You’ve heard it a thousand times: Cooking at home is better for you than takeout.
But actually making time to chop, sauté, and clean up can feel next to impossible with your schedule. With so many events and meetings going on, making dinner every night just isn’t always feasible… until now.
Enter your slow cooker. With this genius time-saving device, you can have dinner — and lunch — covered all week. No excuses!
Slow cookers can help you save money by making cooking from scratch easy — and maybe even replacing your favorite grab and go meal like roasted chicken or curry. You’ll eat better and actually know what you’re eating, too.
Let’s be serious: The hardest part of using a slow cooker is smelling your delicious dinner all day and having to wait to dig in!
How to Cook Salmon in the Slow Cooker
Salmon is well known for its healthy fats that can help improve cholesterol levels, but a 3-ounce serving also has 23 grams of protein, magnesium, and vitamins D, B-12, and B-6. Cooking it doesn’t have to complicated or stressful. This recipe ensures tender, perfectly cooked salmon every time. Even better, you can cook a couple of fillets for two, or make enough for your next dinner party. Choose your own cooking liquid and sliced aromatic veggies like onions or fennel to create a new dish every time. Get the recipe!
Sweet Potato Chickpea Chili
Thanks to chickpeas and sweet potatoes, this vegetarian chili is filling and protein-packed. Adobo sauce, chili powder, and cumin add heat without having to worry about chopping up a pepper or burning a hole in your stomach. Serve with Greek yogurt for extra protein and to ease the heat, or add avocado for the same creamy feel with added healthy fats. Forget to toss all of your ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning? No problem! Pop it into an Instant Pot instead to have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. Get the recipe!
Healthy Indian Butter Chicken
This ‘butter’ chicken doesn’t actually have butter or cream. Instead, nonfat Greek yogurt gives it that creamy texture without all the saturated fats. It only takes 10 minutes to prep this dish before tossing it in the slow cooker and letting the spices do their magic for six hours. You don’t even need to defrost the chicken first. Who needs takeout when you have this healthy butter chicken waiting for you at home? Get the recipe!
Coconut Quinoa Curry
Slow cookers aren’t just for weeknight dinners. This coconut quinoa curry makes a nutrient-dense lunch that won’t leave you bored, or stuck with a #saddesklunch. Make the recipe ahead on Sunday and pack it up for the rest of the week. Between the quinoa, sweet potato, broccoli, and chickpeas, you won’t go hungry. Turmeric and ginger give this curry its telltale hue and add anti-inflammatory properties. Get the recipe!
Turkey Quinoa Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
Need another reason to add quinoa to your diet? The nutritious seeds are also a complete protein, which means they contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. This colorful chili also uses lean ground turkey and black beans for 28 grams of protein per serving. A 12-ounce beer and traditional chili spices give this dish a unique flavor that will keep you coming back for more. Get the recipe!
Healthy Chicken Potato Soup
This thick, creamy soup doesn’t have a splash of cream or dairy. Instead the slowly cooked potatoes thicken the broth. Cooked for 8 to 12 hours, this recipe is ideal for making it at breakfast and forgetting about it for the rest of the day. You can cook the chicken in with the rest of the soup ingredients or add leftover chicken once the potatoes are cooked through. Get the recipe!
Wild Rice Vegetable Soup
Enjoy a little bowl of fall with this hearty vegan soup. Butternut squash, white beans, and kale combine for a comforting soup with Tuscan influences. The full recipe serves six to eight, or you can freeze your leftovers for an easy last minute meal. Wild rice adds a chewy texture and staying power thanks to its protein and fiber. While you can cook this recipe low and slow for six hours, if you crank the heat it’s ready in three and a half on high. Get the recipe!
Meat that melts in your mouth, juicy vegetables, rich sauce — yes, this dish came out of a slow cooker. This hearty winter dish is the beef stew of your childhood. It’s luscious and hearty without making you feel weighed down. Serve it alone or on top of mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash. Since this beef bourguignon cooks for nine hours you might want to prep your ingredients the night before so you’re all set to start cooking in the morning. Get the recipe!
Chicken Vegetable Stew
You can skip the red meat and tuck into this warming chicken stew instead. Made with paprika, thyme, sage, and rosemary, this stew is flavorful and slightly reminiscent of a chicken noodle soup. Soak up the excess liquid with some crusty bread or fill up as is. Get the recipe!
Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine)
This classic French stew is made by cooking chicken, potatoes, and mushrooms in a wine sauce. Carrots and bell pepper are added to this version to boost the nutrition and add color. Save the leftover wine — you only use 3/4 of a cup — to accompany your stress-free dinner. Get the recipe!
Chicken, Vegetable, and Lentil Curry
Lentils have been a staple in many kitchens around the world for centuries. And for good reason! They’re one of the most affordable sources of protein with 18 grams per cooked cup, and they’re easy to add to all kinds of dishes. This recipe uses lentils, chicken, cauliflower, and spinach to create a flavorful and healthy curry. A single cup of cooked lentils also has almost 100 percent of your daily recommended intake of folate, an essential vitamin that helps produce red blood cells, and makes and repairs DNA. Get the recipe!
Garlic Balsamic Whole Chicken
Forget oven-roasting or barbecuing — a six-quart slow cooker can easily cook a whole chicken. No butchering or worrying about burning necessary. This recipe cooks vegetables right in with the chicken so your whole meal is ready at once. A mouthwatering garlic balsamic sauce flavors this gluten-free, low-carb, and paleo-friendly dish. Fair warning, your chicken will be so tender it will start to fall off the bone as you take it out of the pot. Get the recipe!
Honey Lemon Chicken
Homemade lemon pepper butter and a sweet honey sauce create this tasty glazed chicken. The sauce is made with lemon juice, honey, orange juice, and a touch of salt. That’s it. You’d never guess that this whole chicken was cooked in a slow cooker, or that it had so few ingredients. Serve alongside rice and veggies for a hearty meal, or cook up the whole chicken and use it in dishes throughout the week. Get the recipe!
Sweet Potato, Chicken, and Quinoa Soup
The only thing you have to prep for this dish is the sweet potatoes and the boneless, skinless chicken breasts — and most stores have those prepped and ready to go, too. Simply add all of your ingredients, including a cup of quinoa (unseasoned or with a seasoning packet), canned black beans, canned tomatoes, and a chili seasoning mix and turn it on. Get the recipe!
The real beauty of slow cooker recipes is that you can get it all going and forget about it for a while. It makes it easy to free up your evenings, while still enjoying a home-cooked meal. You can make modern, delicious meals that are packed with nutrition without spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Mandy Ferreira is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s passionate about health, fitness, and sustainable living. She’s currently obsessed with running, Olympic lifting, and yoga, but she also swims, cycles, and does just about everything else she can. You can keep up with her on her blog and on Twitter.