Slow and Steady Mealtime Winners
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21 Cheap and Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes

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Slow and Steady Mealtime Winners
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Cheap and Healthy Slow Cooker Dishes

A slow cooker is one of the handiest appliances and biggest time savers to have in the kitchen. Pile in chopped vegetables, add prepped meat and seasoning, and in a few hours, a week's worth of food (or one family-size meal) is ready to eat. Keep in mind that an Instant Pot can also be used as a slow cooker.

A few other tips: Browning meats and sautéing vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker can add flavor. If you top off a slow cooker meal with dairy or fresh herbs such as yogurt, milk, and cilantro, add them toward the end (they can curdle or wilt, respectively, if cooked for too long). Finally, resist opening the lid and stirring, which slows the cooking process considerably (and this is already a slow cooker). Try these recipes to eat healthy and save money and time this winter.

Lentil Soup
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Lentil Soup

Hearty and cheap, lentil soup is filling enough to be a meal all on its own. The mild and comforting flavors of lentils lend themselves well to endless adaptations of the basic recipe, like adding curry powder or smoked chilies to change things up from batch to batch.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Jerk Chicken
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Jerk Chicken

Layers of spice and piquancy make this chicken dish anything but basic. Authentic Jamaican flavor gets into every bite with this slow cooker method. Pro tip for finding high-quality and inexpensive ingredients like green onion and chilies: Find a Caribbean or Latin grocery store.

Recipe: The Magical Slow Cooker

Vegetable Broth
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Vegetable Broth

This kitchen staple is easy to make in a slow cooker from leftover bits of vegetables that would otherwise end up in the garbage bin. Ends of carrots, celery, and onions can be added along with whole vegetables and be repurposed into a rich broth.

Recipe: Kitchen Treaty

Poached Pears
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Poached Pears

Sweet and sophisticated with a hint of spice, this dessert can be dressed up or down. Add a dollop of whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or even sour cream to take it to the next level, or serve with a dessert wine for ultimate wow factor.

Recipe: Simple Nourished Living

Cauliflower Mash
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Cauliflower Mash

This heartwarming comfort food recipe is paleo and keto friendly, aside from being just plain delicious. Frozen cauliflower also works for this dish, which makes this recipe easy and cheap to whip up in a pinch from freezer and pantry staples.

Recipe: Wicked Spatula

Scrambled Eggs
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Scrambled Eggs

If you need to make a large batch of scrambled eggs in the morning the slow cooker can come in very handy. This frees up valuable stovetop space for other dishes, and also allows for stress-free cooking and perfectly warm and cooked eggs.

Recipe: Southern Living

Pinto Beans
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Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are so versatile, from enjoying a bowl dressed with cheese and chilies to using them in other recipes like burritos, or alongside proteins. This classic recipe gives you the basics with plenty of room to add your own twist to the flavor profile.

Recipe: Mom's Kitchen Handbook

Gingerbread
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Gingerbread

Even cakes can be made in the slow cooker, especially moist and rich ones like this gingerbread. This recipe happens to be grain-free and diabetes-friendly. The required spices are dried, making this an easy recipe to prepare from the pantry.

Recipe: A Sweet Life

Garlic Herb Mushrooms
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Garlic Herb Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of the healthiest things to eat, and they're also delicious, especially when their natural umami flavor is played up with garlic and herbs. Serve these tasty fungi as a side dish or use them to add protein and nutrition to other dishes like pizza, baked potatoes, and grain bowls.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Cranberry Sauce
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Cranberry Sauce

When in season, cranberries are super affordable and offer a lot of flavor and versatility. A batch of cranberry sauce also lasts long enough to use in many ways, like adding to roast turkey or grilled cheese sandwiches, mixing in with morning yogurt, or drizzling as an ice cream topping for dessert.

Recipe: Allrecipes

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Chicken and Vegetable Coconut Curry

Generally dark meat and fattier cuts turn out best in a slow cooker, because they don't dry out, but lean meats take on an appetizing texture and flavor with the right recipe. This chicken and vegetable coconut curry is made from a pound of boneless chicken breast, which combines with other inexpensive ingredients to yield five servings.

Recipe: The Lemon Bowl

Easy Pasta Primavera
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Easy Pasta Primavera

Pasta gets a bad rap for health and diet, but primarily when soaked in creamy alfredo sauce or doused in cheese and butter. This healthy pasta primavera consists of chicken breast, zucchini, squash, and onions. It yields eight servings and cooks in six hours. Use whole wheat pasta if preferred.

Recipe: SparkRecipes

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Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

For a fast and easy recipe, try this turkey breast preparation. Bone-in turkey breast is inexpensive, as is onion soup mix added for flavoring. Simply rub onion soup mix all over the turkey, over and under the skin, and cook on high for an hour before turning the heat to low for seven hours. The recipe serves 12, and leftover turkey slices can be used for a healthy lunch sandwich the next day for even more savings.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Curry Pumpkin Soup
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Beef and Broccoli

Chinese food from takeout places can be unhealthy as a habit. The portions are large and often dripping in oil and high in sodium. Instead, consider this healthy beef variation made with brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and low-sodium soy sauce. Pair it with brown rice and broccoli steamed separately.

Recipe: Divas Can Cook

Caramelized Apple Oatmeal
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Caramelized Apple Oatmeal

Who said oatmeal is boring? Bowls will be cleared once this healthy but dessert-like dish is served. The ingredients are relatively inexpensive and may already be on the grocery list: mainly apples, lemon, rolled oats, milk, and eggs. When tossing the ingredients into the slow cooker, layer on the whisked eggs and milk last.

Recipe: Nourishing Joy

Hot and Sour Soup
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Hot and Sour Soup

This version of a classic Chinese soup requires many ingredients and vegetables, but the first flavorful sip is worth the effort. Pile on cheap vegetables for extra nutrients and fiber. Slice and dice mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and tofu, and prep garlic and ginger. Add peas, more ginger, and sesame oil to taste at the end. The recipe serves four.

Recipe: Fat Free Vegan

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Paleo-Friendly Chili

This chili recipe can be made with ground beef or turkey and contains a hefty amount of herbs and spices for extra zest. Brown the meat, onions, and garlic and toss in the slow cooker to form the base. Put in the other ingredients, giving everything a good stir, and cook on low for six to eight hours. Serve with crumbled bacon and avocado slices on top, if desired. Two pounds of ground beef or turkey and three cans of tomatoes yield a whopping eight to 10 servings.

Recipe: Paleo Newbie

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Tender Chicken Thighs and Hearty Vegetables

Never underestimate the heartiness of a good chicken and vegetable meal. Aside from herbs and spices, there are just a few ingredients in this dish, primarily chicken thighs, potatoes, celery, carrots, and broth. Layer hard, slow-cooking vegetables on the bottom before adding broth. Add the seasoned chicken thighs on top and cook on low for six hours to serve six.

Recipe: Southern Living

Pasta e Fagioli
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Pasta e Fagioli

This vegetarian pasta soup requires a bit more grocery shopping and prep time on the stove, but it is made mostly from cheap vegetables and broth. This recipe calls for sautéing vegetables in olive oil with herbs and seasonings to add flavor before combining with vegetable broth, beans, and tomato sauce in the slow cooker. Add in whole wheat orzo (or any small pasta) toward the end and serve with fresh parmesan cheese and parsley. The recipe yields about six servings.

Recipe: Kalyn's Kitchen

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Chicken Fajitas

A quick video accompanying this 10-serving recipe demonstrates how to cook chicken breasts for a few hours with peppers, onions, taco seasoning, and tomatoes. Then shred them and toss back in the slow cooker to soak up juices. Serve with cheese, hot sauce, and guacamole (beware of high-calorie sour cream, and consider a lower-sodium taco seasoning).

Recipe: Tasty