A slow cooker can be a busy cook’s best friend—after all, who doesn’t love a kitchen appliance that lets you “set it and forget it”? But if your experience with the electronic sous chef hasn’t gone beyond soups, stews, chilis, and shredded meats, you’re missing out.
From baking bread to brewing lattes, your slow cooker can actually do more than you probably ever expected. Here are 15 ideas that will help you tap into its potential and fall a bit more in love with the popular appliance.
Chilled overnight oats have been a thing for a while now, but what if you want to wake up to a warm bowl of oatmeal? That’s where the Crock-Pot comes in; from the oats to your milk of choice to the mix-ins, everything can get tossed in the pot before bed. Not only is it a hands-off cooking method that yields a big enough batch to last you all week, but the six to eight hours of slow simmering mean that the end results are even richer and thicker than usual. Keep the flavorings to a minimum or go as crazy as you’d like.
We recommend: overnight slow cooker cinnamon and apple oatmeal that will be an upgrade to the mason jar kind.
Omelets are always best made-to-order, so slow-cooking them may seem like a recipe for disaster. Turns out, it’s actually a genius idea. When you whisk up your eggs, seasoning, and fillings, and pour the mixture into a slow cooker, it can set up into a fluffy, omelet form in just two hours.
We recommend: this slow-cooker veggie omelet for a dose of veggies and protein.
If you don’t feel like babysitting the oven while your French toast casserole cooks, turn to the slow cooker for a lower-maintenance alternative. You can get several servings out of it, which makes it perfect for weekend brunches with friends and family.We recommend: The whole-grain bread and honey in this lemon French toast recipe keep things on the healthier side, while the lemon poppy seed flavor makes it taste like dessert.
Owning a creamery isn’t a requirement for making your own yogurt—all you need is a slow cooker! Leaving the expensive, sugary, fruit varieties at the store becomes much easier once you see how simple it is to make a much healthier alternative at home. The only requirement here is using a starter yogurt that contains live cultures.We recommend: This two-ingredient plain strained yogurt that you can use for both sweet and savory purposes.
Lunch and Dinner
Sure, a slow cooker mac and cheese may take longer than the boxed orange powder, but at least you know the homemade version will be packed with ingredients that actually make sense, right? Plus, when it’s just a matter of dumping the ingredients in the Crock-Pot, it’s hardly more difficult to make than the instant stuff.We recommend: This pumpkin-packed mac gives you a serving of veggies, but doesn’t skimp on the cheese either, making for the perfect balance of rich yet healthy.
What do you do when you’re used to eating meatloaf on the regular but warmer months have you dreading the idea of turning on the oven? Easy: Make it in the slow cooker, duh. It’s as simple as placing the entire loaf pan in the Crock-Pot so that you can still cut clean slices when it’s ready.
We recommend: This five-ingredient recipe uses turkey and oats instead of bread crumbs for a healthy, hearty meatloaf that requires just 10 minutes of prep.
It’s easy to under- or over-bake potatoes in a regular oven and end up with still-raw spuds or charred bricks. Thanks to the slow cooker, you can get perfectly tender taters every time with the simple touch of a button, then pile on your favorite toppings.
We recommend: This Mexican-inspired recipe, which uses sweet potatoes for a beta-carotene boost.
If boxed brownie mixes require you to add eggs and oil anyway, you might as well make the entire batch from scratch using higher-quality ingredients. Crock-Pot brownies may take longer than the baked kind, but the slow-cooking process means they turn out chewier and fudgier than anything an oven could produce.We recommend: These rich, chocolaty squares use whole-wheat flour and Greek yogurt, but after almost two hours in the slow cooker, they taste downright sinful.
Slow-cooker cheesecake is as easy to prep as the no-bake kind and gives you all the delicious texture of one that’s been cooked. In fact, it’s probably the best route to go if you want to avoid the risk of a soggy crust, a grainy filling, or a cracked top.
We recommend: With butter, sugar, and cream cheese, this cheesecake recipe really goes for it, but sometimes, you just need the real deal. Still, the individual canning jars make portion control easy.
A few hours in a slow cooker can do wonders for any crumble, making the fruit extra sweet so that you don’t have to add a ton of sugar and the oaty topping extra buttery. No need for a separate pan either; just layer the ingredients directly into the pot and let it do its thing.We recommend: You can use any berries you have on hand for this recipe—even frozen ones, while stevia dramatically cuts the sugar content.
Snacks and Beverages
You could go with the faster option of buying trail mix at the store, but you’re likely to waste time picking out all the bits and pieces you don’t want. Instead, why not let the slow cooker make you a mix that’s full of ingredients you actually like? It may take longer, but it’s so worth the wait.We recommend: The combo of nuts, chocolate chips, and banana chips in this Paleo recipe is a bit sweet, a bit salty, and all healthy.
There’s no need to spend your precious time stirring apples into saucy submission over the stove when a slow cooker can manage it for you. It does such a great job, in fact, that you don’t even need a blender at the end—just mix with a spoon to get it as smooth or chunky as you want.
We recommend: This simple, cinnamony, and totally added sugar-free sauce.
Between proofing the yeast, letting the dough rise, and getting the bake time just right, the bread-making process can be all sorts of intimidating. But when you use a slow cooker, a lot of those steps get minimized, if not totally eliminated. When making your own loaves is this easy, you may never go back to store-bought slices again.We recommend: These soft, fluffy, whole-wheat dinner rolls, which need only 10 minutes of proofing time before the slow cooker takes over.
Store-bought mixes are fine in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the smoothness of a slow-cooked hot cocoa. With time for the cocoa powder, the milk, and the sweeteners to simmer together, the end result tastes practically like pure liquid chocolate.
We recommend: This nondairy but decadent coconut milk-based salted caramel hot cocoa, where almond butter makes an appearance to add extra richness.
Next time pumpkin spice season rolls around, postpone your trip to Starbucks and give the Crock-Pot version of the coffee drink a whirl. Not only does the large batch mean you can satisfy your craving without blowing your bank account, but it also doesn’t hurt that most homemade takes on the PSL contain actual pumpkin in them.We recommend: With vanilla, cinnamon, and real pumpkin pureé, this slow-cooker latte is everything you love about fall—in a mug.