But slow-cookers go beyond indulgent, rich, and cheesy dishes. The low-and-slow method of cooking allows you to develop rich, deep flavors without using tons of oil, salt, or sugary sauces. Slow-cookers are therefore the perfect tool for to make no-fuss, healthy dinners — even those involving big hunks of meat.
Currently, meat is perceived by dietitians and nutritionists as something that should be consumed in moderation — but a lot of the perceived problem with meat has to do not with the protein itself, but with the manner in which it is prepared and served. A bacon-cheeseburger served up on a white-bread bun with a side order of French fries might not be a choice for every day, but slow-cooker Cuban braised beef seasoned only with Caribbean spices and served over brown rice alongside some sautéed bitter greens is not only healthy, but more refined and interesting.
Slow-cookers can also transform the humble chicken thigh into a chicken verde, chicken tikka masala, or chicken tortilla soup — dishes that are not only convenient and delicious, but also let you side-step the deep fryer. Here are 50 healthy dinners you can make in your slow-cooker.
Pulled pork can be surprisingly healthy as long as it’s not completely drenched in barbecue sauce. This recipe calls for a simple rub of brown sugar, cinnamon, and basil which adds a nice balance of sweet and spice to the meat.
This meal is slightly spicy, citrusy, delicious, and refreshing. It’s a low-carb solution for a busy weeknight, perfect for the whole family’s appetite. You can easily turn them into real tacos by using tortillas instead of lettuce.
Beef stew is the epitome of comfort food, and thankfully, it’s also pretty healthy. Mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, onion, barley, and beef bone broth make this a nutritionally balanced meal.
This simple beef stroganoff recipe is a twist on the classic. It can be made in a slow-cooker for busy family nights when you just want something quick, easy, and filling.
This soup lets you indulge in all the flavors of taco night minus the flour tortilla. Filled with hearty beans and tons of vegetables, this soup leaves nothing wanting.
Don’t let the name fool you — butter chicken won’t clog your arteries. It derives most of its flavor from a combination of coconut milk, garlic, and tandoori spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, and paprika. Plan a day ahead and this butter chicken can sufficiently replace your Indian take-out order.
The sweet and tender butternut squash compliments the fennel seeds traditionally strewn throughout Italian sausage. Pasta and baby spinach make this soup more of a main course than an appetizer.
This dish adds fantastic color to any dinner table. Chicken is a lean source of protein that perfectly complements the fiber-filled, vitamin-rich squash. Most of the excitement of this meal comes from balsamic vinegar and sage, making this dish low-fat and flavorful.
Adding tortellini to a seasoned broth allows more room for added vegetables and other nutritious foods to your pasta dinner. With all the delicious seasonings, the broth really becomes the star of this meal.
Craving the creaminess of chicken pot pie but don’t want the carbs? This soup is your answer. It’s filled with vegetables and protein, leaving you full for longer.
This chicken taco recipe will soon be one of your favorite quick and easy dinners. It takes less than five minutes to put the ingredients in the pot, and six hours later you'll have a delicious, shredded chicken taco that’s filled with lean, flavorful protein.
Fed and Fit
The soul of tikka masala is its use of smoky, hot, and aromatic spices. This blend of spices adds a richness and complexity without the need for extra salt, butter, or oil. This recipe clocks in at less than 250 calories per serving, and the sauce goes perfectly over sautéed eggplant, zucchini, or broccoli, too.
This particular chicken tortilla soup is easy as heck (don't let the extensive list of ingredients fool you). It’s healthy and fresh and reheats ever so nicely.
Salsa is a vegetable-rich flavoring agent that goes well with almost any protein. This recipe uses a tomatillo-based salsa verde to give this chicken an acidic tang.
Meat and potatoes are a solid choice for a well-rounded meal, so long as you add on some green vegetables at the end. This recipe calls for carrots; feel free to add in as many other sides as you please! But the bold flavors of this dish won’t disappoint.
flickr/ Alpha/ CC 4.0
Whether you’re throwing a dinner party, or just cooking for yourself, this meatball recipe should be a part of your cooking repertoire. Throw some of these meatballs on a bed of braised Swiss chard or collard greens, or add them to whole-wheat spaghetti.
Caribbean seasonings like black pepper, cayenne, cumin, and oregano offer a pop of smoke and spice to this braised beef. Set the slow-cooker on low before you leave for work, and in eight hours you’ll have a pot of rich and tender Cuban braised beef ready for dinner.
Don’t let the long ingredient list intimidate you. Although it’s a little more complex, the added prep time in the kitchen will be rewarded at the end.
Zen of Slow Cooking
Despite popular belief, soup can be a nutritious and filling meal. This particular rendition of a curried coconut soup is made hearty with the addition of cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable that helps relieve indigestion and hypertension.
This dish has all the best flavors of enchiladas without the flour tortillas and thick layer of cheese. Pour a couple ladles of this soup over a bowl of brown rice for a complete meal.
This recipe is simple and straightforward: It using only boneless beef chuck, red potatoes, baby carrots, and fire-roasted tomatoes. This pot roast can be slapped on a sandwich and packed for lunch, or served for a hearty dinner alongside a salad and a baked potato.
Ground turkey is leaner than red meat, but this lack of fat sometimes leaves it dry and flavorless. This recipe puts those problems aside by elevating the ground turkey with a Southwest spice blend, and sweet vegetables like corn, peas, and butternut squash.
This recipe was made for using up leftover holiday ham, but we think it’s a good option any time of year. It’s cozy, light, and filled with nutrients from the spinach and other nutrient-dense ingredients.
Balsamic vinegar, honey, and soy sauce give this pork roast and carrots some extra zing.
This popular brunch dish is perfect for any meal of the day. It’s packed with protein and spicy enchilada sauce; the cheese, vegetables, and tortillas make this satisfying option into a balanced meal.
The bright undertone of lemon really elevates this soup to another level. It’s seasoned with thyme and rosemary, and is chock-full of carrots and spinach.
Easy Home Meals
This hearty soup is perfect for a cozy weeknight meal. Replace traditional meatballs with turkey meatballs if you want to keep it extra low-fat; but unlike some creamy, dense soups, this one is a lighter option you’ll want to keep more often in your healthy dinner rotation.
Serve these meatballs over some roasted spaghetti squash for a delicious meal. The meatballs themselves use coconut flour; if you’re gluten-free, the entire recipe is safe to use.
This flavor-rich chili is fluffed up with hearty beans and vegetables in addition to the satisfying pork shoulder. The slow simmer makes the pork mouthwateringly tender. Serve over rice or on its own for a complete meal.
Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Eggs are a nutritious staple for any meal, and this Mexican-style quiche is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty side salad. Top with a little hot sauce, avocado, and maybe even sour cream for some added creaminess and tang.
This hearty minestrone stew calls for canned garden vegetable soup (such as Progresso Vegetable Classics), turkey Italian sausage, and gluten-free macaroni. It’s easy to customize with whatever vegetables, legumes, or herbs you happen to have on hand.
Couscous is a signature of Moroccan cuisine, but this recipe calls for a cauliflower rice for a healthier substitution. Making cauliflower “couscous” can be made by simply grating cauliflower florets through a food processor or box grater. The subtle cauliflower is the ideal foil for the heavily spiced chicken thighs.
Lasagna is made healthier simply by adding vegetables. This easy-to-make version can be whipped up in your slow-cooker, the perfect cheesy, satisfying dinner for your family.
Osso buco is a rich Milanese stew of veal shanks and is often served alongside risotto, but this version is lighter and simpler to make. The long cooking time develops some complex, yet gentle sweetness. This beautiful stew is a much healthier option than traditional osso buco.
This recipe has everything: It’s light, has a nice balance of richness and spice, and is super simple to make. Just throw in all the ingredients (except the cream and cilantro, added at the end) and cook on low for seven hours.
While most pot roast recipes use white flour to thicken the sauce, this recipe asks that you purée the cooked vegetables to create a thick and satisfying gravy to serve with the roast.
Flickr: Mational Museet
Talk about an easy dish that can satisfy a large group of people; this recipe calls for only two ingredients — pork tenderloin and a vinegar-based barbecue sauce. Cook for four hours, and you’ll have a delicious dinner that’s not fried, covered in cheese, or wrapped in dough.
To make a risotto with a little more fiber, use brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate and whole grain that contains protein and nutrients like thiamine, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium. Try some truffle oil as a garnish to truly take this healthy dish over the top.
Risotto might not be every nutritionist’s number one pick for healthiest dinner, but it’s definitely not the unhealthiest either. Paired with the right side dishes, this risotto can be the foundation of a well-rounded dinner.
Flickr: Clemens Vogelsang
A reliable roast chicken recipe is the ultimate weapon in a cook’s arsenal. A slow-cooker chicken is moist and tender, and can be pulled apart and put atop salads, grains, or roasted vegetables. Simply place all the ingredients in the slow-cooker and set on low for eight hours.
This borscht will bring a wonderful smell to your house as it slowly cooks. Sliced cabbage is stirred in toward the end of cooking and basil leaves are added for garnish. Serve it with your favorite bread or simply enjoy it by itself.
Red meat is often scrutinized for its saturated fat content and calories, but in moderation, beef can be a part of a responsible diet. These slow-cooked short ribs are delicious on their own, but their cooking liquid makes for a flavorful sauce that can make even the blandest of grains a delight.
If you like garlic, this is the dish for you. This classic Castilian soup is flavored with two heads (about 40 cloves) of roasted garlic, onion, saffron, and paprika, making for an aromatic and comforting soup for any night. The soup is complex yet light, so you won’t be bored or unsatisfied.
Black beans provide a wide range of nutrients like folate, copper, and magnesium, while also offering fiber and protein. This spicy black bean soup makes eating black beans a delight.
This recipe is simple and easy to put together, and produces a tender and flavorful chicken breast. Spoon the remaining broth over couscous or riced cauliflower for a simple and easy dinner.
Paired with a side of vegetables and a grain, this recipe for tarragon chicken with mushroom cream sauce can easily feed a group five. When they’re not battered and deep fried, chicken thighs are actually a really healthful option.
This slow-cooker stew is made with healthful coconut oil, and gets that hint of umami flavor from the addition of fish sauce. Make this beef stew for a simple weeknight dinner.
The Healing Tomato
There’s a lot going on in this vegan lentil curry, but it’s all good things. Shredded ginger, crushed garlic, turmeric, and black mustard seeds give the lentils a distinct and taste and aroma that will linger on your palate after each bite. You won’t even mind that it’s vegan — it’s one of our favorite simple recipes for meatless Mondays.
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