Although the thought of a slow-cooked meal may conjure up images of hearty pulled pork, buttery mashed potatoes, and creamy macaroni and cheese, you can just as easily use your slow cooker to prepare light, nutritious meals.
There's a common misconception that healthy meals are inherently complicated to prepare and require more hours in the kitchen to properly prepare. However, thanks to your handy kitchen gadget, whipping up a delicious meal that won't set you back on your health goals has never been easier.
It's 2019, and yes, as a matter of fact, you can allow technology to all but cook a healthy dinner for you at the press of a button. From Thai butternut squash curry and lemon rosemary lentil soup to ratatouille and herbed chicken, here are 13 slow cooker recipes that you can feel good about serving for dinner.
The Recipe: Crockpot Vegetable Lasagna
The Hero Ingredient: Fresh basil makes this simple weeknight dinner taste (and smell) like a gourmet creation.
Pro Tip: "If you’re really pressed for time—we’ve all been there—cut all the corners and go ahead and use pre-shredded mozzarella, and pre-chopped veggies," Holly Erickson of The Modern Proper suggests.
Why We Love It: You can prepare this healthy Italian dish with items you likely already have on hand. It's delicious, full of nutritious vegetables (that you don't need to cook before adding to the slow cooker), and wildly easy to make thanks to no-boil noodles and a jar of pasta sauce from the market.
Herbed Chicken and Rice Pilaf
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Herbed Chicken and Rice Pilaf
The Hero Ingredient: Fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, sage, and rosemary give this dish its aromatic flavor.
Pro Tip: "Take the extra effort to dirty a skillet by searing the chicken first," Tieghan Gerad of Half Baked Harvest writes. "Trust me, I wouldn’t tell you to do this if I didn’t think it was needed. But searing the chicken locks in so much flavor," she adds.
Why We Love It: This dinner will keep you full and satisfied even though it's on the healthier side. All you need are chicken breasts, wild rice, herbs, and vegetables. It's total comfort food that's a cinch to make.
Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup
The Recipe: Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup
The Hero Ingredient: Lean ground turkey is the ideal healthy protein for this tasty soup.
Pro Tip: "I used kale in this version—my favorite green leafed filler—but escarole, swiss or rainbow chard, and even spinach would add the hearty veggie heft this soup calls for," according to Heidi Larsen of Foodie Crush.
Why We Love It: Perfect for lunch or a light dinner, this healthy slow cooker meal is a play on the classic Italian wedding soup. It calls for lean turkey meatballs, white beans, kale, and a simple broth.
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Ratatouille
The Hero Ingredient: Eggplant is just one of the tasty vegetables that star in this light French dish.
Pro Tip: " I simply went to our local farmers market and stocked up on all the summer veggies I could find—onions, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, bell pepper, eggplant, and fresh basil," explains Brittany Mullins, the foodie behind Eating Bird Food.
Why We Love It: You can easily whip together the seasonal veggies that make up a ratatouille and serve them over rice, quinoa, pasta, bread, or with a grilled protein. It's a versatile dish that sounds much fancier than it actually is.
Korean Beef Stew
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Whole30 Paleo Korean Beef Stew
The Hero Ingredient: Avocado oil and sesame oil work together to create the tangy Asian flavors found in this stew.
Pro Tip: "The secret to making beef stew meat so tender is to sauté it in saucepan coated in oil on medium/low heat until all sides are deep golden brown and delicious," Taylor Kiser of Food Faith Fitness points out.
Why We Love It: This slow cooker meal is ideal for anyone subscribing to the Whole30 or Paleo diet. It also happens to be gluten- and sugar-free for a healthy meal inspired by Korean flavors.
Thai Chicken Mushroom Coconut Soup
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Mushroom Coconut Soup
The Hero Ingredient: Lemongrass is the hero of this soup that's not short on bright flavors.
Pro Tip: Instead of using full fat coconut milk from a can, Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore recommends turning to Silk's unsweetened almond coconut blend milk for a healthier option.
Why We Love It: It's a light, fragrant, flavorful soup inspired by Thai ingredients like ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, and garlic. Make a batch for lunch or dinner anytime the mood strikes.
Parmesan Herb Chicken and Orzo
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Parmesan Herb Chicken and Orzo
The Hero Ingredient: Orzo pasta makes this quick dish feel decadent even though it's a light dinner choice.
Pro Tip: "A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, just stir the orzo and sprinkle parmesan cheese all over the top," Tiffany Edwards of Creme de la Crumb writes.
Why We Love It: A simple chicken and orzo dish becomes even easier when it's made right in your slow cooker. You can add all of the ingredients right in the kitchen gadget and let the device do it's thing while you go about your day.
Saucy Thai Butternut Squash Curry
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Saucy Thai Butternut Squash Curry
The Hero Ingredient: Butternut squash stands out the most in this healthy slow-cooker curry.
Pro Tip: You can also make this dish in an instant pot if you have one on hand, according to Gerard.
Why We Love It: Bursting with fall flavors, this healthy dinner is almost too easy to make. All you have to do is toss a few ingredients like cubed butternut squash, Thai red curry paste, and coconut milk into the slow cooker and boil egg noodles on the side.
BBQ Chicken Quinoa Casserole
The Recipe: Healthy BBQ Chicken Quinoa Casserole
The Hero Ingredient: To achieve that familiar barbeque taste, a cup of hickory BBQ sauce does the trick.
Pro Tip: Top your finished dish with some extra BBQ sauce, cilantro, green onions, and cheese, Kiser suggests.
Why We Love It: Few recipes are as simple and straightforward as this slow cooker casserole. Every single one of the flavorful ingredients from uncooked quinoa to liquid smoke goes directly in the slow cooker and stays there for two to three hours.
Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup
The Hero Ingredient: Lentils are the hero of this recipe, of course.
Pro Tip: "Cooking for six hours on low temperature will make for a more creamy, thick soup texture," Melanie Bauer of Melanie Makes points out. "If you’d rather the lentils retain their shape and have a bit more bite to them, you’ll want to start checking on them around the five-hour cooking-time mark," she adds.
Why We Love It: Lentils are an excellent protein substitute that is not only healthy but will also keep you full and energized. This recipe combines lentils with veggies, lemon, and rosemary for a light, flavorful soup perfect for a chilly night in.
Teriyaki Chicken, Quinoa, and Veggies
The Hero Ingredient: Soy sauce helps you achieve that classic teriyaki flavor.
Pro Tip: Although the recipe calls for peppers and onions, Chelsea Lords of Chelsea's Messy Apron notes that you can substitute in just about any vegetables that you want. Just be sure to use about two to three cups of raw veggies.
Why We Love It: This slow cooker recipe truly only requires one dish. You can simply toss the chicken, quinoa, peppers, and pineapple right in the slow cooker and get on with your day.
Creamy Lima Bean Soup
The Recipe: Creamy Large White Lima Bean Slow Cooker Soup
The Hero Ingredient: White lima beans are the main ingredient in the light tortilla soup.
Pro Tip: "Dried white lima beans, also known as butterbeans are a versatile, delicious bean and easy to cook," Megan Roosevelt, the author of Healthy Grocery Girl, writes.
Why We Love It: It's a healthy twist on a traditional tortilla soup made in the slow cooker. You'll need ingredients like onion, bell peppers, coconut milk, and white lima beans to bring it all together. After it's done cooking, you can top it all of with a squeeze of fresh lime and some avocado.
Chicken Pumpkin Curry
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Pumpkin Curry
The Hero Ingredient: Sugar pie pumpkin acts as the base of the thick curry sauce you'll make in this healthy slow cooker recipe.
Pro Tip: "Serve over steamed rice with extra lime, cilantro, and cashews," Erickson suggests.
Why We Love It: A delight for curry and pumpkin fans alike, this recipe calls for unique flavors that are far from boring. That's why this dish makes for a pleasantly surprising weeknight dinner everyone will love.