The slow cooker is the workhorse of my kitchen, and it is used so often that it holds a permanent place on the kitchen counter. Although this humble appliance often wins praise for its ability to magically transform meat from tough to tender, it actually is the perfect vehicle to coax the best characteristics out of a variety of vegetables.
Many slow cooker soups benefit from all-day cooking, while there are some whose flavors reach their peak after just a few hours. These five vegetarian soups are what we consider the essentials and we're even going to share how they can work on in your meal plan. There some that deliver when you need a soup that is ready as you walk in the door after a day out of the house and some you set to simmer for an hour or two while you work around the house or run errands.
No matter what, we say: Don't relegate vegetarian cooking to Meatless Mondays. Instead, commit these five vegetarian slow cooker soups to memory, and breeze through dinner knowing one of these vegetable-packed soups will work in the meal plan.
Sunday afternoon means loads of laundry, grocery shopping, and errands galore as you prepare for the week ahead. Before you pop in and out of the house, stir hearty chunks of potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli in a dolled-up vegetable broth and set to simmer in a slow cooker. Once the potatoes are tender and the broccoli bright green, finish with Swiss Chard, a handful of frozen peas, a squeeze of tart lemon juice, and a sprinkling of fresh dill.
A poached egg perched on top adds a rich finish to a hearty, not heavy soup to start your week. Fool yourself into believing Monday's lunch isn't leftovers by puréeing the soup until smooth and creamy.
Mondays mean back to school, back to work, and back on schedule. Leave the meetings and paperwork behind and cozy up to a steaming bowl of hearty vegetarian chili. Dried pinto and kidney beans soak up rich, warming spices as they slow cook for hours. Beans pack a protein punch to satisfy hungry bellies, while being cheaper and tastier than their canned counterparts.
This is a perfect candidate for a hearty meal that you need to hurtle you into the coming week with confidence. You can even get ahead on tomorrow night by tucking leftover chili into a tortilla for Taco Tuesday.
Spring over the midweek hump with a light and spicy ginger tofu and noodle soup. Use the slow cooker's steady heat to transform plain water into a zippy ginger-vegetable broth. Finish with cubes of silky tofu, chopped bok choy, and hearty soba noodles. A steaming bowl of this simple soup restores mind and body just as mom's classic noodle soup always did.
The good news is that the weekend is in sight. The bad news is the pantry and fridge are almost barren. Thankfully, this easy lentil slow cooker soup uses up the lingering bits of onion, carrot, garlic, and celery from Sunday's big shop. Choose the right kind of lentils — green — so they maintain their shape while cooking low and slow all day long. Arrive home to tender lentils in a full-bodied broth chock-full of bite-sized carrots and celery.
Saturday night means a casual dinner party with friends. Thankfully, not everything that comes out of the slow cooker has to be homely comfort food. Serve a slow cooker cream of mushroom soup made from roasted criminis, dried porcinis, a splash of sherry, and sprinkle of fresh thyme and tarragon with good wine and everyone will rejoice. Roast the mushrooms then transfer to the slow cooker to simmer away while you prepare for guests. You can even do this step ahead if you need to shave off some time. Served silky smooth with a quick buzz in the blender, this soup is elegant enough for a special occasion but so simple you'll make it when it's just you and a good book.