The Story Behind the Wonderbag: The Non-Electric Slow Cooker

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

What you see above is not a bean bag chair or a sleeping bag. No, it’s actually a slow cooker. You might have even seen it around this last year or so as it gained momentum in the media. Designed by South Africa-based entrepreneur Sarah Collins, the mission behind the Wonderbag is to empower women in Africa. For every Wonderbag that you buy, another is donated to a women in Africa who needs help feeding her family.

Equally as interesting as how this slow cooker actually works is the story behind why it was created in the first place. Your slow cooker tikka masala will never be the same.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

The Story Behind the Wonderbag

The idea behind the non-electric, no-gas slow cooker came during a series of power outages in South Africa. Collins remembered how her grandmother used to wrap her pans in cushions after she took them off the stove, and so Collins followed suit during the outages and was surprised by the outcome. It worked!

With a background in social development and a passion for the environment, Collins wondered how she could bring this old technology into the modern world. She saw how many people in South Africa had a hard time gathering wood to make a fire and how the smoke made cooking difficult. The idea of the Wonderbag, then, is to allow women or caretakers to do less hands-on cooking on a fire so that they can do other chores or spend time with family.

Collins created the Wonderbag with the idea that when you buy one, you would also be donating one to a woman in Africa who needed help feeding her family. It is easily transportable, doesn’t need electricity to work, and is made out of recycled materials. It is, in many ways, the TOMS shoes of slow cookers.

The Wonderbag came to fruition in 2008. With over 650,000 slow cookers and multiple offices around the world just six years later, the Wonderbag has been quite a success.

How the Wonderbag Works

The Wonderbag works just like a slow cooker with a couple adjustments. You need to bring your ingredients and liquids to a boil on the stove in your cast iron or stainless steel pot (no clay or ceramic) before you place it in the bag. You’ll want to use less liquid than you might use with a normal slow cooker because there is no evaporation with the Wonderbag. Make sure the bag is properly sealed until the cooking is completed.

I tried making The Kitchn’s slow cooker chicken tikka masala with the Wonderbag with great success. There was a little more liquid than I would have liked with the recipe, but that’s because I didn’t reduce the amount the recipe called for like the Wonderbag instructions suggested.

I like the fact that the Wonderbag is nonelectric and I can just place it on my kitchen table until it’s finished cooking. You don’t have to worry about leaving home with something plugged into the wall. Although the Wonderbag is rather large, it would be relatively easy to transport to a dinner party or potluck if you have a car.

Buy the Wonderbag on Amazon, $54