A good slow cooker has so many benefits – among other things, it can be a lifesaver for busy parents on a school night. As long as you plan ahead, dinner can be waiting for you when you get home, so you can spend time with the kids rather than slaving over a hot stove. On top of that, it can also be an economical way to cook for your brood. Cheaper cuts of meat benefit from long, slow cooking, and it’s always great for making thrifty one-pot meals.
Discover plenty more family-friendly slow cooker recipes and get the little ones inspired with our kids’ slow cooker recipes. If you want to find the best slow cooker for your family, as well as clever tips for getting the most out of your new gadget, check out our review of the best slow cookers plus 10 top tips for using a slow cooker.
Our best slow cooker family meal ideas…
Classic family dinners
Our slow cooker meatballs recipe is ideal for getting ahead, as you should have plenty of leftover portions for storing in the freezer. It can cook on low for five hours without any interference, so it’s great if you’re out and about for the day. Also, the meatballs are made from turkey mince which is a lighter, healthy option and we’ve packed them with other flavours the kids will love.
If you’re short on time before plating up, our slow cooker lasagne only requires three hours to cook. The result is a comforting family pasta dish with extra-tender beef mince that’s low in fat and low in calories.
Ideal for families with young children, this slow cooker chilli is quick, hassle-free and can be batch cooked, allowing leftovers to be frozen for when you’re short on time. Cook it on low for around six hours after doing the preparation in the morning and return to glorious results come supper time. The chilli con carne mixture also contains hidden veg that will help nourish any fussy little eaters.
Another family-favourite has to be our slow cooker sausage casserole. This no-fuss recipe uses a pack of chipolatas and packs in some chunky veg such as sweet potatoes and carrots. Serve with pasta, baked potatoes, rice or bread for the ultimate winter warmer.
More classic family slow cooker dinners:
Friday night curries
Ditch the takeaway and let the slow cooker be your Friday night go-to instead. As well as being healthier, slow cooking curries will allow the flavours to meld beautifully. Our slow-cooker chicken korma and slow-cooker butter chicken are both comfortingly creamy and mild on spices, so perfect for kids. For a lighter option, make this nutritious slow-cooker chicken curry using budget-friendly chicken legs or turn up the heat with an injection of Madras curry paste in our slow cooker lamb curry.
Want to try some different ingredients? Lemongrass, ginger and lime give this slow cooker Thai chicken curry a wonderfully fresh and zingy flavour. Leave them to combine for several hours in a creamy coconut sauce and you’ll be rewarded with an intensely aromatic family supper.
More slow cooker curries:
Also check out our collection of fragrant slow cooker curry recipes.
If you’re looking for a relaxed and easy veggie meal the whole family will love, our fragrant slow cooker vegetable curry should do the trick. This comforting dish delivers four of your 5-a-day, and the leftovers can be frozen for later. The chunky butternut squash, peppers and aubergine will soak up the aromatic spices while cooking, resulting in a deliciously creamy and flavourful dish to serve with wholemeal flatbreads.
Make the most of seasonal ingredients in delicious slow cooked meals all year round. Combine summer veg such as melty aubergines, courgettes and peppers in this vibrant slow cooker ratatouille which is perfect for al fresco entertaining. If you’re after a winter warmer, slow-cooked marrow with fennel & tomato is ideal for dunking a slice of crusty sourdough into, and also packs in four of your 5-a-day. Or celebrate the arrival of spring with a hearty slow cooker vegetable stew, featuring spring veg such as leeks and baby carrots plus some generously sized cheesy dumplings.
For veggie pasta lovers, our slow cooker vegetable lasagne will go down a treat. Made from layers of wholewheat pasta, ratatouille and sliced aubergine, this light supper is not only scrumptious but also packs in all five of your 5-a-day. Or try this super comforting slow cooker mac ‘n’ cheese with a silky cheddar sauce. Looking for a healthy vegan option? A flavourful medley of vegetables, herbs and spices take centre stage in this wholesome aubergine and chickpea stew. Give it a gourmet finish with a topping of toasted pine nuts, then arm the family with flatbreads to get dunking.
More veggie slow-cooked meals:
Make busy family weekends an absolute breeze by giving your Sunday roast the special slow-cooked treatment. This method of cooking will make the meat super succulent and full of flavour. Our roast chicken recipe only takes 15 minutes to prepare and the leftovers can be frozen, or perhaps used in a soup. Simply place the whole chicken in a pot with onions, carrots and a bay leaf and leave your slow cooker to do the hard work.
If you prefer a roast beef dinner, look no further than our slow cooker pot roast. The rolled beef brisket will soak up all the gorgeous flavours in the red wine sauce, resulting in a mouth-wateringly tender roast dinner.
Roasts aren’t just for chilly winter days – this summer slow-roast lamb is beautifully succulent, light and singing with gentle spices. The prunes in the marinade give a lovely rich sweetness which goes hand-in-hand with the roasted garlic and slight tang from the pomegranate molasses. Although it doesn’t actually require a slow cooker, the same melt-in-the-mouth effect is achieved by roasting on low in the oven for several hours. Pair it with light sides of fennel and lemon boulangère potatoes plus fresh broccoli, charred red peppers and feta.
Looking for an alternative Sunday lunch idea? Take a trip to the continent for your roast inspiration with this easy one-pot Greek lamb. Infused with Mediterranean flavours, this slow-cooked centerpiece is great for entertaining and can be served with a range of Greek meze dishes. Or try this beautifully smoky Spanish-style slow cooked lamb shoulder and beans, marinaded in a fragrant spice mix of hot paprika, rosemary and garlic.
If the little ones in your family aren’t too adventurous when it comes to trying different types of meat, the recipes below make a brilliant and gentle introduction. Chicken thighs, beef brisket, pork shoulder and lamb neck all pack great flavour, and slow cooking really extracts the maximum amount of it. Of course, you can also use less meat and bulk out your meals with vegetables.
Cold winter nights will be so much more bearable with this warming and aromatic slow-cooked lamb tagine. Use a choice cut of meat such as shoulder, neck or leg, and mix with chunky veg and spices. Adding dried fruit such as cherries, apricots or prunes will also give the stew a hint of sweetness.
Braising or stewing steak are also ideal for cooking slowing over several hours as this tenderises the meat. Use this cut to make a rich and creamy pot of slow cooker beef goulash, complete with fresh tomatoes, peppers and smoky paprika. Cooking for 6-7 hours on low allows the meat to reach a point of being fall-apart, making for a satisfying family stew. Beef topside is another thrifty roasting join, which cut’s beautifully after slow cooking. Try our slow cooker beef topside, doused in a rich red wine gravy and marinated in a porcini mushroom mix. You can leave out the wine if catering for kids and replace with 200ml more beef stock instead.
Another budget-friendly, flavourful option is our slow cooker honey mustard chicken thighs. This no-fuss dinner uses just a handful of ingredients, and kids will love the creamy honey and mustard sauce. For a low-fat yet satisfying family meal, try making our wholesome slow cooker chicken casserole. This simple, crowd-pleasing dish requires just 10 minutes of prep time, then you can leave the hard work to your slow cooker. It’s not hard to see why it’s one of our most popular slow cooker recipes!
More slow cooker recipes with cheap cuts:
Make the most of more cheaper cuts with our Top 10 budget slow cooker recipes.
Slow cooker soups
Even a simple bowl of soup can be elevated by simmering for a few hours in the slow cooker. Warm up with a nourishing bowl of slow cooker chicken soup for lunch, or add noodles to make it more substantial. Use up Christmas or Sunday lunch leftovers to make the stock for a slow cooker turkey pho – full of fresh and fragrant flavours. Or keep it meat-free with this hearty veg-packed pasta e faglioli or smooth Danish-style yellow split pea soup.
Browse more slow cooker soup recipes.
Slow cooker puddings
It’s not just suppers that can be cooked to perfection in the slow cooker – these seriously comforting, homemade puds can all be simmered to perfection as well. Sink your spoon into a gorgeously gooey slow cooker sticky toffee pudding, soaked in a rich butterscotch sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. Or take a trip down memory lane with this seriously sticky retro schooldays treacle sponge. For something a bit lighter, our slow cooker spiced apples with barley is full of warming spices, yet low on calories and fat. Or make a batch of luxuriously creamy slow cooker fudge for a sweet snack or edible gift – they are sure to be a hit with school classmates!
More slow cooker desserts:
Treat the family to more slow cooker pudding recipes.
Start the day with our slow cooker bio yogurt, enriched with gut-friendly probiotics. This luxuriously creamy recipe requires only two ingredients – whole milk and live yogurt. It requires 17 hours to cook, so it’s more of a weekend project, but it’s completely worth it and can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks to feed your family. Mix the bio yogurt with fresh fruit, cereal or porridge for a healthy and filling breakfast.
If mornings are chaos in your household and the thought of being stuck at the stove for even a few minutes seems tough, this slow-cooked porridge could be the answer. Simply chuck the ingredients into your slow cooker before bed and wake up to a bowl of creamy comfort in the morning. Let the kids add their favourite toppings and you should be all set.
Prefer a slice of toast to kick off the day? Fear not, for the humble slow cooker can still be put to ingenious use – we’ve devised a recipe for slow cooker bread using a basic mix of flour, yeast, salt and water. Leaving the dough to cook and rise gradually will give it a soft and spongey texture, before finally crisping up the outside in the oven on a higher temperature.
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Do you have any slow cooker tips or favourite recipes? Leave a comment below…