The holidays are in full swing. The busiest time of year doesn’t have to stay that chaotic with easy-to-use meal planning tools. From Thanksgiving dinner to a New Year’s Eve Feast, there are tons of recipes that can be streamlined in a slow cooker. Here are a few of our favorite slow cooker recipes if you’re struggling to figure out what to bring for a family gathering:
We put mains in quotations because, let’s face it, turkey or ham are the starsÏ of the show! However, if you’re someone who is turkey-averse or just prefers a more unique Thanksgiving meal, here are some ideas:
Slow Cooker stuffed peppers
This crowd pleaser can be whipped up for any holiday event. (Tex-Mex has no limits, after all!) This delicious, hearty filling from WellPlated takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. This recipe has been scaled down to fit your CrockPockets!
- 3-4 large bell peppers any colors you like (I like red)
- 1/2 pound ground chicken or turkey or lean ground beef
- 1/2 can reduced-sodium black beans (14 ounces), rinsed and drained
- 1/2 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (14 ounces), with juices
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa or swap 3 cups COOKED brown rice or 3 cups raw cauliflower rice
- 1 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese divided; for a milder flavor, swap Monterey jack or cheddar
Slice the tops off of the bell peppers (cut as close to the top as you can so that you have max space for stuffing), then carefully remove the ribs and seeds so that you do not break the sides of the peppers. Set aside.
Place the ground chicken into a large bowl. Add the black beans, tomatoes with their juices, quinoa, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and 3/4 cup of the cheese. With a fork or your fingers, stir to combine. Spoon the filling into the hollowed-out centers of the peppers, filling them all the way to the top.
Pour 1/2 cup water into an empty 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stand the peppers up on their bases in the water, arranging them so that they are evenly spread apart. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours, until the peppers are tender. Remove the lid, sprinkle the peppers with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then cover the slow cooker again and let heat for a few additional minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve hot with desired toppings.
Crockpot Vegetarian Chili
This recipe is simple — using up pantry staples that you’ve likely got leftover from other holiday events. Plus, the vegetarian in your family will thank you for remembering them! NOTE: Scale this up or down to fit your slow cooker’s size. Our CrockPockets can handle even the heartiest soups, but consider halving this recipe to fit your CrockPocket.
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 (15-oz) can no-sugar added tomato sauce
- 1 (15-oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp mild chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
To a 6-quart slow cooker, add the onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika, stirring to combine.
Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 or until the vegetables are tender.
Uncover, stir in the lime juice and hot sauce, if using. Taste and add the remaining salt if desired. Serve as is or with any toppings you like.
We’re going traditional on this one: stuffing and cranberry sauce. Both of these are great any time of year. You can never go wrong with good comfort food!
Slow cooker stuffing
Foodie hot take: you don’t have to put the stuffing in your bird for it to still be stuffing. This is great with gravy and alongside your favorite holiday bird:
1/2 cup butter
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning store bought or homemade
1 medium onion diced
2 cups celery chopped
6 cups cubed and dried white bread
6 cups cubed and dried brown bread
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, or more to taste thyme, sage, rosemary (optional)
3-4 cups chicken broth
Heat butter over medium heat until melted. Stir in poultry seasoning, black pepper and salt to taste. Add celery & onions and cook until softened (do not brown). Cool completely.
Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Add cooled celery and onion mixture, parsley and fresh herbs if using.
Add chicken broth a little bit at a time just to moisten and gently stir. You may not need all of the broth (see note below). Stir in eggs.
Cover and refrigerate overnight if making ahead of time.
Grease a 5-6 qt slow cooker well. Place stuffing in the slow cooker and turn onto high for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to low and cook an additional 3-4 hours or until hot and cooked through. If stuffing is done before your meal is ready it can remain warm.
Slow cooker cranberry sauce
Want to get crazy and not get your cranberry sauce from a can this year? This recipe from Gimme Some Oven was a crowd-pleaser at this year’s Friendsgiving. It’s easy to customize with however sweet you prefer your sauce, as well as the type of sweetener you use. You can also make it a little smokey with a splash of your favorite bourbon.
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup maple syrup, granulated or brown sugar, or your preferred sweetener (adding more/less to taste)
- Add all ingredients to the bowl of a slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, or until the cranberries have popped open and the sauce is bubbly.
- Taste and stir in any extra sweetener or add-ins if desired. Serve warm. (Heads up that the sauce will thicken considerably as it cools.)
For those who want to break away from the take-n-bake cookies, we’ve got some delicious slow cooker desserts that will make you the holiday hero!
Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cake
Melty, chocolatey delicious gooeyness just screams “Christmas spirit” to me. This is a great dessert whether you’re at a formal family dinner or having a pajama Christmas party. It’s both decadent and fun.
This recipe from The Magical Slow Cooker isn’t scaled down. You’ll likely want your entire 6 qt slow cooker for this cake.
For the cake:
- 15.25 oz. devil’s food cake mix
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup salted butter melted
- 3 large eggs
- 8 oz. pkg. mini Reese’s peanut butter cups
For the topping:
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- 10 bite size Reese’s peanut butter cups
In a large bowl mix together the cake mix, water, butter, and eggs until smooth. Some lumps are ok, that is normal. Stir in the mini peanut butter cups.
Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray. Add the batter to the slow cooker and spread out into an even layer.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time.
When the cooking time is done, remove the cake from the heat, to keep it from continuing to cook.
In a small pan set over medium heat on the stove top, add the peanut butter. Stir until melted and smooth, watch closely because it will burn quickly. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.
Pour the sweetened peanut butter over the warm cake. Top with halved Reese's peanut butter cups.
Dig in! This goes great with ice cream or whipped cream.
Slow cooker apple cobbler
Apple cobbler — the easy, delicious dessert that’s a staple for tons of gatherings each year. Add in more cinnamon to taste to make this cobbler feel a bit more like winter. This recipe from Amanda’s Cookin is one we go back to time and again.
- 40 ounces apple pie filling 2 20-oz cans, 1 can if using a crock smaller than 4.5 quart
- 16 ounce box white cake mix
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- Cinnamon sugar optional
- Vanilla ice cream optional
Empty both cans of apple pie filling into the crock. If you like, sprinkle apples with cinnamon sugar.
Mix cinnamon into the dry cake mix, then sprinkle dry cake mix mixture on top of the apples.
Spoon the melted butter onto the cake mix layer. Do not mix the butter with the cake mix. The moisture generated from the slow cooker will bake the cake.
Cover and cook on high setting for 4 hours (or on low for 6 hours).
Spoon cobbler into dishes and serve topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.