How to Wow With Easy Crock Pot Recipes
Is there a more misunderstood kitchen gadget than the crock pot? What was always seen as a device to make chili is making a comeback, and the recipes available today aren’t just crafted by grandma.
That’s because the crock pot, or Crock-Pot, which was the formal brand name upon debuting in the early 1940s, is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s actually one of the most useful tools for any chef, and it can make everything from grits to pudding to French toast to duck confit — yes, duck confit.
We’ve compiled a wide spectrum of easy crock pot recipes to show off the versatility of this handy tool. Get ready to be surprised (and hungry)!
Did you know you can cook an entire chicken in your crock pot? All it takes are a few balls of aluminum foil to position the chicken just right, and in about three hours, you’ll have a juicy, delicious meal. This recipe shows how to do it with just a little chili powder, thyme and brown sugar.
If you like your rotisserie chicken extra crispy, transfer it to the oven at the end, and broil it for about five minutes or until golden brown.
Chicken Tikka Masala
This classic Indian dish needs no introduction. While, yes, it requires quite a few seasonings to get the taste right, if you have them, this recipe is as simple as pouring ingredients into a pot, and letting the flavors do all the work.
Just make a side of rice and maybe some garlic naan, and dinner is served.
Broccoli Chicken Cheddar Casserole
It wouldn’t be a list of crock pot recipes without a bonafide casserole dish. This one brings chicken, broccoli and cheese together in all the right ways.
And in the last 30 minutes of cooking, all you have to do is stir in some noodles to complete the meal.
This shredded chicken recipe makes the perfect filling for several Mexican dishes. Think tacos, taco salads, burritos and enchiladas.
Using just three ingredients — chicken breasts, salsa and seasoning — you’ll have a delicious chicken in no time that you can use for meals all-week long.
Pot roast is the ultimate slow cooker meal. This version gets a major boost in the Bon Appetit test kitchen with some tips that will improve just about any savory slow cooker dish. That includes searing the meat and sauteing the veggies before putting them into the crock pot.
Another key here is the garnish at the end. While you might be so hungry after waiting all day that you opt to skip it, the freshness of the parsley and chives really does brighten up a dish that’s been cooking for seven to eight hours. We also dig the advice on substitutions.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
This is another classic crock pot recipe that needs to be made at least every March around St. Patrick’s Day, whether you’re Irish or not.
All you need is a corned beef brisket, cabbage and some water to make this delicious dish sing. Add in potatoes and carrots to complete the meal as it cooks.
Beef and Broccoli
Looking for a healthier beef dish? Try this version of the classic Chinese beef and broccoli dish.
Thin slices of sirloin steak and broccoli florets combined with soy sauce and brown sugar cook together to form a dish that’s better than takeout. Just top it with some sesame seeds and green onions, and pour it over rice.
Most brisket recipes will tell you to just plop everything into the slow cooker, set the temp and timer, and go about your day. But, as with the pot roast, a few extra steps can go a long way. Seasoning and searing this cut of meat elevate it to dinner-star status.
Pair this recipe with boiled or mashed potatoes (they help to sop up the deeply flavored pan sauce) and braised greens or salad, and Sunday dinner never had it so good.
Barbecue Beef Short Ribs
Another way to create a delicious piece of barbecued meat without the grill is by slow-cooking beef short ribs.
This recipe encourages you to grab your favorite barbecue sauce and seasonings, and pour everything over 3 pounds of ribs for the ultimate Game Day treat.
When we think about crock pots, the first thing that often comes to mind is chili. Mom used to make a chili that was actually pretty darn good (she even used ground turkey to help make it less caloric). But for the most part, these kinds of dishes are what give slow cookers a bad name.
So, in order to dial it up a bit, we found a chili-like recipe that is actually so much more than chili. And we love the fact that you could do this really pro with fresh veggies, home-cooked beans and fresh salsa, or just opt for the frozen, canned and premade options. Either way, it’s a satisfying dish for a week of advance-prep meals, a game night with friends or a kids’ sleepover.
Duck Leg Confit
If you think confit is one of those fancy French cooking techniques that has no business in your kitchen, we’re here to dispel that myth. Anything is possible with a slow cooker, and confit is no exception.
The king of confit is duck legs. They are full of fat and can be full of flavor and a crispy exterior when done right. But “done right” usually means spending a fortune on the legs themselves and the copious amounts of fat needed to confit, then using your oven for hours to get the right results.
However, the slow cooker is used to great effect here to render the fat from the leg for the confit liquid. This recipe is a dream and results in something that is versatile enough to use with many different dishes — along with a bunch of leftover duck fat that will elevate potatoes into the flavor stratosphere.
Persian Lamb Stew
Of course, Martha Stewart has a gourmet, straightforward slow cooker recipe for an exotic lamb dish. In fact, she has an entire book, “Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker,” full of incredible recipes. She also gives us some handy tips on how to bring out the most flavor from our lamb and veggies.
One of those tips, which can also be used for other crock pot recipes, is to preheat your liner before putting in all the ingredients. The flavors in slow cooker dishes actually develop in the beginning stages of the cooking process, and a preheated liner will help facilitate this. Stewart also sears her hunk of meat like a real pro. Dried lime, saffron and orange juice really brighten up this meal, and be sure to take her advice on what to serve this with: quinoa, fresh dill, pomegranate seeds and unsalted pistachios.
Healthy Chicken Stew
If lamb stew sounds a bit rich, then this healthy chicken stew recipe might be more your speed.
Chicken, potatoes, onions, celery and carrots give the stew it’s flavor, but it’s the cornstarch that makes it thick and comforting, as all good stews are intended to be.
African Peanut Sweet Potato Stew
Just because you’re using a slow cooker doesn’t mean it has to contain a tough piece of meat that requires hours of braising to bust through the firm muscle tissue. This recipe is simple and vegan, and there’s a good chance a well-stocked pantry and fridge contain all or most of the ingredients.
It starts with a flavor-packed peanut and tomato puree that then bathes the sweet potatoes, kale and chickpeas for hours. It’s a warm and rich stew that will fill your home with savory and sweet flavors that the whole family can enjoy. Serve this with brown rice (or white if you must) and some flatbread for a healthy and hearty meal.
Butternut Squash Coconut Curry
Another savory vegetarian dish that we love is this butternut squash coconut curry that’s both sweet and savory.
Simply saute the veggies, and then place them in the slow cooker with some rice, broth and seasonings.
Better yet, a vegetable lasagna is another vegetarian dish that can be thrown together easily in a pinch. In this recipe, you don’t even have to cook the noodles first.
Just break the noodles to cover the crock pot, and then layer with veggies, sauce and cheeses. Note: Let the dish cool before serving to allow the lasagna to set a bit.
As this recipe recommends, storing veggie scraps in the freezer creates the base for a quick and potent broth anytime you feel the need for a warm cup of healthy. Of course, you can also just gather a bunch of veggies, toss them into your slow cooker with a few herbs, salt and peppercorns, and a few hours later you’ll have the same result.
Veggie broth is versatile and good to have around, even if it’s frozen. It also tastes a lot better than the boxed or canned stuff, and you can control the sodium level to your needs. Veggie broth generally substitutes just fine for animal broths, so use this for a quick soup or stew or to add flavor to rice or grains.
Carrots, celery and onion are your staples, but don’t be afraid to add in fennel, mushrooms, a Parmesan rind or two, or some potatoes and bell peppers. Just avoid bitter vegetables like broccoli and kale. Those, along with peas and beans, are great for the soup or stew.
Creamed Corn With Bacon
Yes, it’s cheesy, creamy and delicious. While not the healthiest side dish, this recipe is definitely a showstopper during the holidays or at your summer barbecue.
The secret? The cream cheese that does all the work.
Spinach and Rice
Another creamy dish that makes an excellent side is this spinach and rice recipe — perfect for those family dinners when there are too many dishes already in the oven.
This dish uses chicken broth but could be substituted with vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian option. Simply mix everything together and let the cheeses and panko crumbs work their magic.
Hugh Acheson’s “The Chef and the Slow Cooker” reveals how versatile a slow cooker can be, taking ordinary ingredients to create chef-worthy meals for brunch, lunch and dinner. He shared four recipes with The Manual, and all of them are fantastic. We’re highlighting his grits because he turns this notoriously hands-on dish into an afterthought with a slow cooker.
Instead of hovering over a steaming hot pan of coarsely ground corn, Acheson turns on the slow cooker, adds water, then the grits, stirs it up, drops in some butter and covers it for two hours. He then uncovers it and gives it a stir before cooking covered for another two hours. Besides the wait, that’s all there is to it.
Poached (or Coddled) Eggs
We love a good Eggs Benedict as much as anyone, or the myriad variations of this brunch classic. But when we do it at home for a group, it usually means some folks are eating them warm and others cold, or everyone is eating in shifts as we struggle to poach two eggs at a time.
With this simple and effective recipe, you can do a bunch of poached eggs in the slow cooker while making and assembling everything else for the Benedicts. Or, as the recipe suggests, use the eggs for whatever you want — with bacon and toast, in salads, in sandwiches or just on their own.
All-Clad will not only provide you with a high-quality slow cooker, but it will also give you recipes to work with. And in this case, we’re actually going to poach the eggs in a sauce. The name might lead you to believe this is an Italian sauce, but Romesco actually originated in Catalonia in Spain. Its core ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, peppers and nuts.
This recipe jazzes things up with the addition of sherry vinegar and spices like paprika. And the crispy and thin potatoes are a welcome addition for mopping up all the sauce. In a little over an hour, you will have a fine brunch for six to eight people.
Pumpkin Challah French Toast Bake
In “Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Slow-Cooker Recipes for People Who Love Food,” food writer Sarah DiGregorio shows us how to make flavorful and complex dishes in our slow cookers. One of those is her mouth-watering Pumpkin Challah French Toast.
This is truly something you could wake up to as it takes up to 11 hours to prepare, but can also be done in 8.5 hours. After all, we think it would be hard to sleep with the smell of caramelizing pumpkin, sugar and toasty bread wafting through the house. This is truly pumpkin pie bread pudding, and a good excuse to use pureed pumpkin any time of year, not just around Thanksgiving or Christmas.
We love when recipes call for things that, upon first glance, seem like they should never be together under any circumstance. Think nuts and gum or the coffee and bacon in this recipe. While coffee and bacon are staples of the diner breakfast, no one swirls their joe with a crispy slice of pork belly.
This recipe also calls for vinegar, molasses, and garlic and onions. After sauteing the ingredients separately then mixing them all together, you dump them in the slow cooker for a few hours, and the result is something sublime. It can be used on many things, like pizza, nachos, burgers, bagels and even ice cream. Yes, we just combined two of your darkest desires: bacon and ice cream. You’re welcome.
Mango Tapioca Pudding
This unctuous dessert can be a total afterthought as you put together a beautiful dinner for guests or the family. It takes 10 minutes to toss everything together in the slow cooker, then it needs only about 1.5 hours to cook before you’re whisked away to a tropical island in a coupe glass. (You can also eat this from a bowl or the slow cooker liner itself — we won’t judge.)
Coconut milk, pineapple and mango are the stars here, and they work wonders with tapioca. Toss some toasted coconut on top for an extra burst of goodness. And, certainly, have seconds.