10 Light Crockpot Recipes to Get You Ready for Spring
The crockpot is known for its mastery of indulgent comfort food. But it can help you prepare lighter fare, too. Appetites and cravings change with the seasons. And with the warmer air comes cravings for lighter meals that will leave you energized rather than sluggish. We rounded up slow cooker recipes that yield lighter dishes to put a bounce back in your step. These healthy recipes will make you feel good about what you’re eating.
1. Greek Chicken and Vegetable Ragout
First up is a Greek chicken and vegetable ragout dish from Eating Well. The dinner gets its flavor from spices and lemon juice, rather than heavy sauces and creams. Cook your chicken thighs with the vegetables in the slow cooker for at least 4 hours on low, allowing the chicken to stay moist while lending the vegetables its flavor. Then, prepare the star of the meal: avgolemono. Whisk together a light sauce made from with egg, lemon, and fresh dill. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, and serve this light spring meal that will satisfy and satiate you.
- 1 pound carrots, cut into 1¼-inch pieces, or 3 cups baby carrots
- 1 pound (3 to 4 medium) yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1¼-inch-wide wedges
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered if large
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh dill
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions: Spread carrots and potatoes over the bottom and up the sides of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top of the vegetables. Bring broth, wine, garlic, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 2½ to 3 hours on high or 4 to 4½ hours on low.
Add artichokes to the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolks, and lemon juice in a medium bowl.
Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm. Ladle about ½ cup of the cooking liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, whisking 2 or 3 times, until slightly thickened and sauce reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in dill and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and serve.
2. Balsamic Ginger Chicken Lettuce Cups
This next recipe from Delish also proves the slow cooker can perfect lighter fare. The food formula yields balsamic-ginger chicken lettuce cups. Now you can enjoy your Asian-style chicken in lettuce wraps, leaving more room in your stomach for the chicken filling, flavored with ginger, garlic, and brown sugar. The recipe serves 4 and takes only 15 minutes of prep time. Fill your lettuce cups with slow-cooked chicken, rice, and a balsamic-ginger sauce delicious enough that you’ll want to drink it on its own. If you have extra, the balsamic-ginger sauce also pairs well with beef and pork.
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 clove garlic
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ¾ cup long-grain white rice
- 1 orange
- 2 scallions
- 1 small head Boston lettuce
Directions: In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and red pepper. Add the chicken, and turn to coat. Cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and very tender, 6 to 7 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high.
Cook the rice according to package directions.
Cut away the peel and white pith of the orange. Cut the orange into thin half moons and place in a medium bowl. Fold in the scallions.
Using two forks, gently shred the chicken into medium pieces and stir into the cooking liquid. Fill the lettuce leaves with the rice and top with the chicken and the orange mixture.
3. New Potatoes and Spring Vegetables
You can make your side dishes in the slow cooker, too, and this recipe from Betty Crocker is a good example. The star ingredients are your fresh vegetables flavored with Dijon mustard, lemon, and dill. They’ll cook in the crockpot for up to 6 hours, soaking in all of the goodness. It’s about time our cravings for carbs are replaced with vegetables, and flavorful dishes like this make that all too easy.
- 2 pounds small new potatoes
- 2 cups baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise in half
- 1 large sweet onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound asparagus spears, cut into 2-inch pieces
- ¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed
- 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
Directions: Cut large potatoes in half as needed to make similar-size pieces. Place carrots in 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Top with onion and potatoes; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover and cook on Low heat setting 5 to 6 hours.
Add asparagus to cooker. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.
Mix oil, dill weed, lemon peel, mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Pour over vegetables in cooker; stir to coat. Vegetables will hold on Low heat setting up to 2 hours; stir occasionally.
4. Slow Cooker Taco Salad
Spring doesn’t have to mean the return of sad salads. Have your crockpot help you prepare dishes like this taco salad from Better Homes & Gardens. You’ll never say no to the greens again. The key to this delicious salad is slow-cooked beef that complements beans, onions, tortilla chips, cheese, corn, avocado, and cherry tomatoes on a bed of lettuce. You’ll be surprised to find how much you don’t miss the typical carbs that come with tacos. And this way, you have more room to load on the ingredients to get your fill of the perfectly flavored ground beef.
- 1½ pounds ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 16-ounce jar green salsa
- 1 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 large sweet onion, cut into thin wedges (2 cups)
- 1 medium red sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
- 6 cups chopped lettuce
- 3 cups blue corn tortilla chips
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- ¾ cup frozen whole kernel corn
- 1 avocado
- ¾ cup cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup sour cream
Directions: In a large skillet, cook ground meat over medium heat until browned. Drain off fat.
In a 3 ½- or 4-quart slow cooker combine meat and the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove half of the meat mixture from the slow cooker. Cover and refrigerate for another use.
Arrange chopped leaf lettuce on a large platter. Top with blue corn tortilla chips. Spoon meat mixture over tortilla chips. Sprinkle with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Top with corn, avocado, and halved cherry tomatoes. Serve with sour cream.
5. Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers are a favorite for many, and if you want to lighten them up for spring, pack them with grains rather than meat. These quinoa-stuffed peppers from Chowhound are made in the slow cooker. Not only are they made with protein-rich quinoa, but beans, scallions, and feta cheese make appearances, too. The peppers cook in the crockpot for 4 hours. Then, serve them with any sauces of your choice. Both meat-eaters and abstainers will love this healthy, filling vegetarian meal.
- 1 (15-ounce) can white beans
- 4 scallions
- 4 large red bell peppers
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Hot sauce (optional)
Directions: Drain and rinse the beans. Cut the scallions into thin slices, roughly separating the mostly white slices from the green ones.
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pepper, so they’ll sit upright in the slow cooker.
Slice the tops off of each pepper just below the stem and reserve the tops. Remove the seeds and white veins from inside the peppers.
Take the reserved pepper tops, and dice the flesh from around the stems. Discard the stems.
In a mixing bowl, combine the diced pepper tops, quinoa, feta, beans, sliced scallion whites, measured salt, and black pepper to taste.
Stuff the quinoa mixture into the 4 peppers, and arrange them so they sit upright in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours.
Peel off the skin of each pepper, and sprinkle the stuffed peppers with the green scallion slices. Serve with the optional hot sauce.
6. Farro with Spring Vegetables
Farro is another grain you can commit to eating this spring, as it is packed with protein, iron, fiber, and other great health benefits. Farro is easy to pair with other meats and vegetables. And this recipe from Williams-Sonoma has it complementing spring vegetables, such as English peas, leaks, and asparagus. The recipe serves 6 and takes only 30 minutes of prep time. You can serve it as a vegetarian main course by making it with vegetable stock and omitting the pancetta, or you can serve it alongside another meat. The fresh, colorful dish of farro with spring vegetables will help you kick off a new season on a lighter note.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 ounce pancetta, finely chopped (optional)
- 1½ cups farro, rinsed
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 pound
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 leeks, white and light green portions, rinsed well and cut into matchsticks
- 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen English peas
- Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Directions: In a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and pancetta, and sauté until the onion is softened and the pancetta has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring, until the farro is lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker. Stir in the remaining 3 cups stock, the ¼ teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the farro is tender, 2 to 2½ hours.
Meanwhile, trim the tough stem ends from the asparagus and cut the spears into 2-inch lengths. Bring a saucepan ¾ full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus pieces, reserving the tips, and cook for 4 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook until all the pieces are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more. Drain the asparagus and rinse under cold running water until cool. Spread the pieces out on a kitchen towel to dry.
About 5 minutes before the farro is ready, in a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté for 1 minute. Add the peas and sauté for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and sauté until all the vegetables are just tender and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.
Stir the vegetables into the farro and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Garnish with the lemon zest and parsley. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the top.
7. Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken
People crave light and fresh dinners once the winter blows out and spring rolls in. And that’s exactly what this slow-cooked lemon chicken from Taste of Home is. Quality chicken doesn’t need to be fancy to be delicious, and this recipe proves it. To prepare your dinner, all you need to do is rub oregano, salt, and pepper over the poultry before browning it in butter and cooking it in the crockpot for 5 to 6 hours. Lemon, water, and garlic get added to the mix, along with parsley, 30 minutes before the chicken is finished cooking. Serve your lemon chicken with rice, and you have a delicious and nutritious dinner that required only 20 minutes of your time.
- 6 bone-in chicken breast halves (12 ounces each), skin removed
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
- Hot cooked rice
Directions: Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine the oregano, seasoned salt and pepper; rub over chicken. In a skillet over medium heat, brown the chicken in butter; transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker. Add water, lemon juice, garlic and bouillon to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring to loosen browned bits. Pour over chicken.
Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Baste chicken with cooking juices. Add parsley. Cover and cook 15 to 30 minutes longer or until meat juices run clear. Serve with rice.
8. Caribbean-style Pork
Next time you’re craving pork for dinner, make it in the crockpot. This Caribbean-style pork from Oxmoor House will get you in the mood for spring, offering sweet flavors with a sauce made from hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, peanut butter, cumin seeds, salt, red pepper, and garlic. The sauce coats the pork, which will cook in the crockpot for about 7 hours before it’s served over rice. This Caribbean-style pork is a different way to enjoy the other white meat. And when it only requires minutes of prep work on your part, there’s no way other recipes can compete. One serving of the flavorful pork and rice dish yields a little over 400 calories — and a lot of happiness.
- 1 (2-pound) boneless center-cut pork loin roast, trimmed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped red bell pepper
- 6 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4½ cups hot cooked basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons diagonally sliced green onions
Directions: Cut roast into 1-inch pieces. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork; sauté 5 minutes or until browned.
Place pork, bell pepper, and green onion pieces in a 4-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray; stir well.
Combine hoisin sauce and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Pour mixture over pork and vegetables; stir well.
Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 5 to 6 hours. Serve over rice; sprinkle with sliced green onions.
9. Spring Vegetable and Chicken Stew
Stews can star seasonal spring produce, too. Case in point: this recipe from Woman’s Day. Into the slow cooker go carrots, leaks, asparagus, peas, and chicken thighs. They’ll cook in gravy and wine for 5 to 8 hours until the chicken is tender. The asparagus will go in at the end, along with the peas. And then you have yourself a colorful spring chicken stew that is satisfying but not diet-devastating.
- 1 slow cooker liner
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts only
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 jar chicken gravy
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed
- ⅓ cup thawed frozen peas
Directions: Line a 3-quart or larger slow-cooker with liner. Put chicken, carrots, leeks, and tarragon in slow cooker. Pour in gravy. Put wine, flour, and salt in gravy jar; cover and shake to mix. Pour into slow cooker; toss to coat. Cover and cook on low 5 to 8 hours until chicken and vegetables are tender.
Turn to high. Add asparagus; cover and cook on high 10 to 15 minutes until asparagus are crisp-tender. Stir in peas.
10. Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes
The last recipe on our list is a vegetarian chili from Real Simple. As we transition into spring, we know all too well the colder air can come back to bite us until we’ve escaped it for good. For those days, make this filling vegetarian chili with sweet potatoes. It’s as satisfying as it is light and healthy. Chili doesn’t need to be weighed down by various kinds of meat. Serve your chili with any garnishes of your choice, including sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips. And say goodbye to heavy winter food the healthy way.
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
- 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- Sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and tortilla chips, for serving
Directions: In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes, beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.
Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.