Slow cookers are useful appliances in the wintertime. There’s nothing better than making hearty, warming meals that can be left unattended while all the delicious flavors develop. But don’t discount your Crock-Pot during the warmer months. Making meals in a slow cooker in the summer is a great way to save time in the evenings and keep your house cool, since you don’t need to use the oven.
To make your summer more appetizing and hassle-free, here are 14 slow cooker recipes to feed the whole family.
Best Summertime Slow Cooker Recipes
1. Seafood Pesto Pasta
This light pasta dish is packed with protein from tender scallops and shrimp, and gets a bit of zip from white wine, parsley, and lemon. This recipe serves six and is ready to plate in two hours on high, or four hours on low. Prep time is 10 minutes.
- 3 cups frozen chopped broccoli
- 1 pound frozen bay scallops
- 3/4 pound frozen raw, peeled medium-size shrimp
- 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 thick slice of onion
- 1 thick slice of lemon
- 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
- 7 tablespoons reduced-fat basil pesto (such as Buitoni)
- Before turning on the slow cooker, coat it with a nonstick spray.
- Place the broccoli in the bottom of the bowl, then cover the broccoli with frozen scallops and shrimp.
- Pour the chicken broth and wine in the pot. Toss in the parsley, onion, and lemon. Cover and cook on low for four hours, or on high for two hours.
- Drain the slow cooker and discard the parsley, onion, and lemon.
- Cook angel hair pasta to al dente (for approximately seven minutes) and reserve a half-cup of pasta water.
- Put the pasta in a large bowl and add the seafood, broccoli, and pesto, tossing well to combine the ingredients. Add pasta water one tablespoon at a time if needed.
2. Veggie Chili
Chili is generally considered a winter dish because of its bone-warming qualities, but this recipe for veggie chili calls for summer produce like zucchini and yellow squash, making it perfect for sharing on the patio on a cool summer’s night. This recipe makes 15 one-and-a-half cup servings (at only 124 calories per serving) and cooks for eight hours on low. Prep time is 25 minutes.
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1/2 cup celery ribs, diced
- 1 medium-sized diced sweet onion
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 2 (eight-ounce) packages sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups large zucchini, chopped
- 1 cup yellow squash, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
- 1 (eight-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 3 cups tomato juice
- 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, in juice
- 4 (15-ounce) cans pinto, black, great Northern, or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
- Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and sauté carrots, celery, and onions over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.
- Add mushrooms, squash, and zucchini, and sauté for three minutes more.
- Add chili powder, dried basil, and seasoned pepper, and sauté for five minutes more.
- In the slow cooker, stir together the tomato sauce and tomato juice until smooth, then stir in the diced tomatoes, beans, corn, and sautéed ingredients.
- Cook on low for eight hours.
3. Lime Cilantro Chicken
Take dinner south of the border with this recipe for lime cilantro chicken that works on its own when served with Mexican rice and corn-on-the-cob, or when added to homemade quesadillas, burritos, tacos, or nachos. This recipe serves four and cooks on low for six to eight hours, or on high for three to four hours.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup light or nonalcoholic beer
- 1 teaspoon minced or chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Coat the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them in the slow cooker.
- Combine lime juice, beer, garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Then pour the mixture over the chicken so the breasts are evenly coated.
- Cook on low for six to eight hours, or on high for three to four hours.
- Serve the breasts whole as part of a main dish, or shred the chicken to use in quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and nachos.
4. Chili Dogs
Whether you’re eating them at a baseball game or grabbing them from a cart at the beach, chili dogs are a quintessential summer staple. Save yourself a trip to those distant locales and conjure up the flavors of summer right in your own kitchen. This recipe serves six, and cooks for four to six hours on low. Prep time is five minutes.
- 6 hot dogs, fully cooked
- 1 chopped onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (14-ounce) ready-to-eat chili
- 6 hot dog buns, split
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Place the hot dogs, onions, and garlic in the slow cooker and top with chili. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or until the hot dogs are tender.
- Butter the hot dog buns and toast.
- Place hot dogs in buns, top with chili and cheese.
5. Teriyaki Chicken Wings
Spice up your midweek routine with these finger-lickin’ good wings tinged with a taste of the Far East. This recipe serves six to eight and cooks for one-and-a-half to two hours on high and three to three-and-a-half hours on low. Prep time is five minutes.
- 3 to 4 pounds thawed chicken wings
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Place the wings in the slow cooker.
- Combine remaining ingredients then pour over the wings.
- Cook on high for one-and-a-half to two hours, or low for three to three-and-a-half hours.
6. Pulled Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
If you’re ever invited to a summer picnic or backyard barbecue in the southern states, you can almost guarantee that pulled pork sandwiches will be on the menu. This recipe serves 12 and cooks on high for four hours. Prep time is 15 minutes.
- 1 can (14-ounce) beef broth
- 3 pounds boneless pork ribs
- 1 bottle (18-ounce) barbecue sauce
- Pour beef broth into the slow cooker and add the boneless ribs. Cook on high for four hours or until meat is tender enough to shred.
- Shred the meat.
- Return meat to the slow cooker, add barbecue sauce, and cook for an additional 30 minutes on high.
7. Turkey Breast With Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce
Turkey is a prerequisite for the Thanksgiving table, but we don’t think much of it during the summertime. That’s a shame because turkey is lean, packed with protein, and works in easy dishes that you can set and forget until dinnertime. This refreshing recipe serves six and cooks for five hours on low, or three hours on high. Prep time is 10 minutes.
- 1 boneless turkey breast, about 2 1/2 pounds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 sprigs cilantro
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 6 cups mixed salad (optional)
- Coat the slow cooker with nonstick spray. Then place the turkey in the cooker and add the onion, cilantro, and chicken broth.
- Season the turkey with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper.
- Cook on high for three hours, or on low for five hours.
- Remove the turkey. Place on a cutting board and wrap in foil.
- Strain the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan.
- Stir together three tablespoons of the liquid and the cornstarch in a small bowl.
- Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan liquid and cook for one minute or until thickened.
- Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper, yogurt, and cilantro.
- Cut the turkey into slices and serve with sauce and mixed salad.
8. Barbecued Country Ribs
Grilling outdoors is one of the best things about summer. However, we don’t always have time to fire up the grill – and sometimes it’s just too darn hot. With this recipe for barbecued country ribs, you can enjoy the smoky flavor of slow-cooked pork without sweating your face off in front of the flames.
- 1 1/2 cup prepared hickory-flavored barbeque sauce
- 1/2 cup apricot-pineapple jam
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 pounds country-style pork spareribs, trimmed of fat
- Mix soy sauce, jam, and 3/4 cup barbecue sauce in a medium bowl until well blended.
- Place a layer of ribs in the slow cooker, and pour 1/3 of the barbecue mixture on top.
- Place another layer of ribs and cover with half the remaining sauce. Repeat a third time.
- Cook on low for eight-and-a-half to nine hours, or until ribs are tender but still intact.
- Remove the ribs and transfer to a serving platter.
- Skim the fat from the drippings in the bottom of the slow cooker, and stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of barbecue sauce.
- Spoon the barbecue sauce on the plated ribs and serve.
9. Sloppy Chicken Joes
Kids love sloppy joes, but parents can get behind this version and not feel bad about it because the beef is substituted with chicken. There are other fresh summer ingredients in the mix as well – like tomatoes and green peppers – making this dish a much easier way to get those veggies in your kids without a big fuss. This recipe makes eight sandwiches and cooks for six to eight hours on low, or three to four hours on high. Prep time is 15 minutes.
- 3 pounds uncooked ground chicken (or turkey)
- 2 jars (14-ounce) pizza sauce
- 2 cups frozen (yellow, green, and red) peppers and onion stir-fry vegetables, thawed and chopped
- 1 can (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes
- 8 hoagie rolls, split
- 8 slices mozzarella or provolone cheese
- Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the hot skillet and cook until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Combine the chicken, pizza sauce, vegetables, and undrained tomatoes in a slow cooker.
- Cook for six to eight hours on low, or three to four hours on high.
- Toast the rolls, split side up, under the broiler for one to two minutes.
- Spoon the chicken mixture into rolls and top with cheese.
10. Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches
When your garden is producing more bell peppers than you know what to do with, pull out this recipe for sausage and pepper sandwiches. It will bring back memories of good times at your favorite stadium, but you never have to leave the house. This recipe serves eight and cooks on low for eight hours, or on high for four hours.
- 3 medium bell peppers, trimmed and sliced into thick strips
- 2 Spanish onions or extra-large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, sliced
- 2 pounds fresh chicken sausage
- 1 can (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
- 1 can (8-ounce) plain tomato sauce
- 1 loaf semolina Italian bread, cut in 16 diagonal slices
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 or 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, for serving
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Place the onions and pepper strips in a slow cooker. Arrange the sausage on top, then pour in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.
- Cook for eight hours on low, or for four hours on high.
- Slice sausage into 1/4-inch strips, then place them in the pot. Stir to mix and keep warm.
- Brush a grill pan with oil and place over medium heat.
- Brush the bread slices on both sides with oil and toast them on the grill pan. Rub each slice with garlic.
- Place a slice of bread on each plate and spoon on sausage mixture. Sprinkle on basil and cheese before placing the other slice of bread on top.
11. Poached Salmon
I bet you’re probably thinking that there’s no way salmon is going to be good from a slow cooker. Au contraire. This recipe for poached salmon turns out light and tender, just the way you like it. It serves four, and the total cooking time is approximately one hour.
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 rib celery, sliced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)
- In the slow cooker, combine two cups of cold water, wine, onion, carrot, celery, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and thyme.
- Cook on high for 20 minutes.
- Add salmon filets to the liquid. Pour in additional warm water if needed to cover the fish.
- Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for approximately 35 to 40 minutes until salmon is light pink and firm.
- Lift the salmon out and serve with steamed vegetables.
12. Red Quinoa Pilaf with Tomato, Spinach and Pine Nuts
Vegetarians will love this tasty, protein-packed recipe that’s full of nutritious, delicious ingredients. It serves four and cooks on low for about two hours and 15 minutes.
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 large ripe but firm tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
- Rinse quinoa in cold water and drain well.
- Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and cook until softened, for three to five minutes. Add tomatoes and broth and increase heat to high.
- Bring the mixture to a boil then transfer to the slow cooker.
- Stir in quinoa. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook on low for about two hours or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the quinoa.
- Brown the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat by shaking the skillet back and forth for about three minutes.
- Add spinach and pine nuts to the slow cooker and stir. Add more broth as necessary if pilaf looks dry.
- Cook for 15 more minutes or until the spinach has wilted.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.
13. Wild Rice With Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas
Maintain that beach-ready body by keeping the carbs at bay with this light mixture of chicken, rice, and peas. This recipe serves six and cooks on low for five hours. Prep time is 10 minutes.
- 1 1/2 cups wild rice mix
- 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
- 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 head Boston lettuce
- Rinse the rice under cold water and place it in a slow cooker. Then add broth, chicken, shallots, carrot, and celery.
- Cook on low for five hours or until the rice is open but not mushy.
- Stir in peas, vinegar, walnuts, parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Rinse 12 bowl-shaped leaves of lettuce from the head, rinse and pat dry.
- Fill each cup with 1/2 cup of the rice mixture and serve.
14. Turkey Stuffed Peppers
Add a burst of color to your plate and a healthy helping of lean protein to your diet. If you’ve got yellow bell peppers growing in your home garden, pick a few of the best-looking specimens and serve them filled to the top with jazzed-up ground turkey. This recipe serves six and cooks on low for five to six hours.
- 1 pound Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing and crumbled
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 8 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 6 bell peppers (any color), tops removed, hollowed
- 1 can (32-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Combine the sausage, rice, mozzarella, and basil in a medium bowl.
- Spoon the mixture into peppers, about 3/4 full. Place peppers in slow cooker.
- Pour tomatoes over pepper then pour broth around sides of peppers.
- Cook on low for five to six hours, or until rice is tender and turkey is cooked through.
- Sprinkle peppers with cheese and serve.
There are many things to love about summertime – but slaving in the kitchen over a hot stove isn’t one of them. Besides, you’ve got all winter to do that. Spend time outside with friends this summer and put your meals on autopilot in the slow cooker. These recipes prove that you can sacrifice time in the kitchen without sacrificing taste.
What are some of your favorite summer slow cooker recipes?
(photo credit: Bigstock)