When you see any recipes involving a Crock Pot or slow-cooker, you probably think of hearty chilis, thick stews, and cozy winter nights. And it's true: Crock Pots are famously good at making warm, comforting meals—but they're not-so-well-known as summer recipe wizards.
Do you know what else they’re great for, besides those classic soups? Summer classics like pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and braised brisket. And, because it’s looking pretty likely that outdoor gatherings will be a safe option this summer, you’ll need these big-batch summer slow-cooker recipes in your repertoire. After a year (plus!) of very limited social interaction, you probably want to spend as much time as possible actually talking to people at the party, instead of at the hot grill flipping endless burgers.
"I love a slow-cooker because it makes the meal in one pot while you’re out doing other things," says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. "There’s very little cleanup and you usually get a ton of great flavor without really having to cook anything yourself." Plus, you can keep your kitchen nice and cool during the hottest months of the year.
In terms of how to use the Crock Pot, there’s really not much you need to know. You can put raw meat and other ingredients straight into it, then just set it and forget it until hours later when it’s fully cooked. It really is as simple as throwing ingredients in, pressing a button, and walking away.
One thing to keep in mind is that tough cuts of meat (pork shoulder, brisket) typically do better cooking for longer on the "low" setting. On the other hand, more delicate meats like chicken, plus vegetables and other plant-based foods will taste best cooked for less time on the "high" setting, since too much cook time might make them a little mushy. A good recipe will tell you which setting to use, so there’s no need to overthink this.
“For instance, if you want shredded chicken for your tacos, cook them low and slow in a slow-cooker with some seasoning," Rizzo suggests. "Or, use summer veggies like tomatoes and zucchini to make a ratatouille."
Lucky for you, there are loads of healthy summer Crock Pot recipes out there, chock-full of seasonal foods and famous barbecue-style flavors. Most important of all, though: You can also make insanely good summer desserts, like berry cobbler, in your Crock Pot. (If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.)
Whether you're hosting a cookout or just want to avoid the oven at all costs, these healthy summer Crock Pot recipes will satisfy every warm-weather craving.
Sweet Heat BBQ Braised Rib Tacos
These sweet and spicy beef tacos are made with short ribs, which you can buy at the butcher’s counter of most supermarkets. The original recipe is for oven-baked ribs, but there’s a slow-cooker option at the bottom!
Per serving: 651 calories, 44 g fat (18 g saturated), 655 mg sodium, 22 g carbs, 17 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 38 g protein
This budget-friendly dinner option takes advantage of in-season bell peppers, so it’s a great way to use up any extra you may have. There’s a combination of black beans and ground beef inside!
Per serving: 443 calories, 16 g fat (7 g saturated), 1000 mg sodium, 43 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 11 g fiber, 32 g protein
Pulled Pork Carnitas
These non-traditional “carnitas” are made with a lean cut of pork and very little oil, unlike the traditional version made by braising pork in its own fat. Still, they’re super tasty as a taco filling!
Per serving: 159 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 26 g protein
Crock Pot Chicken Wings
These better-for-you wings will be the star of any summertime cookout. (They're low in carbs but still plenty crispy.) Serve them up with some blue cheese dressing, or dip them straight into sour cream.
Per serving: 501 calories, 41 g fat (17 g sat), 1 g carb, 1993 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 30 g protein
Vegan Tacos with Walnuts
These walnut-topped tacos are fresh, easy, and filled with good-for-you plants. Every bite offers lots of texture, color, fiber, and healthy fats.
Per serving: 487 calories, 17 g fat (2 g sat), 56 g carbs, 4.1 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 384 mg sodium, 18 g protein
Summer Beef Stew
Stews typically have serious winter vibes, but the zucchini, bell pepper, basil, and other vibrant veggies in this one keep it light and summer-friendly. Buy cubed stew beef, or cut up a pot roast for this simple stew.
Per serving: 487 calories, 18 g fat (6 g sat), 14 g carbs, 687 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 69 g protein
Fire-Roasted Tomato Shrimp Tacos
Easy, breezy, and beautifully light (see what I did there?), this healthy take on tacos is a party of flavors in your mouth. The fire-roasted tomato sauce is subtle, but really makes a difference.
Per serving: 115 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 5 g carbs, 2.5 g sugar, 240 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 14 g protein
Zesty Pork and Slaw Sandwiches
Go ahead, have yourself some North Carolina-style BBQ without having to travel the distance. Serve this up with baked beans as a side dish, and you’re good to go.
Per serving: 572 calories, 26.5 g fat (7 g saturated), 39 g carbs, 684 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 41 g protein
Easy Crock-Pot Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salad
Just toss chicken, beans, and salsa into the slow cooker, press start, and four hours later you've got the makings for a simple—yet delish—meal.
Per serving: 390 calories, 9 g fat, 2o g carbs, 1 g sugar, 521 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 34 g protein
Vegetarian Slow-Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes Over Spaghetti Squash
These are like all those summer camp sloppy Joes, just with a bit more fiber, no meat, and a lot less of a mess. If you’d rather a sandwich, stir some BBQ sauce into the lentil mixture and serve it up on a roll instead.
Per serving: 358 calories, 3.1 g fat, 69.7 g carbs, 11.9 g sugar, 13.7 g fiber, 16 g protein
Slow-Cooker Peach BBQ Chicken
This Whole-30-approved BBQ dish tastes like sweet summertime. After making the fruity sauce, all you have to do is add everything to the Crock Pot and let it do the rest. And if you’re not doing the Whole30, we suggest using this as a filling for summer chicken sandwiches.
Per serving: 225 calories, 15 g fat, 10 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 389 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 30 g protein
Slow-Cooker Zucchini Ziti
Pasta? In a Crock Pot? It's officially a thing. This makes a simple weeknight dinner, but works even better as a side dish for your next summer BBQ.
Per serving: 272 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated), 38 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 196 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 15 g protein
Slow-Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken
Fact: You should always have a quick, simple (and healthy) recipe you can depend on to please every mouth at the table, and this is it.
Per serving: 223 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated), 19 g carbs, 17 g sugar, 525 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 14 g protein
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