10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (2024)

Slow cookers make it easy to create healthy, flavorful meals, snacks, and even desserts. To see for yourself, try one of these quick-prep recipes.

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (1)


Lauren Bedosky

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (2)


Kelly Kennedy, RDN

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (3)

One-pot recipes make it easy to pack in whole, fresh ingredients.

Few things are better than a warm, healthy home-cooked meal or snack. Unfortunately, the cooking process can be so long and complex that many of us turn to takeout and premade meals instead.

Sound familiar? It’s time to reacquaint yourself with the slow cooker (sometimes referred to as a Crock-Pot), an appliance that heats food slowly over a long period of time.

While long cooking times may not sound ideal, slow cookers actually make the cooking process fairly easy. “One of the main benefits of using a slow cooker is how little thought goes into it,” says Alix Turoff, RDN, a nutrition coach based in New York City. “You can combine all of your ingredients at once, set it for a few hours, and come back to a ready-made meal,” she says.

Slow cookers are an especially good choice for meat lovers. Why? Because the long, slow cooking process seals in moisture. This means that meats — especially leaner cuts — won’t dry out the way they do with other cooking methods, Turoff says.

Slow cookers offer an easy, hands-off method for cooking meat, as well as comforting foods like soup and chili, but they’re also a convenient option for snacks and desserts.

RELATED: Knife Skills 101: How to Cut Complicated Fruits and Veggies

To prove how convenient and versatile slow cookers really are, we rounded up 10 meal, snack, and dessert recipes. You can prep all of them in 20 minutes or less, and then let the device do the work while you go about your day.

An Easy Way To Reduce Fat While Cooking

Chef Daniel Green shows you how to cut back on fat with this easy cooking hack.

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Caribbean Pot Roast

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This pot roast recipe features boneless beef chuck roast, jalapeño, garlic, onion, orange zest, tomato sauce, and a variety of spices that add up to a Caribbean-inspired meal. Throw together this recipe in the morning (or the night before) and let it simmer for 8 hours to create a flavorful, comforting dinner. Keep in mind that this recipe is high in fat because of the beef chuck roast. Turoff suggests substituting a leaner cut of meat — shoulder roasts, tri-tip roasts, and round roasts are all options — to cut back on fat.

One serving (⅙ of the total recipe) of this dish from Boulder Locavore provides 469 calories, 30 grams (g) fat (15 g saturated fat), 4 g carbs, and 43 g protein.


Pumpkin Quinoa Chili

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“A lot of people may associate slow cookers with meat-based dishes, but this is a great example of a very healthy, delicious vegetarian option,” says Ginger Hultin, RDN, who is based in Seattle and is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This chili recipe from Simply Quinoa combines traditional chili ingredients like tomatoes, beans, peppers, and spices, along with unexpected additions likequinoa and pumpkin.

Cooked quinoa packs 8 g of protein, plus 5 g of fiber in each cup, making it a good sourceaccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, pumpkin provides plenty of beta-carotene — 17,000 micrograms (mcg) per cup, the equivalent of roughly 1,417 mcg of vitamin A — an excellent source, according to the USDA. Mix up this chili in just 15 minutes and then leave it to cook for 4 hours.

One serving (⅙ of the total) of this chili offers 217 calories, 42 g carbs, 1 g fat, 14 g fiber, and 11 g protein. Optional: Top with guacamole, vegan cheese, cilantro, and sliced jalapeño.

RELATED: What to Eat and Avoid on a Plant-Based Diet, and a 14-Day Sample Menu


Spiced Nuts

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (7)

These spiced nuts from The Real Food Dietitians are packed with flavor, thanks to maple syrup, honey, vanilla extract, coconut oil, orange zest, and variety of spices. While spiced nuts are often high in sugar, one serving (about ¼ cup) of this recipe has a lower sugar count (6 g), Turoff notes. Plus, nuts like walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that may help lower cholesterol and support heart health, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It takes only five minutes to put this recipe together, and it's ready in 2½ hours to cook.

A ¼ cup serving of these snack nuts provides 228 calories, 19 g fat, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, and 6 g protein.


Chocolate Fudge Cake

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Believe it or not, you can create a dense chocolate cake right in the slow cooker. This recipe from Amy’s Healthy Baking features unsweetened cocoa powder for the chocolate flavor, “and utilizes lower-fat options like nonfat milk and nonfat Greek yogurt to help boost the moisture of the cake while lowering the overall saturated fat content,” Hultin says. Cocoa is a rich source of plant-based compounds like polyphenols, which may help lower blood pressure, making it a boon to your heart, according to a review published in August 2017 in Frontiers in Nutrition. Just combine the ingredients and let them cook for 2½ hours.

One slice (out of 12 slices total) of this cake provides 150 calories, 4 g fat (2.2 g saturated fat), 27 g carbs, 3.3 g fiber, and 5.4 g protein. Serve with fresh strawberries or raspberries on top.

RELATED: 7 Decadent Cake Recipes for People With Type 2 Diabetes


Thai Curry Chicken

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For a healthier take on classic Thai curry takeout, try this recipe from Lexi’s Clean Living. You’ll combine onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, chicken, coconut milk, coconut sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, and a variety of other herbs and spices to get this flavorful dish. The prep should take about 5 minutes, then it cooks for 4 hours.

“This recipe is super high in protein and low in carbohydrates,” Turoff says. To bump the carb count, serve this curry recipe over your favorite rice. If you want to keep it low-carb, you can always serve it over cauliflower rice, Turoff says.

There is quite a bit of saturated fat in this recipe, thanks to the coconut milk. To cut back, opt for light coconut milk.

One serving (¼ of the recipe) of this dish packs 420 calories, 23 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 9 g carbs, 1 g fiber, and 40 g protein.


Hawaiian Chicken With Pineapple

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“This dish has a lot of vibrant flavors and also offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” Hultin says. Simply combine chicken with flavorful, nutritious ingredients like pineapple, lime, ginger, and garlic, and garnish with green onions and cilantro. The result: a sweet and tangy meal that takes 10 minutes to prep and 4 hours to cook.

One serving (out of 6 servings total) of this recipe from Averie Cooks provides 505 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 54 g carbs, 2 g fiber, and 50 g protein. Serve over your rice of choice (preferably brown or wild rice).

RELATED: 8 Scientific Health Benefits of Pineapple


Loaded Healthy Nachos

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Nachos aren’t normally the healthiest appetizer option — thanks to hefty amounts of cheese and salt. But these slow cooker nachos from Well Plated by Erin are not only quick to prep (they take only 10 minutes to put together), they also feature healthier ingredients. “The focus of these nachos isn't piles of cheese, but rather a high-protein, fiber-packed mixture of chicken, beans, herbs, and spices,” Hultin says. Let the nacho ingredients cook for 5 hours and 45 minutes, and make your own tortilla chips (recipe included) for a lighter base.

One serving (⅙ of the total recipe) offers 302 calories, 22 g carbs, 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), and 5 g fiber. Optional: Pile with plenty of fruits, veggies, and herbs, such as sliced black olives, jalapeños, cilantro, diced avocado, and fresh tomatoes. Swap high-fat sour cream for Greek yogurt for a lower-fat topping with more protein.


Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

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Seasonal fruits and veggies like apple and butternut squash combine with onion, garlic, and a variety of herbs and spices to create this creamy soup from blog Live Eat Learn. “[This recipe is] super simple and will make your house smell amazing,” Hultin says. (It takes only 10 minutes to put together and 2 hours to cook.) Like pumpkin, butternut squash offers lots of vitamin A — 401 mcg per mashed cup, according to theUSDA. That makes it an excellent source of vitamin A.

Keep in mind that because this recipe is vegan, it uses coconut milk in place of cow’s milk. As a result, the saturated fat content is a little high.

One-quarter of this recipe packs 298 calories, 40 g carbs, 15.4 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 6.6 g protein, and 8 g fiber.

RELATED: 10 Comforting Tomato Soup Recipes to Make Tonight


Blueberry Peach Cobbler

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This easy cobbler recipe from Kristine’s Kitchen is full of blueberries and peaches. Blueberries, for one, have some of the highest levels of antioxidants among common fruits like melons, bananas, and apples, according to past research. And peaches contribute to the vitamin C content of this recipe — 12 milligrams (mg) (roughly 13 percent DV) per serving. “One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can use frozen or fresh fruit, which makes it a great option during any season when fresh berries aren't available,” Turoff says. Plus, you can put together this fruit-filled treat in only 20 minutes (3 hours to cook).

One serving (⅛ of the total) of this dessert contains 269 calories, 48 g carbs, 4 g protein, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), and 3 g fiber.


Beef Stew

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (14)

“What’s great about this recipe is that it's a complete meal,” Turoff says. This stew from The Cozy Cook includes protein and fat from the beef, as well as carbs and fiber from the golden potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, and garlic. “There's also an option to substitute a leaner cut of meat, if you'd like,” Turoff says. Once you combine all the ingredients (this should only take 20 minutes or so), allow this hearty stew to cook for 4 hours.

One serving (⅙ of the total recipe) offers 507 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 35 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 49 g protein.

10 Slow Cooker Recipes You Can Prep in 20 Minutes or Less (2024)


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