Search the Internet for slow cooker entrées, and you’ll find there’s no shortage of recipes online. But you’ll likely also discover that the majority of them are redundant and uninspiring. That’s because slow cookers do their best breaking down tough, sinewy pieces of meat, hence the thousands of recipes out there for pulled pork, pot roast, brisket, and barbecue chicken. For a breath of fresh air, make one of these unexpected main dishes instead.
Header image and recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Ramen from CHOW

1. Coq Au Vin

Coq au vin may have humble origins, but this Burgundian dish of chicken, lardons, mushrooms, and garlic cooked in red wine is just the kind of fancy dish to pull out of your back pocket when family and friends are over. You needn’t tell them the slow cooker did all the heavy lifting.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

2. Deep-Dish Pizza

Bet you didn’t know that you can make pizza—the kind with a thick, crunchy crust, gooey strings of cheese, and hearty meat toppings—in your crock pot.
Photo and recipe from Mom on a Mission

3. Mushroom Barley Risotto

Risotto can be laborious to make, with all the stirring it demands. But this recipe, which replaces short-grain white rice with barley and employs the low, slow heat of the slow cooker, means you can reap all the creamy rewards of risotto without any of the annoying work.
Photo and recipe from Food Network

4. Chicken Adobo

Any Filipino will tell you there’s no comfort food quite like adobo, a poultry dish of chicken (we like bone-in thighs) simmered gently in soy sauce and vinegar with onions and garlic. Serve it over rice, the perfect vehicle for soaking up all those juices.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

5. Burmese Chicken and Noodles

Our recipe for Burmese-style chicken and noodles requires more active prep and cooking than the average slow cooker recipe, but believe us when we say that the memorable end result is well worth it.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

6. Meatloaf

Ground beef in a slow cooker? That’s right. If you’re looking for a meal that’s easy to prepare and covers both meat and vegetables in a healthy way, this meatloaf recipe’s a good bet. Bonus: Throw a slow cooker liner in your crock pot insert, and you’ll barely have to do dishes at all.
Photo and recipe from Jennifer Cooks

7. Choucroute Garnie

This age-old Alsatian winter dish of sausage, pork, and sauerkraut is traditionally made by marinating pork ribs overnight, fermenting your own sauerkraut, and rendering goose or duck fat, all before braising the combination in the oven for hours. Thanks to our (far less demanding) slow cooker rendition, you can enjoy choucroute on any old night.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

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.
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