Creamy Ranch Chicken Tacos in the Slow Cooker 5 Ways
My family loves Taco Tuesday because...tacos. Just yum. I love taco Tuesday because I don't have to think up what is for dinner. It's tacos. That doesn't mean we eat the typical ground beef tacos every Tuesday (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I like to mix it up. One of our favorite incarnations is Creamy Chicken Ranch Tacos. What's even better than Taco Tuesday Creamy Ranch Chicken Tacos? This is a slow cooker/Instant Pot recipe. Even better than that? They are dairy-free thanks to my dairy-free ranch dressing recipe, as well as gluten-free, Paleo, Whole30, and all the other untasty sounding dietary restrictions. Except these are so tasty.
This recipe is so quick and easy and delicious that you will definitely put this in your regular rotation. This week we had some leftovers, but not enough to serve tacos again, so later in the week we had Nacho Thursday, which is actually even better than Taco Tuesday. You can also add some to scrambled eggs like in my 3-Minute Taco Scramble recipe, as a breakfast burrito, or on top of a salad. So that is four ways to serve this one recipe!
I've made this for parties, and it's always a hit. I do provide the taco salad option for my taco bar, and I always have people take me up on it, happy to be able to eat at a party. I'm that girl who eats before a party because I'm pretty sure I won't be able to find something gluten-free and dairy-free to eat. This is an easy way to accommodate a lot of dietary needs.
All the ways to use your chicken tacos
- As taco filling - the obvious answer
- Taco salad - a great way to enjoy all that flavor without the gluten and extra calories
- Nachos - please invite me over when you do this #nachosaremyfavorite
- To flavor eggs - after we've polished off the chicken I use the leftover sauce and add it to scrambled eggs
- Breakfast burritos - add the chicken itself or the taco-flavored eggs above.
Creamy Ranch Chicken Tacos
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs*
2 tbsp taco seasoning per pound of chicken (so 4 Tbsp for this recipe)**
1/2 cup ranch dressing
In your Slow Cooker add the chicken and taco seasoning. That is it. No liquid at all. None. The chicken will release liquid as it cooks. If I put my chicken in frozen, which is often, I let it cook on low for 4 hours. If it is defrosted, 3 hours usually does the trick. Every slow cooker is different though.*** When the chicken is done you should be able to very easily pull the thigh pieces apart into larger chunks (I don't like tiny, shreddy, mushy chicken). Pour in the ranch and stir. Done.
To make this in the Instant Pot you will need to add a cup of water and pressure cook it for 10 minutes for fresh thighs. I've never done frozen. You can cook off the extra liquid with the saute function and leaving the lid off. If you pour it off, your taco seasoning will go down the drain with the liquid. If you leave the liquid it will be all watered down and soupy. If you are going for soup that's great! If not, I would boil it off.
I like to serve this with my 2-minute restaurant guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, sharp cheddar, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, cucumbers (is that weird? I really like cucumbers on my tacos. They are cool, crisp and refreshing), and tortillas. Since I pass on the dairy, I drizzle a little more of the dairy-free ranch dressing on mine, or let the avocado substitute for the cold creaminess of the sour cream. If you can eat gluten-free tortillas or corn tortillas, those are perfect options. It's also great on a taco salad. If you want a little more taco flavor and feel, crumble some tortilla chips on top. A side of lime cilantro rice is a great way to round out the meal.
If you want to freeze some of this, freeze before adding the ranch dressing. If the ranch has mayo in it (like mine does), it will break in the freezer, meaning it will separate into oil and liquid. Just add the ranch after you defrost. I've never made this with store-bought ranch dressing, but I can't imagine it would survive the freezer. And if it does, I can't imagine what they put in it to make it that way. Ew.
*Thighs are 1,000 times better than breasts in the slow cooker. Because breasts are so lean, they get dry and shreddy and gross. Fattier cuts of meat are always better for a slow cooker. ALWAYS. Also, thighs pull apart MUCH easier than breasts.
**I make my own taco seasoning, and this is the ratio I use. If you are using store-bought, follow the packet instructions of how much to use per pound. I will say that I like my tacos very taco-y tasting, so mine might be stronger than yours, too.
***I actually make 4 pounds at a time because my kids eat like linebackers. The more food you put in a slow cooker, the longer it takes to cook. The less food, the less time. I use a 6-quart cooker, and with 4 pounds of frozen thighs it was done in 4.5 hours. I know people say you can leave things to cook in the slow cooker all day and it won't hurt it, but with poultry, I notice the difference if it cooks too long. Pork and beef do better with long cooking times.
Do you have Taco Tuesdays? How are you going to eat these creamy ranch chicken tacos?