Crockpot Meals Working Parents Can Prep in 10 Minutes

The idea of fast crockpot meals seems like an oxymoron. After all, crockpots are specifically designed for slow cooking, and it’s not unusual for a recipe to tell you to let a dish simmer in the countertop appliance for eight hours or more. That’s fine for lazy weekends, but it’s hardly a solution when you need dinner on the table pronto.

Yet once you get over the long cooking time, many crockpot meals are quite easy to prepare. Just dump a few ingredients in the crock, cover, turn on the heat, and go about your day. Dinner will already be ready by the time you come home from work. If your time is limited, the key is choosing recipes that require minimal prep, so you can get everything ready in the morning while you’re trying to shoo the kids out the door for school or in the evening before you hit the sack.

Busy parents can take the work out of making dinner with these 12 quick and easy recipes for crockpot meals. Each dinner requires 10 minutes (or less) of prep time.

1. Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake

black bean and quinoa enchilada bake

Make fast crockpot meals using recipes like this one for a black bean and quinoa enchilada bake. | iStock.com

Convenient dinners don’t have to be unhealthy. This slow cooker enchilada quinoa bake from Cooking Classy is packed with wholesome ingredients, including fresh bell peppers, quinoa, and black beans. It’s all topped with a gooey layer of melted cheese that’s sure to tempt picky eaters. And aside from briefly sautéing the onions and peppers, the entire dish cooks in the crockpot, saving you valuable time in the kitchen.

Serves: 7 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1¼ cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1¼ cups chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups dry quinoa
  • 2¼ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or Mexican blend cheese
  • Diced avocados, diced Roma tomatoes, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, chopped green onions for serving (optional)

Directions: Warm canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables into a slow cooker.

Add the quinoa, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, and cumin to the crockpot and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on high for 2¾ to 3¼ hours.

Add the corn, black beans, and pinto beans to the slow cooker and stir. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with avocados, diced tomatoes, and other desired toppings.  

2. Teriyaki Pork Roast

Pork loin on white plate with fork and knife

Pork roast | iStock.com

You’ll be a dinnertime hero when you make this kid-approved, award-winning teriyaki pork roast recipe from Taste of Home. The meat is slow-cooked in a mix of brown sugar, apple juice, and soy sauce until very tender. Then, serve the prepared roast with grilled or steamed vegetables and rice for a simple yet satisfying meal.

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder or butt roast (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened apple juice
  • ⅓ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Directions: Cut roast in half; rub with brown sugar. Place in a 5-quart slow cooker. Pour apple juice and soy sauce over roast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast; cover, and keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices. Mix cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into juices. Cover, and cook on high for 15 minutes or until thickened. Serve with pork.

3. Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas

Fajitas on wooden board with vegetables

Steak fajitas | iStock.com

A kid-friendly Mexican favorite is on the menu with this steak fajitas recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. You’ll use a homemade spice rub to season the beef, which is then slow cooked with bell peppers, onion, and jalapeño for tender, slightly spicy fajitas your family is sure to love.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds flank steak
  • 1½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 to 5 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 onion
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Grated cheese, fresh sliced avocado, cilantro, lime slices, fresh spinach leaves, sour cream, and hot peppers, for serving

Directions: Combine the chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the flank steak with the spice rub and place in the slow cooker. Add the soy sauce. Top with the jalapeno, garlic, bell peppers, and onion.

Cover and cook on low for 9 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours, until the steak is very tender.

Drain the contents of the slow cooker. Shred the steak with two forks, then serve the meat and peppers on tortillas with desired toppings.

4. Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala in a bowl

Chicken tikka masala | iStock.com

There’s no need for takeout when you can make this easy-to-prepare chicken tikka masala recipe. Parents who are really pressed for time can simply toss all the ingredients in the slow cooker. But if you aren’t in such a rush, you can also marinate the chicken in yogurt and sauté the onion and garlic with the ginger and other spices for a richer, more flavorful dish. The recipe is from The Kitchn.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or substitute chicken breasts)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup heavy cream or coconut milk
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked rice, to serve

Directions: Cut the chicken thighs into bite-size pieces, and transfer them to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, paprika, and kosher salt until the chicken is evenly covered with spices. Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juices.

Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, stir in the heavy cream or coconut milk. If you prefer a thicker sauce, leave the slow cooker uncovered for the last 15 minutes. Taste and add more garam masala or salt to taste.

Serve over rice with fresh cilantro sprinkled over the top of each serving. The tikka masala can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months.

Note: If time permits, you can marinate the chicken in ½ cup of yogurt for 6 hours before cooking (shake to remove any excess yogurt before transferring to the slow cooker). You can also sauté the onion and garlic until soft, then cook for a few minutes with the ginger, tomato paste, and spices until fragrant. This will give the final dish a deeper flavor.

5. 5-Minute Slow Cooker Curry

cubed butternut squash

Cubed butternut squash for curry | iStock.com

Yes, this slow cooker curry really does take just five minutes to prepare. The key is buying butternut squash that’s already been peeled and cut, so you don’t have to waste time chopping. Using frozen peas and onions also simplifies the prep of this healthy one-pot dinner recipe from Fresh Planet Flavor.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 pounds pre-peeled and pre-cut butternut squash
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen pearl onions
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 1 (13½ ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Directions: Add the butternut squash, chicken, onions, peas, coconut milk, tomato paste, curry powder, and salt to the slow cooker, in that order. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Stir well to break up chicken, then serve topped with chili flakes, coconut flakes, and cilantro.

6. White Beans and Sausage

white beans and sausage

White beans and sausage | iStock.com

Five ingredients is all you need to make this hearty one-pot dish from Deliciously Organic. Remembering to soak the white beans the night before is the most complicated part of this recipe. The next morning, just toss the beans, along with the tomatoes, garlic, salt, and sausage, into the slow cooker, and you’re good to go. You can serve the finished dish with a simple salad for a complete meal.

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups dry white beans
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
  • 12 ounces kielbasa sausage, sliced

Directions: Place the white beans in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit overnight at room temperature.

The next day, drain the beans and transfer to the crockpot. Cover with water, then add the tomatoes, garlic powder, sea salt, and sausage. Stir. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours, until the beans are tender. Season with additional garlic powder and salt to taste, then serve.

7. Slow Cooker Jambalaya

bowl of jambalaya

A bowl of jambalaya | iStock.com

Give your dinner a little Louisiana flavor with this affordable, no-fuss recipe for jambalaya from Budget Bytes. The whole meal should cost less than $1.50 per serving and can be prepared in just 10 minutes if you buy some pre-cut veggies to save on chopping time. Plus, you’ll get a generous eight servings out of this recipe, so the leftovers will save you another night of cooking later in the week.

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 ribs celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 to 16 ounces of Andouille or other smoked sausage
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly cracked pepper (15 to 20 cranks of a mill)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
  • ¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Directions: Dice the celery, onion, and bell pepper. Mince the garlic. Place vegetables in the bottom of a 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker.

Slice the sausage, and add it to the crockpot with the vegetables, along with the chicken, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne, and fresh pepper. Pour the diced tomatoes over (do not drain). Add the chicken broth and parsley and stir to combine.

Cover, turn heat to high, and let cook for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, remove the chicken thighs and place the cover back on the slow cooker. Shred the meat and return it to the crock. Add the uncooked rice. Cover again, and let cook for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the liquid.

Test rice to make sure it is done, and stir to fluff the ingredients. Top with the sliced green onions, then serve.

8. Barbecued Pork Chops

small glass dish filled with barbecue sauce

Bowl of barbecue sauce | iStock.com

Cola is the secret ingredient in these sweet and savory barbecued pork chops. Why add soda to your dinner? The fizzy liquid helps tenderize the meat without causing it to fall apart, Epicurious explained. It’s an easy trick that helps elevate this simple recipe from Taste of Home, which doesn’t call for browning the meat or vegetables in advance. Simply dump the ingredients in your slow cooker, cover, and go about your day.

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 6 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 bone-in pork loin or rib chops (½-inch thick and 8 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) bottle barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup cola
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Place the potatoes and carrots in a 5-quart slow cooker. Top with pork chops. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, ketchup, cola and Worcestershire sauce; pour over chops. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours, until the meat and vegetables are tender.

9. Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki

Pita salad with roasted chicken

Chicken gyros | iStock.com/gkrphoto

Don’t put your slow cooker away in the summer. Although many crockpot meals are hearty soups and stews ideal for cooler months, you can also use the slow cooker to make warm-weather meals. Try these chicken gyros, which are perfect for when it’s too hot outside to do much cooking. This lighter take on the classic Greek sandwich from The Recipe Critic is made with chicken rather than lamb. It calls for a refreshing, homemade tzatziki sauce. Make sure to buy the fluffier pita flatbread, not pita pockets, for this dish.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the gyros:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Juice of ½ medium lemon
  • ⅓ cup water

For the tzatziki sauce:

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, finely grated
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of ½ medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For serving:

  • Warm pita bread
  • Red onion
  • Red pepper
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Sliced tomatoes

Directions: Coat the inside of your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken to the crock. Combine the onion, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl. Pour over the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.

About 30 minutes before the meat is done cooking, combine the Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, dried dill, oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the lemon juice, and drizzle with the olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Once the meat is fully cooked, assemble the sandwiches on warm pita with your preferred toppings and the tzatziki sauce. Serve.

10. Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce

Spaghetti with meat sauce | iStock.com

Cracking open a jar of spaghetti sauce and boiling some pasta is many busy parents’ solution to a weeknight dinner dilemma. Now, it’s time to put away the jar of Prego. You only need 10 minutes in the morning to prepare your own meaty spaghetti sauce when you follow this recipe from Damn Delicious. Just brown the meat, toss it in the crockpot with some canned tomatoes and seasoning, and you’re good to go.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 (14½-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: Add the olive oil to a large skillet, and heat over medium-high. Add the ground beef, sausage, onion, and garlic to the pan. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the meat is browned, crumbling as the beef and sausage cook. Drain the excess fat, and transfer the meat to a slow cooker.

Add the canned diced tomatoes to the slow cooker with the meat, along with the tomato sauce, bay leaves, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with pasta.

11. Slow Cooker Ramen Soup

Japanese ramen soup with chicken, egg, chives

Bowl of ramen | iStock.com/tbralnina

True homemade ramen isn’t exactly a quick midweek dinner solution. Preparing a perfect ramen broth can take hours, meaning it’s a project best reserved for long, lazy weekends. But if you’re pressed for time and crazing a comforting bowl of ramen soup, you can make do with this slow cooker version from Curious Cuisiniere. The hands-on time for this pork ramen dish is about 10 minutes, and the most complicated part is skimming off the fat and shredding the meat.

Serves: 3 to 4

Ingredients:

For the broth:

  • 1 pound pork butt or chicken breast
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (or ½ teaspoon dry, ground ginger)
  • 1 bunch green onions, white parts only (slice the green parts lengthwise and reserve for topping the soup)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil (if using chicken breast)

For the noodles:

  • 4 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms (or substitute baby bella or cremini mushrooms)
  • 8 ounces ramen noodles (if using instant ramen noodles, discard the seasoning packet)

Optional toppings:

  • Soft-boiled eggs
  • Bean sprouts
  • Scallions
  • Sliced carrots
  • Chopped herbs or spinach
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Radishes
  • Bok choy

Directions: Combine all the ingredients for the broth in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 2 to 3 hours.

Skim off any fat from the top of the broth. Remove the garlic, ginger pieces, and scallions and discard. Remove the meat, shred it, and set aside.

Turn the crockpot setting to high. Add the mushrooms and ramen noodles. Cook until the noodles are soft. (It might take as much as twice as long as the time listed on the package because the broth will not be boiling.)

Transfer noodles to bowls. Ladle the broth over, then add some meat and your preferred toppings. Serve.

12. Crockpot Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppers on a plate

Stuffed peppers | iStock.com

Your family will go wild for these savory stuffed peppers, which take just 10 minutes to assemble. Using already-cooked rice saves on prep time, and you can make them with traditional ground beef or lower-fat ground turkey. If you use a 6-quart crockpot, you should be able to make about six peppers. The recipe is from A Year of Slow Cooking.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 red, yellow, and orange peppers
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can of Italian-seasoned tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅓ cup water

Directions: Slice the tops off of the peppers. (Do not discard.) Remove ribs and seeds from the inside of the peppers.

Combine the ground meat, rice, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and pepper in a large bowl. Mix to combine.

Stuff each pepper with the ground meat and rice mixture. Nestle the peppers in the crockpot. Place reserved pepper tops back on the peppers.

Pour ⅓ cup of water into the crockpot, around the base of the peppers. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve.