11 Smart Slow Cooker Dinners for Lazy Cooks

updated Jul 9, 2019
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During summer I rely on my slow cooker more than ever. It’s a staple during my weekend meal prep sessions, a must for cookouts and BBQs, and, most of all, it’s my secret to the easiest no-prep dinners on the table. To make that happen, it’s all about having the right recipes on your side, like the kind that don’t require tons of chopping or upfront cooking.

From sausage and peppers to burrito bowls to BBQ chicken, here are 11 low-effort slow cooker dinners to keep on regular rotation in your meal plan.

This is one of my favorite summertime slow cooker suppers and a top pick for cookouts. Fill the bottom of your slow cooker with sliced bell peppers and onions, pile your favorite brats or Italian sausages on top, and then the next time you open up the slow cooker, the sausages will be tender and the onions and peppers become meltingly sweet with a hint of beer in the background.

(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

Many pulled pork recipes call for giving the meat a spin under the broiler before filling up the slow cooker, but not this one. After you give the pork shoulder a generous coating of salt, pepper, and spices, you can let it do its thing in the slow cooker for upwards of 12 hours.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Here’s how we do burrito bowls for dinner without the fuss. The key to success when making this comforting dinner in the slow cooker is layering. Starting with the brown rice and sweet potatoes on the bottom and quicker-cooking veggies on top will avoid unevenly cooked vegetables and crunchy rice.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

It doesn’t get any easier than cooking a whole chicken in your slow cooker. I recommend setting it on a trivet or just a few balls of foil, so it’s raised from the bottom and not sitting in its juices. It won’t have the crispy skin you get from the oven, but it does treat you to the juiciest, fall-off-the-bone meat that’s totally worth the trade-off.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When I want to cut out the upfront prep, I opt for a jar of pesto rather than blitzing together my own. The chicken cooks for a couple hours with a light coating of pesto, with more mixed in at the end for a bright finish. These herby cubes of chicken are a win for making salad a meal, bulking up a bowl of pasta, topping grains bowls, and stuffing into sandwiches.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I speak from experience when I tell you that once you make a batch of saucy BBQ shredded chicken in your slow cooker, you’ll never make it another way again. It comes together with little effort and works with thighs, breasts, or a combination of the two.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When you combine your favorite salsa with chicken breasts in the slow cooker and cook until tender, the result is deliciously seasoned shredded chicken that’s perfect for tacos, burrito bowls, or even taco salads.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

If you’ve never made salmon in your slow cooker, I urge you to try it. Not only does it cook up super tender, flaky, and juicy, but it’s also nearly foolproof, thanks to the low, slow temperature and works with a couple small fillets or a big piece of fish.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a stand-in classic baked lasagna, but it delivers all the saucy, cheesy pasta goodness you love with a fraction of the effort. To me that’s a dinnertime win. Layer the sauce, frozen ravioli, and mozzarella in the bowl of your slow cooker, set the temperature to low, and eight hours later you’ve got a lazy lasagna dinner that’s wonderfully comforting.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

This is one of those recipes that makes you feel like a total rockstar in the kitchen every single time. All it asks of you is to dump a short list of ingredients into your slow cooker, and eight hours later you are rewarded with an intensely comforting and nourishing soup.

Credit: Leela Cyd

Sloppy Joes are about as lazy as a meal comes. This version couldn’t be simpler — all you need to do is grab the buns.