If you’re trying to throw a dinner party, a slow cooker may become your new best friend. If you make a few key decisions ahead of time, you can have a meal ready to go as soon as you walk in the door. Check out these 11 budget friendly slow cooker meals that are perfect for a crowd and you’ll be able to entertain throughout the season without ever breaking a sweat.
1. Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew
This is a delicious fall soup that’s easy to make vegetarian if you need to by substituting the chicken broth with vegetable or mushroom stock. Cumin, cayenne, saffron, and black pepper add a kick. Get our Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew recipe.
2. Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Best served the day its made, this soup has a ton of delicious additions and is flavored with lime, beer, cocoa powder, cumin, garlic, and ancho chili powder. Get the recipe here.
3. Slow Cooker Apple and Onion Pulled Pork
Apple cider vinegar and honey pair beautifully with the apples and braised onions that top this slow cooked pulled pork. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Get the recipe here.
4. Slow Cooker Burmese Chicken and Noodles
Topped with hardboiled egg slices and diced green onion, Chowhound’s recipe for Burmese Chicken made in a slow cooker is enhanced with coconut milk, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, fresh ginger, and garlic. Get our Slow Cooker Burmese Chicken and Noodles recipe.
5. Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
This slow cooker soup is great for serving a crowd, or storing a few portions in the freezer for a last-minute meal. You can use whatever type of pasta you want and substitute any kind dried beans that you have on hand. Get the recipe here.
6. Slow Cooker Barbecue Beef Brisket
Barbecue beef brisket is worth the wait (not to mention you’ll have sandwiches for days). The barbecue sauce is made with ketchup, dark brown sugar, chipotle peppers, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion, and cumin and is absolutely fantastic. Get the recipe here.
7. Easy Slow Cooker Chili
The flavor of this chili develops slowly as it cooks – you can make this recipe overnight and it only gets better the longer you let the flavors meld. Make this in advance for a dinner party and serve with cornbread or even Cincinnati-style, over pasta. Get our Easy Slow Cooker Chili recipe.
8. Italian Red Wine Roast Beef
Red wine and slow-cooked roast beef: it doesn’t get much better. This dish smells almost as good as it tastes. Cook for as long as you have the patience for – we suggest you try to get in at least 8 hours for the most tender beef. Get the recipe here.
9. Crockpot Quinoa Breakfast Casserole with Tomato and Spinach
Using the slow cooker to make breakfast? A perfect plan. This quinoa casserole is flavored with spinach, tomatoes, and cheese and is the perfect make-ahead brunch dish. Get the recipe here.
10. The Best Slow Cooker Baked Beans
Bacon makes these beans better than the rest. With some ground beef added in as well, these are a hearty (and protein-packed) dinner solution that you can make in the slow cooker with little prep. Get the recipe here.
11. Honey-Soy Asian Beef with Cauliflower Fried Rice
This Asian-inspired beef is tender after hours in the slow cooker and makes a great leftover lunch as well. Honey, ginger, soy, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes add a punch. Get the recipe here.
Header image: Slow Cooker Burmese Chicken and Noodles from Chowhound
Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.