Healthy slow cooker meals are the answer to the back to school dinner dilemma. Serve healthy food without rushing around after work or soccer practice!
Back to school season is always a somewhat hectic time but it feels more stressful than ever this year. Whether your kids are heading back to the classroom after a long break or you're gearing up to support remote learning at home, this is a busy time. Enter, the slow cooker!
Crock pot meals can get a bad rap and I get it. There are a lot of unhealthy crock pot recipes out there, but it doesn't have to be that way!
The slow cooker is an excellent way to get juicy, tender meat even when you have very little time to prepare it. It's also perfect for meal prep because slow cooker recipes often make a large amount so you usually have leftovers for another meal.
Here are 8 of my favorite slow cooker meals. I hope they make the back to school season a little bit easier for you!
Slow cooker Moroccan chicken has a special place in my heart for two reasons. First, it's inspired by my trip to Morocco and I love getting culinary inspiration from my travels! Second, it was one of my son Ivan's favorite meals when he was a baby. Even apart from these fond memories though, this recipe is delicious with warming spices and a bit of a sweet touch from the raisins.
Carnitas are perfect for Taco Tuesday or any at-home celebration. These can be made with either pork or chicken thighs and the orange in this recipe really sets it apart and gives it such a fresh flavor. Serve in gluten free tortillas, on lettuce wraps or on top of cauli-rice – these are super versatile!
Two different types of chilis give my beef barbacoa such depth of flavor. This is definitely one that tastes like you were working all day to make it but it's actually super simple. Throw together the sauce the night before, stick everything in the slow cooker in the morning and you're good to go!
4. Slow Cooker Chicken Verde (Includes Instant Pot Instructions)
Cook once, eat twice! That is one of my favorite meal prep strategies and my slow cooker chicken verde is the perfect recipe for it. Especially if you have kids, try serving chicken verde buffet-style. Lay out a variety of toppings and let everyone build their own bowl or wrap.
5. Mexican Pork Salad (includes Instant Pot instructions)
Mexican pork salad is perfect for a prep-ahead lunch. There's nothing worse than getting to lunch time and realizing you have nothing prepped or, if you're at an office, seeing a sad, boring salad with no real staying power. This shredded pork adds a punch of protein and flavor and will have you actually looking forward to your lunch!
6. Garlic Mojo Pork (Includes Instant Pot Instructions)
Have you had mojo sauce before? It's a classic Cuban sauce made with citrus and garlic and a great one to add to your repertoire! Mojo sauce is delicious on all sorts of proteins so you just might find yourself adding it to your weekly meal prep routine.
Soups and chilis are one of the best ways to sneak in some extra greens. This one is made with collard greens – comfort food at its healthiest! While this version is vegetarian as written, you could easily sub ground beef for the beans if you don't eat beans.
I designed this stew to prep-ahead and then stick in the freezer for those really busy nights when you find yourself with no plan. Having some extra healthy, homemade meals in my freezer makes me feel so prepared and really helps with that dinner-time stress!
Are these Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes?
Yes! Most of these are Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes as written.
For the slow cooker carnitas bowl just replace the rice with cauliflower-rice.
For the chili, sub grass fed ground beef, ground turkey or ground bison for the beans to make it Paleo. Make sure to brown the meat before adding to the slow cooker.
All of these are gluten free slow cooker recipes as written as well!
How do I adapt these healthy slow cooker meals for the Instant Pot?
A few of these recipes already include Instant Pot instructions, but you can easily adapt the others for your Instant Pot as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind!
One of the biggest differences in cooking with an Instant Pot versus a slow cooker is the requirement for liquid. Add broth or water until there is at least 1 cup of liquid in the recipe. You can strain off this liquid at the end OR cook your meat on the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot to keep it separate from the liquid.
Adjust the Time:
Refer to your Instant Pot manual or this guide to see how long to cook different proteins and ingredients in the Instant Pot.
Delay some ingredients:
Add tender ingredients like canned beans and broccoli after you cook the rest of the recipe. Simply add the final ingredients and put the lid on the Instant Pot for a few minutes or use the sauté function for a few minutes to let them heat through.
Always consult your Instant Pot's manual, as different models vary.