25 Great, Cheap, and Easy Crock Pot Recipes

By Julie Rains on 7 March 2012 (Updated 28 August 2014) 24 comments

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: The 5 Best Slow Cookers)

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. (See also: 25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken)

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.

(Wise Bread Pick: Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 Slow Cooker at Amazon)

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 apart, 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

I love two-ingredient recipes and was thrilled to find this idea for a main dish (with options for adding vegetables to make a one-pot meal) on Money Saving Mom.

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.

13. Lasagna

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.

15. Apples

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

Meg featured this family recipe for baked beans as a great comfort food in her cookbook, Little Old Lady Recipes.

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

Katie Lipovsky of Peas {In A Blog} shared this potato soup recipe. If don't happen to have cream on hand, substitute milk and add at the end of the cooking cycle.

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

This recipe from Kate at Stolen Moments Cooking had me at "hot fudge." The fudge is liquid when hot but becomes pudding-like when cooled.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you make in your crock pot? Share in the comments or link to your dish.

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Guest's picture

Aaaaand I just added a crock pot to my wishlist. Great recipes and ideas!

Julie Rains's picture

Awesome. I have had mine for a while but can definitely use it more.

Meg Favreau's picture

I never thought about doing crock pot desserts before. That peanut butter fudge cake sounds like a big, delicious, pile of slop (in a good way).

Julie Rains's picture

Be careful around the hot fudge cake -- it's really yummy. I am thinking it would be perfect if you have a bunch of kids or people acting like kids at your house.

It could possibly look elegant with some whip cream on top or powdered sugar, served in dessert cups or parfait glasses.

Guest's picture

I've been trying to do crockpot meals at least once a week - there are some great suggestions on this list! I'm wondering if #5 (Pork Roast) will come out dry though since there's no liquid to cook it in. Anyone know?

Julie Rains's picture

I have prepared pork this way myself (#5) -- a bit of liquid is created when you cook the roast, though I don't usually trim the fat, just let it cook with the roast and then trimmed it after cooking. I adapted the recipe from one that involved non-alcoholic beer - I had a 5-pack leftover from that adventure so decided to simplify with just spices and it seemed to work.

In my experience, the amount (or absence) of liquid has not seemed to affect the moistness. However, cooking too long does make a roast dry -- if I cook the eye of roast too long, it gets dry, even with the soup.

That said, I am okay with some dryness and just add some sauce or gravy to the dish.

Guest's picture
Kara

These recipes look good. I love my crockpot! Definitely a stress free and economical way to cook. I love that photo by the way, 3 buck chuck and a smile!

Guest's picture
CBP

Great article. Real and easy food -- cheap! While I usually cook like this, many folks don't and need the boost of information. Nothing has frustrated me more over the last couple of years reading these types of articles and they are an endless list of odd ingredients or time hogs. I took the link for the cookbook provided in #16. This is in the table of contents:

What the Heck Happened to Food?

Exactly. There is a time and a place for "fancy" food. With tight money and tight schedules we need this kind of food.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for your encouragement.

I love trying new recipes but often get overwhelmed by lots of ingredients and multiple steps. So, I was excited to tell people about the easy recipes I use plus find a few more from other bloggers to share.

Meg will be glad to know that you enjoyed learning about her cookbook.

Guest's picture
Kayla

Thanks for the quick and easy recipes! These all sound delicious, but I am especially liking #15 - Apples & #24 - Strawberry Scoop Cake (strawberries are a fave of mine). I have never thought to do desserts in my crock pot, but I will definitely be trying these.

Guest's picture

Crockpot Deserts? That is awesome! I have been telling my one friend that we need to make some good crockpot bbq....now I am going to have to say we need some "crockpot deserts".

Guest's picture
Katie

Thanks for including our recipe in the list! I can't wait to try some of these desserts.

Guest's picture
Mike_ILG

I was merely browsing for some recipe ideas and kept encountering these crock pot recipes. I should get a crock pot.. :)

Julie Rains's picture

You should get a crock pot. It seems like cooking in one is work in the morning but is so nice to have a meal at dinnertime.

Guest's picture
Guest

The chicken chilli was GOOD!

Julie Rains's picture

Great! Glad you liked it.

Guest's picture
Guest

GREAT selection of recipes here!! Thank you so much!

Guest's picture
Jenn

Since it's just 3 of us, this year I made a Bone-In turkey breast for Thanksgiving. I used a large jar of duck sauce, the gravy packet included with the turkey, and added garlic and black pepper. I cooked it on low for 5 hours. The meat fell off the bone and between my husband and 4 year old, there was only enough left for ONE sandwich! It was a nice change and deeelish!

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for sharing your recipe. I have tried a boneless turkey breast but never a bone-in; glad that worked well for your family.

Guest's picture

Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pudding Cake

Wow my mouth is watering for this one. I have a crock pot but haven't taken the time to learn to use it yet. My husband ususally does that...

Julie Rains's picture

You should try the crockpot! Most recipes are pretty simple: toss in the ingredients and cook until done.

Guest's picture
jenny

I like to mix it up a little sometimes when I make my pork chops so this is what I do ( and mind you I am from TN,.. were not exactly health cautious when we cook most of the time). I take pork chops 1/2 a stick of butter, about a cup to cup and half of apple butter, add in apples or pairs (can be from the can , just drain them) cook this on low for about an hr to 2 hrs (depending on how fast your croc pot cooks) this is so delicious and it literally falls off the bone and belts in your mouth!!

Guest's picture
Guest

I love my crockpot. I am always looking for more recipes. I found this site and was excited. We have tried the nacho cheese dip and the pulled pork. Both were delicious.