The 10 Best Light & Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes for Extra-Long Days

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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Anytime busy weeks roll around, or when I really just want a big helping hand with dinner, I make sure to slot a slow cooker recipe or two into my weekly meal plan. Unlike the weekend when I know I’ll buzz in and out of the kitchen, on weeknights I rely on recipes I can prep the night before or in the morning, dumping everything in the slow cooker so I can come home to a meal that’s just about ready to hit the table.

These 10 recipes do just that, and are light, bright, and perfect for spring.

I don’t think I will ever think about barbacoa beef without first thinking of tacos. Topped with all the fixings, it feels like a real weeknight treat and promises plenty of leftovers for later.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

This chili swaps the canned tomatoes and ground beef for a light, bright base made with tomatillos, chiles, and cilantro, along with shredded pork. The pork and vegetables benefit from a few minutes under the broiler, followed by an all-day simmer in the slow cooker.

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(Image credit: Christine Han)

Slow cooker congee is one of the easiest slow cooker comfort foods you will make. To keep it feeling extra fresh on these warm days I like to top it with scallions, fresh herbs, ginger, and sometimes a squeeze of lemon.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Get a head start by prepping and assembling the cabbage rolls the day before. Pop them in the slow cooker in the morning and they’ll be ready for dinner at the end of the day.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

An all-day simmer infuses everyday broth with spicy fresh ginger, citrusy lemon peel, and savory mushrooms. Add the vegetables, tofu, and soba noodles in the last 10 minutes of cooking to soften and warm them through.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

This is the breakfast-for-dinner casserole I’m cycling through my meal plan all spring. Get a head start by cooking the sausage up to a couple days in advance. It calls for baby spinach, but you could easily substitute any leafy greens you have on hand.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

If your pulled pork is usually slicked with a smoky, spiced sauce, this sweet and tangy maple-mustard sauce is such a fun and simple way to give it a fresh twist.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Slow cooking mellows the pungent, bitter bite of turmeric, and a dollop of yogurt partnered with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before servings, lends a fresh, tangy twist to this vegetarian soup.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Come spring and summer, this is my favorite way to serve up a hearty brisket. There’s some minimal upfront prep, but the slow cooker does all the heavy lifting to transform this otherwise tough cut into a wonderfully tender and delicious dinner.

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(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

This isn’t exactly a dump-and-go slow cooker recipe, but you will be handsomely rewarded for your efforts. This vegan spin on classic tikka masala swaps coconut milk for the cream and tastes luxurious and light all at the same time.

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