Meal planning with a family is hectic, and ideas don’t totally flow when some are picky eaters and not on the same page about what’s for dinner. Add in back-to-school, and suddenly the most nourishing time of day feels stressful. Enter: the slow-cooker.
Nothing says cozy fall food like something bubbling in the slow cooker. You can’t beat the convenience and you’d be surprised at the variety of foods this magical machine can produce. These easy slow cooker recipes provide endless possibilities for easy home-cooked dinner ideas for the family.
Here are 10 kid-tested dinners that cook all day, ready to eat when you are
You don’t have to be the corn kid to fall in love with this juicy chicken studded with tender corn and bright tomatoes makes the perfect filling for sandwiches, tacos or grain bowls everyone loves. P.S. Save the leftovers for quesadillas!
Not too spicy but brimming with flavor, this is an excellent beginner dish to introduce kids to curry. (Tip: Make some rice ahead of time or pick up a couple of microwavable packets.)
Is there a better comfort food than lasagna? The traditional dish takes at least an hour to cook in a conventional oven so having it ready when you come home is a shortcut I’m all for.
4. Chicken stew
Thick and hearty, this satisfying meal combines veggies, lean protein and a creamy broth everyone will flip for.
I make this thick, flavorful soup every Halloween (and as many nights after that as I can). It’s so hearty and filling and the kids’ favorite part is adding their own toppings: bacon, cheese, salt, pepper, Texas Pete’s…Whatever you put on a baked potato, add it right here. And bonus: You don’t even need to peel the potatoes!
Here comes the most genius way to make everyone’s favorite dinner even easier: Make the taco meat in the slow cooker so all you have to do when you’re ready for dinner is dish up! Plus, with a little help from store bought foods like bagged shredded lettuce and fresh salsa, this meal practically makes itself.
My kids love the tang of enchiladas but not the waiting (and waiting) for a pan to emerge from the oven when it’s hungry o’clock. Enter, the slow cooker version of our dreams. Soup you can dunk tortilla chips into!
8. Beef chili
The quintessential fall dinner can be modified in a million ways: replace the beef with chunks of sweet potato for a vegetarian version, with beans or without, spicy or mild. The choices go on and on but this method works for every one of them.
9. Pulled pork
This is a make-once, eat-at-least-twice meal. The first night we might serve pork over buns. Next, add the meat to tacos with crispy cabbage and salty queso fresco. I might make mounds of quesadillas brimming with BBQ sauce and melted cheddar cheese or use the last bits of this juicy pork in a taco soup. The options are endless–and delicious.
This tasty spin on a classic brings a fresh taste to the table. And hear me out: kale gets a bad rap but it makes a deliciously nutritious addition here, adding color and heartiness that goes a long way.
A version of this post was published August 17, 2021. It has been updated.