If you're looking for some new inspiration for your slow cooker, I have five cookbooks you definitely need to check out. Each one features recipes you'd never imagine could be made in a slow cooker. Whether you'd like to dip a toe into a new-to-you cuisine, make an effortless, hands-off dessert, or go vegan for a Meatless Monday, these books will give you tons of exciting new ways to put your slow cooker to work.
Slow cooking is such a convenient way to prepare a meal — once everything is in the crock, your meal cooks itself to perfection without even needing to lift the lid. This said, it's easy to get stuck in a rut, making the same dishes over and over.
When you can't look at one more pot of slow-simmered chili, it's time to stretch beyond the basics. Here are five books full of slow cooker recipes that will introduce new flavors and techniques to your best-loved appliance.
Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You by Kathy Hester
When I think of slow cooking, the first category of dishes that comes to mind is meaty soups and stews. I also think of big-batch cooking, since putting together a crock full of food is a reliable way to serve a crowd or prepare meals for the week ahead.
In Vegan Slow Cooking, Kathy Hester goes in exactly the opposite direction — she uses a small 1 1/2-quart slow cooker, so all of the meals are meant to serve just two, and they're all vegan! Whether you're doing more Meatless Mondays this coming year, or you follow a vegan diet all the time, you'll find tons of delicious ideas in here, including make-your-own instructions for seitan, nut ricotta, and other vegan meat and dairy substitutes.
The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz
If you've never made an Indian meal at home, slow cooking is a great way to start! Vindaloos, curries, and highly spiced vegetable dishes are a natural fit for this appliance. The bold flavors meld and concentrate over a long cooking time, making a delicious meal.
This cookbook is designed for simple dinners — a main dish is prepared in the slow cooker, and with a pot of rice and maybe a chutney or other condiment alongside, you've got a complete meal. Most of the recipes in this book are designed for a 6-quart slow cooker, with instructions for a smaller, 3 1/2-quart appliance in case you're feeding a smaller crowd.
The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider
Most of us who've used a slow cooker have tried out a Mexican dish or two. Happily, even an old pro can find a new favorite in Deborah Schneider's book. Regional dishes like Spicy Beef Soup with Mayocoba Beans, Green Pozole with Chicken, and even a dark and savory Mole Negro are included here.
Low and slow is the name of the game — pretty much all of the recipes in this book take 7 to 9 hours to make and will taste best when cooked on a "low" setting. This is ideal for those times when you want to turn your slow cooker on in the morning and come home to a piping hot meal.
The Southern Slow Cooker by Kendra Bailey Morris
Guided by Kendra Bailey Morris and her slow-cooking expertise, you can confidently go beyond the ubiquitous recipes for "barbecue" pulled pork. Full of regional southern classics, this book delves into Cajun, Creole, and Church Potluck (this may not be an official category, but I think it should be!) cuisines, and even includes some of Morris' family recipes adapted to the slow cooker.
Most of the time, tougher, braise-able cuts of meat are the go-to for slow-cooker recipes. However, Ms. Morris throws us a delicious curveball with a recipe for Blue Crab and Corn Chowder. A creamy bowl of seafood chowder sounds perfect for a chilly night — just the ticket to get you excited about your slow cooker again.
Slow Cooker Desserts by Jonnie Downing
I may be the last one to arrive at the slow cooker dessert party, so my apologies if this idea isn't new to you. I had an aha! moment when I read the introductory section to Jonnie Downing's book, where she lists the necessary equipment for her recipes. In order to make these delicious-sounding dishes, you'll need some ramekins, a 7-inch springform pan, and a small baking dish.
The basic idea that had me smacking my forehead is this: If you nestle another dish inside of the slow cooker crock, the appliance basically becomes a low-temperature oven. Furthermore, you can stack a baking dish on top of a trivet to provide more gentle, radiant heat and avoid overcooking the bottom of your cake or custard. Slow-cooked chocolate cake, cheesecake, and brownies: I am coming for you!
What unusual or inventive dish have you made in your slow cooker recently? Do you have a favorite cookbook that's turned you onto some new favorites? I'd love to hear about it!