40 Simple Slow-Cooker Recipes for the Busy Back-to-School Season

Creamy Slow-Cooker Tarragon Chicken
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Between back-to-school shopping, sports practices, and twice-daily school runs, it can feel impossible to make time for eating dinner, let alone for cooking dinner. Those long back-to-school days stretch into hungry nights—it's unavoidable. That's when you know it's time for the slow-cooker. The slow-cooker is your key to stress-free weeknights. It's the year-round kitchen MVP, and it's definitely the unsung hero of back-to-school season. Plug it in, set it, and forget it. (It will make your life easier, we promise.) We've rounded up some of our favorite slow-cooker recipes for you to try now. Consider this recipe collection your own personal Southern Living slow-cooker cookbook.

These are the family-favorite meals that the kids will request again and again. Don't let the back-to-school blues get you down. Spice up your weeknights with a few recipes that are delicious and oh-so easy. Kids like chicken? From Honey-Apricot Glazed Chicken to Chicken and Cornbread Dumplings, there's a flavor for every taste. Crazy about tacos? Read on for our Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor and Barbacoa Brisket. We have the back-to-school weeknight recipe classics, too, like mac and cheese, spaghetti, chicken soup, and chimichangas.

01 of 40

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Caitlin Bensel

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos

Taco Tuesday can be the least stressful dinner of the week with the help of your slow-cooker.

02 of 40

Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup with Bacon

Slow-Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Bacon
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup with Bacon

Unlike most vegetable soup recipes, this convenient version doesn't require you to stand over the stove stirring all afternoon.

03 of 40

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

Crock-Pot Salsa Chicken
Caitlin Bensel

Recipe: Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

While we suggest serving this dish over rice, there are so many other ways you can enjoy it for dinner, including but not limited to tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos, and over potatoes.

04 of 40

Slow-Cooker Pork Roast

Slow-Cooker Pork Roast
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl Jones; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Pork Roast

Cutting your veggies in the recommended sizes will ensure that they are finished cooking at the same time as your pork.

05 of 40

Slow Cooker Tomato-Basil Meatloaf

Slow Cooker Tomato-Basil Meatloaf
Photo: Victor Protasio

Recipe: Slow Cooker Tomato-Basil Meatloaf

If you think meatloaf isn't for busy weeknights because of the longer cooking time it requires, we have good news. It's possible to serve this hearty dish any day of the week thanks to your slow cooker.

06 of 40

Herbed Beef Ragu

Herbed Beef Ragu
Southern Living

Recipe: Herbed Beef Ragu

Let this sauce cook on low for 8 hours and all that's left to do at dinnertime is to boil the noodles of your choice. This recipes feeds 6 to 8 people, so if you have a smaller family you can even freeze half for later.

07 of 40

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: White Chicken Chili

With this chili recipe, once you've gathered the ingredients, you're already halfway to getting dinner on the table.

08 of 40

Lemon Chicken Soup

Lemon Chicken Soup
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Lemon Chicken Soup

Using a rotisserie chicken will help this soup come together with little time or effort on your part, but it still delivers plenty of flavor and nutrition.

09 of 40

Slow Cooker Goulash

Slow Cooker Goulash
Jennifer Causey

Recipe: Slow Cooker Goulash

When picking out a roast, we suggest choosing a roast with marbling which is key to making the sauce.

10 of 40

Easy Slow-Cooker Chicken

Slow-Cooker Roasted Chicken
Southern Living

Recipe: Easy Slow-Cooker Chicken

Yes, you can cook a whole chicken in your slow cooker.

11 of 40

Spaghetti Casserole

Spaghetti Casserole
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Spaghetti Casserole

Bake your spaghetti into a casserole for a dinner that will double as leftovers all week long.

12 of 40

Slow Cooker Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Slow Cooker Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Jennifer Causey Styling: Lindsey Lower

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Bone-in thighs help keep the chicken from drying out as it cooks and gives the dish maximum flavor.

13 of 40

Meatball Sliders with Tomato Sauce

Meatball Sliders with Tomato Sauce
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Meatball Sliders with Tomato Sauce

It's the entree that launched a thousand great dinners. Kids can't get enough of these tasty meatball sliders.

14 of 40

Soulful Chicken Soup

Soulful Chicken Soup
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Soulful Chicken Soup

Chicken soup isn't just for sick days. It's also a comforting back-to-school supper.

15 of 40

Black Bean Chimichangas

Black Bean Chimichangas
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Black Bean Chimichangas

This recipe for Black Bean Chimichangas is as fun to make as it is to eat.

16 of 40

Slow-Cooker Beef Nachos

Slow-Cooker Beef Nachos
Laurey W. Glenn

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Beef Nachos

Could there be an easier or more kid-pleasing dinner than nachos? Only if it's this recipe, which is customizable and also made in the slow cooker. Win-win.

17 of 40

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce

This will become your go-to tomato sauce in no time at all.

18 of 40

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken
Becky Luigart-Stayner

Recipe: Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken

Skip the pre-cooked chicken at the grocery store and make your own with this easy recipe.

19 of 40

Easy Enchilada Bake

Easy Enchilada Bake
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Easy Enchilada Bake

This has all the flavor of enchiladas with none of the labor-intensive prep.

20 of 40

Slow-Cooked Cowboy Brisket and Beans

Slow-Cooked Cowboy Brisket and Beans
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Slow-Cooked Cowboy Brisket and Beans

Channel your inner cowboy and round up dinner with this delicious brisket-and-beans dish.

21 of 40

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor with All the Fixings

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor with All the Fixings
Greg Dupree

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor with All the Fixings

Put all the fixings on the table, and the kids will love putting together their own tacos.

22 of 40

Chicken and Cornbread Dumplings

Chicken and Cornbread Dumplings
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Chicken and Cornbread Dumplings

We always love chicken and dumplings for an easy supper, but we're really over the moon for this slow-cooker version that incorporates cornbread.

23 of 40

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Greg Dupree

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Switch up taco night from the usual ground beef or chicken by serving pork shoulder as the main ingredient.

24 of 40

Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese

Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese

Mac-and-cheese is comfort food at its finest, and you'll love the easy prep of this recipe that can be served as a main or side.

25 of 40

Honey-Apricot Glazed Chicken

Honey-Apricot-Glazed Chicken
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Honey-Apricot Glazed Chicken

Simmer for a few hours, and you'll be on your way to a delicious chicken dish with complementary (and irresistible) sweet and sour flavors.

26 of 40

Tangy Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder

Tangy Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Tangy Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder

Whip up a pork shoulder in the slow cooker on Sunday, and you'll have the base for any number of dinner entrees all week long.

27 of 40

Coriander-Coconut Braised Ribs

Coriander-Coconut Braised Ribs
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Coriander-Coconut-Braised Ribs

Think ribs are a no-go for weeknight dinner? Think again, thanks to this easy recipe with flavors both parents and kiddos will crave.

28 of 40

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti

Bookmark this chicken cacciatore recipe for a classic weeknight supper that's sure to please.

29 of 40

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken Sandwiches

Pickled Peppers & Onions
Becky Luigart Stayner

Recipe: Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken Sandwiches

Barbecued chicken is a solid sandwich choice at any time of year, but it's especially satisfying during back-to-school season.

30 of 40

Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili
Photo: Oxmoor House

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili

Lighten up your classic chili with this memorable version that uses ground turkey as the source of protein.

31 of 40

Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes

Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes

This slow-cooker recipe is a no-fail, fuss free, and kid-pleasing meal that allows you to cook the main dish along with the sides at the same time.

32 of 40

Chicken Sausage and White Bean Stew

Chicken Sausage and White Bean Stew
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Chicken Sausage and White Bean Stew

As summer turns to fall, you'll need more hearty recipes like this one.

33 of 40

Slow-Cooker Chicken Lettuce Cups

Slow-Cooker Chicken Lettuce Cups
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Lettuce Cups

Lighten up dinner with this satisfying salad alternative.

34 of 40

Barbacoa Brisket

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Brisket
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Recipe: Barbacoa Brisket

What can't you do with barbacoa brisket? It's a perfect base for all your greatest weeknight dinner ideas.

35 of 40

Chicken-and-Spinach Lasagna

Chicken-and-Spinach Lasagna
Oxmoor House

Recipe: Chicken-and-Spinach Lasagna

Sneak some leafy greens into this lasagna for a slightly healthier and soon-to-be signature lasagna that you'll want to make every week.

36 of 40

King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken
Southern Living

Recipe: King Ranch Chicken

Lean on the slow cooker to make king ranch chicken casserole even easier. This recipe is one for the books.

37 of 40

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

Sweet potatoes and bacon are a dynamic back-to-school duo.

38 of 40

Baked Four-Cheese Spaghetti with Italian Sausage

Baked Four-Cheese Spaghetti with Italian Sausage
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Baked Four-Cheese Spaghetti with Italian Sausage

Take your classic spaghetti up a notch—and cut down on prep time—with this delectable four-cheese, slow-cooker version.

39 of 40

Slow-Cooker Beef Sliders with Pickled Peppers

Slow-Cooker Beef Sliders with Pickled Peppers
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Beef Sliders with Pickled Peppers

Kids love sliders, and so do we. Back to school has never been so tasty.

40 of 40

Creamy Slow-Cooker Tarragon Chicken

Creamy Slow-Cooker Tarragon Chicken
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Creamy Slow-Cooker Tarragon Chicken

Serve this chicken with the starch of your choice, like rice, egg noodles, or mashed potatoes.

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