Three Slow Cooker Recipes to Save Time and Preserve Your Sanity

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.

Vertical image of an appliance filled with a stew next to a bowl of garlic and a bottle of oil on a wooden table.

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.

1. Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Stew

We promise this slow cooker chicken and peanut stew is worth every minute of the wait!

It’s swimming with sweet potatoes, juicy tomatoes, warming spices like cinnamon and coriander, pungent ginger, and fiery fresh chilies.

Vertical image of a white bowl with white rice and a thick poultry and vegetable mixture next to a blue napkin.
Photo by Fanny Slater

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.

Serve the stew over your preferred variety of rice, and finish the dish with sliced green onions and coarsely chopped peanuts.

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!

Vertical top-down image of a white bowl with broth, noodles, and a piece of fish.
Photo by Nikki Cervone

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.

Vertical oblique overhead image of two blue and terra cotta glazed ceramic crocks with handles, filled with homemade vegetarian chili, with a spoon in the one in the foreground, garnished with grated cheese, more of which is in a plastic container at the top right of the frame, on a rough wood surface.
Photo by Kelli McGrane

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.

Determined to minimize food waste? You can also opt to make your own stock or broth, using veggie scraps.

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…

Horizontal image of an appliance filled with a stew on a wooden table next to a bowl of garlic.

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.

33 thoughts on “Three Slow Cooker Recipes to Save Time and Preserve Your Sanity”

  1. Do you leave the crockpot on while you’re out of your house? I am usually too scared to do that (not sure why, because my house never caught on fire), so I just tend to cook things overnight instead.

    • I love my slow cooker for the very reason that you can put it on and go to work. It is so relaxing coming home after a stressful, long day to the smell of food that you know can be dished up into a bowl with little washing up or effort. I also find you can save a lot of money with a slow cooker by buying the cheapest cuts of meats and they end up tasting amazing.

    • I leave my slow cooker on while I leave the house. The key is timing. You need to figure out what time to turn it on so that when you return home your food is just finished or just about finished. Otherwise your food will be over cooked or in the case of some roasts very dry.

    • Those all sound like delicious recipes. I love cooking with my crock pot. It makes everything so tender, especially the meat. Also, if you use a really low heat setting, it can result in healthier food than what you would get if you cooked it on a high heat in the oven. Meat being cooked at a temperature higher than 350 degrees can start to run the risk of oxidizing the proteins, making them less bioavailable, and potentially causing other more deleterious health effects. It’s also nice to be able to just put all your ingredients in the slow cooker, and wait for your meal to cook while you go about your day.

    • I know it can be scary, but you are generally pretty safe leaving the crock pot on while you are gone. As long as you have a well functioning pot, I wouldn’t worry much at all. The only thing to really watch is that you are cooking dishes on the correct temperature to avoid burning or drying it out. Most recipes are pretty good with keeping the food well moisturized, but I have had instances where I come home from work to dried out meats and try desperately to rehydrate them. It may take some trial and error to determine what settings work best for your particular cooker.

  2. Thank you for the recipes! I love the ease of using my crock pot too. RealSugar, I leave mine on when I go to work. I’ve never had any problems. I think I’ll try the african stew recipe soon–it looks tasty and has different flavors than I normally cook with. I’m excited to try it out.

  3. I made the African stew recipe last night and it was a success! Everyone enjoyed it. I was unsure of how all those ingredients would taste together but it was great. I love the sweetness of the dish. I’ll definitely be adding this to my recipe book.

  4. These are all so helpful and everything sounds so yummy! My slow cooker recipe list was very very short before, so thanks for such nice and fun recipes. I can’t wait to try them specially the Cranberry Beef Roast. It looks amazing.

  5. Wow, these all look yummy. I’ve got lazy with my bolognese lately, I always did used to make it from scratch but I’ve gone back to buying jars of sauce, and you’re right, it’s definitely a waste of money when it’s so easy, tasty and healthy to make it yourself. I never thought of using my crockpot for it, but that might just be the answer to my laziness! Unless I’ve missed something, though, you’ve not said how long to cook it for?

    The others look yummy, too; the African chicken stew is definitely going on my list of recipes to try, I’m always on the lookout for new family favourites to add to my meal plans.

  6. Yes indeed you should write a book or ebook on this supporting you 100%….will come in handy {i speak for myself when i say this} with the future looking bright to having a family of my own, i know and the book you’ll write will be my utmost companion in the kitchen arena.

  7. I tried the beef pot roast recipe, substituting beef shanks for the chuck. It was great! The marrow worked very well with the cranberry flavor. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Wow, the African Chicken Stew looks absolutely delicious. I’ve never even tried to cook exotic food in our CrockPot but now after reading this article I’m almost craving it…I know what ingredients to pick up when I’m at the grocery store this afternoon!

    I’ve never liked cranberry but the Cranberry Turkey does look very appetizing as well.

  9. The African stew looks interesting, and yes, please write a crock pot cook book! The pictures ALONE would have me in a state of wanting to cook probably every single thing in the book. I love using my crock pot, only thing is that my glass lid got broken during a move. Now instead of the glass top, I use aluminum foil.

  10. I’ve never had a slow cooker,but from the previous I article I just read on your site and this one, I’m really thinking about it. I also heard it’s the easiest way to cook when traveling in an RV. I intend to get an RV next spring. So, the more few recipes and techniques I have under my belt by then, the better. 🙂

  11. I love these recipes for the slow cooker, but I was wondering if these same recipes could be cooked in a pressure cooker? if not, are their similar recipes could be cooked in a pressure cooker? I ask because I just purchase my first and I’m excited about using it more often. I recently tried new recipes with the pressure cooker and I just love it!

    • A pressure cooker is quite a different beast. Think of it more as a rapid cooker, it creates a pressure inside the vessel which results in cooking food faster and more efficiently. It is possible to simmer foods in a pressure cooker but haven’t done so myself. Slow cooking is the ideal of cooking things at just a low enough temperature to cook through. It is more for things that require long periods of simmering such as casseroles, soups and sauces.

  12. Thank you for the recipes! I never even thought of making spaghetti sauce in the crockpot! It seems just as simple as the one that I make on the stove top.

    I’m excited to try the African Chicken Stew! It sounds like it would be very tasty.

  13. All three of these recipes look delicious. The best thing about the crock pot is that you just set and forget. You’re not tied to the kitchen making sure pans don’t boil over. They save on washing up too – definitely a winner in my book!

  14. Well, I totally agree that the crock pot is AWESOME!!! I am pretty sure that it is one of my best friends. I love cooking meat in it, it turns out so moist and tender. These recipes all sound great, but the one that caught my eye was the African Chicken Stew, I am definitely going to make this. The only thing is that I have to take out the tomatoes because my boyfriend has a texture issue. It’s weird but he doesn’t like certain chunky things. Anyways, just going to put more tomato paste in it maybe, and use the green onions. I can’t wait to taste this, those pictures are making me hungry. Thanks for the recipe, I am off to find more awesome information!!

  15. Nothing against this article but I feel like the slow cooker is too often ignored in the summer months. That’s probably the most often season I use a slow cooker. I’m either barbequing or slow cooking in the warm horrible summer nights.

  16. I love my crockpot but I don’t know to many recipes so I was very excited when I saw this article! I have never thought of making spaghetti sauce in my crockpot before, I usually use sauce from the can but this looks way more delicious. I will be trying this sauce out tonight.

  17. This is just what I have been looking for. Now that I have these recipes I want to find a way to cook meat, vegetables and rice (for example) separately, but altogether in the pot at the same time. Either by placing several small containers in the pot or layering them. This will really be getting maximum use out of my favorite appliance.

  18. My mouth is watering. I’m bookmarking this page so I can come back and try your recipes. I’ve never made this from scratch, and had heard it was a lot of work, but your version sounds like a cinch! I use the stove less in the hot Texas summers, so I will be breaking out my crock pot and trying out these delicious sounding recipes!

  19. LOVE these. Makes home cooking that much easier. Looking forward to trying the recipes you’ve discussed esp the spaghetti sauce. I’ve never actually made it from scratch always buy the jars… guilty. Your recipe sounds too good and easy not to make it myself, though. When you make it do you make a big enough batch to store the leftover to save for future meals? How do you store it and for how long?

  20. I received a slow cooker last year and have to say it’s one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I get home very late from work so I would rarely cook during the week. I used to cook a lot of food Sunday’s and just eat left overs during the week. However once I discovered the slow cooker that all changed. I set it in the morning before I leave for work and by the time I come home I have a fresh meal waiting for me.
    Some of my favorite receipes include pulled pork, chicken soup and chili.

  21. These recipes are so cool! I’m totally in love with them. I have read all three recipes and I can totally tell that each dish will be amazingly delicious. The one that I’m most excited in giving a try is the African Chicken Stew. It just sounds so exotic. There is one tiny problem though, I’m highly allergic to peanut butter. I hope that once I gather all the ingredients and make the recipe without the peanut butter, that the taste doesn’t change to much, Thanks so much for these great recipes. They’ll be total time savers in the kitchen!

  22. That crock pot is identical to mine! I use mine regularly as it’s just so easy. My three ‘go-to’ recipes are chilli, chicken stew and bolognaise, but the recipes in this article look delicious. I have family coming to stay next month and I am looking for some inexpensive ways to keep them fed – these look perfect and I’ll definitely try a couple – thanks!

  23. I actually did not have a crock pot until a few weeks ago. We threw a party at the convention center and people brought food they cooked to the event. I took home some of the dishes that were left over like the chili and the fresh fruit. The chili was in a friend’s crock pot. I asked my friend if they minded if I used this to cook in one evening and they agreed. Let’s just say they have not gotten the crock pot back yet.

  24. These look like some excellent ideas. I have been wanting to use my slow cooker on the days when I work all day long and don’t feel much like cooking when I get home.
    I want to try the African stew but I’m not too sure about the peanut butter. I’ve never been a huge fan of savoury peanut dishes but maybe I should just take the plunge and make this. I do like trying new things and this is probably quite a different flavour from Thai peanut dishes.
    I’m interested in the beef stew as well. I love cranberry sauce and this looks like a good excuse to use more of it!

  25. These all sound good to me. I’m definitely up for some “set it and forget it” kind of meals on busy days. The first one looks quite thick and rich. Very nice.

    The second one is really tempting to me, although I don’t think my picky eaters will go for it. More for me, I guess. The third one.. yum. It sounds delicious. I think it would work with pork roast too, yes?

  26. Oh yes, as the leaves fall and the nights draw in, the crockpot is out of the cupboard and up on the counter! Mine is currently bubbling, quietly cooking a rabbit with home-grown onions, carrots, sage and red wine. It’ll sit in the fridge overnight tonight then be reheated for supper tomorrow with some creamy mashed potatoes. Actually, I could put a dumpling or two on top – now there’s a thought… I love the fall.


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