Slow cookers are brilliant any time of year (who doesn’t like coming home to piping hot dinner?), but they particularly shine in the cooler months. Cozy stews, fall-apart braises, and comforting soups are exactly what the season calls for and slow cookers allow us to achieve that long-simmered flavor without standing over a stove or tied to the oven timer. But there’s also more to slow cooker recipes than plain beef stew; sometimes lighter fare or jazzed up flavors can be a welcome foil to the winter doldrums. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 of the coziest slow cooker recipes from breakfast to dessert to comfort and nourish you this winter.
Cinnamon buns in the slow cooker? Oh yes. Your mornings just got waaaaay better. Save these for a special holiday breakfast and wow your family with the ooey-ist, gooiest, cinnamon buns ever. This recipe saves you oven space and the trapped moisture produces some of the most tender, delicious homemade cinnamon buns you could make.
We love slow cookers for their ability to get a one pot meal on the table, but their beauty is also in their versatility. Here, the slow cooker is used to create a gorgeous and healthy side, starter, spread, or snack (because truly, this hummus can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. With homemade zaatar pita chips, you’ll be the winner of any holiday potluck.
This recipe is lighter than many slow cooker recipes you’ll find this time of year, but no less cozy. Inspired by the fish curries so popular in South India, the flavors create a symphony of flavors in your mouth. Ingredients like tamarind, ginger, chile, and mustard seeds will wake up your senses, while coconut milk adds a comforting, creamy element.
There aren’t many foods more comforting than bubbling, cheesy lasagna. In this crowd-pleasing – and crowd-feeding – recipe, the slow cooker evenly cooks this classic pasta dish to perfection. An oven-safe insert is ideal here as a few minutes in the broiler at the end really gives it the ultimate finishing touch.
A lighter, healthier take on traditional beef chili – but no less flavorful – this turkey, two-bean, and sweet potato chili packs a nutritional and flavor punch. The two beans mentioned here are heirloom varietals – snow cap and Good Mother Stollard – that add a truly special taste and texture, but feel free to substitute other beans you may have on hand.
This classic French dish can be fussy (we did say classic French, didn’t we?), which makes it perfectly suited for a slow cooker adaptation. A multi-cooker is great here as you can brown the meat in the same insert where you will slow cook it, but if you’re using a regular slow cooker simply use a pan on the stove and transfer it. Coq au vin is rich in flavor and perfectly suited for cooler weather. It’s a great dinner party recipe!
Even if you didn’t grow up eating Korean cuisine, this beef and kimchi stew is sure to be instant comfort food. With layers of intense, umami-rich flavor from fiery kimchi and spicy-sweet gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste), it’s exactly what the doctor ordered to shoo away those winter blues (and clear out the sinuses). Since it benefits from cooking long and slow, this is a great dish to prep in the morning and come home to the intoxicating aromas.
Slow cooker recipes can be fairly meat-heavy, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you’re vegetarian, doing meatless Monday, or trying to detox after all that holiday indulgence, then this slow cooker red lentil curry is for you. Toasted spices, tomatoes, and chile flavor the red lentil and green bean dish, which gets a creamy hit from the addition of coconut milk at the end.
Short ribs are a perfect contestant for slow cooking, and the possibilities are endless (seriously, is there anything short rib does not improve, from ragu to poutine?). Here, short ribs are broiled, then covered in a chile-tomato sauce and cooked low and slow until they are fall-off-the-bone tender. Piled onto tortillas with homemade tomatillot salsa, this recipe takes taco Tuesday to a whole new level.
Slow cookers are for way more than the main course! Prep these secretly spicy beauties the day before a dinner party so you can simply say “voila!” Half-and-half, sugar, and ancho chile is steeped together and mixed with chocolate and egg yolks to create a creamy, rich, elegant custard. Although the recipe says to serve them chilled, you could also serve them right away if you want something more like cozy, warm pudding.