10 of Our Healthiest Slow-Cooker Recipes
For when you want to take a break from short ribs and pulled-pork sandwiches.
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
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
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
A Trip to France Sans the Duck Fat
Cassoulet may not be French for "extremely rich dinner," but it's not that far off. Traditionally, the dish is a heavy mix of beans, pork sausage, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck (plus duck fat). You can still enjoy the rich, slow-simmered taste—and even the crunchy topping of fresh bread crumbs—with this smart twist on the classic. It has you use diced, lean pork; just three ounces of chorizo sausage; and, lots of cannellini beans, so the finished dish has less fat but still boasts plenty of flavor.
Get the recipe: Skinny Cassoulet
A Year-Round "Summer" Soup
Lisa Lillien, known to her readers as Hungry Girl
, has come up with a lightened-up corn chowder that you can make any time, whether or not corn is in season. Her version relies on sweet, summery corn from the freezer aisle for a lively taste—and look. The recipe also includes cauliflower, red bell pepper, onion and baby red potatoes, plus a bit of unsweetened almond milk for thickness (it's drastically lower in calories than, say, heavy cream).
Get the recipe: Cauliflower and Corn Soup
Photo: nicolebranan/iStock/Getty Images Plus
The Fresh Spin on a Classic
If you've got a slow cooker, you've probably made chili in it, realizing, as we have, that it seems there's no limit to how long the meat and spices can simmer away, melding together in perfect harmony. Instead of beef, though, this recipe has you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes. The poultry goes well with corn, green chilies, salsa, beans and cilantro; it's a milder meat than beef and lets the bright taste of all those other ingredients shine.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Cilantro Cumin Chicken Chili
The Veggie Bowl You May Not Have Tried Before
More proof that the slow cooker might just be the only pot you'll ever need (well, almost): You can recreate the steamy environment of a Moroccan tagine in one. This sweet veggie stew bursts with the flavor of the rich and colorful region, incorporating butternut squash, rutabaga, carrot and apricot. It makes for a surprisingly satisfying meal served with couscous—whether the regular kind or the cauliflower variation (just pulse the florets in a food processor and sauté with olive oil, as this recipe explains
Get the recipe: Golden Vegetable Tagine
The Nutritious Alternative to Pulled Pork
For times when you want to eat a comforting, spicy and rich pork dish without feeling like you need to take a nap after, this spiced stew is just the thing. It features chunks of lean pork, as well as white mushrooms, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes and kale, all in a tomato broth spiced with chili powder, allspice and cinnamon. The all-in-one aspect of the dish (you get protein, carbs and veggies) means you won't need any rolls, coleslaw or other additions to make this a perfectly satisfying meal.
Get the recipe: Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes
Healthy Carnitas That Still Taste So, So Good
Lightening up carnitas—the crispy pork filling you can pile into tortillas—can be tricky, since switching to a leaner protein, such as chicken, and skipping the whole fried-in-oil step 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 tender, juicy meat that's good for you, too.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Carnitas
Easy Granola Where You Know Exactly What's in It
Making your own mixture of oats and dried fruits is cheaper, healthier and more customizable than buying granola at the store. But we've charred more batches in the oven than we care to admit; because, while spreading it thinly on a baking sheet does help it crisp up nicely, it also seems to make the cereal go from beautiful to burnt in a matter of minutes. Then we realized how easy it is to make in the slow cooker. Thanks to the low, moist heat, there's (almost) no chance you'll toast that coconut into oblivion.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Tropical Granola