Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes to Reignite your Weeknight Meals

Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes to Reignite your Weeknight Meals

No matter your diet, you can leave most of the time-consuming work of meal prep to your capable Crock-Pot for truly delicious results

As a proud home cook, I once had a rigid idea of what a healthy homemade dinner should look like: I mentally compartmentalized my protein, starch, and vegetables and cooked them separately. But as the challenges of juggling work and family life and being in multiple places at once have only picked up, sheer exhaustion required another approach to my weeknight meals.

The day I heaved my enormous Crock-Pot out from a low cabinet to its new permanent home on my countertop was a game-changer. Now, in the few spare minutes I grab before moving on to the next task, I can start a healthy stew—or grain bowl—knowing it will cook away slowly while I’m away and coax out complex flavors that are pure magic.

Of course we all have different ideas of what defines a healthy recipe, so to help other busy cooks, I’ve created this collection of 20 healthy slow cooker recipes that meet a wide range of needs. You’ll find dishes featuring lean meats, plenty of vegetables, and whole grains, but also ones that are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.

Two easy slow cooker tips

A couple of tips are all you need to get started on making your own delicious, good-for-you slow cooker meals.

Get sear-ious. While it’s not mandatory, if you’re cooking meat for stew, say, and can take a few minutes to brown it on the stove before firing up the slow cooker, you’ll be rewarded with a much richer tasting dish.

Be strategic. Many Crock-Pot recipes recommend cooking for 8 to 10 hours on low, which means you don’t want to start your chili 5 hours before you go to bed, say, or 6 hours before company shows up. Fortunately, the high and low settings give you flexibility. If you decide to speed things up or slow them down, generally the low setting is about 200°F and the high setting is about 300°F, and 1 hour on high heat is equal to about 2 to 2 1/2 hours on low heat. 

Slow cooker chicken recipes: a savory staple

Versatile boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chicken thighs lend themselves to a wide range of healthy and family-friendly weeknight dinners.

Slow-Cooker Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Couscous

A picture of a plate of couscous topped with shredded chicken, carrots, and cilantro

Slow-Cooker Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Couscous by Real Simple

These mouthwatering Moroccan-spiced chicken thighs with couscous are proof that slow cooking isn’t only relegated to stews and soups. Juicy chicken thighs are made even more moist as the Crock-Pot gradually breaks down their collagen over the course of 6 to 7 hours (or 3 to 4 hours if you use the high setting), while they soak up moisture and flavor from tomatoes, olives, carrots, and classic Moroccan seasonings of cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Served over whole-wheat couscous, which is high in fiber, this lean dinner is both filling and tasty.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Pho 

A picture of a bowl of Chicken Pho and a plate of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and chilies for topping

Slow-Cooker Chicken Pho by Eating Well

If it’s cold outside or you’re feeling under the weather, you’ve got to try this delicious and gluten-free Southeast Asian chicken soup, which combines gently cooked, lean chicken breasts with rice noodles, fresh veggies, and complex seasonings for a super comforting yet exciting soup.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tamale Soup

A picture of a bowl of smooth red soup with strips of chicken and cilantro

Slow Cooker Chicken Tamale Soup by Wholesomelicious

If you’re in the mood for Mexican flavors, you can make this tasty chicken breast soup that’s reminiscent of tamales without the lard that goes into the traditional ones. Here, polenta (a gluten-free carb) thickens the soup, which packs big flavor and some heat from green chilies and enchilada sauce. To make the whole dish gluten-free, check the labels on enchilada sauces and choose one that works for you.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Salsa Verde

A picture of two bowls of Chicken Salsa Verde topped with pepitas and sliced avocado

Slow-Cooker Chicken Salsa Verde by Williams-Sonoma

You can also get your slow-cooked Mexican chicken fix by combining boneless, skinless chicken thighs with homemade tomatillo salsa verde sauce (or just using jarred sauce from the grocery store if you're short on time). Top this gluten-free concoction with lovely, cooling avocado slices and crunchy pumpkin seeds. The meaty, saucy dish would be great for tostadas, over rice, in tacos, or with eggs! 

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

A picture of a bowl of wide noodles topped with chicken cacciatore and parsley

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore by Yummly

Made with plenty of bell peppers and mushrooms, as well as canned tomatoes and lots of aromatics, this chicken cacciatore defines a one-dish meal—though you may want to serve it over pasta to sop up the generous juices. Opt for whole-wheat noodles if you like, for extra nutrition, or go non-traditional (and gluten-free) and serve it over quinoa.

Slow Cooker Blissful Butternut Squash Soup

A picture of a bowl of butternut squash soup with a swirl of coconut milk and some chopped chives

Slow Cooker Blissful Butternut Squash Soup by Skinnytaste

This incredibly creamy, dairy-free and gluten-free butternut squash soup calls for six ingredients including chicken broth (and you don't even have to peel the squash)! Definitely sprinkle those pumpkin seeds on at the end for a satisfying crunch.

Healthy Crock-Pot recipes with lean beef and pork

If you’re a regular Crock-Pot cook you’ve likely seen plenty of indulgent recipes that start with fatty cuts of meat and add rich sauces. Here’s proof that a lighter and healthier approach can also be delicious.

Slow-Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls

A picture of a bowl of rice topped with shredded pork, sliced cucumbers, chopped radishes and carrots, sliced cabbage, and cilantro

Slow-Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls by Skinnytaste

I just love the Vietnamese sandwiches called bahn mi, mostly because that wonderful combination of tender pork, pickled carrots, chilies, and cilantro never disappoints. This version forgoes the bread for some (naturally gluten-free) brown rice, ensures the nice and lean pork tenderloin is juicy by slow-cooking it for a good 6 hours, and serves the works with four kinds of raw vegetables. Just make sure you make enough for seconds and thirds!

Slow Cooker Smoky Ham and White Bean Soup

A picture of a Crock-Pot filled with Smoky Ham and White Bean Soup

Slow Cooker Smoky Ham and White Bean Soup by Yummly

Though ham hock isn’t the lowest fat of ham choices, a little goes a long way to flavor this smoky, hearty, and gluten-free white bean soup. It requires just minutes of hands-on prep time before the flavors meld to slow-cooked perfection. 

Smoky Slow-Cooker Black Beans with Collard Greens

A picture of a bowl of black beans with ham and collard greens topped with two orange wedges

Smoky Slow-Cooker Black Beans with Collard Greens by Eating Well

The same concept is in play here as in the previous recipe, with a smoky ham hock giving a big flavor boost to gluten-free, high-fiber black beans and collard greens.

Slow-Cooker White Bean, Spinach & Sausage Stew

A picture of a bowl of stew with white beans, sausage slices, spinach, and tomato

Slow-Cooker White Bean, Spinach & Sausage Stew by Eating Well

Just a few lower-fat chicken sausages give tantalizing flavor to white bean and spinach stew. The recipe starts with an overnight soak to help the beans cook evenly. You could opt for gluten-free sausages if you like, or chickpeas instead of the beans.

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos

A picture of several corn tortillas on a platter topped with shredded beef, cilantro, red onion, tomatoes, and sour cream

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos by 31 Daily

Beef (especially inexpensive cuts) might be the most transformed ingredient to emerge from the slow cooker. It’s nuts how tough cuts can become tender and flavorful if you just give the collagen enough time to break down. So get yourself a round or chuck roast and give it a nice long stretch in the slow cooker (8-10 hours should do), and you’ll be rewarded with succulent, melt-in-your-mouth beef. Here, you cook the meat with chipotle chilies and orange juice, and then tuck it into gluten-free corn tortillas. Don’t forget to add plenty of fresh vegetable toppings to make it a full meal!

Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew

A picture of a slow cooker with a ladle spooning out some Balsamic Beef Stew

Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew by The Blond Cook

You can also take that inexpensive beef roast and turn it into a classic slow cooker beef stew, with carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, plus a little red wine and balsamic vinegar for interest.

Cuban Beef Stew Ropa Vieja (slow Cooker)

A picture of a bowl of rice topped with Ropa Vieja

Cuban Beef Stew Ropa Vieja (slow Cooker) by Savory Tooth

If you're in the mood for beef stew but want to make it a little more unusual, try a Cuban version, Ropa Vieja. It promises to make your kitchen smell amazing for hours. 

Vegetarian and vegan dishes to rule your Crock-Pot

Slow cooking doesn't always have to be about the meat; it can work its flavor magic on vegetables and meat-free pasta dishes, too.

Homemade Minestrone Soup {Slow Cooker}

A picture of a slow cooker filled with minestrone soup and a ladle spooning some out

Homemade Minestrone Soup {Slow Cooker} by Little Spice Jar

This twist on classic minestrone soup gets an extra punch of flavor from sun-dried tomato pesto. It’s loaded with healthy vegetables such as spinach and zucchini, and has plenty of beans for protein and fiber. With just 10 minutes of hands-on cook time, you can set it and then forget it, and enjoy plenty of leftovers. What I love about minestrone is that you can add basically anything to it without screwing it up, so go crazy if you’ve got some great herbs or spices that need a home. And feel free to skip the Parmesan rind if you don’t have it or want to make the soup vegan

Slow Cooker Chipotle Black Bean Chili

A picture of a bowl of black bean chili topped with cilantro, green onion, and avocado slices

Slow Cooker Chipotle Black Bean Chili by Naturally Ella

If you want something even heartier, how about this delicious and filling vegan black bean chili? Onion, garlic, paprika, adobo sauce and other complementary flavors slowly meld over the course of 4 hours to give this vegan chili a deeply complex taste. 

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Curry with Sweet Potatoes

A picture of a bowl of red lentil and sweet potato curry and some brown rice, topped with cilantro sprigs and lime slices

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Curry with Sweet Potatoes by Well Plated

This gluten-free and vegan red lentil curry, made with Thai curry paste, coconut milk, and sweet potatoes, is spicy, sweet, and savory all at once, while also being rich in fiber, protein, and nutrients. 

Slow-Cooker Southwest Quinoa Bowls

A picture of three Slow-Cooker Southwest Quinoa Bowls topped with avocado and cilantro, with some shredded cheese and hot sauce next to them

Slow-Cooker Southwest Quinoa Bowls by Eating Well

The flavors of black beans and quinoa with plenty of vegetables and spices meld together over 4 to 5 hours total cook time for these very satisfying vegetarian grain bowls.

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

A picture of a slow cooker filled with ziti, red sauce, and cheese, topped with black pepper and parsley

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti by The Kitchn

Yes, your Crock-Pot can make a pasta casserole! This four-ingredient recipe (five if you count nonstick spray) is the ultimate in vegetarian set-it-and-forget-it comfort food.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup

A picture of a bowl of vegetable soup with a swirl of lasagna noodles and some herbed cheese

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup by Foodie Crush

Imagine the flavors of classic Italian lasagna, made into soup with loads of vegetables.

{Vegan} Crock Pot Lasagna

A picture of a plate topped with a square of lasagna layered with spinach, tofu, and tomato sauce

{Vegan} Crock Pot Lasagna by The Flaming Vegan

Layers of uncooked lasagna noodles cook to tenderness with a spinach-tofu filling and fresh basil-tomato sauce.