Monday, January 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Recipe with Lime and Melted Mozzarella (Low-Carb, Gluten-Free)

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken with Lime and Melted Mozzarella
Flavorful chicken is cooked in the slow cooker with salsa and lime, then it goes under the broiler with cheese!

This Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken with Lime and Melted Mozzarella is a new recipe for A Month of Daily Phase One Recipes, and I'm pretty sure this four-ingredient recipe will become a favorite for lots of my readers who like flavorful dishes that use things you usually have in the house.  But if anyone is looking at the photo and thinking it doesn't look like a slow cooker dish, let me share how it took Jake and me three attempts to come up with this final version of the dish (which we thought was perfect.) 

We started out to make simple chicken baked breasts with salsa and cheese, and the first version tasted okay, but was way too watery.  For our second attempt we simmered the salsa to reduce the amount of liquid (a good idea), but the oven-baked chicken seemed overdone by the time the cheese had melted.  We might have given up on the idea at that point if I hadn't seen an idea in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two for chicken breasts covered with salsa and cooked in the slow cooker for a short time on high.  For our final keeper version the chicken cooks on high in the slow cooker with reduced salsa and a little lime and then the chicken is put in a small casserole dish, covered with mozzarella, and put under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese.  This may seem like too much trouble to some people, but it produced perfectly-cooked moist chicken with spicy salsa flavor and gooey melted cheese!

Simmer two cups salsa on low until it is reduced to one cup.  (We used Pace Picante Sauce, medium heat, but I'd use mild salsa if you're making this for kids.)

Trim four boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut each one in half lengthwise.  (I save the trimmings to make homemade chicken stock.)

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray and arrange chicken in a single layer.  Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Mix the reduced salsa with the lime juice and pour over the chicken.

Cook for 60-90 minutes on high, or until the chicken is cooked through.  (Cooking time doesn't have to be exact for this, but I wouldn't go much more than 2 hours or the chicken will start to shred apart.  If your slow cooker is on the hot side, it might be done in one hour.

Spray a small casserole dish with non-stick spray, then use a slotted turner to lift the chicken pieces out and arrange in one layer in the dish.  

Then use a slotted spoon to scoop out the thicker parts of the salsa and dish it over the chicken, leaving the more watery salsa in the slow cooker.

Scoop out enough salsa from the slow cooker that the chicken pieces are well-covered with the thickened salsa.

Sprinkle a cup of low-fat grated Mozzarella over the chicken and place under a pre-heated broiler.

Broil until the cheese is all melted and starting to lightly brown (probably under 5 minutes for most broilers.)  Serve hot, with low-fat sour cream if desired.

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Recipe with Lime and Melted Mozzarella
(Makes 4-5 servings; recipe created by Kalyn and Jake with some inspiration from Salsa Chicken in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two.)

2 cups mild or medium salsa, simmered to reduce to 1 cup
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
salt and fresh ground black pepper, for seasoning chicken
2 T fresh-squeezed lime juice (or less if you're not that into lime)
1 cup grated low-fat Mozzarella

I used a Crock-Pot 3-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker.  You need a slow cooker that's big enough to put the chicken in a single layer.  I used a 9"x7" glass casserole dish; any size close to that would work.

Put 2 cups of salsa into a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until enough liquid has evaporated that the salsa has reduced to 1 cup.  (We used medium-heat salsa which was pretty spicy after being reduced; if cooking for kids I would use mild salsa and let adults add hot sauce at the table if they want more heat.)

Trim all visible fat and undesirable parts from the chicken breasts and cut each one in half lengthwise.  Put the chicken in a single layer in a slow cooker that you've sprayed with non-stick spray; then season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  

When the salsa has reduced to 1 cup, stir in the lime juice and pour the mixture over the chicken.  Cook on high for 60-90 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  (Depending on how hot your slow cooker gets, cooking time may be a little more or less, but don't cook too long or the chicken will start to shred apart.)

When the chicken is cooked through, preheat the broiler and spray a small glass casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Use a slotted turner to lift out chicken pieces with whatever salsa clings to the chicken and arrange in a single layer in the casserole dish.  Then use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chunkier parts of the salsa and spoon it over the chicken.  (Just use enough so the chicken is well-covered with chunky salsa; leave the more watery salsa in the slow cooker.)

Sprinkle 1 cup grated low-fat Mozzarella over the chicken and put the dish under the broiler until the cheese is melted and starting to lightly brown.  (This will be about 5 minutes with most broilers, but watch it carefully!)  Serve hot, with a little low-fat sour cream to add at the table if desired.

This will keep for a day or two in the fridge.  For best results when reheating, put it in a small glass dish covered with foil and reheat in a toaster oven.  (If you must reheat it in the microwave, use lower heat so the chicken doesn't dry out.)

Click Here for Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
As long as you use low-fat mozzarella and salsa without added sugar, this recipe would be  a great main-dish choice for any phase of the South Beach Diet.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Phase One Ideas with Chicken:
West African Chicken and Peanut Stew with Chiles, Ginger, and Green Onions
Chicken Adobo - Chicken Cooked in Soy Sauce and Vinegar
Janet's Mustard Chicken
Grilled Lemon-Cumin Chicken with Charmoula Sauce
Chicken Breasts with Cilantro and Red Thai Curry and Peanut Sauce  

Blogger Disclosure:
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
counter customizable free hit
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!


  1. It doesn't seem like too much work at all. In fact, it seems really simple- love the slow cooker for that! The flavors are great!!

  2. I love recipes like this that use ingredients I always have in the pantry, combined in a new way. Finishing the chicken under the broiler makes it easy to get that nice "crust" on the melted cheese. Can't wait to try this.

  3. Adding this to my menu list for next week! Looks delicious!

  4. As a solo diner, I can see cooking one breast at a time, over the next 4 days. Or, could it be frozen and then put under broiler as required?

  5. Whoa! I wouldn't have paired lime and cheese together but now I'm certainly intrigued!

  6. What is the approximate weight of your chicken? Most of the breasts are so large now that they're 8-16 oz. each.

  7. What a fantastic idea! And I agree with Kelley...this doesn't seem like too much work at all. I love your top photo, Kalyn!

  8. Thanks for the nice feedback everyone.

    Rachel, you could cook all the chicken in the slow cooker and then broil each piece with the cheese when you eat it, but I wonder if the broiling will heat the chicken adequately if it's been refrigerated. Maybe heat a little with foil on it, then broil.

    Celeste I'd guess these chicken breasts would be about 10 oz. before trimming, maybe 8 oz. after.

  9. What about cooking that chicken breast in a pressure cooker instead of a crockpot? 60-90 minutes makes this a weekends-only dish. Could you do it in 30 minutes in a pressure cooker? Maybe don't reduce the salsa so much to get more liquid, since you strain it with a slotted spoon before serving anyway. Just a thought.

  10. Vic, you could try it; I'm guessing it would take less than 30 minutes in the pressure cooker. I'm not sure it would infuse the chicken with the salsa flavor in the same way though.

  11. I'm thinking this would be a great pressure cooker meal too.

  12. Barbara please try in the pressure cooker and I will link to your recipe here for people who want to try it that way!

  13. I made this tonight, was a big hit! I have always shredded my slow cooker salsa chicken for tacos, so this recipe was a nice change. Thanks so much.

  14. I avoid my crock pot because of memories from the 80's of overcooked food. Slow cookers have made a resurgence and I see that cooking in them has changed for the better. This recipe sounds like a good start to reintroduce me.

  15. This sounds delicious, but I think I'd just bake it, uncovered, in the oven. It would reduce the salsa, the cheese could be melted and it would eliminate two things to wash -- the pan from reducing the salsa and the slow cooker.

    Also, like Rachel I'm a solo diner and I could easily make just one portion.

  16. Of course you're free to make it however you want, but we thought when we just baked it all together the dish was far too watery. Reducing the salsa added a lot of flavor, and we loved how the slow cooker tenderized the chicken and infused it with the salsa flavor.

  17. Loved this.. ended up making this is the oven, uncovered so the sauce thickened.. DELISH.... will be making this many times over... Made a side of zucchini pasta ..PERFECT dinner.

  18. How long did you simmer the salsa for?

  19. Stephanie, I didn't time it but I'd guess about 20 minutes. It's best to measure and stop simmering when the salsa is reduced to one cup.

  20. I've made this more than once now and it has quickly become a favorite topped with fresh homemade guacamole! Oh. My. Goodness. It is delicious! Thank you as always! I really enjoy your blog!

  21. This is truly a perfect recipe! Sometimes it takes a few tries - looks absolutely delicious, Kalyn!

  22. Thanks Mel; I was glad we kept trying!

  23. I am going to try this, it sounds wonderful. I really appreciated the "printer friendly" version. Thank you!

  24. Hi Kalyn, lovely looking recipe!
    Thought you might like to know though that two of the words in your ingredients list are half missing. It says 2 T fresh-squeezed lime juice, and 1 C grated low-fat Mozzarella. I'm hoping that the T is tablespoons because that's what I'm about to try haha.

  25. Thanks Glen. The C for cup is a mistake but I use T for tablespoon as an abbreviation all the time. Will edit to spell out cup though. Hope you enjoy!

  26. I just made this tonight and it was yummy! I agree however that it would not be a quick fix if starting from scratch after working a long day.

    Thanks for the recipe Kalyn.


  27. What would you recommend as a side dish?

  28. Some kind of rice, like this one might be good with it.

  29. how to make this without a slow cooker? Would an oven suffice?

  30. You might be able to make it in the oven on very low heat and in a dutch-oven type pan with a tight fitting pan, then finish under the broiler, but I couldn't give advice on how long to cook since I haven't done it that way. Let us know how it turns out if you try.

  31. This sounds so good. It's going on the menu next week! What are your suggestions for phase 1 sides? I get stuck on green beans and broccoli and my husband is now refusing to touch either.

  32. Candice, it's hard for me to suggest sides since I don't know what would appeal to you, but there are plenty of Phase One Vegetables and Side Dishes to pick from.

  33. I ended up having everything except lime juice at home so I made this last night. I must have done something wrong though because after 2 hours on high in the crockpot the chicken still wasn't done. It took closer to 3. And then it was very watery. I ended up eating something else while waiting for it to finish, but I brought it for lunch today. Once I drained all the extra liquid off it tastes fantastic! Definitely a keeper if I can figure out where I went wrong.

  34. Candice did you reduce the salsa to cook out most of the liquid? That would definitely make it watery if you skipped that step.

    Also, some chicken nowdays is injected with water so it may have partly been the chicken you had.

  35. I did reduce the salsa so I'm thinking that you are probably correct about the chicken having added water. I always buy in bulk then separate and freeze it so I never would have thought to check the label beforehand. Either way once I drained it I loved the flavor. My very very picky husband even liked it, He called me at work to tell me :) I will try cooking the chicken for a little while in the crockpot first draining it and adding the salsa next time.

  36. Candice, that sounds like a very good idea.

  37. I'd grown tired of boneless/skinless chicken, because it became kind of boring. This is the first recipe that 'lit my fire' and I'm making it tonight! I bought a 'cheap' salsa from Aldi, and added lime juice and garlic while reducing it. I'll serve with your Lemon Rice with Scallions, Red Bell Pepper, Cilantro, and Pine Nuts. Thanks Kalyn!

  38. What should the temperature be set at on the broiler

    1. Most ovens just have a setting called broil. Big there are temperatures it should be high heat.

  39. I hate this blog. I had to copy and paste the so called "printer friendly" recipe. There are too many ads. Won't be back.

    1. There's no reason you should have to copy and paste the printer-friendly recipe, it's working perfectly. And if you had looked a bit more closely you might have noticed that the ads will not print when you print the page, there is a notice saying that. I don't want to promote products for money as so many bloggers do, so I appreciate the many readers who are able to understand that ads are the alternative.


I'm so happy you're taking the time to comment on Kalyn's Kitchen! I love hearing from people who stop by, especially if you're sharing feedback or asking questions about a recipe I've posted here.

I've recently changed my comment settings so people can comment without signing in, but you will need to check the box to show you're a live person, and comments on older posts won't show up until I publish them. Thanks for understanding!

Blogging tips