The slow cooker, or Crock-Pot, is too often relegated to the back of a kitchen cabinet for most of the year, making a brief appearance for a few winter stews and chilis. Get the most out of this wonder device by using it every week for recipes that suit every season. Turn tough cuts of meat tender, create inexpensive homemade versions of restaurant and takeout meals, and add flavor to favorite dishes. These 52 recipes include sides, main dishes, drinks, and desserts for all types of cooks and diets.
A slow-cooker recipe from The Kitchn makes mashed potatoes a convenient dish to prepare. This side dish can be made plain and simple or with extras like scallions or roasted garlic. The slow cooker keeps the potatoes warm without drying them out, so you can make them ahead of time.
This warming soup takes just a few minutes of active preparation; a slow cooker does the rest. A basic recipe from the blog Add a Pinch is ripe for customizing by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables and legumes. Vegetarians, or those trying to eat less meat, can omit the optional ground beef for a lighter vegan soup.
Making cornbread in a slow cooker takes the guesswork out of the baking process. A Betty Crocker recipe is well-suited for beginner cooks. It's guaranteed to come out the same time after time, with no risk of burning the bottom. The recipe works equally well with additions like green chilies, scallions, or a handful of cheese.
MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP
This hearty vegan soup is more like a stew, thickened with barley and mushrooms. It's a warming meal in cold weather and freezes well. The process couldn't be simpler with a recipe from the blog Hummusapien: It takes less than 10 minutes to combine the ingredients in a slow cooker before letting them simmer into a rich, one-pot meal.
POTATO AND CORN CHOWDER
This slow-cooked chowder develops layers of flavor as the slow cooker does all the work. Vegetarians can use vegetable stock instead of chicken in a recipe from the blog Damn Delicious, and even water would work, as spices and cream add loads of flavor and richness. This elegant soup works in any season using frozen corn, though fresh corn is a nice touch in the summer.
A classic and crowd-pleasing side dish, these sweet and tangy carrots make it easy to load up on vegetables. In a recipe from Campbell's, sage gives the carrots an autumnal twist that works well alongside roasted meat and poultry.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
A recipe for this savory side dish from the blog Divine Health From the Inside Out results in tender cabbage for a ton of flavor and fiber alongside meat entrees. The braising liquid is flexible; cooks can use what's on hand. Bacon drippings are one option that cuts down on food waste for maximum savings.
MOROCCAN LENTIL SOUP
This vegetable- and spice-packed soup is warming in all the right ways. Vegan when made with vegetable broth and a recipe from EatingWell, this full-flavored meal is friendly for a variety of different specialty diets.
Cooking eggplant parm in a slow cooker turns the dish into a one-step process, eliminating the need to pre-fry the eggplant. Healthier and easier, this version from MyRecipes can be started in the morning for a ready-made meal by evening.
BARBECUE CHICKEN WINGS
Wings are a crowd-pleasing dish for a weeknight meal or a party. Making them in a slow cooker eliminates the need to fry or bake in extra oil. A recipe from the blog Good Dinner Mom takes the extra step of broiling them once cooked through, to add a crisp texture and caramelize the sauce.
Authentic jerk chicken can seem impossible to master. The secret to many Caribbean jerk chicken recipes is slow cooking, which allows time for the flavors to meld. You can skip the broiling at the end and shred for burritos, sandwiches, or salads.
CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
CHICKEN ENCHILADA STACK
A bowl of warmly-spiced chicken curry from Food & Wine tastes like it has been slaved over for hours, when a slow cooker turns the preparation into a simple three-step process. The flavors continue to develop as the curry sits, which makes this a good make-ahead option.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
BABY BACK RIBS
Unlike an oven, which can dry out the meat, a slow cooker ensures moist, juicy ribs while infusing flavor into each bite. A Betty Crocker recipe uses liquid smoke to add a subtle barbecue flavor that evokes a summertime grill.
BACON MAC AND CHEESE
BACON-WRAPPED PORK LOIN
Using a slow cooker to make a dish worthy of a special occasion takes the pressure off home cooking and skirts the need to go out for an expensive meal. A pork loin recipe from Damn Delicious uses the juices that collect during cooking to make a tasty sauce.
Taco night can be epic with a recipe for carnitas from the blog RecipeTin Eats. Subtle spices like cumin and oregano perfume the meat with a Mexican flavor that works in burritos, enchiladas, and tortas.
HONEY-GLAZED PORK MEATBALLS
A straightforward brisket recipe from The Kitchn is best made ahead of time so the flavors meld and deepen as the meat rests. You could skip the initial browning process, but searing the meat adds a layer of flavor that would be noticeably missed. The extra step is worth the effort.
BEEF STROGANOFF MEATBALLS
This play on beef stroganoff has all the flavor of the original dish in an easy-to-make recipe from the blog The Seasoned Mom that people of all ages can love. The meatballs can be made ahead of time and kept warm in a slow cooker without drying out.
CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE
IRISH LAMB STEW
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
THAI COCONUT FISH CURRY
APPLE CINNAMON COBBLER
The best part of a recipe for poached pears from a Cooking Light cookbook is that after prepping the poaching liquid and pears, you can just walk away from the pot as it cooks. Moscato d'Asti is an inexpensive sweet wine that works well if you don't already have an old bottle to use up.
Cider simmering with spices on the stovetop often boils over and requires a constant watchful eye. A slow cooker recipe posted on Genius Kitchen stays ready to drink for hours at a time on the low setting.