Elk Meatballs with Bourbon Barbecue Sauce recipe
All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.

These easy slow cooker appetizer recipes are a lifesaver when you’re throwing a party.

When you’re hosting people for a dinner party, you can’t give every dish equal attention. Appetizers can keep your guests sated while you focus on the main course, so you don’t want to spend too much time on them. Even for appetizer-only parties, well, some of those hors d’oeuvres will still need to sit on the back burner while you focus on others. Enter the Crock-Pot (or other slow cooker).

The Pioneer Woman Floral 6-Quart Slow Cooker, $24.96 at Walmart

You can even dress your Crock-Pot up for a party.
Buy Now

Typically tasked with breaking down tough cuts of meat, a slow cooker can also be your secret weapon in the appetizer realm. And we’re not talking just meatballs or chili, though of course it does those beautifully. You can even use your Crock-Pot for fancy-schmancy or unexpected starters. So next time it’s your turn to host cocktails at home, bust out the recipe for one of these Crock-Pot appetizers.

1. Crock-Pot French Onion Dip

Easy Slow Cooker French Onion Dip recipe


Caramelized onions are so sweet and succulent, and you get them that way like nothing else when you put them in a Crock-Pot for seven hours. This is a crazy good dip. Get our Slow-Cooker French Onion Dip recipe.

KooK Ceramic One-Piece Chip & Dip, $22.95 on Amazon

Perfect for serving sweet or savory dips with all the accompaniments.
Buy Now

2. Crock-Pot Duck Confit

duck confit


Making duck confit legs in a slow cooker is as easy as combining the melted fat and cured duck legs and walking away, only to return a few hours later to ultra tender, flavorful meat. When it’s done, shred the meat, season it, and pile it on toasts with cranberry or plum preserves for a great holiday app. Get our Slow Cooker Duck Confit recipe.

3. Crock-Pot Bacon Compote

slow cooker bacon compote recipe


A spoonful of rich, sweet, and smoky bacon compote spooned onto crostini or mini biscuits spread with goat cheese is one of our all-time favorite appetite stokers. Nothing could be simpler—you start by frying lots of bacon and draining, then cooking onions down with vinegar, garlic, molasses, and coffee for several hours, till everything is luscious and dark and studded with salty bits of bacon. Try it on sandwiches and burgers too. Get our Slow Cooker Bacon Compote recipe.

4. Crock-Pot Bourbon Ribs


Small, succulent baby back ribs are fantastic appetizers when you cut them into single pieces before setting out a platter—especially for tailgating parties. Here, you start by making a barbecue sauce flavored with bacon, bourbon, and a shot of strong coffee. Add the ribs (previously dry-rubbed with an herb, salt, and sugar mix) and simmer up to 5 hours, till the meat is falling off the bones. Get our Slow Cooker Bourbon Ribs recipe.

5. Crock-Pot Hot Wings

easy slow cooker hot wings recipe


The secret to these wings—which can skew Buffalo-style, Asian, or Latin, depending on your choice of hot sauce—is crisping them in a preheated oven at the very end for a browned color, flavor, and texture (a lot like the reverse sear method, actually). Get our Slow Cooker Hot Wings recipe.

6. Crock-Pot Steamed Artichokes

how to prepare artichokes


For a healthy yet elegant starter, try steaming whole globe artichokes in your Crock-Pot. Serve them with red wine vinegar and olive oil for dipping, or get rich with a bowl of aioli. Get The Kitchn’s Slow Cooker Artichoke recipe.

7. Crock-Pot Cocktail Meatballs

Elk Meatballs with Bourbon Barbecue Sauce recipe


Cocktail meatballs feel appropriate for any occasion, whether you’re throwing a tailgate or a highbrow holiday fete. Bonus idea: Prep and freeze, then defrost and pop ’em into the cooker when it’s go time. Weird as it may sound, grape jelly is a pretty common (and beloved) meatball glaze ingredient, but you can switch these up with any sauce you like. Get I Heart Naptime’s Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs recipe.

8. Crock-Pot Party Mix

slow cooker party mix (homemade Chex Mix)


The best party mixes are evenly seasoned, and leave your fingers a little sticky with spices. Achieve this by combining a medley of bite-sized crackers and cereal pieces with butter, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and hot paprika, then heating the party mix in the Crock-Pot until crisp and warm. Get our Slow Cooker Party Mix recipe.

Related Reading: Uncommonly Good Trail Mixes Worthy of Any Party Snack Bowl

9. Crock-Pot Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts, a Low Country favorite, are simple to make but usually require a watchful eye. Eliminate the caveat here by cooking peanuts in the slow cooker instead. Get Add a Pinch’s Slow Cooker Boiled Peanuts recipe.

10. Crock-Pot Cheese Fondue

easy cheese fondue recipe


Here’s a dirty secret that specialty kitchen stores don’t want you to know: You don’t need a fondue pot to make great fondue. Use a Crock-Pot for our Alpine-inspired version; just make sure to stir the dip often. Get our Cheese Fondue recipe.

11. Crock-Pot Cocktail Sausages

Use your slow cooker to warm toothpick-friendly cocktail sausages, and infuse them with a sweet-tangy-spicy mix of brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and Sriracha. Get Damn Delicious’s Slow Cooker Cocktail Sausages recipe.

12. Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic

There’s hardly a more gratifying pleasure than the simple act of smoothing a clove of roast garlic on toast; step away from the oven in favor of the lower-maintenance slow cooker instead. Get Shockingly Delicious’s Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic recipe. (And heads-up, you can also roast garlic in an air fryer…)

Related Video: How to Make a Beautiful Hummus Appetizer


Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
See more articles