When the summer sun is blazing, the mere idea of turning on the oven — even for the most wonderful dish — is revolting. Sure, you may have air conditioning, but why heat up the kitchen if you don’t have to? (You came inside to escape the stickiness and sweat!) You could artfully compose a salad or assemble a no-cook meal — and we have so many lovely ones here and here — but eventually, you’re going to want a warm meal. Enter the slow cooker.
The recipes below are the easiest kind of slow cooker recipe, the fix-it-and-forget-it sort. There is no presearing or sautéing, and very little prep. You just toss the ingredients into the crock and let it simmer away while you head out to the beach or to work, or just curl up with a good book in front of the air-conditioner. Several hours later, dinner is ready.
1. Slow Cooker Kofte in Tomato-Lime Broth
Ali Slagle offers the perfect summer comfort meal with this dish of spiced meatballs simmered with cherry tomatoes and lime. Prepared in the style of kofte, the ground meat is combined with fresh herbs, turmeric and yogurt, which helps bind the meat and provides a lovely tang. Feel free to use lamb, beef, turkey or a combination. (One reader used alternative meat with happy results.) Serve over a pile of buttered orzo and sprinkle with fresh herbs.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Kofte in Tomato-Lime Broth
2. Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
This meal-in-a-bowl chicken stew from Sarah DiGregorio is excellent over rice or other grains, but you can also repurpose it into enchiladas or nachos. It comes together with just boneless chicken thighs, a jar of salsa verde, garlic and a few pantry spices. Add fresh or frozen corn and a can of drained black or white beans to stretch it even further.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
3. Slow Cooker Beans
Ali Slagle provides a simple template for the perfect pot of beans: Skip the soaking (unless you’re using red kidney beans, in which case, soak them first); use herbs, spices and vegetables to season the beans and cooking liquid according to taste; and salt before and after cooking. Cook time will vary depending on the age and type of bean, so start checking for doneness at the six-hour mark.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Beans
4. Slow Cooker Hot Honey Chicken Sandwiches
This recipe from Sarah DiGregorio makes it possible for you to enjoy barbecue chicken sandwiches without having to go near a searing hot grill. You’ll notice that you don’t have to add any liquid to the pot, but don’t let that stress you out: The chicken will release plenty of flavorful juices as it cooks.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Hot Honey Chicken Sandwiches
5. Slow Cooker Shrimp in Purgatory
Shrimp are not typically thought of as slow cooker material, but gosh, this recipe is so good. Inspired by eggs in purgatory, a Southern Italian dish in which eggs simmer in a spicy, caper-laden tomato sauce, the shrimp are dropped into the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking. Use fresh or frozen shrimp, but thaw frozen first.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Shrimp in Purgatory
6. Slow Cooker Chickpea, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew
This easy vegan stew from Sarah DiGregorio is inspired by romesco, the Spanish sauce made from roasted red peppers, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. You don’t need any stock for this recipe, just the thick liquid from the canned chickpeas. Don’t skip the smoked almonds, which add a much-needed, and delightful, crunch.
Recipe:Slow Cooker Chickpea Red Pepper and Tomato Stew
7. Slow Cooker Chipotle-Honey Chicken Tacos
The complexity of this chicken taco filling from Sarah DiGregorio belies the simplicity of its prep in the best way possible. Canned chipotles and honey are the magical ingredients; they caramelize and meld into a glossy, nuanced sauce. Start with one chipotle — or even half if you have kids or don’t like things spicy — and go from there.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Chipotle-Honey Chicken Tacos
8. Slow Cooker Chicken Ragù With Herbed Ricotta
“Shockingly delicious, maybe the best Crock-Pot dish I have ever made,” wrote one reader. Almost like a deconstructed lasagna, spicy chicken-and-tomato ragù mixes with herby ricotta in this cozy dish from Sarah DiGregorio. If you think you’ll have leftovers, don’t toss the pasta with the ragù in the crock to avoid gummy, overcooked noodles.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Ragù With Herbed Ricotta
9. Slow Cooker Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
You won’t see many recipes for creamy soups made in a slow cooker because it’s not possible to simmer them with the top off and reduce the liquid. But, for this vegetarian mushroom soup, Sarah DiGregorio has come up with a clever trick: Use a roux, a mix of flour and butter, heat it in the microwave (or on the stovetop), then whisk it into the stock in the slow cooker.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
10. Slow Cooker Tomato Compote
If you’re lucky enough to have a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year (or if you simply overbought them at the farmers’ market), this easy compote from Sarah DiGregorio will put them to worthy use. Just pile two pounds’ worth into the crock and combine with olive oil, garlic, honey, balsamic vinegar, a handful of fresh herbs, and salt and pepper. Let them simmer on low for six hours. Plop the compote on top of ricotta or avocado toast, tuck it into a sandwich or toss it with pasta, then use the oil and juices in salad dressings.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Tomato Compote
11. Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
This wildly simple pulled pork was adapted from a popular recipe found on Pinterest that called for just pork shoulder, barbecue sauce and, wait for it, Dr Pepper. We were more than a little dubious, but after a few tweaks and additions, landed on a version that is almost as simple as the original, but with pleasing layers of flavor.
Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
12. Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs
The secret to this clever dish from Sarah DiGregorio is to use a combination of uncased turkey sausage and ground beef, then form oversize meatballs that fit into the slow cooker in one layer, so they don’t dry out in the lengthy cook time. Leftover meatballs make a wonderful sandwich filling.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs
13. Slow Cooker Corn Pudding
Like a spoonbread crossed with cornbread, this tender, spicy-sweet corn pudding from Sarah DiGregorio goes great alongside grilled meats or veggies, or underneath a spoonful of leftover chili. Feel free to use fresh or frozen corn, and adjust the spice level by adding more or less jalapeño according to taste.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Corn Pudding
Follow New York Times Cooking on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Pinterest. Get regular updates from New York Times Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.