Photo: Alan Richardson

The Baked Beans That Go with Almost Anything
Beans are a potluck classic, easily complementing everything from pulled pork to burgers to meatloaf. Instead of the predictable barbecued red kidney beans, though, this recipe calls for gigantes (they're large white beans similar to limas), in a flavorful, Mediterranean-inspired tomato sauce with celery and carrots. The slow cooker turns them tender but not mushy, and then right before serving, you stir in crumbled feta cheese, which adds a pleasant tang (though you can also serve it on the side for guests to add as they'd like).

Get the recipe: Giant Beans in Tomato Sauce

Photo: Christopher Testani

The Easiest Mashed Potatoes You Will Ever Make
Crowd-pleasing mashed potatoes aren't difficult to make on the stovetop, but they do require attention as they simmer to the perfect mashable consistency. The slow cooker eliminates the need for such a close eye, since its low heat practically guarantees the potatoes won't overcook. Place the spuds into the pot, pour broth on top and let the appliance take over. Within hours, they'll be soft; then, just drain the potatoes and return them to the slow cooker, add buttermilk, sour cream, some of the cooking broth, butter—and mash away.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Photo: iStock

The Southern-ish Dish Everyone—Seriously, Everyone—Will Love
You're sure to be the potluck hero with this quinoa-beans-and-veggies side, since it appeals to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans. It's a combination of two classic Southern dishes—Hoppin' John and Dirty Rice—wherein quinoa and black-eyed peas mingle with mushrooms, tomatoes, mild-tasting green chilies, and some seasonings. The result is a savory and filling bake that will satisfy anyone, regardless of their diet. Be sure to have some hot sauce nearby; its heat matches this dish beautifully.

Get the recipe: Dirty John Quinoa

Photo: Alan Richardson

The Side That Makes Spiced Dishes Shine
Show up to a potluck with this colorful vegetable tagine and you're sure to elicit oohs and aahs—it's impossible not to be drawn to its gorgeous orange hue. Luckily, it's just as tasty as it looks, with chunks of carrot, rutabaga and butternut squash softening to a perfectly toothsome texture, and the addition of dried apricots, fresh ginger and spices (cumin, cinnamon, cayenne) giving the dish a sweet-spicy tone that would be delightful with any Middle Eastern or Indian spread.

Get the recipe: Golden Vegetable Tagine

Photo: © 2017 by Time Inc. Books

The Hands-Off Risotto
Most recipes have you make risotto on the stove, stirring small amounts of broth into the rice periodically, and stirring often. Turns out the slow cooker can do a lot of this work for you—as this low-effort recipe shows. It combines the grains with button mushrooms (though you could swap in any other type you'd like), and gets a rich creaminess from half-and-half, butter and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. And while it's traditionally an Italian dish, it'd be delicious alongside anything from pot roast to roast chicken.

Get the recipe: Cheesy Mushroom Risotto