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How to Slow-Cook Fast: Easy Slow Cooker & Crockpot Recipes | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How To Slow-Cook Fast

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Slow cooker onion soup—Mmmm!

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Becky Luigart-Stayner
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Recipes for Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

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Juggling a lot right now? Getting tired of actively cooking over the stove and seeing dishes and pots stack up in the sink? Try cooking slow, not fast! That’s right. Return to the slow cooker. Throw a few ingredients in the pot, set it, and forget it! Here are our slow cooker recipes including a few 3-ingredient “dump and go” meals.

The other night we were simply making spaghetti and meatballs. This involved a couple pots and pans. Then, we warmed up the sauce. Another dish. And then the vegetables. At the end of the evening, we had a decent amount of clean-up for such an “easy” meal.

With a slow cooker, you spend a few minutes of prep to throw ingredients in one pot, set it, and forget it! That’s all. And if you’re juggling kids and work, or some other combination, saving even 15 minutes of time and labor is a big help! Plus, there is much less clean-up of pots and pans—which can get very tiring.

What is a Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers or crock pots heat food at a low wattage over a long period of time, which means that you can be away from home all day working or running errands while your food cooks. Slow cooking is also useful if you have guests or are entertaining.

Is there a difference between slow cookers and crock pots?

A few readers have asked about the difference between slow cookers and crock-pots as the terms seem to be used interchangeably. The brand “Crock-Pot” was introduced in the 1970s though it’s now used generically to refer to a pot that entirely inside a heating element, which produces heat around the bottom and is also warmed from the sides. As far as we know, all crock-pots warm on all sides. However, there are some slow cookers that only sit on the heating element and warm from the bottom. Bottom-line, make sure you get a slow cooker that warms from all sides if you make “slow cooking” recipes.

A few slow cooking tips:

  • When you slow cook, you generally want to use cheaper cuts of meat which are less likely try dry out. Also, we advise browning the meat before adding it to the slow cooker to add flavor.
  • Never overfill your slow cooker. The slow cooker should be filled between one-half and two-thirds at the most.
  • Don’t peek under the lid when the slow cooker is doing it’s thing or it really affects the process and time. 
  • Before cooking, spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray to cut down on scrubbing later.
  • Put hard vegetables (roots, potatoes) at the bottom of a slow cooker. Never put frozen food directly into a slow cooker; it can increase foodborne illness.

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Photo: Karla Caspari/Shutterstock

Slow Cooker Recipes

Below are our favorite Almanac Slow Cooker recipes—with the easier recipes at the top of this list. 

However, note that you barely even need a recipe if you want to take the “dump and go” route.

Three-Ingredient “Dump and Go” Meals

  • Chicken: For example, just place 4 chicken breasts in a slow cooker; add a can or jar of roasted peppers, a tablespoon of pesto, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook for 4 to 6 hours on low setting. Done! Serve shredded with rice, on a bun with toppings, in a wrap, or however you wish
  • Pot Roast: Put two chopped carrot and 6 small chopped potatoes in the slow cooker. Brown the outside of 2 to 3 pound pot roast with a little oil in a pan on the stove for about 5 minutes. Add roast to slow cooker. Cook on low for about 8 to 10 hours until tender.

  • Beef Chili: Cook 1 pound lean ground beef in a 3 quart soup pot until no longer pink. Drain any extra grease. Add to slow cooker along with 15 ounce can of chili-ready diced tomatoes
    15 ounce can of chili beans undrained. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. At dinner, add shredded cheese and your favorite chili toppings.

Creamy Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos 

Take that crockpot chicken and spice it up with this slow cooker chicken tacos recipe! With black beans and roasted tomatoes, this is a winner at every dinner table.

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Photo: Sarah Perreault

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Ah, we LOVE French Onion Soup. This French onion soup works well as a starter or a main dish, and is especially nice on a cold winter day. 

French Onion Soup. Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner.
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce

This zesty slow-cooker tomato sauce sauce is an easy classic. Set it and forget it! And the result is so flavorful, it will quickly become a family favorite. Enjoy pasta, meatballs, chicken parm, and more!

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Photo: HandmadePictures/Shutterstock

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

How about breakfast for dinner? Here’s a lot of hearty eggy deliciousness with veggies, potato, cheese, and protein—all in one pot!

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Photo: Randall Vermillion/Shutterstock

Peanut Butter Brownies

These are seriously scrumptious brownies! Throwing the brownie ingredients into a slow cooker may seem odd, but the result is one very moist, chewy, dangerously delicious dessert!

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Photo: M.M.Yasin/Shutterstock

Sweet Tea Peach Pork Ribs

Get ready for a citrusy, spicy flavor that will have you licking your fork clean.

Sweet tea peach pork ribs. Photo by Sam Jones.
Photo: Sam Jones/Quinn Brein

Smoky Slow Cooker Chili

The third place winner in one of our annual recipe contests, this chili uses coffee as its secret ingredient. 

Smoky chili. Photo by Sam Jones.
Photo: Brent Hofacker/shutterstock

Sweet and Tangy Meatballs and Sausage 

These tasty homemade meatballs are slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce that’s easily made in a slow cooker. 

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Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Pork with Apples

Pork with apples is a classic dish that perfectly mixes sweet with savory. Best of all, it can easily be made in a slow cooker!

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Beef Burgundy 

Tender beef with carrots and onions (and don’t forget the Burgundy). What’s not to love?

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Photo: Dream79/Shutterstock

Maple Baked Beans

The best way to “bake” these maple-kissed version of baked beans is in a slow cooker, where you can put them on autopilot, just stirring occasionally—they’re so worth the wait.

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Photo: Julie Deshaies/Shutterstock

Crock Pot Jambalaya 

This jambalaya is a great soul and belly warmer on a cold day. Preparation is quick and the smell through the house is fantastic—all while the crockpot does the work and the watching for you! (Plus, leftovers freeze well!)

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Photo: Paul Brighton/Shutterstock

Minestrone Soup

The name of this soup is rooted in the Latin word, minestrare, to serve. Tradition holds that in the days before inns, travelers in Italy stopped at monasteries, where they were assured a bowl of hearty vegetable soup and a night’s lodging. The ingredients in the soup varied from region to region.

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Photo: Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Crockpot Bread and Raisin Pudding 

This bread and raisin pudding is a perfect dessert or cozy brunch recipe. Give it a try. Yum, it’s so good.

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Photo: MSPhotographic/Shutterstock

More Recipes

You may also enjoy our Dutch Oven Recipes—most of which can also be made in a slow cooker!

If you enjoy this recipe collection or have suggestions, please comment below or on any of the individual recipe pages. What’s your favorite crockpot recipe?

2023 Almanac Club