Wild schedules, long work hours, and tempting takeout menus make it tough to even think about cooking most nights during the week. Despite the inconvenience, firing up the oven is almost always cheaper and healthier than ordering in.
How about a compromise? Making dinner with a slow cooker — Crock-Pot is the go-to brand in the U.S. — is an easy way to get in all those vitamins and minerals without slaving over a hot stove for hours at a time.
Most of these recipes involve mixing up ingredients and popping them into a slow cooker for a prescribed number of hours. Save even more time by starting some of these dishes overnight or first thing in the morning and reaping the delicious benefits later in the day.
Why not begin the day with a protein-rich food like quinoa? This recipe highlights why people love slow cookers: Just dump the ingredients into the slow cooker and let them hang out together for a few hours. Insta-breakfast.
This vegetarian burrito filling includes loads of vegetables, beans, and eggs. Cook vegetables, spices, and beans together in the slow cooker overnight. Stuff tortillas with the filling and fresh scrambled eggs in the morning.
Pro tip: To make this recipe vegan, use a scrambled tofu in place of eggs.
3. Greek yogurt
Making yogurt from scratch takes some time, but it’s hands-off with a slow cooker and it’s much cheaper than buying it at the supermarket.
You’ll need patience (this recipe requires the mixture to sit overnight) and a cheesecloth, but the results are well worth the effort. You’ll wake up to an extra thick and creamy bowl of Greek yogurt.
Forget the constant stirring and standing at the stove. This risotto recipe is super user-friendly.
Simply add the ingredients to a slow cooker and set it on high heat for 3 to 5 hours, or low heat for 6 hours. Cut down or cut out the butter and use skim milk to make the recipe even healthier.
When a massive chocolate craving strikes first thing in the morning, this breakfast hits the spot.
Despite the name, this oatmeal recipe isn’t too decadent — it uses coconut or skim milk, vanilla, and just a touch of brown sugar to add sweetness.
Hosting a brunch party? Mix up this vegetarian frittata early and let it cook for an hour or so before guests arrive. Part-skim mozzarella cheese, low fat milk, and plenty of veggies make this a smart option at the breakfast table.
Homemade granola is much cheaper and healthier than the store-bought stuff (who knows what’s in that cute package?!).
Bonus: mixing and cooking it all in a slow cooker instead of the oven means there’s only one dish instead of multiple bowls and baking sheets to wash.
For this savory snack, coat blanched almonds in curry powder and a bit of seasoned salt. Add to the slow cooker and cook on high for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Snack time never tasted so good.
9. Spiced nuts
Make your own sweet and spicy snack mix for munching between meals or as a delicious party appetizer.
Coat nuts with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and a bit of powdered sugar and cook in a slow cooker for about 2 hours.
Who knew something so simple could taste so good? The melted butter and chili seasoning combo is a heaven-send. Ready in just 2.5 hours, your favorite peanut snack just got a major upgrade.
Snacks are great for you, but not so great for your tastebuds if you keep eating the same flavor every single day. That’s why this sweet and spicy nut recipe is such a crowd pleaser.
Rosemary, honey, melted butter, brown sugar, and chili flakes are all great flavors on their own, and total dynamite when mixed together. You’ll have a hard time keeping your hand out of the bowl when they’re done — and we don’t blame you one bit.
Did someone say maple? We’re onboard. In this recipe, pecans and almonds come together with apple pie spice, brown sugar, and maple syrup for a treat worthy of the holidays.
These are great as a snack or as a salad topper. Or as an air freshener, because the entire house will smell like cozy winter holidays.
Take the hassle out of French toast by baking it casserole-style in a slow cooker. The recipe calls for raw apples, but feel free to sub in bananas or other fruit for a bit of variety.
14. Banana bread
This super-light banana bread is also gluten-free. Baking it in a slow cooker instead of the oven means running out to do errands during the cooking time is totally A-OK. This recipe cooks in about 4 hours on high.
These special occasion-worthy cinnamon buns are vegan and spiked with pumpkin puree and plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Perfect for a chilly winter morning… or any other time.
No-knead slow cooker bread means that anyone with about 5 minutes of free time can make a delicious homemade loaf.
Baking bread in the slow cooker actually takes less time than the oven, because the bread rises and cooks all in one step.
17. Pumpkin bread
This simple recipe comes together in about 3 hours including prep time. It’s not too sweet, so this yummy bread could work as a quick breakfast or with a cup of tea as an afternoon snack.
This filling soup uses every all-star in the winter root veggie playbook. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, baby pumpkin, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes make this stew a seasonal winner.
Chickpeas, raisins, spinach, and a hint of saffron keep it interesting. Serve with a slice of whole wheat bread for a well-rounded meal.
Pro tip: Make it vegan with vegetable broth.
19. Chicken pho
This recipe uses old chicken bits (hello, leftovers) to make a flavorful, rich chicken broth. Crunchy red onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro keep this traditional Vietnamese soup fresh.
For many of us, remembering to soak dried beans ahead of time is surprisingly difficult.
In this vegan recipe, combine straight-from-the-bag beans and hot water (along with other ingredients like peppers, onions, garlic, and chipotle chilies) in the slow cooker and remove the need for planning ahead.
This might be the ultimate slow cooker recipe. Toss chopped vegetables, sweet potatoes, lentils, herbs, and veggie broth and cook for 10 hours. Start at night and wake up to a hearty blend of veggies, potatoes, and beans.
22. Cajun stew
Get ready for some serious bayou flavor. This stew is loaded with Southern favorites like andouille sausage, shrimp, and okra. Serve it with plenty of rice (and maybe some grits, too).
Combine squash, chickpeas, and lentils to make this super nutritious stew. The secret ingredient — peanuts — gives this dish plenty of North African flavor. Serve this vegetarian recipe over brown rice or steamed spinach.
This brightly colored soup is perfect for a dreary winter day or when you’re in need of a little comfort food. It gets its bold hue from cold-weather staples sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and curry powder.
This filling, warming soup — flavored with anise, cinnamon, and ginger — makes a great winter dinner for a crowd. To keep it authentic, serve on top of brown rice or noodles, with stir-fried napa cabbage.
Everyone needs a comfort food fix every once in a while. Enter these healthy mini turkey meatballs, made with lean ground meat, olive oil, quinoa, and tomatoes.
Pro tip: Serve them with whole-wheat pasta, crusty bread, or a side of warm roasted veggies.
27. Pork tacos
No need to slave over a hot grill to make barbeque-worthy pulled pork. For this recipe, season the meat, stick it in a slow cooker overnight and wait for the magic (err… the pulled pork, that is).
Add salsa, lettuce, guacamole, and any other toppings and wrap everything up in a flour tortilla for some show-stopping soft tacos.
28. Moroccan lamb
A roasted bone-in lamb shank resting on a bed of couscous looks fancy, but it isn’t too hard to make in a slow cooker. The key to a deep, rich flavor is searing the meat on the stovetop before adding it to the vegetables and spices in the slow cooker.
This meal screams summer. Channel grill season’s best with this salmon that’s made on a cedar plank in a slow cooker. The trickiest part is finding (or cutting down) and preparing the plank to fit into the pot.
Beef stroganoff is a classic comfort dish, but the loads of cream involved doesn’t exactly make it a health food. This recipe uses mushroom soup, plain yogurt, and skinless chicken breasts to lighten up the classic dish.
Make a double batch of this easy shredded buffalo chicken — we promise it won’t go to waste. Salads, soup, pizza, wraps, and sandwiches all benefit from a hit of spicy meat. Or you can always keep it fresh (and simple) with easy lettuce wraps.
32. Pulled pork
Make this super low-maintenance sandwich filling overnight. Apple cider vinegar, onion, and honey give this melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork a distinct sweet-and-sour flavor.
Remove the skin from chicken thighs to make this dish even lighter. Balance out the bacon’s hearty, smoky depth with a splash of acidic white wine and some tomatoes. Serve it with brown rice or on top of pappardelle.
Use lean ground turkey or chicken to make the meatballs for this quick and simple lunch. Red kidney beans, rice, onions, bell peppers, and meatballs simmer together for a healthy, hearty meal you’ll love. Dig in!
Pro tip: Leave some for the next day; the flavors will have even more time to blend and it will taste even better.
BBQ sauce is just better homemade — trust. Use a slow cooker to make this super-tender BBQ beef overnight. After cooking for 7 hours, pull the meat apart with forks and serve on a whole-grain roll or brown rice.
This hearty pot roast gets its flavor from homemade ranch dressing and sweet peppers. Make it really tender by cooking on the slow cooker’s high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours.
Barley and risotto are normally words associated with fancy, fussy food. Not so with a slow cooker! This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prep, so there’s no excuse not to whip up some risotto for a weeknight dinner.
This spicy Hungarian dish gets its flavor from beef coated in crushed caraway seeds, paprika, and plenty of salt and pepper. Add veggies and let the concoction simmer for 4 hours (on high) or 7 hours (on low).
Fill bell peppers with your meat of choice — ground chicken, turkey, or ground beef — all work great. Add black beans, cheese, cauliflower rice, and spices for a healthy, one-dish dinner.
Pro tip: It’s all about the toppings on this one. Go for fresh cilantro, avocado, salsa, and Greek yogurt. You can’t lose.
No oven is no problem for this baked potato recipe. Cook whole potatoes in the slow cooker and add separately cooked toppings like sautéed broccoli, mushrooms, and onions on top.
Enjoying Tex-Mex cuisine can be tough for vegetarians, but this recipe uses soy crumbles instead of ground beef. Make it lighter by going easy on the cheese and butter.
Prepare this recipe for friends and family members who love strong flavors! Basic barley risotto gets a punch of fennel with seeds and bulbs as well as plenty of garlic and olives.
Using a slow cooker takes the fuss out of vegetable lasagna. Layer raw vegetables, whole-wheat noodles, cheese, and tomato sauce and let everything cook together for 2 hours.
44. Vegetable curry
This classic curry features carrots, potatoes, chickpeas, and green beans. Make sure to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make it vegetarian-friendly.
This recipe has all of the “comfort factor” of classic mashed potatoes, but way fewer carbs and calories.
Use the slow cooker to steam a head of cauliflower, and then add garlic, a bay leaf, and some butter and milk to give it some flavor.
As with any ratatouille, this is more of a guide than a strict recipe. Stuck with sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes? Chuck them in the pot! No mushrooms? Whatever!
You can use ratatouille as pasta sauce, for filling an omelet, with beans or meat mixed in, etc. It’s the perfect dish to use up all those veggies lingering in the fridge.
47. Squash lasagna
This non-traditional lasagna gets a healthy kick from whole-wheat noodles, part-skim ricotta and mozzarella cheese, puréed squash, and spinach.
Compared to most lasagna recipes, this calls for way less mozzarella — leaving you with all the comfort of good pasta, without the stomachache.
48. Indian chole
Perfect for busy days, this light meal is super easy to prepare. Mix peppers, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and plenty of spices together in a blender.
Add the chickpeas and let everything simmer away in a slow cooker for 6 to 7 hours — like, say, while you sleep. While you may not crave this first thing in the morning, you’ll be glad it’s ready to eat later in the day.
49. Pumpkin butter
Throw pumpkin puree, apple juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar into the slow cooker and let everything gel together for about 5 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent the pumpkin-y goodness from getting burnt around the edges!
50. Cranberry sauce
Why restrict cranberry sauce to Thanksgiving dinner? The sweet-and-sour holiday classic tastes amazing on meat, poultry, or baked goods all year round. A bit of orange juice gives this recipe a tangy kick.
Make breakfast or snack time more interesting with a dollop of this spiced spread. Apple butter tastes amazing on a slice of toast or stirred into a cup of plain yogurt. This version has no added sugar.
Make a double (or triple) batch of this easy pasta sauce and freeze the extra for later! To make it vegetarian, just take out the turkey sausage. To make it extra veggie-filled, serve over zoodles.
Hosting friends for a winter party? Greet them at the door with a cup of warm mulled apple cider.
Combine cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a yummy non-alcoholic beverage that makes the whole house smell like autumn to boot.
54. Mulled red wine
Nothing warms from the inside out quite like mulled wine (seriously, ask Dickens). To make this winter classic, mix a bottle of dry red wine with aromatic spices and clementines and heat everything together in the slow cooker.
55. Citrus cider
This bright non-alcoholic beverage is perfect for a kid’s party. The unexpected combination of lemon and orange juices with cinnamon and cloves makes for a delicious drink.
The hot toddy gets a flavorful makeover with fresh lemon, crystallized and fresh ginger, and a touch of rum. Cook the non-alcoholic ingredients together for 4 hours before adding the rum and brandy.
This sweet drink would make a great after-dinner beverage. Coffee balances out the semisweet chocolate, and a touch of brandy gives it an adult edge. To make this drink kid-friendly, just take out the alcohol.
What’s a brown Betty? It’s like a cobbler or a bread pudding in that it contains buttery bread and sweet, spiced fruit. This banana-infused version is soy-free, vegan, and can easily be made gluten-free.
These decadent brownies are surprisingly un-junky. Unprocessed ingredients like mashed bananas, egg whites, whole-wheat flour, honey, and unsweetened cocoa powder make these treats relatively healthy.
60. Chocolate fudge
Homemade candies usually aren’t lower in calories than store-bought sweets, but they typically have fewer chemicals and preservatives. This fudge is made with chocolate chips, coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and sea salt. That’s all, folks.
This rice pudding recipe includes whole-grain brown rice, low fat coconut and cow’s milk, and plenty of raisins and cinnamon. Sprinkle on a little coconut sugar and away you go.
62. Apple crisp
This recipe uses half the butter of classic apple crisp recipes. Layer apples, walnuts, spices, brown sugar, and flour topping and cook in the slow cooker for 4 hours on the low setting.
A touch of apple butter keeps this dessert moist and contributes to the strong apple flavor.
Cut the cream cheese in half with this citrus-flavored dessert by subbing in tofu! This makes it much lighter than a traditional cheesecake.
Blend the ingredients together, place them in a pan, and stick the pan into the slow cooker for about 3 hours on high.
64. Berry cobbler
This summery dessert works just as well with frozen berries, so feel free to serve it long after the leaves start falling. Serve warm, and with a scoop of frozen yogurt on top if you’re so inclined.
What’s not to love about a slow cooker? We’re talking minutes — minutes — of prep time. It fills your house with the best aromas. It seriously cuts down on all of your dishes. Plus, the end result is fresh and flavorful without all the fuss.
The next time you’re not in the mood to cook, pick a good show on Netflix, chop up some ingredients, throw them all in a slow cooker, and head off to bed. By morning, you’ll have a delicious meal with plenty of leftovers.