5 Perfect Slow Cooker Dinners

By Christine Byrne |

These simple meals deliver maximum flavor, nutrition, and comfort with minimal prep time.

slow cooker enchilada

A hearty, homemade meal is a great way to wind down after a long day. Problem is, prepping and cooking one requires winding yourself up.

That’s where the slow cooker comes in: You toss in your ingredients in the morning, let the appliance work its magic all day, and come back to find dinner totally ready to go. Presto!

Beyond convenience, slow cookers are also great for preparing healthy, balanced meals that don’t skimp on flavor and usually provide leftovers. The five recipes below come highly recommended from top nutrition experts and pack at least 23 grams of protein per serving, from meat, beans, or both.

Many of the dishes call for beef, since long, slow cooking tenderizes tougher cuts so well. To limit the amount of saturated fat, look for lean cuts at the grocery store, or trim any excess fat yourself before cooking. Also, opt for low-sodium broth or stock. You can always add a pinch of salt later if needed.

1. Slow Cooker Kale and White Bean Soup with Sausage

This hearty stew comes from Lizzie Streit, R.D.N., the blogger behind It’s a Veg World After All. It’s heavy on vegetables and beans, with just enough sausage to add serious flavor and extra protein.

slow cooker kale and white bean soup

Serves: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 15 minutes

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound cooked pork or chicken sausage (about 4 links)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups reduced- or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 to 4 cups kale, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

What to do: Slice the sausage into ½-inch circles. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage in oil for approximately 3 to 4 minutes to release flavors.

In a slow cooker, combine sausage, onion, carrots, celery, beans, stock, water, bay leaves, thyme, and oregano. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until carrots and celery have softened to your liking. With about 30 minutes left, add kale and stir to encourage wilting.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese (optional) to serve. This meal will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

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