Slow cookers have a rep as the carnivore's kitchen appliance–the busy cook's vessel for meaty, long-simmered stews and pot roast-style dishes–but vegetarian recipes fare as well, if not better, in a Crock Pot. There's no browning step and veggies suck up a lot of flavor in the slow-cooking process. If the change in seasons has you craving lighter and leaner, try a few vegetarian slow cooker recipes featuring spring vegetables.
Pictured: Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers from CHOW
1. Slow-Cooker Root Vegetable Stew
You don't often see the words "hearty" and "vegetarian" in the same sentence, but this root veggie stew is an exception. Readers raved about the homey, sweet flavors and note that it's the perfect base recipe for a vegetarian stew–feel free to substitute different types of squash and root veggies. Get our Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew recipe.
2. Slow Cooker Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup
A smidge of cumin and the crunchy, spicy chickpea garnish are a perfect contrast to the slow-simmered sweetness of butternut squash in this vegan soup. Get our Slow Cooker Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup recipe.
3. Farro with Spring Vegetables
Fresh English peas, leeks, asparagus–these vibrant, green spring vegetables herald the end of winter and tease the coming days of flip-flop weather. If you're suffering from cabin fever or snow fatigue, this recipe is therapy in a slow cooker. Get the recipe here.
4. Slow Cooker Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
You know how so many vegetarian recipes require 18 exotic herbs and spices you never seem to have on hand? This recipe is the opposite: the few, simple ingredients pack a wallop of flavor without requiring a trip to the store. Get our Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe.
5. Potato Leek Soup x 4
Julia Child knew how to keep it simple in the kitchen. This slow cooker adaptation of her classic French potato leek soup is remarkable not only for its simplicity, but for the handful of other equally delicious soups you can make using this as a base. Get the recipe here.
6. White Bean, Artichoke, and Chard Ragout
Fennel, artichoke, and chard give this veggie-packed ragout a bit more intrigue and flavor than your average vegetable soup. Keep an eye out for bright, springtime Swiss or rainbow chard at farmers markets and put it to good use. Get the recipe here.
7. Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Risotto
Sweet, sweet relief if you've suffered risotto elbow from stirring and stirring and stirring the high-maintenance rice dish. This recipe substitutes pearl barley for risotto to good effect and mushrooms make it substantial enough for meat-eaters. Suggested tweaks: throw in a mix of mushrooms instead of just cremini or add one cup of fresh spring asparagus tips in the last 20 minutes. Get the recipe here.
8. Springtime Crockpot Minestrone
The dump-and-run philosophy of so many Crock Pot recipes often results in a dull, mushy dish that looks like prison food or something you'd serve the dentured set. This two-stage, "embarrassingly easy" minestrone fights the slow cooker baby food syndrome–the spring vegetables stay bright and crisp because they're added late in the game. Get the recipe here.
9. Chole (Chana) Masala
This classic North Indian vegetarian dish is a powerhouse of spice and flavor. Adapt this recipe by combining all of the ingredients after Step 3 in the slow cooker and cooking the masala on high for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Get our Chole Chana Masala recipe.
Colleen Rush is a food and travel writer who eats, drinks, cooks, and writes mostly in New Orleans, but also ... everywhere else. She is the author of "The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining" (Broadway Books, 2006), and coauthor of "Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons" (Running Press, 2009) and the upcoming "Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke Roasting, and Basic Curing" (Running Press, 2015). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.