I’m a slow cooker fanatic, ever since I started using it on a weekly basis when I was attending school and had three jobs at the same time.
To this day, still busy with multiple jobs – and now with a family to feed – I can always rely on this handy appliance when I know I can’t stay in the kitchen for too long to prepare a home-cooked meal made from scratch.
Throughout the spring, summer, fall, or winter, falling back on an abundant collection of slow cooker recipe ideas will ensure you have your next meal ready to go when you’re on the go throughout the entire year.
Whether you know your grocery store has a deal on bulk chicken, beef, or pork cuts, or you’re trying to use up a bunch of frozen veggies from last year’s harvest, the slow cooker can transform any of these ingredients and more into an enticing and flavor-packed meal with the right recipe.
If this appliance is central to your own family meal plans already, but you’re a little bored with the same old dinners and looking for new and healthy ideas, I have some exciting suggestions for you.
Here are three of my current favorite slow cooker meals that will minimize the stress and mess, and maximize the flavor and satisfaction with very little prep, cooking, or cleanup.
Each recipe features a different main ingredient – chicken, fish, and vegetables – so that your diet will include some colorful variety while staying fresh, vibrant, and exciting all year long.
Three Slow Cooker Recipes to Save Your Time and Sanity
1. Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Stew
We promise this slow cooker chicken and peanut stew is worth every minute of the wait!
Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Stew – Get the Recipe Now
Smooth peanut butter adds sweet nuttiness and thick creaminess, balancing the acidity from the tomatoes and the spicy strength of the chilies.
After hours spent gently steaming and simmering away with all of the combined ingredients, the chicken breasts and thighs will become soft and succulent.
A final garnish of a few thin slices of chilies will hurt so good!
Not a huge fan of excess spice? Leave them off, to tame the heat.
2. Miso-Poached Salmon
Do you think your slow cooker can only be used to tenderize meaty mains or make hearty stews?
We’re ready to shake up that perspective in an unexpected way with our miso-poached salmon recipe!
Miso-Poached Salmon – Get the Recipe Now
With this light and healthy dish, you’ll quickly be convinced of how easy it is to adapt delicate cooking techniques to suit your appliance.
We gently poach salmon fillets until they are tender and flaky in an aromatic miso broth subtly flavored with ginger, scallions, and garlic.
Serve each fillet in a bowl to hold the beautifully infused broth.
Rice or soba noodles are excellent starches for soaking up the lovely liquids, but you can also skip the carbs and serve vegetables that can be stir-fried in a flash in a wok.
3. Vegetarian White Bean Chili with Butternut Squash
This homemade chili brings so much vegetable goodness to the table!
When you’re used to – or admittedly even a little tired of – super heavy and meaty chili, this veggie-forward version will provide a refreshing shift in a lighter and more nutritious direction.
Vegetarian White Bean Chili with Butternut Squash – Get the Recipe Now
Our white bean chili with butternut squash is filled with fiber and flavor, with just the right balance of spiciness and sweetness.
It’s also very budget-friendly, using an affordable combination of inexpensive dried beans, fresh squash, and vegetable broth.
You’ll love the beautifully bold colors of our chili, but you’ll be even more excited that you can add this to your meal prep strategy!
Store leftovers in airtight containers to keep in the fridge for up to seven days, or in the freezer for up to four months. Be sure to freeze the chili in individual portions, to make thawing and serving much easier.
The Magic Pot
While we may know better, we can’t help but think that there is a bit of magic and pixie dust that somehow ends up in our slow cookers…
An entire hearty and healthy meal can be prepped beforehand, placed in that mysterious pot, and left for hours and hours to do its thing on the counter while we go about our hectic days.
After school, work, soccer games, summer camp, dance practices, and countless other activities, we can then all convene back home, entering a kitchen that smells intoxicating – and with dinner patiently waiting for us!
Let these three recipes inspire you to think beyond the typical slow cooker meals to create new and healthy options that will warm up and energize your family for all the tasks you need to handle in your busy lives.
Do you already have some tasty dinners in mind? We’d love to stew up more magical ideas with you! Leave a comment below right now.
We’ll give you a brief preview here of all the other unique recipes you can make in your slow cooker, from sweet breakfasts to humble sides to basic sauces and everything in between:
Photos by Fanny Slater, Nikki Cervone, Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 13, 2014. Last updated on June 17, 2023.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.