Showstopper Slow Cooker Recipes to Bring to Your Next Potluck
Step out with bold flavors with your potluck meals and find the recipe that suits any comfort-food craving—it’s all right here from Chinese Pulled Pork, Meatballs in Tomato Sauce to Jamaican Beef Stew.
When it’s time to celebrate with friends and family, we gather with food. So, pull your slow cooker from the dark recesses of your bottom corner cupboard next to the sink, choose a soon-to-be-favorite recipe from our list, and be prepared to return from the potluck without a leftover in sight.
Potlucks are for celebrating, be it a housewarming, a graduation, or an office retirement, and it’s an opportunity to bring a special dish in a convenient and efficient method of cooking.
Would you like to turn heads with the aromas of allspice in a Jamaican beef stew? Check. Or how about piles of tender and sticky Honey Buffalo Wings for the crowd? Easy-peasy. Wait, you could even do a Banana Bread Pudding with a drizzle of caramel sauce? Of course! No one will fault you for showing off a bit.
Using a slower manner of cooking has the benefit of tenderizing meats, maintaining moisture, and creating flavor. A slow cooker allows us to have a meal ready the moment we walk in from work. And for potlucks, when we’re looking for convenience, a slow cooker resolves a number of issues: it’s a transportable serving vessel, it’ll keep the food warm, and when we’re busy and need to get a several things done at once—cooking, soccer, homework, work-work—putting together a meal has just become one less worry.
Several recipes will require you to brown vegetables or meats in a separate pan prior to adding them to the slow cooker. As the slow cooker doesn’t reach a high enough temperature to do so, you could use an Instant Pot to sauté and slow cook all in one vessel.
Whether you’re looking for traditional or unique meal, these slow cooker recipes reward the potluck crowds by coaxing out layer upon layer of flavor. So, celebrate the convenience of the slow cooker, celebrate the food, and celebrate the people (those same people who’ll wish they had a bigger bowl when they eat your food).
Slow Cooker Jambalaya
The combination of Creole seasoning, shrimp, and smoked sausage are among the high points of this dish. And although you needn’t be in Louisiana proper to pull it off, do yourself a favor and turn up the volume on The Neville Brothers, and you won’t be too far off. While it’s recommended to cook the rice separately, it can be added when the jambalaya has finished filling your kitchen with all of its smoky and spicy aromas. And don’t forget to get out your cast-iron pan, so there’s a slice of cornbread at-the-ready.
Slow Cooker Brats and Beer Cheese Dip
Here’s one of those dishes that can sit on the counter all-game long. While most of the cooking is done outside of the slow cooker, the convenience of this dip is it being kept warm and melty all on its own. Point your guests to a bowlful of tortilla chips, and let them have at it. Now, go take a load off, you’ve done your good deed for the day.
Slow Cooker Cider Pulled Pork
Having a solid go-to pulled pork recipe on-hand will save the day. The rub uses typical baking spices for depth of flavor and the pork is then combined with cider, mustard, tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar for standout flavor. And if you need another old acquaintance of pulled pork, give these pickled onions a try. If you're really feeling ambitious make your own buns.
Slow Cooker Almond Orange Rice Pudding
This rice pudding is bright and smooth, and it is a variation of the Indian dessert, kheer. The puddings consistency contrasts well with the textured toppings of candied almonds and orange and the warming spices of a just brewed chai tea should link these two at the hip.
Slow Cooker Bourbon Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits
As the weather cools down, this becomes my go to potluck dish. The richness of a cut like short ribs is only enhanced by the cheesiness of the grits. While the bourbon and the brown sugar bring a depth of flavor to the sauce, the orange zest brightens it. And to carry on those specific flavors, finish the get-together with a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned.
Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice Casserole
Chicken thighs are a wonderful vessel for the deep flavors of cumin and cinnamon, which the rice assumes as well. It's a simple and flavorful dish. Do you want to know the secret to the success of this recipe? In cooking the rice, hold back 1/2 cup of chicken stock, then after 60 minutes of cooking, see if the rice needs the additional liquid.
Slow Cooker Lamb Stew with Pomegranate Molasses
Lamb’s unique flavor and texture is combined with the sweetness of pomegranate molasses to pull the dish together. And it’s the less expensive cuts like the shoulder or shanks which are best suited for this stew, a Middle Eastern meat and potatoes staple, for sure. And when the dishes are all put away, you’ll be pleased you had thought ahead and baked this Apricot Tart to take with you to your potluck dinner.
Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
In a restaurant I worked in, we cooked our meatballs, right in the sauce, not in a slow cooker though. Tomato sauce and meatballs are an ideal pairing—I dare say they are even better than Scorsese and DiNiro. If you’re looking to go full-on, old-school Italian-American, make your own homemade pasta to go along with it. I’m sure everyone at the potluck would rave about this dish. You could also keep it simple and serve these up by themselves with some toothpicks.
Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Red Peppers
Whether you like your curry with coconut milk creaminess or a thicker tomato base, there is flexibility to this dish to serve either of your preferences. And if you soak the chickpeas overnight, you can reduce the cooking time, too. It all goes into the slow cooker at once, giving you a moment to make a Cilantro Lime Rice to serve it with.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Pot roast hits all the traditional touchpoints with beef, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Oh, the gravy—absolutely, do not forget the gravy. There is loads of flavor in using a chuck roast, and if you sear the meat beforehand, you’ll be filling your slow cooker with even more beefy flavors. Prepare parts of the dish the night before, and in the morning, it all goes into the slow cooker and you’re off to start your day. Since you’ve already opened a bottle of red wine for the pot roast, why not tie a bow on the evening with some honey mulled wine.
Slow Cooker Banana Bread Pudding
The make-ahead aspect of a slow cooker dessert removes many of my baking stressors. The simplicity of a bread pudding, with its flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, banana, and caramel rank it among the desserts I just can’t turn down. The bread is best if soaked for the full 24 hours, the caramel sauce can be made up to a week beforehand, and it gives you time to make your own vanilla ice cream to scoop on top—or you could leave the ice cream at home, and stash it away just for yourself. I won’t tell a soul, I promise.
Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Chili
Served over rice, in a bowl on it’s own, or ladled over a hot dog, a good chili like this one will be part of your cool-weather months. You could even grab a few potatoes, make potato skins, and fill them with the rich flavors of chili. What is especially convenient about this dish is that chili is even better after it sits for a day, and how pleased you’ll be when you have your potluck dish ready a day in advance.
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Traditional dishes are an absolute hit at potlucks. We all want something we recognize and can count on. The dependability of pasta and creamy, melty cheese will transport your oldest of eaters back to their childhood, and the youngest back too, well, to last week. Also, it’s good to keep in mind the keys to cooking pasta in a slow cooker: Initially using the minimum amount of liquid, and stirring it through completely at the 90 minute mark.
Jamaican Beef Stew with Scotch Bonnets, Ginger, and Allspice
This dish is not your grandmother’s standard meat and two veg. Adaptable to the slow cooker, the allspice base notes, the method of browning the sugar, and the warmth from the peppers distinguish this stew from many others. The layers of flavor can be enjoyed on their own, or you can serve it over a bowl of long-grain rice.
Slow Cooker Honey Buffalo Wings
Whether it’s football or fútbol, a platter full of wings within arm’s reach couldn’t make for better watching of your favorite team or club. The brown sugar and bitterness of the molasses even out the heat from the hot sauce and cayenne. Listen, take 10 minutes to mix up the marinade—then go mow the lawn, build a treehouse, or whatever you like for the next 3 1/2 hours while the wings cook. On the other hand, you could also put together a quick blue cheese sauce that you won’t be mad about, either.
Slow Cooker Spinach Feta Dip
If you’re after a classic dip with a twist, this is the one. The ribbons of spinach and the saltiness of feta cheese give this dish the body and flavors we look for in a dip. If you’re in need of even more flavor, go ahead and add a bit of smokey bacon. Just don’t plan on leftovers.
Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
The versatility of a chili allows you to be creative in having a dish that pleases the pickiest of eaters. Whether you swap out for your favorite beans, chili peppers, or toppings, it can be adapted with ease, and enjoyed by everyone afterward. And if you’re feeling more creative still, a dollop of salsa verde lends a tart brightness to a can’t-miss dish.
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Soup
Make this with coconut milk and you’ll have both vegans and non-vegans, alike, asking for your recipe. It’s the ginger, coconut milk, and even a topping of cilantro or roasted pumpkin seeds, which help celebrate the flavor of pumpkin and pull this away from everything that’s pumpkin-spiced.
Cheesy Slow Cooker Sausage Balls
It’s all about the cheese with these sausage balls. The cheese—both cream cheese and cheddar—replace breadcrumbs and eggs, and acts as a binder to maintain their shape. Add fresh herbs, if you’d like, but these sausage balls are already chock full of flavor. Cooking in as little as two hours, this is a quicker slow-cooker recipe, which comes in handy when there’s lots to do and company is on the way.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Tacos are always fun for a crowd of people to build themselves. Everyone will appreciate the variety of garnishes you’ve laid out, but they will lose themselves in the layers of tastes—earthy cumin, shades of heat from chili powder, and the sweet acidity of pineapple—the slow cooker infuses into the chicken. And no one will mind if you continue your run of impressive simplicity with a stellar dish of Spanish rice.