7 Surprising Simple Slow Cooker Ideas

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You might already be on a first-name basis with your slow cooker for meals like pot roast and turkey chili. But if meat and poultry are the only things making it into your favorite appliance, it's time to take your relationship to the next level.

Believe it or not, there are tons of slow cooker ideas out there that go beyond the usual meat-and-vegetable dinners. Think breakfasts, pastas, desserts, and even drinks. Here are seven ideas that are worth trying.

  1. Beans

  2. Cooked dried beans tend to be firmer and creamier than their canned counterparts. However, soaking and then cooking them on the stove can sometimes be a hassle. Luckily, your slow cooker can help. Just add dried white beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, or black beans, along with water and your favorite aromatics, and cook them on low for six to eight hours. (Soaking the beans the night before can make them easier to digest, but if that's not an issue for you, feel free to skip this step.)

  3. Steel-Cut Oatmeal

  4. Forget instant oatmeal! Slow-cooking steel-cut oatmeal on low overnight with milk and your favorite fruit will leave you with a creamy porridge that's ready in the morning. When you wake up, you'll just have to add your favorite toppings and then you'll be ready to dig in.

  5. French Toast

  6. While this French toast might not be traditional, it sure is delicious. Instead of cooking individual pieces of French toast on the stovetop, cook everyone's French toast at the same time. Layer in your ingredients as if you were assembling bread pudding in a baking dish, and then let the slow cooker do the work.

  7. Frittatas

  8. It's really easy to bake egg dishes in your slow cooker. To create frittatas, add beaten eggs, some shredded cheese, and your favorite vegetables, and then cook the dish on low for two to three hours. Have them for breakfast, or enjoy them for lunch or dinner with a simple side salad. They're good any time of day!

  9. Pasta Dishes

  10. You might not know that noodles can be cooked in your slow cooker, but they can. Think saucy baked ziti, gooey mac and cheese, and even hearty lasagna. The key is to make sure the dried pasta is nestled in between plenty of wet ingredients like marinara, ricotta, or a cheesy sauce, so it can absorb all the liquid and cook all the way through.

  11. Fruit Cobbler or Crumble

  12. Berries, apples, pears, and peaches are just as gooey and delicious when cooked in your slow cooker as they are when they're cooked on the stove. And best of all, your cobbler or crumble topping will never dry out. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and you'll have an impressive dessert that requires minimal effort.

  13. Hot Cocoa

  14. When the weather is chilly, nothing will get your guests more excited than a slow cooker full of creamy hot cocoa. It will stay warm for hours, and guests can help themselves by ladling the cocoa into mugs. Consider setting up a station with toppings, such as mini marshmallows and whipped cream, to give them the full experience.

As you can see, when you start to think creatively, the options are pretty much endless. Start by giving these five time-saving slow cooker ideas a go—and see what they inspire you to try next.

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