10 Slow Cooker Recipes Perfect for Summer Entertaining
Slow cookers are often associated with cold-weather cooking, when deeply comforting stews and long-simmered tagines help fill the tummy (and soul) on long winter days. But if you put away your slow cooker when the mercury starts to rise, you’re doing a dire disservice to yourself, your family, and anyone you’re planning to feed during spring and summer months.
Indeed, in the summertime when the mere idea of heating up an oven or sauté pan makes you break a sweat, you can use a slow cooker to make dinners and sides. Best of both worlds: you keep the temperatures inside your house down and your dinner comes together with zero fuss.
Here, we’ve collected our best summer-worthy slow cooker recipes. Each of these dishes is great for a weeknight dinner, summer barbecue dish, or a sweet for the neighborhood block party. Better yet, why not take your slow cooker with you to the vacation house? Pick one of these recipes, start the cooker before you leave for the beach, and come home to a delicious dinner already made.
RELATED: The One Dangerous Mistake You're Making with Your Slow Cooker
Slow Cooker Cuban Sandwiches
Slow cooked meals have a reputation for being overly rich, but in summer months, the goal is dinners that are light and refreshing. That’s precisely why you should make these sandwiches: briny pork, salty ham, tangy pickles, and bright mustard fill crusty bread. Serve with an ice-cold beer and a side of baked chips for a fast and delicious dinner.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Cuban Sandwiches
BBQ Sweet Potato Bakers
Use your slow cooker to soften spuds, like these healthy and hearty sweet potatoes. Pack them with plenty of summer-ready toppings like fresh corn, chopped tomatoes, or crisp chives to bring your farmer's market haul right to your table. Serve with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to avoid turning on your stove.
Get the recipe: BBQ Sweet Potato Bakers
Chicken Taco Soup
Here again you might think soup is just too hot for a summer day, but it can be very refreshing and filling without making you fan yourself at the table. Plus, you can use cooling toppings like radishes, sour cream, avocado, and fresh corn to keep things light.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin
A spicy-sweet coating of brown sugar and crushed red pepper helps seal in moisture in this pork tenderloin. A hint of umami is added by soy-spiked beef stock. You can use this tenderloin the way we recommend—served over rice with crisp, refreshing cucumbers and carrots, or use it to make quick tacos, a salad topper, or even the meat for a mix-and-match burrito bowl.
Get the recipe: Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin
Fans of batch cooking will appreciate this slow-cooked pork shoulder recipe. It’s brimming with flavor thanks to chili powder, cumin, and oregano, but a braise of sugary cola makes the meat tender and exceptionally juicy. (Crazy, we know!) Put this in to cook on a Sunday or the first night of your vacation, and use it to make tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and more all week long.
Get the recipe: Coca-Cola Carnitas
Black Bean Posole
Cool, fresh toppings like avocado, radishes, and cilantro tame the heat and spice of this Mexican soup, which help you stave off a sweat. Plus, this soup is broth based, which is lighter and more refreshing than a hearty stew on a hot night. It's perfect for freezing if you have any leftovers, but we doubt there will be much left behind.
Get the recipe: Black Bean Posole
Open-Face Pulled-Pork Sandwiches with Tangy Broccoli Slaw
Juicy pulled pork makes for fast and easy sandwiches with a quick, fresh, and crisp slaw topping. You can eat the slaw (which is also made ahead for the best flavor) on the sandwich or as a side. If you’ve got summer-ripe ears of corn, they’re welcome with this easy summer sandwich, too.
Big-Batch Slow Cooker Black Beans
Beans can long simmer over a stove eye, but the heat can be overwhelming when the sun is so strong. Opt for cooking beans in your slow cooker instead. You can even skip the overnight soaking step. Use your batch of beans as a side throughout the week or as the base for a soup, salad, or grain bowl.
Get the recipe: Big Batch Black Beans
Once you make cheesecake in a slow cooker, you may never bother with the traditional oven method again. The caramel sauce is optional, but for summer, we recommend fresh fruit like blackberries and blueberries. A little whipped cream on top never hurt, either.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Cheesecake