100+ Slow Cooker Favorites for Busy Weeknights
100+ Slow Cooker Favorites for Busy Weeknights
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Brisket
Traditional Mexican barbacoa involves wrapping meat in banana or avocado leaves and slowly cooking it over hot coals, partially steaming the meat to tender perfection. This slow cooker version replicates the flavors and a bit of that traditional method: Chipotle chiles, ground cumin, and oregano offer bold, smoky flavor, and the beef brisket steams to tenderness as it cooks gently in the slow cooker. For tacos, serve the saucy barbacoa in tortillas with green and red onion, cilantro leaves, jalapeño slices, and fresh lime wedges. Or build yourself one awesome burrito bowl with those same components by putting them over brown rice or quinoa instead of in tortillas.
Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes and Carrots
There's no better way to celebrate St. Paddy than with a showstopping feast of beef, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. To create the traditional flavor profile of corned beef and cabbage without the traditionally massive sodium spike, we simmer brisket in a strong aromatic spice blend at low and slow heat rather than starting with brined beef. Brisket, like other tough meat cuts, holds up wonderfully in a slow cooker. The meat relaxes and tenderizes in the low heat and long cook time, yielding amazingly tender beef. While flat-cut brisket is leaner than point-cut and so can often be dry and tough when cooked improperly, the slow stewing here keeps the meat juicy and moist.
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
Translated from Spanish as "old clothes," the name ropa vieja describes how beef (typically flank or skirt steak) cooks to tender, succulent shreds over a long, slow braising period. Here, it simmers with colorful bell peppers, smoky fire-roasted tomatoes, and plump golden raisins for a hit of welcome sweetness. We serve the meat over rice, but try blending culinary traditions by serving it over something creamy, like a bed of grits, polenta, or mashed potatoes. It would even be great in a pasta toss. Use up leftovers by tossing them into corn tortillas for ropa vieja tacos or into flour tortillas for quesadillas, or build a pizza using the flavor-packed beef as a topping.
Italian Braised Pork with Polenta
Simple flavors and a rustic touch make this family-friendly dish supremely comforting. When ready to serve, just whip up a fresh batch of polenta. Pack any leftover pork in an airtight container and pop into the freezer for a quick and flavorful supper down the road. Pork shoulder is a perfect cut for a slow cooker. Tough cuts like this abound with connective tissues that don't break down when cooked quickly over high, dry heat. Low, moist heat in a slow cooker melts the tissues and makes the meat super tender and buttery. We add a touch of Parmesan cheese to the polenta to season it with salty umami flavor. Cooking uncovered for about half an hour helps tighten up the liquid.
Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast
A Chinese version of barbecue, this moist, tender pork roast pairs well with rice and stir-fried vegetables such as snow peas, baby corn, and water chestnuts. It's made with a Boston butt pork roast (sometimes labeled pork shoulder roast), an inexpensive, tough cut that cooks to tender perfection over the long, slow cook time. A sweet and salty marinade of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, and Chinese five-spice powder reduces into a rich sauce that coats the fork-tender pork. For a fun departure from tradition, try making fusion tacos by stuffing the shredded pork in corn tortillas with crunchy cabbage.
Mediterranean Roast Turkey
It's a shame that turkey appears on our tables so infrequently—in some homes, only on Thanksgiving. It's a lean, inexpensive, and versatile meat that’s perfect for everyday cooking. And it turns out that a boneless breast (much larger than a boneless chicken breast, FYI) works great in a slow cooker. Here, the bird simmers with flavor-packed ingredients inspired by the Mediterranean: kalamata olives, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, and Greek seasoning. If you can't find a large boneless turkey breast, you can swap in bone-in chicken breasts; just check for doneness starting at 5 hours so the chicken doesn't overcook and dry out. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta to catch all the yummy sauce.
Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
Think the slow cooker is only good for big hunks of meat? Think again. It works wonders with vegetables, too, here imbuing carrots, potatoes, chickpeas, bell pepper, and green beans with the aromatic essence of curry powder. If you like things on the spicy side, replace the bell pepper with a poblano pepper or a couple of jalapeños. For a little sweetness, use butternut squash or sweet potatoes in place of the baking potato. Be sure that the coconut milk you add at the end is the kind that comes in a can (which you'll find in the Asian foods section of the supermarket) and not the refrigerated coconut milk that you'll find near the almond milk and dairy milk—its flavor won't be nearly as rich as the canned kind.
Slow-Simmered Meat Sauce
Here's a way to get all-day-simmered flavor in a meat sauce that cooks hands-free (and therefore stress-free). We like the combination of hot Italian sausage and ground sirloin: The sausage lends richness to the sauce, while the sirloin keeps it lean overall. If you'd rather, you can use all ground sirloin—just bump up the herbs and red pepper as needed to replace the flavor the sausage would add. The mafaldine pasta called for is a flat noodle with ruffled edges, like little lasagna noodles; the shape is perfect for catching all the luscious sauce in its nooks and crannies. You can substitute whatever pasta you like for the mafaldine—anything from spaghetti to rotini.
Overnight Apple Butter
There's something deeply satisfying about a dish that effortlessly cooks itself while you sleep. With Overnight Apple Butter, large chunks of apple cook with brown sugar, honey, a hint of apple cider, and sweet spices until they're buttery soft and all-around wonderful. You may not have mace in your spice rack—if that's the case, no worries. You can use ground nutmeg in its place. Slather this apple butter on toasted English muffins, swirl it into oatmeal or yogurt, or use it as a sauce on pan-grilled pork chops. It also makes a lovely gift; just spoon into a cute Mason jar and tie on a pretty ribbon.
Provençal Beef Daube
This gorgeous take on beef stew delivers such rich, complex flavors it may change your mind about your slow cooker. No need to relegate the convenience appliance to just your standard comfort food; it can deliver elegant, entertaining-worthy dishes like this one. Though we like to offer substitution suggestions wherever possible, we strongly suggest that you don't skip the dried porcini mushrooms here. They create an umami-rich background that makes the whole stew taste deliciously complex and meaty. If you can't find Niçoise olives, you can use kalamata or Castelvetrano olives instead. Serve over egg noodles or polenta, or with a crusty whole-grain baguette.
Smoky Slow Cooker Chili
This is one of our all-time favorite chili recipes, and for good reason. It’s made with ground pork, cubed pork shoulder, and a smoked ham hock, giving it incredible richness. And the Mexican hot-style tomato sauce infuses the whole crock with an irresistible smoky-spicy flavor. Look for El Pato brand, in a yellow can with a painting of a duck on it, in the Latin foods area in your supermarket. If you can't find it, substitute an 8-ounce can of regular tomato sauce, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons Mexican hot sauce (such as Cholula. Don’t have any beer to pour into the chili? That’s OK—just use water, chicken stock, or beef stock.
Osso Buco with Gremolata
We love it when classic dishes like osso buco become easier with the help of the slow cooker. With a low, slow, all-day simmer, veal shanks become amazingly fork-tender and perfect for serving over silky pappardelle noodles. If veal shanks are too pricey at your market, you can use lamb, beef, or pork shanks instead. Don't be tempted to leave out the anchovy paste; it adds richness and deeply savory notes to the sauce. And osso buco just wouldn't be osso buco without its signature gremolata topping—a simple combination of parsley, lemon rind, and garlic that adds fresh pop to the whole dish.
Provençale Chicken Supper
Nearly a full dinner, with only five ingredients? Yes, please! This rustic dish takes its cue from the typical fare served in Provence, a region in the southeastern part of France that is known for dishes highlighting fresh local ingredients such as garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, olives, and sweet bell peppers. Be sure to use bone-in chicken breasts for this recipe or substitute bone-in chicken thighs. Skinless, boneless breasts can dry out over the extended cook time in the slow cooker. Serve with a bright salad of mixed baby greens tossed with lemon juice, lemon rind, Dijon mustard, and olive oil.
Pesto Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms
What's not to love about a set-it-and-forget-it lasagna "bake"? Once you layer all the ingredients in your slow cooker, you can walk away and tend to other things as the cooker work its magic. No-boil lasagna noodles are essential here, as they absorb all the juices that accumulate in the cooker. For the freshest flavor, we find that the tubs of refrigerated pesto really deliver, tasting much more vibrant than the shelf-stable jarred varieties. Though we call for cremini mushrooms (also known as baby bella mushrooms) in this recipe, you can use white mushrooms or a mushroom blend in their place.
Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZWAH-da) is a delicious stew of pork and black beans that's traditionally served over rice with fresh orange slices. In Brazil, this dish is often served on special occasions, but preparing it in a slow cooker makes it possible to serve this rich dish on the busiest weeknights. We call for a small, one-pound chunk of pork shoulder; you'll likely need to ask your butcher to cut it for you, as this cut is typically sold in larger pieces. (This is not uncommon, so don't be afraid to ask!) The spritz of orange juice at the end is essential to the feijoada experience—such a bright, sunny flavor cuts through the richness of the meat and beans.
Curried Beef Short Ribs
Beef short ribs take well to the Southeast Asian flavors here—notably pungent red curry paste, silky coconut milk, and savory fish sauce. Look for small jars of curry paste and bottles of fish sauce in the Asian foods aisle; they're available now at almost every grocery store. That's also where you'll find canned light coconut milk, which is much richer than the refrigerated coconut milk you'll find in the dairy milk case. Be sure to add the sugar to the cooking liquid; it's a crucial ingredient that rounds out and balances all the flavors. In place of granulated sugar, you can also use brown sugar, coconut sugar, or palm sugar.
Barley-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Pine Nuts and Currants
We love this easy spin on an old-school classic. Steamed cabbage leaves get stuffed with barley, feta cheese, currants, and pine nuts, then stew in a sweet-sour tomato sauce. The instructions direct you to cut off the raised portion of the center vein of each leaf; this step makes the leaves easy to roll up without splitting. Use a paring knife, and shave off the raised vein; don't cut it completely out. The recipe calls for cooked pearl barley, but if you'd like a whole-grain version, opt for cooked hulled barley. (The pearling process removes the inedible hull as well as the nutritious bran.)
Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Guests will be delighted to find this restaurant favorite on your buffet table. Get this appetizer started in the slow cooker a couple of hours ahead, and then make your final party preparations. The dip will be ready just as partygoers begin to arrive. To help you get as much moisture out of the spinach as possible, place it on a double layer of cheesecloth, gather up the edges, and squeeze the "bag" as tightly as you can. No cheesecloth? Spread the spinach on a few layers of paper towels, and top with more paper towels. Set a baking sheet on top, weight it down with a cast-iron skillet, and let it stand for a few minutes to draw out the moisture.
Company Pot Roast
Though this delicious meal takes some planning ahead (it requires an overnight marinade), you'll be glad when you can spend the time before dinner chatting with family and friends instead of busily running around the kitchen. The recipe calls for dried morels, but you can substitute dried shiitakes (with an almost smoky taste) or dried porcini mushrooms (with a truffle-like intensity). Just opt for a dried and not fresh mushroom here, as it will have a more concentrated flavor. Use leftover meat and gravy to make roast beef sandwiches the next day, or spoon onto baked potatoes with a sprinkling of provolone cheese.
Nutty chickpeas give an unexpected twist to classic chili. In fact, nearly all of the flavors in this veggie-packed recipe are a different spin on the Tex-Mex staple, but—we have to say—it will soon become a classic. Though the chili contains no meat, it takes inspiration from Latin picadillo (seasoned ground meat often cooked with olives and raisins) and Moroccan tagine (stewed meat often paired with dried fruit and sweet spices). For a completely vegetarian version, use vegetable stock in place of chicken broth. We call to serve the chili over couscous, but it would also be great over quinoa, brown rice, or farro.
The slow cooker helps make this classic dish a weeknight supper your family will love. You may have most of the ingredients on hand in your pantry, and with minimal prep time, you can have this cooking before you leave for work in the morning. If top round steak isn't your cut of choice, you can use a chuck roast (cut it into cubes) or purchase beef stew meat instead. If you don't have dried dill, go for fresh dill, and use 1 tablespoon (be sure to save some extra to sprinkle over the dish just before serving).
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
This traditional Louisiana Creole fare is the ultimate in thriftiness and convenience, with two main ingredients: dried beans and rice. The long cooking time coaxes all the savory, spicy flavors from the sausage into the beans. Be sure to add the salt to the dish after it has cooked and just before serving. Adding salt to dried beans too early will slow the cooking process and make the beans less tender. Add a perky side salad to balance the meal; try crunchy romaine lettuce with a dressing of red wine vinegar, whole-grain Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper.
Thyme-Scented White Bean Cassoulet
Our meatless version of the classic French casserole is just as hearty and satisfying. Plus, you don't need to fuss with duck confit and the like, so prep is much more streamlined. We do call for meatless Italian sausage, which adds a, well, meaty taste and texture that is most welcome. Sliced parsnips bring an earthy sweetness to the dish, but if you'd rather forego them, the dish will be fine without them—or swap in cubed turnips for a more peppery flavor. Since the dish simmers slowly for 8 hours, dried herbs work great; over the long cook time, they soften and release all their flavor.
Beef Pot Roast with Turnip Greens
This is a flavor-packed twist on classic pot roast, with sweet parsnips standing in for the usual carrots while turnip greens lend a pleasantly bitter edge. We love the flavor and look of flat, squat cipollini onions, but you can substitute easier-to-find pearl onions. Though some slow cooker recipes might skip the step of browning the meat, we find that this adds incomparable flavor to the finished dish. The browned bits contribute a beefy, savory flavor; without them, the dish would taste a little ho-hum. If you don't have red wine on hand, you can add an additional cup of broth—but stir in a teaspoon or two of red or white wine vinegar to replicate the acidity of the wine.
Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes
Baked potatoes without ever turning on your oven—nice! The slow cooker lets you set up these potatoes in the morning so they're ready to finish when you get home. Russet potatoes are best for baking; they have a mild flavor that's compatible with a wide variety of ingredients. The skin is edible and the interior is light and fluffy. Fat-free yogurt brings tangy notes to the mash in place of traditional sour cream. If you'd like, customize the flavor with a touch of added spice: Try a chopped canned chipotle pepper and a little of the adobo sauce it's packed in for spicy, smoked flavor; try cumin and a little curry powder for a deep earthy flavor. For a veggie-forward spud, layer on 1/2 to 3/4 cup of steamed chopped broccoli, sauteed spinach, or cooked cauliflower first before adding the remaining toppings.
Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
Usually a braised chicken dinner is reserved for the weekend, when there's plenty of time to tend to the slow-cooking meal. With this dish, all you need is 20 minutes prep in the morning. While you go about your day, the vegetables and chicken infuse with the flavor of the bright, acidic white wine, herbs, and garlic. Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs are a good cut for this dish; the dark meat packs deeper flavor and is perfect for long, slow cooking methods. Browning the skin first adds caramelized flavor that will also transfer to the liquids, potatoes, and carrots for well-rounded, balanced flavor.
Gruyère Bacon Dip
Gruyère cheese—a firm cheese with hints of caramel, hazelnut, and brown butter—is produced in Switzerland and is well-known for its role in fondue. In this dip, its rich flavor pairs with the umami of Worcestershire and a spicy bite from dry mustard to make a complexly flavored dip that can handle robust chips, roasted or blanched vegetables, or sliced and toasted baguette. Cream cheese gives the dip a smooth texture while the bacon adds saltiness and a touch of smoky flavor. This dip is pretty versatile, too: spread it on the bun with turkey or veggie burgers; hollow out cherry tomatoes and stuff them with the dip for a quick and impressive appetizer; or spread it on two hearty pieces of bread, layer on some slices of smoked ham, and cook on both sides until the bread is toasted for a next-level grilled cheese sandwich.
Ginger-Lemon Hot Toddies
Ginger infuses this lemony hot toddy with a spicy kick—the perfect antidote to chilly winter weather. After you add the alcohol, turn the slow cooker to low to prevent the spirits from burning off and allow guests to help themselves. Use the edge of a small teaspoon to scrape off and discard the ginger skin; it's much easier than trying to do so with a knife or vegetable peeler, both of which will cut away too much of the ginger flesh. Golden rum keeps this cocktail a lemony color, but if you prefer the burnt-sugar notes of dark rum, use that. This drink will also taste delicious cold: After cooking and infusing the ingredients in step 1, stir in the rum and brandy and cool the mixture to room temperature. Pour into a pitcher and chill. When you are ready to serve, pour the lemon-brandy mixture into glasses filled with ice and top off with club soda.
Prep couldn't be simpler with this convenient dinner: Just load most of the ingredients in the cooker, and turn the dial to low. Stir in shrimp during the last few minutes so it cooks perfectly without getting overdone. Unlike classic jambalaya, this version keeps the rice separate, and you serve the highly seasoned sausage-shrimp mixture on top. (If you were to cook the rice the entire six hours in the slow cooker, you'd unfortunately end up with mush.) Round out this meal with a small green salad, a slice of toasted French baguette, and a crisp white wine or fizzy lager.
Balsamic Collard Greens
You'll love having a pot of these slow-cooked greens on hand. Serve them with roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, or pan-grilled pork chops—or pile them onto a bed of quinoa for a delicious whole-grain bowl. The slow cooker works some real magic here, turning collard greens soft and tender while still retaining some texture. The sweet and tangy vinegar-honey finish brings together the flavors of smoky bacon and earthy, mildly bitter greens in perfect harmony. For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and stir in 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika to replicate the flavor, and swap in vegetable stock for chicken broth.
Smoked Sausage Cassoulet
Here’s a satisfying stew that’s perfect for meat lovers. A trifecta of pork—bacon, pork loin, and smoked sausage—loads in tons of hearty flavor, while mild Great Northern beans lend a creamy consistency to the pot. You can use any white bean in place of Great Northern beans, such as navy or cannellini beans. While we like lean pork loin here, you can also swap in fattier pork shoulder (Boston butt roast) for a richer stew. All you need to complete the meal is a hunk of crusty whole-grain bread, a crisp green salad, and an even crisper wine.
Thai Red Curry Beef
Wonderfully fragrant and highly seasoned, this is beef stew like you've never had it before. Inexpensive beef stew meat cooks to perfection in a slightly spicy, coconut milk–enriched “gravy.” Jalapeños vary wildly, from quite mild to incendiary. If you're sensitive to spice, remove the seeds and the inner membranes from the pepper. If you like your food fiery, switch to a couple of serrano or Thai bird chiles. Look for canned coconut milk on the Asian foods aisle, and skip the less-rich refrigerated coconut milk you'll find in the dairy case. If you have access to peppery Thai basil, use it here in place of “everyday” basil.
Chunky Peach-Ginger Chutney
This highly spiced, sweet-and-tangy condiment is great to keep on hand, or to package in cute jars to give as gifts. Serve the chutney warm or chilled with grilled or roasted pork, chicken, or lamb. Or make the ham biscuit of your dreams by slathering the chutney between layers. For a near-instant appetizer, smear cream cheese, softened Brie, or labneh on whole-grain crackers, and top with the chutney. If you use frozen peaches, there's no need to thaw them first; just toss them in the slow cooker straight from the freezer. This chutney thickens as it stands, as well as when it chills.
Pork and Slaw Sandwiches
Making pulled pork in the slow cooker is simply genius, saving you all the prep and fuss of classic barbecue methods. This version is leaner than traditional pulled pork because it’s made with pork loin (not to be confused with tenderloin). The meat simmers to perfection and shreds beautifully after a seven-hour stint in the slow cooker. This recipe gives you slaw-topped sandwiches to feed a crowd, but you can also use the pork mixture and slaw as a topper for baked russet or sweet potatoes. Or get creative and use the pork mixture to make barbecue nachos, barbecue pizza, or barbecue-topped oven fries.
That’s right—savory cheesecake. This retro appetizer is exactly what you need to turn up the volume at your next get-together. Folks will love hovering over and digging into a big “cake” of cheese made delicious with Tex-Mex flavorings such as salsa, cumin, and green chiles. Your slow cooker will cook it perfectly; the low heat gently melts the cheese without danger of it breaking or separating. Skip past the delicate, thin tortilla chips and make sure to purchase sturdy ones so they won't break as guests scoop into the impressive dip. Embellish the platter with celery, baby carrots, and sweet mini peppers for dipping, too—just as crunchy and delicious with the rich cheese and healthier to boot.