25 Great, Cheap, and Easy Crock Pot Recipes
As a busy mom, I love using my crock pot. There's nothing better than tossing a few ingredients in a cooker in the morning and having dinner ready in the evening.
Here are some of my favorite recipes, plus recommendations from foodies, elegant-living experts, and busy parents. (See also: 25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken)
1. Shredded Buffalo Chicken
My sons love buffalo anything (chicken wings, wing-flavored potato chips, etc.), so they loved sandwiches made from this Buffalo Chicken dish. What I loved about this recipe from Kris Schoels of Young Married Chic is that it satisfies the teens who love hot stuff and the grown-ups who love gourmet. There are just four main ingredients, plus whatever you need to make the sandwich.
2. Chicken Chili
Kris also recommended this recipe for chili made with chicken. It calls for 4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, plus traditional chili ingredients and some extra items, like chopped red onion, frozen corn, and taco seasoning.
3. Coq Au Vin
French cooking in a crock pot was a surprise to me, but a good one. When I was looking for a dish to prepare for a Christmas dinner with my book club friends (just after we finished reading A Year in Provence), I found this Coq Au Vin recipe on the Whole Foods website. To make this dish easy (or easier), prepare the bacon, chicken (I used breasts rather than thighs), and vegetables the night before; refrigerate overnight, and then toss all the ingredients in a crock pot the next morning.
4. Indian Spiced Chickpea Quinoa Stew
Kathy Hester, author of The Vegan Slow Cooker cookbook, pointed me to this gluten-free vegetable-laden stew. Chop up the vegetables the night before, then toss in the crock pot in the morning and cook during the day for an evening meal.
5. Pork Roast
Put a pork roast in the crock pot and sprinkle with lemon pepper (typically I use a center cut pork loin roast, but you can ask your butcher for a recommendation). Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Pork should be tender and easy to slice thin for an excellent entree.
6. Pork Barbecue
I have tasted (and loved!) versions of this recipe, which was passed along to me from Jimmy Slagle. It's simple — take a 5-6 pound pork loin, cut in half, and place in a crock pot. Pour the contents of two bottles of barbecue sauce over the pork. Cook on low for at least 6 hours (approximately 1 hour per pound). You can tell it's ready when the meat is tender, falling apartment, and saturated by the sauce. Jimmy recommends making BBQ sandwiches using the cooked pork.
7. Chili and Lime Pork With Red Onion Escabeche
Kathy Casey passed this recipe to me from her blog — Chili & Lime Pork with Red Onion Escabeche. You slow-cook the pork, then make the escabeche (fresh veggies and cilantro blended), and add tortilla accompaniments.
8. Italian Chicken
For many years, I have grilled chicken using Italian dressing as a marinade but never thought to toss these together for dinner in the crock pot.
9. Beef Goulash
An advantage of a crock pot is that the slow-cooking method can tenderize less tender (and generally less expensive) cuts of beef. So, I was glad to discover a recipe using flank steak, which is usually an economical cut of beef. There is some prep work that involves cutting up and browning the meat before placing in the crock pot, but blogging chef Barb Freda says that the steps are worth the effort. This beef goulash recipe is finished by stirring in sour cream and parsley.
10. Gourmet Brisket
Rachel Blaufeld of Back'nGrooveMom shared her brisket recipe with me. You'll need brisket (use whatever size fits in your crock pot), along with some sliced onions, potatoes cut into wedges, and carrots, plus her special sauce. Make the sauce using 1 cup of BBQ sauce, 1 cup of ginger ale, and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
To prepare, line the bottom of the crock pot with sliced onions, place brisket on top of the onions, surround the brisket with potato wedges and carrots, and pour the sauce over all. Cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 6-7 hours.
11. Pot Roast
On the recommendation of a cooking instructor, I buy eye-of-round roasts when they are on sale for this dish. Toss the beef roast, cream of mushroom soup, and dried soup mix (onion or mushroom-onion flavor) in the crock pot. Set on low and cook for 6-7 hours or until done. You'll have a great roast plus gravy. Serve with brown rice.
12. Pot Roast With Vegetables
For a one-dish meal, add vegetables to recipe #11 before turning on the crock pot. Carrots and potatoes work especially well and can be positioned around the roast. Mushrooms placed on top of the roast make an elegant dish, as shared by Tricia Aanderud.
The first time I had a pasta dish made in a crock pot, I was surprised at how good it tasted. Try this lasagna as the recipe specifies, or trim the ingredient list by using prepared spaghetti sauce (instead of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and herbs) and omitting the Parmesan cheese. If you can snag the sauces during a BOGO sale or a buy-three-get-two-free event, you can keep the cost low.
14. Slow-Roasted Red Potatoes
A friend made these for me and then kindly gave me the recipe. You'd never know that these potatoes were cooked in a crock pot, given their roasted texture when done. She uses 16 small red potatoes, but you may want to make a bigger batch for yourself.
Take those red potatoes and toss them in the crock pot with 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into 1/8-inch pieces), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of paprika. After stirring the ingredients, cover and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 4 hours.
Remove potatoes to a serving dish with a slotted spoon; cover to keep warm while making the sauce. Add 1-2 tablespoons water to drippings and stir until well-blended. Add black pepper to taste. Pour mixture over potatoes right before serving.
Another friend prepared these apples for a 200-person gathering at my church. They were a big hit as a combination comfort food and good-for-you dish.
The ingredients are 2 bags of Gala apples (18-20), 1.5 sticks of unsalted butter, 1/2 cup of dried cranberries (or use fresh cranberries), 1/3 cup each of brown sugar and regular sugar (though my friend tells me that you can use Splenda instead), 1/4 cup of honey, 2 tablespoons of apple pie spice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Core and chop the apples (peel if desired) and toss them and the rest of the ingredients in the crock pot. Cook for several hours on low, stirring occasionally.
16. Baked Beans
17. Spicy Green Beans
I have adapted this recipe from a cookbook by Evva Hanes entitled Supper's at Six and We're Not Waiting. Evva offers some easy-to-make, down-to-earth dishes that are healthy. I would never had thought to add hot sauce to green beans without her inspiration.
You'll need frozen green beans, olive oil (or your favorite oil), soy sauce, Texas Pete's Chipotle Hot Sauce (or your favorite hot sauce), and cheddar cheese. Place the beans in the crock pot with 1/4 cup of oil and several shakes of both sauces. Stir, cover, and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Just before serving, stir in about a 1/2 cup of cheese. Top with toasted almonds if desired.
18. Wild Rice With Cranberries
This wild rice recipe makes a hearty side. The finishing touch involves sauteeing cranberries and almonds (or pecans) and mixing with the rice for an elegant dish.
19. Potato Soup
20. French Lentil and Brown Rice Soup
This recipe comes from Roxanne King, aka The Holistic Mama. It has one unusual (to me) ingredient — seaweed; substitute extra spices for the seaweed if you'd like. The prep involves cutting up some vegetables and then tossing everything in the crock pot for a great lentil soup.
21. Nacho Cheese Dip
Typically, I don't use Velveeta Cheese, but this dip is an exception. A former roommate passed this recipe to me many years ago. It's great for a party.
Cut two blocks of Velveeta Cheese into small pieces (about 1-inch squares). Put into crock pot with a pound of cooked, drained hamburger or sausage and your favorite salsa. Cook on low for 3-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with tortilla chips.
22. Oatmeal From Steel Cut Oats
If you've ever cooked steel cut oats, then you know that this process takes a while — about 30-40 minutes in the morning. I consider this amount of time in the morning excessive, and apparently so do a lot of other people. The recommendation, then, is to prepare the oats at night and cook in the crock pot so that 1) you'll have oatmeal ready in the morning and 2) you'll have such a large batch that you'll have enough oatmeal for an entire week.
This steel cut oatmeal recipe from Rachel is quick and easy, using dried fruit and flax seed (both optional).
23. Apple Cinnamon Congee
For a hearty breakfast or dinner side dish, Jennifer Fugo recommends this gluten-free apple congee made of short-grain rice.
24. Strawberry Scoop Cake
A friend makes strawberry cakes and cupcakes, but I had never tried to make such a dessert myself until recently. This strawberry scoop cake is great but sweet enough without the white chocolate.
25. Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
Do you have a favorite recipe that you make in your crock pot? Share in the comments or link to your dish.