You might think the slow cooker is an appliance made for the fall and winter months, when you're craving heavy soups, stews, and braises, but it can be just as useful in the summer for many reasons. One, it doesn't heat up your kitchen. Yes, you can cook a full roasted chicken without having to suffer through hours of a sweltering kitchen. Second, who wants to spend time inside during the summer?
We'd rather spend our weekends on the back patio or exploring our hometowns in the sunshine instead of standing over the stove thinking about what's for dinner. The slow cooker gives you that freedom and makes plenty of summer-friendly dishes. Here are our top 15 summer slow-cooker recipes — from a granola we're putting on ice cream and yogurt to a pulled pork we're folding into sandwiches.
Upgrade your shredded chicken made in the slow cooker with a handful of spices and you have the perfect base for chicken tacos. Then all it takes is a few sliced veggies, some salsa and guacamole, and you're all set for Taco Tuesday (or Taco Any-Day-of-the-Week, really).
After a quick 10-minute roast in the oven, this pork shoulder goes into the slow cooker for a slow, steady braise with plenty of onions, spices, and even some cola. Once it comes out of the slow cooker, simply shred it. Then the only choice is to sauce or not to sauce?
The best part about making ratatouille in the summer is that all the vegetables you put inside are at their peak, which means your stew goes from delicious to amazing without any extra effort. Making it in the slow cooker saves you time and prevents you from having to stand over a hot stove.
Yes, this is a soup, but the light, salty broth is actually welcome on a hot day. And preparing it in the slow cooker makes it easier if you don't love the smell of the rind simmering away for hours. To make this version more summery, skip the heavy greens and opt for some wilted arugula instead.
The trick to making perfectly juicy barbecue chicken wings is to cook them in the slow cooker in plenty of sauce first. Then right before your guests arrive, you can toss them on the grill to get that crisp, caramelized char that just screams summer cookout.
We love a good sloppy joe night, but we don't want the bulk of our dinner to come from a can — that's where the slow cooker comes in handy. You can make the filling for the sandwiches while you're at work and come home to a perfectly prepared and perfectly messy meal at the end of the day.
Shredded chicken is one of the most versatile ingredients you can keep stashed in your fridge. It can go in tacos, chicken salad, regular green salads, on sandwiches, and more. Try making a batch of this shredded chicken over the weekend and you'll cut down on your meal prep time during the week.
Sides & Appetizers
When fresh corn is in abundance at the grocery store, farmers market, or roadside stand, you'll want to pick up several ears to make this mouth-watering corn pudding. Just remember this is best when eaten immediately after cooking, although leftovers will last a few days in the fridge.
There's nothing like queso dip for a summer party, and making it in the slow cooker means it's virtually foolproof. If you have a mini slow cooker, now is the time to bust it out — that way your dip can stay at just the right temperature throughout the party.
Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant dish, and we can't get enough of it this summer. It has plenty of briny capers and sweet golden raisins for a well-rounded flavor. And it's best served as an appetizer on slices of a crunchy baguette.
These collards get their rich flavor from being cooked low and slow in the slow cooker with both bacon and turkey legs. And that's not to mention the chicken stock that makes up the braising liquid.
Okay, technically this is a condiment, but with all of the rich tomatoey goodness in this version, it might as well be a side dish. We promise that if you make this for your next cookout, you'll win the admiration of all your guests.
Homemade granola may feel complicated, but it's actually incredibly simple, and making it in the slow cooker is even easier. You'll still have to stir the granola occasionally, but the slow cooker cuts down on spills and means you don't need to reach into a hot oven.
Fruit cobblers are one dish we are willing to fire up the oven for during the summer, but now we don't have to, thanks to this ingenious update that cooks the entire dish in the slow cooker.
Ideal for topping ice cream, yogurt, or even your morning toast, this simple fruit sauce can be made with whatever you happen to have on hand from the farmers market or your CSA. Feel free to add in some herbs as well to give it an extra layer of flavor.