes it’s awful and you wind up with something barely edible.

Then there’s that third case, where you expect a duplicate (or something close) of an original dish, but the crock pot version ends up being good on its own, but very distinct from the original.

We like to make vegetable-heavy enchiladas. We’ll pack all kinds of vegetables into the tortillas, wrap them up, and bake them in the oven. In fact, I wrote about these enchiladas (in a slightly different form) a few months ago.

What happens when we try to translate that dish into a crock pot version so we can just start it in the morning, walk away, and eat in the evening (perfect for a busy day)?

What You Need

What you need, more than anything else, is a pile of vegetables. Here’s what we used. Many of these items came straight from our garden.

2 cups cooked black beans, or one drained can
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups cooked pinto beans, or one drained can
4 tomatoes, crushed or loosely diced
2 cups tomato sauce
2 whole zucchini, diced

You may also wish to add meat. If so, try out 1 1/2 lbs cooked chicken, shredded.

For spicing, you’ll want 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon basil, and 1 tablespoon oregano.

You’ll also need 10-12 tortillas, corn or flour.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

Chop all of the vegetables. You can put all of the chopped vegetables right into the same large bowl if you’d like.

Preparing the Meal

Mix everything but the tortillas together in a large bowl. Stir until roughly consistent, like so:

Mix

Put roughly 1/4 of the contents of the bowl in the bottom of the crock pot.

Layering mix

On top of that, put a layer of tortillas, enough so that the below layer is covered.

Layering tortillas

On top of that, keep layering. Add 1/3 of the remaining mix on top of the tortillas, put another layer of tortillas on top of that, then put 1/2 of the remaining mix on top of those tortillas, put another layer of tortillas on top of that, then put the rest of the mix on top.

Cover the crock pot and cook it on low for six to ten hours. You’ll end up with something looking like this.

Cooked casserole

We like to serve dishes like this with simple rice. We cooked ordinary rice in vegetable stock, then added some salsa near the end of the cooking.

Finished casserole

That’s dinner! Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Optional Ingredients

Obviously, there’s some strong flexibility with the vegetables you add. You’ll want to keep it around 12 cups of total vegetables, but feel free to eliminate a vegetable you don’t like or add one that you do like that makes sense (like tomatillos or something).

You can also try different proteins, such as chicken or shredded beef or ground beef. Cook these before adding them to the initial mix.

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  1. Deborah says:

    I love my crock pot, but my husband and I both work outside the home. The days I most want to use it – work days – are days when I won’t because I don’t want to leave it on when we’re not going to be home for 8 hours at a time. My sister’s started sparking one time (she was home) and ever since then I’ve wondered if it’s safe.

    I’m curious: do others leave theirs on when they’re not going to be home for long periods of time?

  2. valleycat1 says:

    #1 Deborah – before our crock pot finally died last month (the heating element simply quit heating), we would sometimes set it up & leave it for the day, but it always made me nervous. So, more often I would use it on a weekend where we’d at least be in & out, if not home all day.

    If we get anything to replace it, it will be a good enameled cast iron dutch oven I can use in the oven or on the stovetop. Which are gas instead of electric, BTW. We don’t really have a need to cook things all day – we just did because we had the crockpot. So far we haven’t missed it at all.

  3. Kelly says:

    @Deborah, I have left it on in the past while my husband and I are at work, but he voiced his concern about that. So now I run it overnight, refrigerate it in the morning and reheat at dinnertime. Of course, the crockpot is still left unattended for hours at a time (even though we’re home) and the result isn’t as fresh having to reheat the food later on.

  4. Riki says:

    During the summer, I have at times plugged my slow cooker in on the patio when I had to leave it for the day.

    Most of the time I just cook things overnight, although I admit it can be strange to wake up to the smell of something like curry chicken in the morning.

  5. Julia says:

    I often leave my crock-pot on all day. But I work 5 minutes away and usually go home to check on it at lunch.

    This recipe looks great. I’m curious about something though: I’ve been buying tortillas that have never been cooked and cooking them myself (they come with packets of oxygen absorbers instead of preservatives).

    I’m wondering if they would get all soggy and gross if I used the uncooked tortillas in this recipe instead of cooking them first (so they would cook in the crock pot along with the rest of the ingredients).

  6. Cheryl says:

    When I make a dish like this with tortillas, I crisp them in the oven, then crush them to make the layers. That way they don’t taste “mooshy.”

    I think uncooked ones would just dissolve.

  7. Melissa says:

    Yum. Ticks all the boxes for me: easy, inexpesive, healthy, lots of veg.

    We finally got a slow cooker after umming and ahhing about it for months, and I love it – use it nearly every day. So I am on the look out for recipes that are suitable. Also, we don’t have a strong mexican influence to our food here in Aus. so I’ve been expanding my repetoire that way. Thanks.

    @Deborah, I’m also wondering the same thing. We left ours on all day when we went out. It was awesome coming home to a cooked meal, but like others, I was a bit nervous about it.

  8. con says:

    My comment isn’t about crock-pots, but about microwave ovens. Just a warning. One morning I woke up and there was a terrible burning smell. I couldn’t find the source until I went in the kitchen and saw the potholders all scorched on top of my microwave. The microwave was extremely hot and I don’t know what happened. I will say that it was a few years old. Needless to say, I unplug my new one every night/day now when not in use or at least check on it when I’m at home.

  9. Michelle says:

    I’ve been leaving mine on while I’m out for years. Never had a problem. They don’t get *that* hot.

  10. Michele says:

    Same here- I leave the crock pot on all day while I’m at work. Haven’t had a problem in 31 years…I’m on my second crockpot…only because I dropped the first one a couple of months ago and cracked it. I must be getting old:)

  11. Tom says:

    For those worried about electrical safety, 1). be sure you’re plugged in to a GFCI outlet, which shuts off the electric if it senses that current is leaking from the circuit somewhere (it is code in kitchens and anywhere water could be present), and, 2). You can add a secondary timer to turn off the slow cooker. If it is covered and the insert is a good quality, it’ll retain heat long enough for a warm dinner.

  12. valleycat1 says:

    If you’re starting a crockpot dish with raw ingredients – particularly meat – be sure it cooks to full temperature and holds there at least a half hour. And clean any fresh veggies well before cooking. As long as the items are between refrigerated and fully-cooked temps, the bacteria breeding ground is very active. So, Tom, if you turn it off early, be sure to reheat before serving! I know several biologists & microbiologists who won’t eat food prepared in a slow cooker.

  13. Melanie says:

    I’ve always left my crockpot on during the day. No issues or concerns for me in 11 years of slow cooking.

  14. deRuiter says:

    Trent, It’s the dead of summer. How about buidling and experimenting with a solar cooker and reporting on the results?

  15. AnnJo says:

    @deRuiter,
    I was going to suggest the same thing; I slapped one together last summer out of carboard, aluminum foil and an old piece of clear acrylic and was surprised that, even as slapdash as it was, it worked pretty well. Even cooked a (black cast-iron) pot of stew in it, browing the meat and bringing the pot just to a boil on the stovetop before setting it in the solar oven. It seemed to hold a temp of about 240 degrees, just right for slow cooking. I wouldn’t have started the pot from raw at that low a temp, but (safety experts can correct me if I’m wrong) once everything was brought up to a boil I believe it held it at a safe enough temp.

  16. Brittany says:

    I leave my crockpot on all day all the time, even when I was working 10-12 hour days. The only problem I ever had was occasionally slightly overcooking something because I got stuck a work a few hours longer than expected. They’re low heat, well contained, etc. If you’re particularly worried, leave the counter around them very clear. Even if it were to short circuit and spark, there’s really not much on the crockpot that would actually burn long enough cause any damage (or hot enough to catch walls, ceilings, etc., if there wasn’t anything to fuel it, like dishclothes or paper, allowing it to become anything but a spark). Even in the worst case, crockpots are pretty safe.

    Also, as an Illinoian transplanted to Texas, those have got to be the most Midwestern enchiladas I have ever seen. It really cracked me up. Don’t get me wrong, they look tasty, but man would I be laughed out of the room if I served those anywhere outside of the Midwest and called them enchiladas. I still haven’t stopped getting ragged on down here for fruit pizza.

  17. Brenna says:

    Just wanted to thank you for having so many gluten-free options!

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