As a busy mom, my slow cooker is an essential appliance. For those days when I know we won’t be home until dinner time, but I don’t want to fall back on take-out or frozen pizza, the slow cooker is my hero. Fill it up, turn it on, and return to a delicious meal!
But it’s easy to get into a rut of making the same few recipes. And when I search for new ideas, I find so many recipes rely on highly-processed convenience ingredients and result in less-than-healthy meals. Is there such thing as a slow cooker cookbook that yields easy, healthy and delicious meals?
Let’s hunt for the best slow cooker cookbook!
What do I want in a great slow cooker cookbook?
1. Quick and easy
I turn to my slow cooker on busy days. Naturally, there will be some prep work—chopping, slicing, etc. But I don’t want recipes that are overly complex. I want them to come together quickly so that the slow cooker is a time-saver.
2. Tasty but Healthy
An indulgent meal here or there is fine, but I want an arsenal of healthy recipes made from whole, mostly fresh ingredients—not just canned cream-of-whatever soup that’s high in fat and sodium and low on nutritional value. But, of course the food should also be delicious!
What do I mean by this? Well, I’ve seen many slow cooker recipes that do something I already do well with traditional cooking methods—for example, a roast chicken or oatmeal. To me, these are meals that are already fairly easy the way we normally cook them; making them in a slow cooker feels redundant.
Slow cookers aren’t usually the best method of cooking. It’s easy to get mushy, bland food from a slow cooker. I want recipes that manage to take advantage of the slow cooker, so that the resulting meals aren’t just a lesser version of something I already know how to make.
Here are some tips for successful slow cooker cooking.
So, we have some criteria in mind for picking a great slow cooker guide. These are my criteria—you might have different priorities, so I will look at a wide range of cookbooks.
by Gina Homolka – $19.98
This is the second cookbook by Homolka, who founded skinnytaste.com, the healthy, home-cooking blog with a cult following.
This book is not strictly a slow cooker cookbook—it also includes quick meals that are made outside of the slow cooker, with the goal of being a cookbook for convenience cooking. As such, some sections (like breakfast) are low on slow cooker recipes, while others (like soups) have a number of slow cooker ideas. However, it gets such high praise from reviewers that I include it in this roundup.
With beautiful food photography and Homolka’s calm, relatable presence, this book offers a number of recipes for healthy but easy meals, fitting the criteria of slow cooker meals that feature real food, are quick and easy, and will break you away from your slow cooker rut. I’ve tried a few of these recipes and can attest to the fact that they are indeed easy and delicious.
But take note: if you’re a follower of the blog, you may find you’ve already seen many of these recipes!
by Marye Audet – $9.90
This book gets top marks from most users and is highly recommended on cooking forums. Authentic Mexican food lends itself well to the slow cooker, with rich, deep flavors and a focus on sauces. This book is proof of that natural pairing.
Audet does a great job of educating the reader on both some fundamentals of Mexican cooking as well as slow cooker cooking—tips and information that will be useful even beyond the recipes in this book. I love when a cookbook can really elevate you as a cook, rather than just give you a few meal ideas.
The primary drawback of this book is that it lacks pictures of the dishes.
by America’s Test Kitchen – $12.02
America’s Test Kitchen is beloved and trusted resources for tried and true recipes. It’s no wonder that this book is recommended over and over again as a slow cooker resource.
With this book, America’s Test Kitchen set out to reinvent and elevate the slow cooker with sophisticated recipes, making it a tool for gourmet cooking. However, this focus results in complex recipes that involve a lot of prep work (more than I want with a slow cooker meal).
by Maria Emmerich –
Emmerich is a blogger and healthy eating guru. This book takes her healthy eating philosophy to the slow cooker.
This book offers a number of inventive and nutritious meal ideas, with beautiful photos and useful information to support your effort to overhaul your lifestyle. Even if you’re not committed to going gluten-free, these recipes can be a good addition to a healthy diet.
The primary criticism is that some of the ingredients are difficult to find or on the expensive side. The book also lacks a logical method of organization, although there is an index.
Making a Choice
Finding The Perfect slow cooker cookbook is a challenge!
- If you’re most concerned with quick and easy recipes… the Skinnytaste book will give you some slow cooker ideas and even some easy non-slow cooker recipes to work into your busy lifestyle.
- If you’re less concerned with speed and more interested in elevating your slow cooker to gourmet status… Slow Cooker Revolution will help you do that with some thoroughly tested, inventive recipes.
- If your highest priority is turning your slow cooker into a vessel for healthy eating… go with The Art of Healthy Eating.
- If you don’t mind a region-specific cuisine… the Mexican Slow Cooker does an amazing job of really using the slow cooker to its best advantage to make delicious meals.
Do you use a slow cooker? What’s your favourite recipe or cookbook?