Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes
When it comes to easy meals, these healthy slow cooker recipes should be your first stop! Packed with flavor from hours of low and slow cooking, these crockpot recipes always deliver. Read More
When it comes to kitchen appliances, it's hard to beat the slow cooker. Not only does it do all the hard work for you, it also creates the most delicious, deep flavors. From slow cooker meats and pasta sauce to soups, casseroles, and even breakfast - the slow cooker can really do it all and is something that makes meal planning and prep so much easier. So whether you start with a classic Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, get creative with Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma, or just make a delicious pot of Crockpot Pinto Beans - there are so many tasty and healthy slow cooker recipes you can make.
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Most Popular Slow Cooker Recipes
In a slow cooker, the heat begins at the bottom and then works its way slowly up the sides of the slow cooker and into the food. It is a low and slow heat with most slow cookers having a maximum cooking temperature of 215 degrees. The steam that's generated by the cooking creates a vacuum seal with the lid of the slow cooker and helps the food to slowly cook without losing moisture.
In most slow cookers, the temperature is the same on both the low and high settings. The difference is how quickly the slow cooker comes to that temperature. On the high setting, the slow cooker will reach its highest temperature (between 190-215 degrees usually) in 3-4 hours. On the low setting, this takes between 7-8 hours.
Practically speaking, the low setting is best for leaner cuts (think chicken breast, boneless chicken thighs, pork tenderloin, pork loin roasts) that can get tough if cooked too long. Many other dishes can be cooked on the high or low setting depending on how much time you have.
Almost any protein can be cooked in the slow cooker but it is particularly suited to tougher cuts of meat like chuck roast, short ribs, rump roast, eye round roasts, brisket, and pork shoulders. It's also great for bone-in chicken and chicken thighs. The low and slow cooking process helps to break down the meat so it becomes tender.
It also works great for meat you want to shred like chicken breasts, chicken thighs, pulled pork, and shredded turkey. Or any meat that you want to be fork-tender. With leaner meats, just watch the cooking time and cook them on low. Boneless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, and pork loin are normally done ader 3-4 hours on low. Cooking them longer cna make them tough.
You can also successfully cook grains and beans in the slow cooker including lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and more. Soups and stews are another great option for the slow cooker.
Frozen proteins should never be cooked in the slow cooker since bacteria can form before the meat comes to a safe temperature. Always defrost meat before cooking it.
Additionally delicate vegetables will overcook quickly in the slow cooker and should be added in the last 15-30 minutes of cooking so they don't get mushy.
Pasta and rice also tend to overcook and get mushy when cooked in the slow cooker. There are some recipes that will work with pasta and rice, but normally they are added towards the end of cooking.
Lastly, dairy should be added towards the end of cooking since it will curdle in the slow cooker if cooked too long.
Slow cookers and crock pots are exactly the same thing! Crockpot is simply the brand name of some of the most popular slow cookers.
It is not necessary to cover the food in a slow cooker with liquid. Most meats and vegetables release liquid as they cook, which will help create the steam needed to cook.
Additionally, many recipes call for some kind of liquid but the meats and vegetables do not need to be covered in liquid. A small amount of liquid is enough to cook the contents of the slow cooker.
Raw meat is safe to put in the slow cooker as long as it is fully defrosted before it is added. Make sure that it is cooked long enough to fully cook.
Boneless chicken takes about 3-4 hours on low in the slow cooker. Bone-in varieties will take 7-8 hours on low. Always check the internal temperature of the chicken to ensure it has reached 165 degrees and is safe to eat.
- Boneless chicken breast: 3-4 hours on low
- Boneless chicken thigh: 3-4 hours on low
- Bone-in chicken pieces: 3-4 horus on high, 7-8 hours on low
- Whole chicken: 5-6 hours on high, 7-8 hours on high
Generally speaking, beef roasts will take 5-6 hours on high and 7-8 hours on low. Large or particularly tough cuts may take a bit longer. The meat should be fork tender when it is done.
Leaner cuts of pork including pork tenderloin, pork loin roasts, and pork chops take 3-4 hours on low with pork loin possibly taking up to 6 hours. Pork shoulders, pork butts, and picnic roasts will take 9-10 hours on low and 7-8 hours on high.