By the end of the year, even the simplest tasks can start to feel like a chore. As holiday deadlines reach a fever pitch, daylight hours shorten, and the chaos of the season kicks in, once-easy and even enjoyable parts of your routine, like preparing dinner, can seem like a daunting task.
If you return home from a long day at work and can't muster the strength to pour a glass of wine, let alone cook, it's time to invest in a slow cooker. This kitchen staple not only takes the effort out of creating a hearty, flavorful meal but also makes it virtually impossible to mess up. Simply add the ingredients to the cooker when you wake up, switch it on, and return to a fragrant house and a home-cooked meal. By the end of a weary day, you'll be thankful you did. Experience the magic of slow cooking with these easy slow-cooker recipes.
Kobocha Squash Soup
Enjoy flavors of the season with a kabocha squash soup recipe from Food Faith Fitness. Hearty squash is sweetened with fruity apple, dates, and a bit of turmeric. Coconut milk keeps this soup from getting too spicy and also provides a luxurious texture your taste buds will love. The best part is that it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare this warm comfort food before you can leave the slow cooker to do its thing. Garnish your finished product with spiralized apples, raisins, and cilantro for a beautiful presentation.
Celery Soup With Bacon
Creamy and a little bit indulgent, this hearty celery soup with bacon is surprisingly easy to make. Simply chop the ingredients (you don't even have to peel the white potatoes) and combine with stock and seasoning in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for five to seven hours, and it's done!
Take the decadence up a notch by topping the soup with crispy, fried bacon. Make a large batch and store it in the freezer so you've always got dinner on hand.
Mexican Pulled Beef and Beans on Soft, Cheesy Polenta
Cold weather calls for a warm and indulgent meal like this pulled beef and beans recipe from Stuck in the Kitchen. Let spicy flavors like chipotle, chili, and cumin soak in the beef brisket. You'll need to plan in advance for this meal as it takes at least eight hours for the beef to process in the slow cooker. Trust us—you'll be so satisfied when you finally take a bite of your well-deserved meal.
Cider Braised Short Ribs With Sage Butter Mashed Potatoes
This heavenly cider braised short ribs dish is a little more extravagant than the standard crockpot recipe. It calls for cooking short ribs in a crockpot on low for up to eight hours with a medley of mouthwatering ingredients like apple cider and thyme for tender meat that's soaked in flavor. These short ribs are the perfect dish for entertaining—just turn the pot on in the morning and let the ribs cook until your guests arrive.
For a meatball appetizer that veers far from traditional flavors, try this sriracha meatball recipe from Foodie Crush. The recipe calls for homemade baked meatballs with seasoned with soy sauce, green onion, and garlic. The real treat is the sriracha sauce, which combines a red pepper jelly with a sriracha ketchup. Once you've cooked your meatballs and sauce in a slow cooker for a few hours, pair the small bites with soba noodles or coconut rice to make it a meal (or serve on its own as an appetizer).
Creamy Cashew Chicken
Tempted to get Indian takeout? This creamy crockpot concoction is a great homemade alternative. "It's the perfect weeknight meal or even weekend meal," says Tieghan Gerard, the creator of Half Baked Harvest. "You can add everything to the crockpot before work or school or wherever you may be, and then come home to a house that smells in-freaking-credible and a delicious dinner that is ready to eat!"
She recommends dialing up the Indian spices for an extra flavor kick and topping off the recipe with edible flowers for a Pinterest-worthy touch.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Heidi Larson, the culinary force behind Foodie Crush, says her corned beef and cabbage recipe is "one of the simplest dinners you'll make all year." Place vegetables in a slow cooker, top with corned beef and beer, and sprinkle with fresh thyme for fall-apart chunks of beef and an incredibly easy one-pot meal.
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
This vegetarian split pea soup from Hello Glow will warm your soul on a cold winter's night. Its thick texture will fill you up despite the light ingredients. The hero ingredient of this dish is by far the curry powder. It adds a little something extra to the traditional soup while the curry brings anti-inflammatory properties via the turmeric. This is one healthy meal you'll want to throw together tonight.
Healthy Quinoa Chicken Curry Bowls
Slow-cooker recipes aren't all indulgent. This healthy quinoa chicken curry bowl creation by A Pinch of Yum is hearty and packed with fresh vegetables. Her instructions: "Dump everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for six to eight." It doesn't get much easier than that.
If there's one dish that's synonymous with the slow cooker, it's mouthwatering, tender beef brisket. This recipe from Natasha's Kitchen delivers all the flavors you'd expect of the traditional weeknight dinner fare, and it couldn't be easier to replicate at home. Simply season your brisket and brown on the stovetop before transferring the meat into a slow cooker with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and a bit of broth and sauce. And just like that, dinner is done.
Eager to try more slow-cooker recipes? Try these easy, healthy crockpot recipes.
This post was originally published on December 19, 2016, and has since been updated.