Orange-Chipotle Shrimp in Butter Lettuce Cups

Photo: Alice Gao

Quite Possibly Your New Favorite Shrimp Dish
Delicate shrimp is ideal for the slow cooker, since the gentle, moist heat won't dry out the lean protein. In this recipe, you cook the shellfish with tomatoes, chipotle chilies and orange zest. Then, spoon the mixture into butter lettuce leaves and top everything with orange segments, parsley and avocado, for an outrageously good spin on tacos that you'll want to put on repeat.

Get the recipe: Orange-Chipotle Shrimp in Butter Lettuce Cups
Pinch of Cinnamon Bolognese

Photo: Alice Gao

An Easier Meat Sauce with a Healthy Twist
Traditional Bolognese sauce requires three cooking techniques (searing, sweating and braising), but not if you use a slow cooker. This recipe has you put all the ingredients—meat, seasonings, tomatoes—into the pot, cover and cook for about 4 hours. The surprise ingredient: cinnamon. Research has shown that the spice contains compounds with inflammation-fighting properties—and it also adds a pleasantly sweet undertone to the rich sauce.

Get the recipe: Pinch of Cinnamon Bolognese
Strawberry Beet Soup

Photo: Alice Gao

An Unexpectedly Tasty Soup
Sweet yet earthy, this brilliant fuchsia soup is a feast for the eyes. Even better: It's rich in good-for-you ingredients such as dairy (in the form of buttermilk), which has probiotics that can help keep inflammation in check, and strawberries (they're high in vitamin C). In the slow cooker, the beets become tender enough to puree with an immersion blender; and they go impressively well with strawberries, with the berries offsetting the root veg's intense flavor.

Get the recipe: Strawberry Beet Soup

Photo: Jonathan Meter

The Reason You Bought a Slow Cooker to Begin With
If there's one dish that's practically synonymous with Crock-Pots, it might be chili: There seems to be no end to the amount of hours the dish can simmer away, getting better as the minutes tick by. And this recipe, from Maggie Shi’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites is one the best we've seen. It calls for cut-up pieces of beef chuck, instead of ground beef, which hold their shape and texture nicely. There are also kidney beans, diced tomatoes and a handful of flavor-boosters, from onion and garlic to soy sauce and cumin.

Get the recipe: Smoky Beef Chili

Photo: Christina Holmes

An Effortless Smoky, Meaty Classic
This throw-it-all-in-the-pot pulled-pork recipe eliminates the 12 hours of brining and 10 hours of smoking we've seen in some recipes, but still yields terrific results. It combines onion, bay leaves, crushed and whole tomatoes and boneless pork shoulder with one magical game-changer: chipotle in adobo sauce. The pepper adds just the right amount of smoky heat, which you can temper by serving it with coleslaw and pickles on the side.

Get the recipe: Pulled Pork

Photo: Stephen Conroy

The Classic Winter Warmer, with a Twist
If you love chicken soup but want to add more veggies—not to mention a new flavor dimension—you'll love this vibrant version. It starts with a whole chicken that you poach in the slow cooker, along with the usual vegetables, such as carrots and onions. Then, things get interesting: You toss in aromatic ginger, garlic, star anise and soy sauce. Once the chicken is cooked, you remove it and add snow peas and bok choy to the pot, just until they wilt. Finally, you serve the soup with the chicken (which you've cut into bite-size pieces) and cooked egg noodles for a unique and delicious meal that's nutritious, too.

Get the recipe: Fragrant Spiced-Chicken

Photo: Carrie Vitt

The No-Brainer Beef Supper
There's nothing crazy about this pot roast, just a tried-and-true dish you can lean on whenever you're not up for putting much thought into dinner. The ingredient list is amazingly brief: onions, salt, pepper, potatoes, carrots and a three- or four-pound piece of chuck roast. You can add them all to the pot at once; or, if you prefer firmer carrots, slip the veggies in for just the last two hours. Either way, the finished dish is warm and filling, the epitome of comfort food.

Get the recipe: 6-Ingredient Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

Photo: Lynn Andriani

The Guest-Worthy Breakfast
Soft cubes of baguette, fluffy eggs, juicy sausage and melting cheese come together in a heavenly combination for this supereasy riff on a sausage, egg and cheese. The hearty recipe also includes diced red bell pepper, adding a subtle sweetness and flecks of color. But you could easily swap in broccoli florets, or baby spinach, and use any shredded cheese you like.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Breakfast Strata

Photo: Ryan Szulc

Healthy Carnitas That Still Taste Ridiculously Good
Lightening up carnitas, the crispy pork filling you can pile into tortillas, can be tricky. That's because switching to a leaner protein, such as chicken, and skipping the usual frying can result in dried-out meat that lacks the rich flavor and soft texture of the original. Make chicken carnitas in a slow cooker, though, and you'll have fall-apart, succulent meat that's healthy, too.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Photo: Mark Boughton

Your New Favorite Dinner-Party Dish
Meltingly tender short ribs feel special and just right for company, and they're surprisingly simple to make. Just place everything—the ribs, wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, parsley and bay leaf—into the cooker and leave it for eight or nine hours. Serve with egg noodles, polenta or crusty bread for sopping up the delicious sauce.

Get the recipe: Wine-Braised Short Ribs