When you return home from a long day at work, worn out and resisting the urge to promptly pass out on your couch, a pre-made dinner—heated up and ready to serve—is a weeknight savior. Better yet, make that a home-cooked meal that also happens to be healthy, and you have yourself a supper situation that feels almost too good to be true. The hero in this scenario is your trusty crockpot, the game-changing appliance that works hard while you're at work so you can take care of your hunger without the hassle at the end of the day.
Couple your slow cooker with healthy, creative crockpot chicken recipes packed with protein and satiating flavor, and you're set for the rest of the week. Below, we've gathered seven of our favorite crockpot chicken dishes that are healthier takes on traditional recipes—some are even gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole30- or Paleo-approved.
Crockpot Creamy Cashew Chicken
"Think spicy, but not overly so," notes recipe creator Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest. "Think so creamy, but without any actual cream. And then think super cozy and crazy delicious." She promises her flavorful twist on traditional cashew chicken is the perfect weeknight meal. "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."
Thai Crockpot Paleo Chicken Noodle Soup
"This crockpot paleo chicken noodle soup has a Thai spin," explains Taylor of Food Faith Fitness. "It uses butternut squash noodles so it's gluten- and grain-free and perfect for cold evenings." She lists the usual chicken noodle soup suspects like carrots, celery, onion, and chicken among the ingredients—but notes the flavorful additions that give it a Thai twist: "We're talking lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce, slowly swimming together in a pot of delicious crockpot paleo chicken noodle soup, simmering and infusing the broth with a citrus-y, lemon-lime flavor profile that has a warmth and burst of saltiness that hits the back of your throat with each spoonful."
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
"These Paleo slow cooker buffalo chicken meatballs are gluten-free, dairy-free (blue cheese is optional), low-carb and absolutely delicious with an all-natural hot sauce," declares Kate of Root and Revel of her Whole30 take on classic game-day meatballs. "I've made these dozens of times now and they're always a huge crowd pleaser—I don't advertise that they're actually healthy and nobody can tell the difference."
Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
"Cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker or crockpot is an incredibly simple way to cook chicken for a week of easy lunches or dinners," asserts Heidi of Foodie Crush. "The formula is simple. Simply toss in a few vegetables with a whole chicken and you've just created the base for a whole week of eats."
Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup
Heidi of Foodie Crush shares Skinnytaste's Gina Homolka's crockpot chicken enchilada soup. "Chipotle peppers give the soup its kick, and while some may anticipate a thicker broth when perusing the recipe, it's definitely thinner than what you'd find on traditional enchiladas," Heidi recounts. The slow-cooked chicken comes out perfectly and super easy to shred.
Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowls With Peanut Sauce
"Who does not love throwing a bunch of stuff into one pot, turning a little knob, and presto! There's a delicious dinner waiting for you when you get home?" asks Taylor of Food Faith Fitness rhetorically. One of her go-to crockpot recipes is a Thai chicken quinoa bowl you can feel good about devouring. "It's got a little bit of sweet honey, creamy coconut milk, soy for the salty factor and then peanut butter," she describes. "Pair all that goodness with some tender chicken breast, fluffy quinoa, and some spicy-smooth-crunchy-healthy cabbage slaw."
Easier, Healthier Crockpot Butter Chicken
Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest took the traditional butter chicken recipe, made a few changes to make it healthier, and ended up with a super-easy crockpot meal that's sure to be a savior on weeknights. "It's so easy to make, it's kind of embarrassing," she admits—though its simplicity doesn't mean it compromises on flavor.
Now please excuse us while we ready our crockpots for the week ahead.