Background Traditional research approaches frequently fail to yield representative numbers of people of color in research. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) may be an important strategy for partnering with and reaching populations that bear a greater burden of illness but have been historically difficult to engage. The Community Action Board, consisting of 20 East Harlem residents, leaders, and advocates, used CBPR to compare the effectiveness of various strategies in recruiting and enrolling adults with prediabetes into a peer-led, diabetes prevention intervention. Methods The board created five recruitment strategies: recruiting through clinicians; recruiting at large public events such as farmers markets; organizing special local recruitment events; recruiting at local organizations; and recruiting through a partner-led approach, in which community partners developed and managed the recruitment efforts at their sites. Results In 3 months, 555 local adults were approached; 249 were appropriate candidates for further evaluation (overweight, nonpregnant, East Harlem residents without known diabetes); 179 consented and returned in a fasting state for 1/2 day of prediabetes testing; 99 had prediabetes and enrolled in a pilot randomized trial. The partner-led approach was highly successful, recruiting 68% of those enrolled. This strategy was also the most efficient; 34% of those approached through partners were ultimately enrolled, versus 0%–17% enrolled through the other four strategies. Participants were predominantly low-income, uninsured, undereducated, Spanish-speaking women. Conclusions This CBPR approach highlights the value of partner-led recruitment to identify, reach out to, and motivate a vulnerable population into participation in research, using techniques that may be unfamiliar to researchers but are nevertheless rigorous and effective.