Slow cookers are wonderful inventions. They do the work for you so that you can make rich, hearty, and comforting meals without having to sweat over a stove. Plus, because they use less energy than ovens, can make bigger portions, and work well with simple ingredients, slow cookers can save you money.
Slow cookers also retain the natural flavours and juices of ingredients, and prevent your food from drying out – both of which can make life easier, whether you’re making a quick midweek dinner or entertaining guests.
So, if you want some slow cooker inspiration, here are 10 delicious slow cooker recipes that can save you time and money.
1. Chicken, kale, and sweet potato stew
If you’re looking to eat healthier meals, soups and stews are a great place to start.
This slow cooker chicken, kale, and sweet potato stew from Real Food Whole Life is hearty, filling, and seriously healthy. It also has the added benefit of being both gluten and dairy-free.
The only prep it requires is a bit of washing and chopping – then you simply add the ingredients to the slow cooker, cook until the sweet potato and chicken are tender, and shred the chicken.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a side of crusty bread to mop up the delicious broth. This recipe makes up to six servings, so you can freeze any leftovers or enjoy them the next day.
2. Coconut and quinoa curry
Whether you’re veggie, vegan, pescetarian, or an omnivore, all of us should try to incorporate more quinoa into our diet due to its very impressive health benefits.
It’s high in fibre, packed with vitamins and minerals, contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds, and is a great source of plant protein.
This coconut quinoa curry from Simply Quinoa is a really easy meal that makes the perfect mid-week dinner. The zingy flavours of ginger, turmeric, and garlic combine beautifully with umami miso and creamy coconut milk. And, with the additions of sweet potato, broccoli, chickpeas, onion, and quinoa, you’re guaranteed a delicious, healthy meal that’ll fill you up.
This fragrant curry will keep in the fridge for up to five days, or you can freeze it to enjoy on an evening when you don’t fancy cooking.
3. Beef goulash
Goulash is a cosy and comforting dish that’ll warm you up from the inside out. And because it’s essentially a soup-stew hybrid, it’s absolutely perfect for a slow cooker.
Goulash is a type of Hungarian stew that involves cooking stewing meat (usually beef) with vegetables and seasoning with sweet paprika.
This beef goulash recipe from The Batch Lady is incredibly easy to make. Just add diced braising beef, peppers, onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, beef stock, garlic, paprika, and flour into your slow cooker and cook on high for three hours. Alternatively, you can also cook on low for five to six hours which will mean the meat will be more tender. Then, 15 minutes before it’s cooked, add a dollop of crème fraiche.
You can serve this with rice or quinoa, but goulash also goes really well with pastas like tagliatelle or pappardelle. Top with a sprig of fresh dill for maximum authenticity!
4. Low-carb lasagne
Lasagne is the ultimate comfort food, and after a busy or stressful day, there’s nothing better than tucking into a delicious plate of it.
The good news for anyone trying to cut down on carbs is that not only can you make lasagne in a slow cooker, but you can also make a low-carb, high-protein alternative.
Instead of using pasta, this low-carb lasagne recipe from Well Plated uses vegetables like courgettes and aubergines, which are cut thinly into sheets. This cuts down on calories and carbs, while adding fibre and contributing to your five-a-day.
This is a healthy, gluten-free meal that feels really indulgent. And, though it has deliciously tender vegetables and melt-in-your-mouth textures, your slow cooker does all the work.
5. Peanut butter milk rice pudding
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, warming, and filling, rice pudding usually does the trick.
The idea of making rice pudding in a slow cooker might sound odd, as it doesn’t take long to cook on the hob. But it’s actually a great way to make sure the rice is deliciously plump and the sauce luxuriously creamy…all without really having to lift a finger.
This peanut butter milk rice pudding from Cooking on a Bootstrap is incredibly tasty and has the added benefit of costing only 16 pence per portion!
Simply tip your rice into the slow cooker; add water, sugar, peanut butter, and a dash of soya milk (or a milk of your choice); and cook for an hour. The end result will be a rich and indulgent dessert that tastes far more expensive than it is!
6. Harissa chicken and chickpea stew
On a chilly evening, few things are as comforting and restorative as tucking into a bowl of warming, nourishing stew. Plus, when it’s prepared in a slow cooker, the flavours, herbs, and spices will have hours to infuse, and it becomes even more of a treat.
This slow cooker harissa chicken and chickpea stew from The Batch Lady combines chickpeas and chicken for a high-protein, filling meal – and the addition of harissa makes everything even more flavoursome.
Harissa is a North African chilli paste made from roasted peppers, spices (such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin), and olive oil, so it’s wonderfully flavoursome.
Simply tip your ingredients into your slow cooker and cook for around five hours on a low heat, or three hours on a high heat. Serve over couscous, quinoa, or bulgur wheat, and add a dollop of yoghurt and some fresh chilli and coriander on top.
7. Lamb stew
If you eat meat, you’ll probably find that there’s another way that slow cooking can save you money: you can buy cheaper cuts of meat.
Cheaper cuts of meat need to be cooked on low for a good amount of time to get the most out of the cut, and because slow cookers cook slowly and gently, they help to tenderise the meat.
This slow cooker lamb stew from BBC Good Food suggests using cheap cuts of lamb, like middle neck or scrag (it’s best to ask at your local butchers if you’re not sure what cut to go for). Then use other cheap yet wholesome ingredients to fill out the dish, such as: pearl barley, potatoes, carrots, leeks, and onions.
Slow cooking this dish creates a delicious natural cooking liquor, so serve with some crusty bread to make sure you can mop up every last drop.
8. Spicy spaghetti with garlic mushrooms
For many people, spaghetti is an easy go-to dish when you’re hungry and want something quick and tasty.
While slow cookers might be best known for their ability to cook delicious stews, casseroles, and curries, their magic can be applied to make the perfect pasta sauce too.
This recipe for spicy spaghetti with garlic mushrooms from BBC Good Food may be simple, but its flavours are brilliantly complex. Just slice up some meaty chestnut mushrooms and put them in your slow cooker, add some celery, onion, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and chilli, then cover and cook on low for six to seven hours.
Just before you’re ready to eat, cook your pasta, chop your parsley, and when the spaghetti is done, mix it into the rich mushroom mix. This is a flavoursome and comforting dish that’s low in fat, vegetarian, and incredibly easy to whip up.
9. Chicken casserole
Chicken casserole is an ideal dish for the slow cooker. When the ingredients are cooked slowly and gently, the meat starts to fall apart, and the vegetables become perfectly tender.
For a hearty midweek dinner, all you have to do is pop the ingredients into your slow cooker, and look forward to the aromas that greet you when you return home.
This chicken casserole recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary uses chicken thighs because they’re tender, stand up well to slow cooking, and shred nicely. But the beauty of a slow cooker is that you can easily swap chicken thighs for breast or bone-in pieces and they’ll come out just as juicy.
The vegetables in this recipe also absorb plenty of the creamy yet refreshing sauce, which has a subtle lemon twist.
If you like, you can add in extra veggies – like potatoes, leeks, or squash – to boost your vitamin intake. Then, serve with a generous dollop of mashed potato to soak up the rest of that moreish sauce.
10. Vegan chilli
Packed with fibre, protein, and plenty of vitamins, chilli is a nourishing and satisfying dish. The longer you cook it for, the more the spices infuse and the taste deepens – so it’s definitely a dish that benefits from being cooked in a slow cooker.
This vegan chilli recipe from Good Housekeeping is rich, flavoursome, and velvety. Kidney beans, black beans, peppers, sweet potato, carrots, and tomatoes are cooked slowly with cumin, smoked paprika, and chilli – and some dark chocolate adds a delicious bittersweet twist (though, if you prefer, you can leave it out).
After cooking on high for four hours, the sweet potato will be lovely and soft, and the spices will have fully permeated. Serve with rice, guacamole, a scattering of fresh coriander, and a wedge of lime.
If you often feel too tired to cook from scratch in the evenings, slow cookers can be game-changing.
Meals that once seemed too laborious to cook can instantly become accessible. And, as an added bonus, you’ll save both time and money while enjoying healthy, delicious dishes that retain all of their natural flavour.
Plus, whether you fancy cooking a hearty, meaty casserole, or an aromatic veggie curry, coming home to the tantalising smell of home-cooked food is instantly comforting.
If you’re interested in trying some of these recipes but don’t own a slow cooker, you might find our article 12 best slow cookers for low-cost meals useful. For more meal inspiration, why not check out the food and drink section of our website? Here, you’ll find everything from further budget cooking inspiration to recipes from around the world.
Do you have a slow cooker? Or are you tempted to buy one and have a go at making some of these recipes? We’d love to hear about your culinary adventures in the comments below!