When summer rolls in with the force of the Sahara, the last thing many of us want to do is cook—especially if you don’t have a good air conditioner or cooling fan. Similarly, your Crock-Pot may not be the first thing that comes to mind for summer eats … but you’re here because you know better. A slow cooker can actually whip up tons of warm-weather recipes like spicy tacos and lemony salmon. (And if you are in the mood for something like a stew or otherwise hot meal, the set-it-and-forget-it nature of a Crock-Pot means you don’t have to hangout around a stuffy kitchen.) To get you started, we’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite healthy Crock-Pot meals to make this time of year. Voilà!
This is a healthy take on a classic Chinese dish. Over the course of five hours, the chicken marinates and stews in a sesame-soy sauce while absorbing the spices of sliced ginger and garlic. The broccoli and the rice do not cook in the same pot; however, so toward the end of the chicken’s cook time, you’re going to have to prepare that to complete the dish. But if you steam the veggies and pop the rice in your rice cooker, this shouldn’t take much more effort.
Chipotle Beef Tacos with Pico de Gallo
You’re going to want to save this one for your next Taco Tuesday. The beef chuck becomes tender as it is slowly cooked in tomato sauce, adobo, and chipotle. And when it’s ready to eat, you can make the pico de gallo in minutes.
Slow Cooker Salmon
Yes, it’s true: You can make some slammin’ salmon in your slow cooker. This recipe calls for you to cook the fish in a tad bit of lemon and broth for some zest. But feel free to switch it up. White wine and melted butter also make great alternatives. Serve your salmon up with a salad and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Caribbean Chicken Thighs
You don’t have to travel far to get a little island flavor in your kitchen. This meal has the perfect combo of sweet, spicy, and tangy to keep your taste buds intrigued. Just pop in your chicken with the sweet potatoes, broth and seasoning and let it cook for about 4 hours on high (8 hours on low). Then top with your mango-avocado mixture and voilà!
Mujadara is a Moroccan dish made up of lentils, rice and flavorful spices. It’s an extremely affordable vegan comfort meal. Top with caramelized onions for zest and—on the side—slice up some fresh seasonal veggies to cool the palate.
Zesty Pork and Slaw Sandwiches
If you’re in the mood for some North Carolina-style BBQ, these juicy pork sandwiches will satisfy those tastebuds. The secret is in the sauce: a mix of cider vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper, and salt. Chop up some cabbage and jalapeño for your slaw and you’ve got a refreshing, yet delightfully spicy topping.
Watch yourself get fancy with the slow cooker as you master this mouth-watering Italian cuisine. The prep time takes about 10 minutes, and when the chicken is just about done cooking in the tomatoes and spices, all you have to do is cook the linguine.
Smokey Shredded Beef Burritos
No, you can’t smoke meat in a slow cooker, but you can give your beef a smoky flavor by seasoning it with chipotle chiles and adobo. According to this recipe, you can also toss beans into the crockpot as the beef gets tender. But feel free to prep and cook whatever ingredients you like to have in your burritos.
For a gluten-free, paleo-friendly, Japanese-inspired classic, you might want to try what Eating Bird Food has cooked up. The sauce calls for tamari, honey, olive oil, chili paste, and ketchup. For the latter ingredient you want to make sure you haven a brand that does not use high fructose corn syrup. Serve with rice and cook your favorite veggie to go on the side.
For a vegetarian recipe with a rich flavor profile that only takes 30 minutes to cook, you’re going to want to give this one a go. The creaminess comes from the sour cream you stir in at the end, however, you can sub in vegan sour cream if you want it to be 100% plant-based.
If you don’t feel like eating beef, pork, or chicken, turkey is a great lean meat option. Ground turkey specifically tastes amazing in chili. For this dish, you do have to cook the meat in the skillet for two minutes before popping it into the Instant Pot. This recipe makes a whopping eight servings.
Honey Mustard Pork with Spinach Rice
Honey mustard and thyme make a delectable combo, particularly when they are used to flavor tender pork. You may need a food processor for this recipe if you don’t want to grate the apple and onion by hand (those are used to make the sauce even tastier). With the processor total prep and cook time is about two hours and 45 minutes.
Crock-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
For once, you’re not going to have to sweat over a hot pot of boiling water to make this popular comfort food. Most of the prep goes into making the meatballs (which you can skip if you want to go meatless). This recipe makes about six servings so depending on how big your household is, so you may have some tasty leftovers for a couple of days.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
We know St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have yourself some corned beef in the middle of July. The good news about cooking beef brisket in a Crock-Pot instead of on the stove is that you don’t have to keep checking it every 30 minutes to add more water. Just sit back and relax, add the cabbage in towards the end, and you’ve got an Irish favorite.
Thai-Style Pork with Rice Noodles
Thai-take out fans: You can rest your wallet and save some cash with this recipe. It may even be a healthier option if you make sure to grab the peanut butter without extra sugar and use coconut milk that doesn’t have any harmful additives.
If you’re on a budget, you can make this meal for less than $10 and serve six people. Or if you have a bunch of extra summer veggies (like zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers) lying around, you might not have to spend a cent. If you’re craving something meatier, add meatballs. Cooking up your favorite grain could also make it a fuller dish.
Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Shells
This one’s for all the cheese-lovers out there. These stuffed shells combine cottage, mozzarella, parmesan and/or Romano cheeses. And compared to most slow cooker cook times, it doesn’t take that long either: around 2 hours. In that time, you can watch an episode of Pose and chop up a nice side salad.
Coconut Curry Chicken and Chickpeas
This recipe combines spicy and sweet in the most delightful way. This is thanks to the blend of cayenne pepper, curry, and coconut milk. One tip: If you buy coconut milk in a can, try to get a brand that doesn’t use preservatives.
Curried Butternut Squash Stew
This is an excellent dish that can easily be made vegan (just skip the yogurt topping or find a vegan alternative). Over the course of about five hours, the squash, split peas and tomatoes stew together in coconut milk, curry, turmeric, cardamom, and ginger. To finish, can also make a lemon-scallion sauce to drizzle on top. Don’t forget to serve with rice!
Slow Cooker Vegan Quinoa Chili
This hearty and filling dish is super easy to make. Thanks to the beans and quinoa, it’s packed with protein and fiber. And it doesn’t back down on flavor. It recommends you add in onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper and cayenne pepper, but you can also add in your favorite herbs and spices as well.
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