8 Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes for Summer

Who says slow cookers are only for winter? Just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean your slow cooker has to stay in your pantry. With a few simple and fresh ingredients, you can whip up a light and healthy meal that’s perfect for summer. Best of all, you can relax by the pool with a tall cocktail while it’s cooking. Take a look at these delicious recipes that are perfect for a summer lunch or dinner.

MORE: 10 More Awesome Slow Cooker Recipes

1Vegan Slow Cooker Kheer

1 cup long grain brown rice
6 cups non-dairy milk (i.e., So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut milk)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds (or pistachios and/or cashews)
1 teaspoon cardamom
Sweetener to taste (i.e., two small packets of Stevia or about 2 tablespoons of agave nectar, regular sugar or brown rice syrup)

Place all ingredients, except for your sweetener of choice, into a 3 1/2  to 4 quart slow cooker. (Double the recipe if you have a larger slow cooker.) Cook on low for four to five hours or on high for about two and a half hours. The size of your slow cooker and how hot it runs will change the exact cooking time. Add sweetener and stir in. Then taste and add extra sweetener if you feel that you need it. (If you are using Stevia, I would recommend adding 1/8 teaspoon at a time, otherwise, it can become bitter.) The pudding will still be a little loose in the slow cooker, but will thicken in the fridge. Serve it cold topped with extra raisins and nuts.

Serves 8

Why we love it
Looking for a delish summer dessert that’s soy-free and gluten-free? Here you go. Kheer is an Indian rice pudding flavored with cardamom, nuts and raisins. The brown rice packs more B vitamins, phosphorus, fiber and iron than white rice, and the raisins give you an additional dose of fiber and iron.

Vegan Slow Cooker Kheer by Kathy Hester, author of “The Vegan Slow Cooker” and Healthy Slow Cooking blog

2California Chicken

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh green bell pepper
3 medium, fresh oranges, peeled and separated into slices

Layer chicken in slow cooker. In separate bowl, combine orange juice, chili sauce, soy sauce, molasses, dry mustard, garlic and onion. Pour over chicken. Cover. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry. Stir in chopped green pepper and orange slices. Cover and heat 30 minutes longer.

Makes 8-9 servings

Why we love it
Talk about loading up on vitamin C: One serving of green bell peppers provides 200 percent of your daily dose, plus disease-fighting antioxidants. Onions are always a summer favorite, giving you additional vitamin C with some valuable fiber on the side. And of course, oranges are chock-full of vitamin C, too—all of which can keep your body strong and healthy this summer.

California Chicken by Phyllis Pellman Good, author of the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbooks

3Turkey Taco Salad

Meat Sauce
1.25 pounds fresh ground raw dark turkey meat
1 (16-ounce) jar tomato salsa

6 cups thick shredded or chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce
3 cups corn chips
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, heated in a saucepan or microwave
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shredded cheddar cheese
2 medium ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 pint low-fat sour cream, stirred (optional)
1 medium firm and ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced right before serving
1 (4-ounce) can sliced black olives
1 (16-ounce) jar tomato salsa

Spray the cooker with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Place the ground turkey and whole jar of salsa in the cooker. Cover and cook on low for four to six hours, until cooked thoroughly. Stir. To serve, assemble all salad components in separate containers. Prepare an individual plate with layers of lettuce, handful of corn chips, hot meat, a spoonful or two of hot pinto beans, shredded cheese, spoonfuls of salsa, some diced tomatoes, sour cream (optional), avocado and olives.

Serves 6

Why we love it
Just one serving of pinto beans offers 15 grams—or 62 percent of your daily dose—of fiber. You’ll also get a nice helping of iron. And the avocado provides additional fiber, vitamin C and a mega-dose of healthy fats. All of which will keep you fuller longer, staving off a case of the late night munchies.

Turkey Taco Salad
by Beth Hensperger, author of “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

4Pulled BBQ Chicken with Cabbage-Carrot Slaw

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
8 to 10 (2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried ground chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cabbage-Carrot Slaw
6 cups finely shredded green cabbage (about two-thirds of a 2-pound cabbage)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
1 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise soy mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
8 fresh Kaiser rolls, onion buns or wheat buns, halved and warmed

Spray the crock with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the onion and garlic over the bottom, then top with the chicken thighs. In a bowl, stir together the ketchup, cider vinegar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, chipotle chile powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended; pour over the thighs. Cover and cook on low for eight to nine hours, until the chicken is fork tender and easily pulls apart. While meat is cooking, make the cabbage slaw. In a large bowl, place cabbage, carrot and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add to the cabbage and toss to lightly coat. Season with salt, cover and refrigerate. Transfer meat to a cutting board and pull meat apart in chunks with two forks. Return to the sauce in the slow cooker and place on warm. When ready to serve, place the two sections of warm bun on a plate and spoon shredded chicken with plenty of sauce over warm buns with some cabbage slaw on the side.

Why we love it
Serve this yummy dish piled onto fresh, soft buns (and have lots of napkins handy) with the crunchy-fresh slaw on the side. The chicken is full of lean protein, which will leave you feeling full and satisfied. The green cabbage and bell peppers in the slaw are loaded with vitamin C, while the carrots will give you 428 percent of your recommended vitamin A per serving. Can’t beat that for a healthy summer meal!

Pulled BBQ Chicken with Cabbage-Carrot Slaw
by Beth Hensperger, author of “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

5Super Summer Succotash

1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup chopped summer squash
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup fresh corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
5-6 fresh tomatoes, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package quinoa
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about ½ cup)

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Place first seven ingredients in slow cooker; stir well and cook on low for four hours. Stir in parsley, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Serve succotash over quinoa. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 8

Why we love it
This delicious succotash works as a light summer lunch or dinner but still packs in the protein with quinoa and beans. Tomatoes, which are now in season, are loaded with an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. And the summer squash provides an extra kick of vitamins C and A and manganese.

Super Summer Succotash
by Keri Glassman, R.D., author of “The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever

6Brown Rice, Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas Lettuce Cups

1 ½ cups brown rice
2 ¾ cups vegetable broth
1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped toasted pine nuts
¼ cup chopped basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 head (Bibb or Boston) lettuce

Rinse rice under cold water and place in slow cooker. Add the broth, chicken, shallot and carrot. Cover and cook on low for about 5 hours (or until rice kernels are open but not mushy). Remove cover and stir in snap peas, olive oil, pine nuts, basil, salt and pepper. Choose 12 lettuce leaves, clean and dry. Spoon about ½ cup rice mixture into each lettuce cup and serve.
Serves 6

Why we love it
This recipe provides whole grains, protein, fiber and healthy fat—all wrapped up in one little refreshing bed of lettuce. Fresh sugar snap peas are an excellent source of vitamin C and pack in some vitamin K. And the basil (also in season now) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Wrap me up some of this, please!

Brown Rice, Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas Lettuce Cups
by Keri Glassman, R.D., author of “The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever

7Spicy Veggie Chili with Summer Squash and Jalapeños

¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ cups (about 1) red bell pepper, diced
1 ½ cups (about 1) green bell pepper, diced
½ cup scallions, white, light green and some dark green parts, thinly sliced (about 4)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons (1 small) minced jalapeño
2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
5 grinds black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 cups (about 2) yellow summer squash, diced
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed, drained
¼ cup tomato paste

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2 tablespoons minced chiles or liquid from a can of chipotle chiles en adobo
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed strained lime juice
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Tortilla chips, for serving (optional)
Diced avocado, for serving (optional)

Heat half of the oil in a 10-inch, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add bell peppers, scallions, garlic, jalapeño, half of the salt, black pepper and chili powder. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about six minutes. Add squash and sauté until slightly soft, another three minutes. Transfer to slow cooker, add beans and mix well. Reduce heat to medium under the sauté pan and add remaining oil, plus tomato paste, chiles or chipotle liquid and flour. Cook until mixture is thickened and flour disappears, about one minute. Increase heat to high and add tomatoes with their juices, stock, lime juice and remaining salt. Boil, stirring well, for two minutes. Pour into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low, three to four hours. Stir in cilantro and serve with chips and avocado.

Serves 4-6

Why we love it
It’s chili, vegetarian style! With a whopping three cups of bell peppers, this vibrant, meatless dish is full of vitamins A and C, along with a healthy dose of protein and fiber from the pinto and black beans.

Spicy Veggie Chili with Summer Squash and Jalapeños
by Dina Cheney, author of “Year-Round Slow Cooker

8Zesty Pears

6 fresh pears
½ cup raisins
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
¼ cup brandy
½ cup sauterne wine
½ cup crumbled macaroons
Fat-free sour cream (optional)

Peel and core pears. Cut into thin slices. Combine raisins, sugar and lemon peel. Layer alternately with pear slices in slow cooker. Pour brandy and wine over top. Cover. Cook on low three to five hours, or until pears are as tender as you like. Spoon into serving dishes. Cool. Sprinkle with macaroons. Serve plain or topped with sour cream.

Makes 6 servings

Why we love it
Juicy, sweet and packed with vitamin C and fiber, fresh pears are the perfect summertime dessert. Put them in your crock-pot for a few hours, top with some tasty raisins, macaroons and a dash of brown sugar, and you have yourself a light treat that’s healthier than that summer ice cream sundae.

Zesty Pears
by Phyllis Pellman Good, author of the bestselling slow-cooker Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbooks