10 minutes of prep time is all you need to make this Slow Cooker or Instant Pot Creamy Southwest Chicken. The creamy sauce is filled with spices and a bit of tangy lime. You’ll love the addition of bell peppers and fresh cilantro! Dairy-free, Paleo, Keto, and Whole30 approved.
Creamy Southwest Chicken: a weeknight staple!
File this recipe under one that needs to be added to your permanent rotation. It’s so flavorful, easy, and sure to be a hit with the family.
All the reasons why you are going to love this recipe:
- One pot ease in the Slow Cooker or Instant pot. Set it and forget it!
- No need to turn on the oven or the stovetop during the warmer months
- Healthy and satisfying with a creamy sauce that screams comfort food
- Only 10 minutes of prep time!
- So versatile! Serve over Spanish Cauliflower Rice, rice, salad, or as part of your Taco Tuesday.
As a nutritionist, I am always searching for the trifecta in creating dinners: Easy, delicious, and healthy!! And oh yes, this dinner definitely comes through for us.
How to make Creamy Southwest Chicken:
- To start, I’ve combined a blend of super yummy spices: paprika, cumin, chili powder, coriander, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Rub this all over your chicken!
- Before placing the chicken in the slow cooker, I seared it on my skillet to give it that crispy look (not necessary if you are using chicken breast). I do like this extra step because it seals the spices to the chicken. You want it crispy on the outside, but still raw on the inside. This should only take a few minutes.
- Place the chicken inside the slow cooker and top with broth and lime juice. I also threw in some sliced red peppers.
- Once the chicken has cooked for 4-6 hours, I added in 1/2 cup coconut cream (full fat coconut milk is also okay).
Tips and adaptations:
- Coconut milk/cream: We follow a mostly dairy free diet, and I find that coconut milk makes a great substitute for heavy cream or half and half. If not following a dairy-free diet, you can use half and half or cream for this recipe.
- Chicken: I used chicken thighs in this recipe, but you can also use breasts. I have made this dinner multiple times with chicken breast.
- Arrowroot Starch: Is used to thicken up the sauce if necessary. It seems that the Instant Pot variation needs to be thickened more than the slow cooker.
- Canned tomatoes: Looking for a thicker and more tomato based sauce? Feel free to add in a a can of diced tomatoes.
- Corn: Fire roasted corn would also make a delicious addition if you have no dietary restrictions. Corn is not Paleo, Keto, or Whole30 compliant.
Instant Pot Variation:
You can also easily make this recipe in the Instant Pot. You’ll follow similar directions by searing the chicken before it comes to pressure. Do all of this on the saute function of the Instant Pot. Add in the broth and bell peppers.
Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot to get any extra browned bits and to also prevent the burn signal! Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes.
Once the lid is removed, you’ll stir in the coconut milk and the arrowroot starch to thicken the sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve over vegetable noodles or cauliflower rice.
My favorite way to enjoy this creamy Southwest Chicken is over my Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice or Spanish Cauliflower Rice. Looking for a kid friendly option? My kids love it over pasta!
The whole family will enjoy this one!
Healthy Slow Cooker and Instant Pot recipes:
Looking for more healthy Instant Pot recipes? Check out my 50 Whole30 Instant Pot Recipes!
You will may also love:
Be sure to rate the recipe below and comment if you make it! Also, tag me on Instagram @wholesomelicious with your creations. I love to see them!
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Slow Cooker Creamy Southwest Chicken
10 minutes of prep time is all you need to make this Slow Cooker or Instant Pot Creamy Southwest Chicken. The creamy sauce is filled with spices and a bit of tangy lime.
- 1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 red bell peppers sliced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp arrowroot starch*
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup coconut cream or coconut milk full fat
- Fresh cilantro to garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Slow Cooker:
Begin by heating a large skillet to medium high heat. Use a non-stick spray or olive oil to lightly grease the pan.
In a small bowl, mix together all spices. Rub each chicken breast or thigh on both sides with rub. Place each piece of chicken on to the pan, and sear for 1-2 minutes per side (inside will be raw).
Bring chicken to the slow cooker, top with chicken broth and lime juice. Place peppers on top of chicken. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is very tender. Mix together arrowroot with water, and add to the chicken broth mixture, if your mixture is extra runny feel free to add in another tbsp of arrowroot. Also add in coconut cream or milk. Cook on low for another 15-20 minutes until mixture is thickened and creamy.
Serve hot on top of vegetable noodles, rice, potatoes, or pasta.
For the Instant Pot:
Select the saute function on your Instant Pot and let your pot get hot.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the spices. Rub the chicken with the spice mixture. Reserve any extra spices.
Coat the bottom of your Instant Pot with oil, and add chicken. Cook chicken on each side for only a minute or 2, to seal in the spices. Select cancel.
Place chicken broth, lime juice, any leftover spices, and peppers on top of the chicken. Secure the lid.
Select manual, and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. Once cooking is complete, use a quick release using a towel to cover the vent to prevent a mess. Make sure to completely let out the steam.
Open the lid, pour in coconut cream or milk. Mix together the water and arrowroot starch, and add to thicken the sauce. If you want an even thicker sauce, add in another tbsp of arrowroot.
Salt to taste, add in any additional lime juice for more flavor.
Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice, cauliflower rice, vegetable noodles, or pasta.
*arrowroot starch is a thickening agent that can be found in most health food sections of your grocery store.
**Use only the full fat coconut cream or milk (can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store). If not following a dairy-free diet, half and half can be substituted.
Oh my word that looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it.
When do you add in the peppers?
Whoops! Thanks for the catch! You add them at the beginning on top of the chicken.
In the recipe part, it still doesn’t say when to add the peppers. I’m guessing step three?
PS Looks delicious!!
Yes, April. On top of the chicken after you add in broth and lime juice. I just changed the recipe, thank you!!
I’m allergic to coconut. I want to also limit my dairy intake so what else can I use that’s a healthy option? Almond milk?
Hi Vanessa! You can omit the “creamy” part all together, it still tastes wonderful. If you want that creamy touch, I would do an unsweetened creamy nut milk. Almond is fine, cashew might be better.
I tried this tonight. I couldn’t get it to thicken at the end ???? I tried cornstarch because I couldn’t find the Arrowroot. I mixed the cornstarch with a little cold water and then added it to the slow cooker.
I had the same problem, maybe less chicken broth next time. Did you ever receive a response on how to fix this?
You can cut the chicken broth to 1 cup. The arrowroot should thicken with just 1 tbsp, I’ve made it several times without problems. You can also double the amount of arrowroot to 2 tbsp if you want it thicker!
I’m hoping to try this recipe, which looks delicious. My husband is being such a trooper as we are doing paleo.chicken together, but he really doesnt love coconut. Does this recipe have a strong coconut flavor? Thanks for posting!
Hi Kristy, the coconut flavor is almost non-existent. You can even cut some of the coconut milk to only 1/3 or 1/4 cup.
Lisa Cooks says
I made it and it was so good! Thank you!
Great! Glad you enjoyed it Lisa!
Is the arrowroot starch 100% necessary?
Without it the recipe will be very soup-y. You can use any thickener to make it more of a sauce rather than so runny. Hope that helps.
Holey Moley!!! Ok, this is hands down the best crock pot chicken thigh recipe I’ve ever made. I served it over regular egg noodles. I could’ve eaten the whole pot. Even my 92 yr old mom loved it. And the 17 yr old dog gobbled it up too!
just wanted to be sure… coconut milk in a can right? 1/2 cup or 1/2 can of coconut milk?
1/2 cup of canned coconut milk
I made this last night in the Instant Pot. My husband said it was the best chicken recipe.
I made this yesterday and the flavors were delicious, but it didn’t turn out as well as I thought it would. My chicken fell apart in the crockpot. The skin separated from the thighs and didn’t hold the sear like I thought it would based on the pictures. It also started shredding. I cooked it for the full 6 hours. Did I cook it too long? The chicken was nicely seared when I put it in. I also had a hard time thickening in the sauce even though I tripled the starch. Any advice? It was still delicious so I’ll definitely be making it again just want to get it right next time. Thanks!
Thanks for writing Danielle! So a few things. I actually prefer this to be extra saucy because I will serve over cauliflower rice for me, and pasta for my kids. I also like the chicken to shred as I think it makes everything easier. If you want it to be less saucy, you can cut the chicken broth to as little as 1/3 cup (not in instant pot, you will need at least 3/4 cup). You can also cut the cooking time to 4 hours so that it remains in tact. Also, using chicken breasts will also be easier for the chicken to not shred. Hope that helps!
I made this tonight and it was sooo good!! Even my picky husband said it was delicious!! I’m definitely putting it in a regular rotation!
Im going to make this tonight, I am learning portion control so my question is recipe shows 4 serving so its one chicken thigh per person based on the pictire? Also could you double the recipe in the slow cooker?
Hi Nicole, it depends on the size of your chicken, but it would generally mean 1 chicken thigh or breast per serving. The chicken may also be very tender and shred, so a serving would be approximately 1 cup.
Hi am going to make this tonight did you use skinless thighs ?
Hi, yes, skinless thighs! Just made it myself for tonight’s dinner 🙂
This was fantastic! My partner and I are doing intermittent fasting and I found this after searching for a healthy slow cooker chicken recipe. We could barely wait till dinner time to devour this over sautéed cauliflower rice with onions. Thanks for the recipe!
So glad you loved it Carmen! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I was SO disappointed in this recipe. It looked really yummy and simple. It was WAY too spicy and I like spice.
Has anyone tried this with bone in skin on?
How could I modify this to be frozen and crockpot dump ready? Is it doable?
Hi Courtney, I think it would definitely work, just omit the coconut milk! Add at the very end. I would then cook on low for 6 hours.
Do you have any nutritional info? How many carbs?
Made this for slow cooker Sunday, served it on top of southwest cauliflower “rice”, so tasty!
January Tiberius says
I was an executive chef in Austin, Texas and would be proud to call this my own!!! I didn’t change the recipe at all and think it has a great balance of flavors and just the right amount of heat from the cayenne and zing from the lime. I think the reason your folks are having trouble with the sauce is that it needs to come to a full boil in order to thicken. So, I’d suggest taking out a cup or more of the sauce and thicken it in a separate pan with the arrowroot and then add it back to the crockpot. I also think the red peppers could go in an hour before the chicken is done so they are more crisp-tender. Am curious to try this again using Smoked Paprika just to see if it “works.” I had no problem with my chicken breasts shredding, but cooked them for only 4 hours on low.
Thank you for your comments, January!! Great suggestion, I think I will add that to the notes 🙂
Would it be possible to cook rice in the instant pot all at the same time??
I can’t say for sure because I’ve never tried. But, I think it should work!
i made this recipe and loved it. The next night I followed the same steps, but doubled the recipe. The chicken was overcooked and there seemed to be way too muck liquid. Do you have any suggestions on changes to make when doubling the recipe?
Did you use an IP or slow cooker? You can definitely cut down on the broth when you double the recipe (especially if using a slow cooker, but even cut down with the IP too). I am not sure why the chicken would be overcooked.
Mark C says
What if I don’t have a crockpot or Instant pot… can I make it in the oven?
Thank you. 🙂
I would cook it on the stovetop instead, searing your chicken with spices. Then add liquid. I would also cut the amount of broth way down (maybe only 1/4-1/3 cup). Hope that helps!
Mark C says
I’ll give it a go tonight… thanks for the speedy reply. 🙂
made this tonite (while my son made it “with” me via FaceTime 2 hours away!) We both loved the flavor of the dish but my chicken was tough. I cut it into slices and put it back into the sauce for a few minutes, but it wasn’t tender like I expected it to be. I’ve read a QR removes a lot of the moisture from the meat, and can make it tough. Any suggestions?
Can this recipe be doubled?
Yes! You won’t need to double the liquid, just chicken and spices.
Hi there! Just stumbled upon this recipe and can’t wait to try it! I’m not sure if I am a big lime flavour person, is the lime taste over powering do you find!? Would it make a big difference if I didn’t use as much lime juice? Thank you! 🙂
I would definitely cut back the lime if you don’t like lime. I do think this recipe needs an acid balance, so maybe make without and see how you like it first!
Emily W says
Hello! I am wondering if I could dice my chicken into smaller pieces rather than cooking the breasts as a whole (I was thinking on serving it as a stir fry over rice)? If so, would I just sear the diced chicken pieces as well for a minute or two, then put the pieces into the slow cooker raw? Thank you! 🙂
You can go ahead and do raw! Hope that helps 🙂
Great recipe! Do you have any nutrition information for this per serving?
Hi Catherine! I just updated the nutrition facts, you can see them under the notes section in the recipe box.
I just bought an Instant Pot and was going to try this. Is that correct to only cook it 7 minutes on manual, high pressure?
Eliza Butler says
We made this last night and it was delicious! Even my young children loved it!
Eliza Butler says
We made this yesterday and it will be in our meal rotation! My husband and 3 children all loved it!
Yay! Glad you loved it!
My husband and I both loved this! Great flavor, a little kick, and it heats up well. I served it with arborio rice, which I thought was perfect. It was more watery and soupy than I wanted, but I loved it anyway. I will experiment with how to make it creamier.
I am on weight Watchers, any idea how many points this would be? I have made it and it is yummy, I don’t have to eat the sauce, I suppose. I prefer it with thighs, but plan tho make it with breast next time, for less fat. I do add onion as well, could probably add other veggies, too.
I’m sorry, I don’t! Could you input the nutrition facts in a calculator by using the numbers below the recipe?
Marissa Eichman says
What can I use besides arrowroot? My grocery store doesn’t have it
Tapioca starch for a GF, Paleo variation, or corn starch (non-paleo, GF).
Love this and have made it multiple times! Delicious!
This looks so good! I mixed the spices and rubbed them onto the chicken breasts but I have a lot of the mixture left over. Maybe I was too skimpy on the rub? Should I dump the rest of the spices in the crockpot while the chicken cooks?
Love this recipe! So tasty, my didn’t really thicken even though I tried the 2 tbsp of arrowroot but we had it in bowls with vegetables on top and was delicious!
I’m curious if you use all the spice mixture called for in the recipe. It makes almost 3 tablespoons of spice mixture. Do you use all of it?
Yes, all of it
Logan T. says
Looks and sounds delicious. I never use my slow cooker, and came in search of a paleo recipe. Can’t wait to try it tomorrow. Thank you for the recipe.
SUSAN R. says
Very good…but i definitely made additions. Included onions and poblanos that were roasted, and added Santa Fe green chili spice. It was delicious. Served with cauliflower rice that was heated with chopped jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice and a little butter…and provided fresh avocado and sour cream for a topping. Husband and son both said ‘this is a keeper!”
Made this tonight and adapted it to make it on the stovetop. Worked perfectly and wow! The sauce was so good I could drink it! 100% will make again!
Jodi Fleck says
Should I refrigerate the coconut milk for several hours before using it?
Amy Rains says
No, you don’t have to do that.
Amanda Diamond says
Is this a mix of the canned cream and milk or just the cream?
Amy Rains says
I do both, but to make it thicker, you can just use the cream if you prefer.
Megan Sadler says
Absolutely love this recipe, normally made fortnightly in our house. Make it more liquidy and have it in a bowl or make the sauce thicker for a plate. So yum!