50 Easy Slow Cooker Dinners That Truly Are 'Set It and Forget It'

Beef Stew


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Beef Stew

Slow Good

Slow cookers are a busy cook's best friend, especially with an entire family to feed. These recipes are designed so that you can truly "set it and forget it." That means no extra pans to clean after browning meat, no soaking beans the night before, and no fancy knife work involved. Just add your ingredients, set, and go. To cut costs even more, use homemade broths, leftover veggies and meats, frozen produce, and inexpensive cuts of meat. The slow cooker is the perfect opportunity to take what's left in the fridge and make a masterpiece. 

Related: 50 Slow-Cooker Family Meals Under $20

oatmeal with bananas, blueberries and almonds.

Hearty Oatmeal

A super-healthy breakfast of steel-cut oats practically makes itself. Dry oats cost next to nothing, and seasonal fruits and on-hand spices complete this cheap meal.

Recipe: Food.

Related: 20 Ways to Jazz Up Your Oatmeal

Close Up Barbecued Chicken

Barbecue Chicken

Super-simple barbecue chicken is a time-saver for weeknight meals. All you need is chicken, a few seasonings, and your favorite barbecue sauce.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Related: 50 Cheap and Easy Chicken Recipes

Close-up image of spicy Kung Pao Chicken takeaway meal in black plastic disposable container, red and green peppers, elevated view

Kung Pao Chicken

This takeout-dish-turned-homemade-family-meal requires three steps, saving time and effort amid a busy schedule. Add your favorite vegetables, rice, or noodles on the side for a complete meal.

Recipe: Platings & Pairings

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Bowl of Homemade Broth

Split Pea Soup With Ham Hock

Ham hocks put big, satisfying flavor into humble ingredients such as split peas. You could even get away with using leftover ham or bacon. This pot of thick and creamy soup is an easy way to find a crowd for cheap.

Recipe: Striped Spatula

Chili con Queso and Tortilla Chips

Slow Cooker Queso

Queso dip is universally loved. It can be served on its own with chips, or accompany other dishes like nachos and chili. This hands-off, two-ingredient recipe is a breeze, and the slow cooker keeps it warm until it's gone.

Recipe: Betty Crocker

Homemade Organic Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian chili is a low-carb, low-fat, but satisfying meal. Using just canned broth, canned beans, spices, and vegetables of your choosing, the process couldn't be simpler.

Recipe: Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight

Mexican Tortilla Soup
Quinoa porrige with raspberries and almond

Quinoa Morning Porridge

Alternative grains are all the rage. This quinoa morning porridge is a great alternative to your classic oatmeal, and adds a hearty boost of protein. Using coconut milk in place of regular milk makes it dairy-free too. Add your favorite fruit toppings and sweeteners to customize. 

Recipe: iFoodReal

Fresh baked tomato glazed meatloaf served with mashed potato


A classic American staple, meatloaf is one of those dishes you may not assume could work in a slow cooker. But in fact, you don't even need a separate bowl to combine all the ingredients. Just mix and form the loaf right in the slow cooker.

Recipe: Southern Living

Related: 15 Foods That Are Always Better as Leftovers

A hearty breakfast of omelet, bread and coffee
Indian tandoori chicken wings served with pilau rice and garlic naan

Smoked Chicken

Even coming out of a super-easy, hands-off slow cooker, this smoky chicken has all the flavor of an outdoor grill. Generously coat the chicken with seasoning and add a dash of liquid smoke for that essential grilled flavor.

Recipe: Food.

Cooking homemade turkey chili

Turkey Chili

Subbing turkey for ground beef in a chili recipe is an easy (and nearly undetectable) way to cut a few calories. It may cost a bit more than beef, but by using canned tomatoes and beans in this recipe, you'll still be saving a ton. Skip the optional step of browning the meat to save even more time. 

Recipe: Allrecipes

Related: 13 Regional Chili Recipes to Try This Fall

Chicken Tacos close-up

Chicken Tacos

Tacos can be made for a fraction of the price of takeout and restaurants with just a few simple ingredients. Although this recipe calls for chicken, you could easily make it with pork, beef, or veggies.

Recipe: Kitchn

Related: 30 Cheap, Delicious Ways to Fill Your Tacos

Baked Egg and Ham Casserole

Breakfast Egg Casserole

Dishes with eggs — about 25 cents each — are among the cheapest, most nutrition-rich ways to feed a family. This breakfast casserole layers cheese, bacon, and time-saving frozen hash browns for a hearty meal.

Recipe: Family Fresh Meals 

Related: 13 Simple Ways to Cook Eggs

Homemade Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ranch Chicken

A flavor-packed chicken and vegetable dinner takes just a few minutes to prepare before setting the slow cooker to do the rest. Packaged dry seasoning adds a boost of flavor with zero effort. 

Recipe: 12 Tomatoes

Italian Sausage

Saucy Sausage Sandwiches

Spicy sausage and vegetable heroes are a treat any night of the week and make an excellent leftover lunch. All you need is just 5 minutes of prep time (maybe even less!) This recipe makes six large, meaty hoagies.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Detail of a slow-cooked whole herb chicken
Cavan Images/istockphoto

Whole Chicken

A whole chicken is an easy and beloved way to feed a family, and this recipe will likely leave leftovers for other weekday meals. Plus, buying the whole chicken is way more affordable than pre-butchered pieces. 

Recipe: The Little Kitchen

Hot stew with mushrooms and potatoes


This Hungarian beef stew is like a hug in food form, with rich and comforting flavors that seep deep into tender chunks of slow-cooked meat. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread to soak up all that juicy flavor. 

Recipe: A Farmgirl's Dabbles

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

For your next meatless Monday, give this hearty vegan soup a try. Thickened with barley and mushrooms, it's really more like a stew that will stick to your ribs. Plus it freezes well.

Recipe: Hummusapien

Related: 30 East Soup Recipes That Last for Days

Corn Chowder

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 this recipe, 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.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Related: Celebrate Spuds With 27 Tasty Ways to Cook Potatoes

Rice Pudding Rice With Milk

Rice Pudding

A recipe for this vegan rice pudding comes out ultra-creamy and rich every time. Spiced rum adds an extra layer of flavor, and the alcohol cooks off, making this comforting dessert safe for the whole family.

Recipe: The Roasted Root

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

This traditional comfort food is made easy with a recipe that utilizes the slow cooker. Starting with fresh green beans rather than canned or frozen yields a more toothsome final product, as the beans retain a bit of their natural snap.

Recipe: Family Fresh Meals

Baked macaroni and cheese with fresh tomato sauce
Carnitas tacos with red onion and raw green salsa
Robert Patrick Briggs/istockphoto
chocolate fondue with various fruits - easy and delicious dessert

Chocolate Fondue

There's no need to buy a special piece of equipment to enjoy fondue; you can easily make it and keep it melted in a slow cooker. This basic recipe can be adapted to include flavorings like spicy chilies or cinnamon for an extra kick.

Recipe: Rachel Cooks

Yakiniku bowl

Korean Beef

This Korean beef recipe is deceptively simple, and something that most people would never consider trying without the aid of a slow cooker. Instead of using an extra plastic bag to coat the meat, simply combine in the slow cooker itself.

Recipe: The Recipe Critic

Meatball Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff Meatballs

This play on beef stroganoff has all the flavor of the original dish in an easy-to-make recipe that people of all ages can love. Frozen meatballs and canned mushroom soup are real time-savers that no one would object to.

Recipe: The Seasoned Mom

Irish lamb stew

Irish Lamb Stew

A mild and heartwarming blend of vegetables, herbs, and lamb, this stew is a one-pot meal best enjoyed in cold weather. While the recipe calls for leg of lamb, even a tough, inexpensive cut like the shoulder will turn tender in a slow cooker.

Recipe: EatingWell

Homemade hot chocolate with mini marshmallow

Hot Cocoa

Ditch the premixed packets of hot cocoa mix and indulge in a recipe with a luxurious blend of milk and real chocolate in cold weather. A slow cooker keeps large batches at the ideal temperature indefinitely, so a cup of hot cocoa is always at the ready.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Homemade Healthy Vegan Lentil Barbecue Sandwich

Lentil Sloppy Joe

This one-dish meal is both a guilty pleasure and a classy entrée at the same time. With all the tangy flavor of sloppy Joes and none of the cholesterol, this veggie-friendly version appeals to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Adding spaghetti squash is a cheap and nutritious way to flesh out the meal and make it sophisticated enough to enjoy with a glass of wine. To spice it up, add a fresh chili.

Recipe: Ambitious Kitchen

Related: 30 Vegetable Recipes for People Who Hate Vegetables

Homemade Succotash with Lima Beans

Mediterranean Succotash

When summer approaches, we're all looking for light, vegetable-filled dishes that are easy to make and still full of flavor. This seasonal succotash is a stew-like combination of summer produce that melds into a one-dish supper. Slow cooking succotash develops flavors in layers, makes for a quick and easy cleanup, and requires minimal effort and time spent actually cooking. Add a Mediterranean twist, incorporating olives, cannellini beans, feta, and inexpensive couscous to make a complete meal.

Recipe: Oxmoor House

Blueberry Cobbler

Berry Cobbler

Using berries fresh from the market before they go bad or combining odds and ends from bags of frozen berries helps reduce waste while reaping delicious benefits. Try an easy-as-pie slow cooker cobbler, which uses cheap, basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, cinnamon, milk, and egg. You can even whisk all of the dough ingredients in the slow cooker to save cleaning an extra bowl.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Comforting in its simplicity, this hearty recipe has played a part in many classic summer meals. With their low price and high nutrition, beans are a welcome addition. This savory recipe takes mere minutes to throw together and relies on the slow cooker to meld all the flavors together with minimal effort.

Recipe: Family Fresh Meals

Related: Easy and Delicious Rice and Bean Recipes From Around the World

Cream of Corn Soup

Creamed Corn

Cheap, easy, and indulgent, creamed corn is a nostalgic treat for many families. Loaded with good-for-the-soul butter and dairy, a slow cooker version hits all the right flavor notes: sweet, earthy, and buttery rich. Paired with a salad, or grilled meats and veggies, this traditional dish completes any summer meal.

Recipe: Kitchn

Hawaiian kalua pork and cabbage plate
Lara Hata/istockphoto

Kalua Pork

An essential at Hawaiian luaus or Tiki-themed parties, this crowd pleaser is simple to prepare. Made from the inexpensive pork shoulder, the long cooking time ensures depth of flavor and a succulent final dish. Easy to make and quick to clean up, it's likely to become a new family favorite.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Mango Coconut Curry Chicken

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 boneless chicken breast and coconut milk, which tenderizes and flavors the meat. Chicken stock, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and onion bring more flavor and richness to the stew.

Recipe: The Lemon Bowl

Roasted Turkey

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Bone-in turkey breast is inexpensive, as is the 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

Healthy breakfast: oatmeal bowl with caramelized apples, cinnamon and honey

Caramelized Apple Oatmeal

Who said oatmeal is boring? Bowls will be cleared once this healthy but dessertlike dish is served. The ingredients are relatively inexpensive and may already be on the grocery list: apples, lemon, rolled oats, milk, and eggs.

Recipe: Nourishing Joy

Related: Facts About Apples That Will Take You by Surprise

Grilled Chicken Thighs with a side Salad

Tender Chicken Thighs and Hearty Vegetables

Never underestimate the heartiness of a good chicken and vegetable meal. Aside from herbs and spices, this recipe includes just a few ingredients, primarily chicken thighs, potatoes, celery, carrots, and broth.

Recipe: Southern Living

Sour cream and chive crustless quiche
Marie Wurm/istockphoto

Crustless Quiche

You can prepare a warm, satisfying brunch even without an oven. There are plenty of recipes for crustless quiche made in a slow cooker, including versions with chopped veggies, herbs, and breakfast meats. Use leftovers and frozen produce to keep costs low.

Recipe: Betty Crocker

Related: 21 Creative Ways to Spice Up Leftovers

Close up of Macaroni and Cheese
Sara Seaberry/istockphoto

Mac and Cheese

You might think that, without a stove, the only option for mac and cheese is the packet of yellow powder and microwaved noodles, but there's a better way: A slow cooker recipe that turns out rich and creamy with the press of a button. Starting from scratch saves money compared with the box version. 

Recipe: Spend With Pennies

Related: 40 Cheap and Easy One-Pot Meals

Braised Beef Short Rib Sandwich with Coleslaw on a Brioche Bun

Pulled Pork

Just five ingredients and eight to 10 hands-off hours of slow cooking makes piping-hot and indulgent pulled pork. Perfect for tacos, nachos, or barbecue sandwiches.

Recipe: Southern Living

Plate Of Hotdogs

Large-Batch Slow Cooker Hot Dogs

Game-day dogs somehow taste better than regular hot dogs, which means they tend to go fast. Stay out of the kitchen by cooking them in large batches in the slow cooker, which also keeps them hot until ready to eat.

Recipe: Recipes That Crock

Ham cooking slowly

Slow Cooker Ham

Making a ham in a slow cooker saves time and energy, as well as ensuring a moist dish. This recipe provides a foolproof list of tips and tricks to follow to get the best results.   

Recipe: Kitchn

Spiced espresso drink
Organic Smoked Pulled Chicken

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

This basic shredded chicken recipe is easy in the slow cooker. Add a favorite homemade sauce to create a flavorful filling for sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, or tacos for quick, easy, and cheap meals on the fly.

Recipe: Kitchn

French Toast

Triple Berry French Toast

A decadent take on a breakfast standard uses a slow cooker instead of a griddle, combining cubed challah bread with sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, heavy cream, and syrup for an easy Sunday brunch option. Just spoon it out and add a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe: PureWow

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Turn your favorite hot wing flavor into a tangy and mildly spicy chicken sandwich. This slow cooker buffalo chicken will be a party favorite in no time.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Delicious Pot Roast Dinner in a Crock Pot

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

Billed as costing "less than 72 cents per person," this dish relies on cheap staples such as chuck roast, potatoes, carrots, onion, and spices with the slow cooker doing its magic. If you want to save time, forgo browning the meat and simply place the roast in the slow cooker.

Recipe: Grocery Budget 101

Homemade White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup

White bean soup is a classic, and this recipe uses a slow cooker loaded with ingredients such as celery, onion, and pasta. After spending about five hours in the slow cooker, the white bean soup is topped with Parmesan and served with bread.

Recipe: Real Simple

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