35 Slow Cooker Recipes for Busy (or Lazy) Vegetarians
I like to keep things simple in the kitchen, so I'm not big on extra appliances. In fact, we got rid of our bread maker, microwave, panini press, and toaster oven — all within the last year. There is, however, one extremely useful tool that we'll be holding onto for the long haul. Our slow cooker comes in handy whether we're looking to use up leftovers in a vegetable stew or toss ingredients together to make a lazy brunch. And not only can you do other things, like clean the house, while cooking up dinner in the slow cooker — you can also experiment with new cuisines. (See also: The 5 Best Slow Cookers)
1. Minestrone Soup
For a satisfying vegetable soup, try this tasty minestrone recipe. We like to make a batch at the start of the work week to have a quick and nutritionally complete lunch all week long.
2. Lentil Soup
This chunky Moroccan lentil soup combines cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and coriander for a complex flavor that's sure to stir things up on week nights. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for 6 months.
3. Black Bean Soup
What I like so much about this particular black bean soup recipe is that it uses dry black beans that you soak overnight. Yes, it's an extra step — but it's also a great way to cut down on BPA consumption from cans. After 8 to 10 hours of low, slow cooking, the mixture is ready to blend into a tangy, nourishing soup. (See also: 20 Cheap and Healthy Black Bean Recipes)
4. Tomato Soup
Served with a crispy and gooey toasted cheese sandwich, tomato soup rarely disappoints. This easy tomato soup recipe can be left either chunky or pureed smooth after it has cooled down. Use your favorite dairy or nondairy milk — or leave it out entirely — to play with the flavor and texture.
5. Corn Chowder
Quinoa is a smart addition to this robust, vegan corn chowder recipe. Use fresh or frozen corn, depending on the season, and add a little or a lot of heat with chipotle pepper powder. This dish would go well with warm biscuits on the side, which you'd have time to make since the slow cooker does most of the work.
6. Kitchen Sink Soup
Another go-to in our house is what we call "kitchen sink soup" — where we chop up a bunch of leftover produce from the week (think halves of onions or expiring squash), toss it in the pot with some vegetable broth or stock, and spice simply with salt and pepper. Sometimes we'll toss in some rice or quinoa, too, for extra texture and filling power.
7. Vegetable Stew
It may seem like just another soup, but stew is distinct in its chunky texture. This healthy recipe features root vegetables — potatoes, carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes — which hold up well after being cooked all day. In addition, there's a good dose of chickpeas for added protein.
8. Veggie Chili
There's no simple equation for this classic. Go all bean or mix with a meat substitute like TVP or tempeh. Get some southwest flair by adding corn or create a new fall favorite with pumpkin. Basically, any chili recipe you find can be made in the pot — just cook on high for around 3 to 4 hours.
These Spinach + Ricotta and Winter Squash lasagna recipes look divine. I imagine you could use all other sorts of vegetables and cheeses you have on hand, too. What usually keeps me from making lasagna at home is cooking the noodles — I'm lazy. However, in these recipes, you put them in the pot uncooked and break to fit. They soften in just 3 to 4 hours, and you have dinner for the whole family with minimal mess and effort.
10. Chinese Hot-Pot
We can thank the folks at PETA for this enjoyable Chinese hot-pot recipe. I've made this dish almost as a replacement for chicken, well, vegetable soup when I've been sick with a nasty cold. The shiitake mushrooms particularly make the difference, though I have subbed soy sauce for tamari without much displeasure. I love the texture of slow-cooked tofu and you will, too.
If you're looking for some Cajun flavor, this jambalaya is a nice change of pace. Instead of brown rice, I like to use farro for a particularly nutty flavor. The seasonings have a good long time to soak in with 4 hours. And I often make this recipe without the meat alternatives — just vegetables.
12. Chickpea Curry
If you research enough slow cooker dishes, you'll discover that many Indian recipes lend themselves well to this cooking method. So, what better to try than a classic, meat-free chickpea curry? When I make Indian food at home, I always use fresh ginger for that extra punch of flavor. However, ground ginger is a suitable substitution in a (literal) pinch.
13. Sloppy Joes
All kids — vegetarian or not — love Sloppy Joes. The good news for busy parents is that they can be made for the whole family in the slow cooker. Just use red or brown lentils in place of meat. I've also been successful with this recipe, which uses TVP for the bulk of the dish. To cut down on time even more, consider omitting the tomatoes, broth, and spices, and — instead — throwing in a can or two of Manwich sauce with some diced onion and peppers.
14. Stuffed Peppers
Taking an already easy to prepare meal and making it even easier? Yes. That's exactly the idea behind these vegetarian stuffed peppers. Use frozen veggies for less slicing and dicing, dig deep into cupboards for beans and tomato sauce, and then dump everything in your cooker and set to low for around 4 hours. These would be brilliant for freezing as an alternative to packaged microwave lunches.
15. Mac 'n Cheese
There are many ways to make this classic favorite — from toiling on the stovetop to mixing together a batch from a box (but who knows what's actually in that "cheese" anyway!). A good compromise between these extremes is to make macaroni and cheese in your crock pot, which cooks on low for 3 to 4 hours. I like to kick mine up a notch by adding a hefty dose of smoked paprika to the pot.
16. Taco Filling
Looking to liven up dinner? Try this vibrant lentil-quinoa taco filling for two. Prep ingredients in the morning (just 15 minutes) and set your cooker on low for 7 to 9 hours to return home to a Mexican fiesta. Just add your favorite taco toppings like sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, and salsa.
17. Spaghetti Sauce
Store-bought sauces are convenient, but they are also loaded with sugars, corn syrup, oils, and all sorts of other random ingredients. You can make a tasty veggie-loaded spaghetti sauce at home inside your crock pot. This recipe makes 4 quarts — enough to eat tonight with some to save (freeze) for the future.
18. Holiday Stuffing
You have enough to cook for Thanksgiving and other fall holidays — why not relegate some duties to the slow cooker? Chopped onions, celery, mushrooms, and more fill out this vegan recipe bulked up with either cornbread or whole wheat breadcrumbs. And don't worry about exact measurements — making stuffing isn't a science, it's an art.
19. Barbeque Tofu
A lot of crock pot recipes are meaty, but that doesn't mean vegetarians and vegans can't cook one of their favorite proteins, too. Be sure to press your tofu well before tossing it into the pot with a mix of spices and other flavorings, like tangy apple cider vinegar. Start in the morning and return home to this barbeque tofu at night — serve atop bread or alone with a side of steamed collard greens or kale chips.
20. Thai Curry
My favorite takeout meal is a coconut milk red curry with vegetables. So, this slow cooker red curry recipe made with kabocha squash definitely looks worth a try to me. As with all stir-fries, I'm sure the bell peppers and squash can be swapped out and supplemented with whatever ingredients are in the refrigerator. The spices, however, should remain as close to the original recipe as possible to ensure optimal Thai enjoyment.
21. French Toast
I was surprised to find a fluffy French toast recipe in my search, but — then again — creativity with a crock pot seems limitless. Just whisk together an egg mixture, dunk in slices of bread, pour the rest of the mixture in the pot, and cook for up to 6 hours.
22. Overnight Oats
A popular recipe with the healthy living crowd, overnight oats are extremely adaptable to your tastes and available ingredients. Steel-cut or rolled oats work best because they are heartier and able to withstand longer cook times. Otherwise, pour in water or milk and add dried fruit to the mix. Let cook on low overnight while you sleep, so it's ready in the morning. (See also: 11 Ways to Eat Oats)
23. Sourdough Bread
Remember when I mentioned I purged my bread baker? Not to worry, you can slow cook it. This sourdough bread recipe comes complete with instructions for baking in the crock pot. I have yet to try this method, but the author — who was skeptical at first — discovered that the pot does indeed reach optimal bread baking temperatures. When I think about it, it's probably somewhat similar to the action of a Dutch oven, which is my favorite bread baking tool.
No, really. You can make pretty much anything in a slow cooker. Just mix together your favorite recipe, here's mine, and toss it in the cooker for between 1 and 3 hours (on high — just keep checking and check the center with a toothpick for done-ness). Alternatively, I've read you can buy a box of cornbread mix and use that instead. Either way, make sure to spray the inside of the pot liberally with cooking oil.
25. Bread Pudding
I've actually never made bread pudding anywhere but in my slow cooker, so I may be biased. This easy bread pudding recipe works great with challah or any other loaf you have around the house. For extra flair, toss in dried fruit or bananas, chocolate or spices. Really, it's up to you and it's an all-around crowd pleasing recipe.
26. Soy Yogurt
Yogurt is one of those grocery items I treat as, well, a treat at the store because the price is somewhat over my limit for individual goods. Making soy yogurt is much more economical and can be done in your slow cooker of all places. You will need a half cup of store-bought to use as an initial starter, but from then on — just save what you've made for each subsequent batch. I'm curious to see if this method might also work with almond or coconut milks.
27. Rehydrate Beans
This one isn't so much a recipe as it is a cooking method. Rehydrating dry beans in the slow cooker can help save you money and avoid the nasty BPA found in many canned goods. Just rinse beans, toss in the pot, and cover with water and salt. Cook up to 8 hours, depending on your intended use, stirring halfway through.
28. Mulled Cider
Simmering a large batch of mulled cider is a smart use of the crock pot. The enticing aroma of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves warms up the house on a chilly day. The drink infuses with the flavors in just a couple hours, making this recipe great for entertaining guests.
Slow cooker applesauce is a childhood favorite of mine. My mother would simmer the apples for hours and the sweet, spiced smell would fill the house. Just when I thought I couldn't stand the temptation anymore, my mom would crush the softened apples until smooth and it would be ready to eat. One of my favorite recipes uses maple syrup in place of sugar as a sweetener.
30. Stuffed Apples
If applesauce isn't your style, consider coring and stuffing apples with a spiced walnut mixture. Most cookers can accommodate 6 apples at a time, making a healthy, no-fuss dessert. I've been known to eat leftovers for breakfast, too.
31. Beer-Cheese Fondue
This party favorite is easily made in the slow cooker, so no dedicated fondue pot is required. Simply combine cheese of your choice (I love swiss and cheddar), grainy mustard, cornstarch, beer, salt, and pepper and cook anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. Serve with crusty bread, veggies, or anything else you like dipping in melted cheese.
32. Strawberry Jam
Convenience meets from-scratch! Slow cooker strawberry jam contains few ingredients (strawberries, sugar, fruit pectin, and lemon juice) and comes together in a matter of hours. Store jam in your refrigerator for a couple months or freeze for up to one year. (See also: How to Preserve In-Season Foods for Off-Season Treats)
Another novel dessert recipe for the slow cooker, cheesecake can be dressed up in a multitude of ways. Try this plain cheesecake and top with fresh berries or this Nutella crunch cheesecake is just what you're looking for.
34. Chocolate Cake
When I initially came across crock pot chocolate cake, my mind was blown. I had never thought to use my trusty cooker in this way. Vegans might want to try out one of my favorite recipes for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which uses baking powder in place of eggs for lift. A scoop of ice cream on the side is optional, but highly recommended.
35. Hot Cocoa
There are many ways to make this favorite winter beverage in the crock pot. Try an Aztec variety spiced up with some cinnamon and chipotle seasoning. Or maybe some bittersweet cocoa or even peanut butter hot chocolate for extra indulgence. Much better than mixing together from a packet!
With so many great recipes out there, it's hard to include them all. Do you have any favorites to add to this bunch? Feel free to share in the comments below!