Many home cooks consider the slow cooker to be a kitchen superhero, mainly because it’s so versatile. You can use a slow cooker to make everything from fresh bread and burritos to stew and Salisbury steak. It can make breakfast, party appetizers, and even succulent desserts.
On busy days, it’s comforting to come home knowing dinner is already cooked and waiting. Slow cookers also help you save money because they turn low-cost ingredients like beans or chuck steaks into tender, delicious meals. With the right recipes, you can start making simple and affordable meals your family will love.
Pro tip: If you don’t own a slow cooker, Amazon.com has a large selection. One of my favorites is the Hamilton Beach portable six-quart slow cooker. It has a bunch of useful features and it only costs around $50.
Easy Slow Cooker Recipes
Once you start using your slow cooker regularly, you might never go back to using your oven. This little appliance is stress-free cooking at its finest, and there is an endless number of recipes that will simplify breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Many people don’t think about using their slow cooker to make breakfast. However, with some prep the night before, your slow cooker can be the perfect tool to make busy mornings a bit easier.
Cinnamon Oatmeal With Dates
We’d all love to have a hot breakfast ready and waiting for us when we wake up. Thanks to the slow cooker, we can have just that.
This overnight oatmeal recipe is healthy and filling thanks to steel-cut oats and coconut milk. Once cooked, you can top each bowl with yogurt, half-and-half, or fresh fruit.
Get the full instructions at Today.
Morning Glory Carrot Cake Oatmeal
If you love carrot cake, this is a healthy and delicious way to have it for breakfast without the guilt. This recipe combines carrots and coconut milk with fiber-loaded steel-cut oats along with plenty of warming spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. The result is a vegan, gluten-free breakfast that keeps you full until lunch.
Get the full instructions at Cookie and Kate.
Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
Skip a trip to the local diner and make this easy and delicious casserole instead. This breakfast casserole has it all: eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, onions, and cheese in one tasty, gooey dish.
Get the full instructions at Family Fresh Meals.
Soup & Stew Recipes
Slow cookers are the perfect appliance for creating rich, flavorful soups and stews. And coming home to a pot of bubbling soup on a frigid winter day is a sublime creature comfort.
Pinto Bean Chili With Beef
This recipe is flavorful and delicious. It can also be inexpensive to make if you buy ground beef on sale and use dried pinto beans instead of canned. Note that if you opt for dried beans, you must soak them for six to eight hours (or overnight) before using them in this recipe.
The recipe calls for ground beef, onions, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and plenty of tomatoes and green chiles.
Get the full instructions at The Spruce Eats.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
If you’ve ever tried chicken tortilla soup at a local Mexican restaurant, then you know how divine it is. Chicken tortilla soup is like chicken noodle soup, but with a lot more personality. Shredded chicken, garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, onions, and carrots simmer in a broth flavored with plenty of cumin, cilantro, and oregano.
When it’s finished, top it with plenty of cilantro, lime, tortilla chips, and avocado.
Get the full instructions at The Kitchn.
Mom’s New Orleans Red Beans & Rice
If Louisiana had an official state meal, it would probably be red beans and rice. This dish is comforting, flavorful, and inexpensive, and it can feed a lot of people.
Many families have unique versions of this recipe that were passed down from one generation to the next. What makes this particular recipe stand out is that it has a secret ingredient: one cup of pickle juice.
Keep in mind the beans must be soaked overnight and then cooked for eight hours in the slow cooker, so you need to plan ahead with this recipe.
Get the full instructions at Food52. (You’ll find slow cooker instructions in Step 6.)
Ratatouille is the perfect recipe when you have more summer produce than you know what to do with. This flavorful French stew asks for eggplant, squash, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, and basil. However, you can often use whatever vegetables your garden or farmers market is overflowing with come July.
The only precooking you have to do is to brown the onion, and you can do that while you wash and prepare the rest of the vegetables. Ratatouille also makes a healthy and delicious breakfast if you quickly fry up an egg and use it to top your vegetables.
Get the full instructions at The Kitchn.
Chicken & Turkey Recipes
When chicken or turkey goes on sale at the grocery store, stock up your freezer and turn to these delicious slow cooker recipes for easy dinner ideas.
Honey-Garlic Chicken & Vegetables
Honey-garlic chicken and veggies is a perfect recipe to pull out when you don’t have a lot of time in the mornings to prep. With this recipe, there are no precooking steps, such as sauteing or browning, like there are in some other slow cooker recipes. You throw everything in the pot, turn it on, and you’re good to go.
This recipe calls for chicken thighs, which are less expensive than other cuts and have a lot more flavor and moisture.
Get the full instructions at Damn Delicious.
Thai Chicken Curry
If you’re craving Thai takeout, pull this recipe out instead. It’s full of the creamy, peanutty curry goodness that makes Thai food so amazing. Yet it costs much less than eating out, especially if you make it multiple times and get the most use out of some specialty ingredients like red curry and fish sauce. Most grocery stores now carry Thai food staples like curry and fish sauce, so check in the ethnic foods section.
Another benefit of this recipe is that it’s quick to throw together. To make it, mix the ingredients for the sauce and then add the chicken — no precooking or browning required.
Get the full instructions at Show Me the Yummy.
This delicious recipe only has three ingredients: chicken, salsa, and cheese. That makes it extremely easy and fast to put together. All you do is put the chicken in the slow cooker, throw a jar of salsa on top, and let it cook. Add the cheese when the chicken is fully cooked and melt it under a broiler for a nice finishing touch.
You can serve this meal over rice, with Mexican-style beans, or shred it to use in tacos.
Get the full instructions at Jo Cooks.
Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker Tom Kha Gai
Here’s another takeout replacement that’s definitely worth your time to make. Although this recipe takes around an hour on the stove, the longer cooking time in the slow cooker gives the flavors a chance to mature and combine.
The only downside is that it calls for several specialty ingredients many stores don’t carry, such as lime leaves and galangal. However, you can substitute lime zest in place of the lime leaves and ginger for the galangal.
Get the full instructions at Food52.
Slow Cooker Mexican Casserole
Mexican casserole is comfort food at its finest. It just looks delicious and cheesy.
This recipe is a bit different from others because it uses ground turkey instead of traditional chicken. It also calls for black beans and quinoa, both of which are inexpensive and high in fiber. Plus, it’s gluten-free, and the leftovers freeze well.
Get the full instructions at Well Plated.
Beef & Pork Recipes
Your slow cooker is the perfect appliance to cook beef. The long, slow cook time can turn even the toughest cut of meat into a moist and tender meal. And selecting less expensive cuts of meat can help save money on your grocery budget.
Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs With Parsnip-Celery Root Puree
If you’ve ever wondered if a slow cooker can make an elegant, restaurant-worthy dish, then look no further than this recipe. Here, the long and slow cooking process produces tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs swimming in a rich red wine sauce.
This dish would make a perfect dinner for date night or to celebrate a milestone. Short ribs are an expensive cut of meat, but cooking this meal at home is still cheaper than dining out at a high-end restaurant.
Get the full instructions at Coley Cooks. (Slow cooker instructions are in the notes section after the step-by-step instructions for oven cooking.)
The crisp, sunny days of autumn or winter’s first snowstorm often call for a bowl of beef stew. The slow cooker takes most of the hard work out of this classic recipe. However, it doesn’t do all the work for you. The best beef stews require a bit of legwork, and this one is no different.
You coat the beef with flour and brown it in a skillet before putting it in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. The browning is not strictly necessary, but the extra step adds flavor. This process, known as the Maillard reaction, helps create a rich and flavorful gravy that’s delicious when sopped up with crusty bread.
So save this recipe for a Sunday morning when you have the extra 30 minutes to devote to creating an outstanding stew.
Get the full instructions at The Food Network.
Barbecue Pulled Pork
You don’t have to visit your local barbeque joint to get delicious pulled pork. Thanks to the slow cooker, you can easily make it at home.
The next time pork shoulder goes on sale, pick up 4.5 pounds for this recipe. Other ingredients include onion, ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and Dijon mustard. You also need sambal oelek, an Asian chile sauce you can find in the ethnic food section of your grocery store.
Get the full instructions at Food & Wine.
Fresh Baked Bread
Making bread in the slow cooker is perfect for summer because you don’t have to turn on the oven and heat your house. You also don’t have to wait while it rises. Because of the slow cooker’s low temperature, the dough rises and bakes at the same time.
One potential downside to using this method is that you can’t get a hard crust. There’s also a bit of a learning curve while you figure out how long to leave the loaf in your particular slow cooker. Generally, it takes one to two-and-a-half hours to bake. You can get full instructions on how to use your slow cooker to bake bread at The Kitchn.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to making plain white bread in your slow cooker. There are many different varieties of bread to choose from.
This Parmesan bread recipe is perfect for beginners because it only has six ingredients and takes around two hours. While the Parmesan jazzes up an otherwise plain loaf of white bread, it’s completely optional if you run out.
Get the recipe at Jo Cooks.
If you have some fresh rosemary growing in the garden, try this delicious rosemary bread recipe. It’s a bit more involved than basic slow cooker bread, but it’s worth the extra effort. It’s also perfect paired with an Italian meal, such as spaghetti and homemade meatballs.
Get the full instructions at Tasty.
This whole-wheat bread is healthy and very easy to make. It does call for some ingredients not everyone keeps around, such as white whole-wheat flour, apple cider vinegar, and honey, so make sure you stock up before you start on the dough.
Get the full instructions at Well Plated.
You don’t need to spend hours in front of a hot stove or oven to make your family delicious treats. The slow cooker takes all the work out of desserts, leaving you with a pot of ooey-gooey goodness and plenty of happy smiles.
Slow Cooker Apple Cobbler
Apple cobbler just might be the perfect fall dessert. Not only is it delicious, but you get to enjoy it while it’s cooking because it makes the house smell like baking apples and cinnamon. Best of all, the recipe is straightforward.
It uses a boxed cake mix and apple pie filling to save time. However, you could also use fresh apples and various cake mixes to change the flavor.
Get the full instructions at Amanda’s Cookin’.
Slow Cooker Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon rolls in the slow cooker? Yes, please! These cinnamon rolls are decadent, delicious, and easy to prepare. They’re perfect for a lazy weekend morning or when company is over for the holidays.
This recipe saves time over using a conventional oven because you don’t have to let the dough rise. In the slow cooker, the dough rises and bakes at the same time. The rolls contain all the basic ingredients you’d expect in cinnamon rolls, including flavorful ingredients like unsalted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. But it’s the glaze that’s unique, in addition to the standard powdered sugar, it includes a drizzle of pure maple syrup, though you can substitute vanilla extract in a pinch.
Get the full instructions at Sally’s Baking Addiction.
This peach cobbler makes a perfect dessert for summer, when juicy peaches are at their peak. Use Bisquick for the base, then add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Get the full instructions at Pumpkin ‘N Spice.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the slow cooker has been around for over 80 years now. And while this humble little appliance seems to go in and out of style, it never fades away because it offers so many benefits to busy families.
I’ve had my slow cooker for over two decades, and I still turn to it time and time again because it makes meal planning and prep almost effortless. I love knowing that dinner is simmering away while I work, and when I’m done working, I can sit down and eat with my family instead of spending time in the kitchen cooking.