8 Family Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes for Fall & Winter!

Shredded Beef Ragu Recipe in slow cooker with wood spoon and parmesan on the table. It's so easy to make and has a thick meaty texture and a super rich delicious flavor.

It’s time, my friends!  It SLOW COOKER SEASON!!  If you know…you know.  If you are new to the wonderful world of the slow cooker, well, you are about to have your life changed!  That’s because the slow cooker takes the stress out of dinner, gives you time back with your family, cooks dinner for YOU – oh and leaves the hair on your head (lol – yes, I have wanted to pull my hair out vs make dinner too)!  Because I know first hand how amazing the Slow Cooker is, today I have my top 8 Easy Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes that you really must try this Fall and Winter!

These 8 Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes meet the following criteria:

  1. EASY – 90% of the Dinner is cooked in the slow cooker.  This means that the main protein and veggies are cooked in the slow cooker.  The only other parts of the dinner that may be needed are a starch or grain (pasta, rice, quinoa, potato, etc. and potentially a simple salad if you desire.  
  2. KID-FRIENDLY – these recipes are kid-tested and parents have confirmed to me that their kids enjoyed them!  Let’s face it, kids are finicky.  One day they love something and the next they don’t.  So, I don’t pretend that all kids will love these recipes.  However, there is nothing too spicy or too polarizing here.
  3. COMFORTING – It’s getting cold out and we this year, we all need a bit more comfort, right?  All of these recipes are sure to warm your insides and give you a cozy and comfy feeling.
  4. BALANCED – These are recipes that contain a balanced mix of vitamins and nutrients.  I don’t shy away from the yummy stuff (ehem, cheese:) but I do try to include a healthy dose of veggies!

A Slow Cooker is a Busy Family’s Best Friend

My slow cooker is one of my most beloved kitchen appliances.  Not only does a slow cooker make wonderful food, it helps to make your life easier and gives you peace of mind.  You can fill the slow cooker in the morning and let it cook all day while you are at work.  You come home to delicious and comforting aromas and have a warm dinner waiting for you.

I absolutely love love love my easy and simple (and not expensive) Crock-Pot.  I have the 6-Quart version with 5 settings (low 4-hour, low 6-hour, high 8-hour, high 10-hour, and warm).

There are other fancier versions and if I were in the market for a new slow cooker, I would want THIS one with a browning insert!  You can order this today and have it in a few days to start your Slow Cooker Cookin’!

So, here you go!

8 Easy Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes

1. Comforting Beef Stew over Noodles

Slow Cooker Beef Stew over Noodles on a plate. This is downhome comfort food that's full of flavor and texture with carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, beef, and more. Now, try pouring that salty, chunky, saucy goodness over noodles...yup, even more amazing! #beefstew #crockpot #slowcooker #easydinners #dinnerrecipes

Beef Stew over Noodles is one of those slow cooker dinner recipes that is just downhome comfort food. It’s full of flavor and texture with carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, beef, and more. Make it in the Slow Cooker and it’s like your Mom made it for you because it cooks all day while you are out and it’s waiting for you when you are home. Now, try pouring that salty, chunky, saucy goodness over noodles…yup, even more amazing!

2. Slow Cooker Light & Creamy Broccoli Soup

Slow Cooker Creamy Broccoli Soup in two bowls on counter with crockpot in back. This is easy, comforting, and delicious! With Carrots, Broccoli, Onion, Garlic, and Oregano, this is one flavorful soup. And, there is no heavy cream, just milk and a little half and half mixed with cornstarch, so it's healthy and gluten free!

This Slow Cooker Creamy Broccoli Soup is easy, comforting, and delicious!  With Carrots, Broccoli, Onion, Garlic, and Oregano, this is one flavorful soup.  And, there is no heavy cream, just milk and a little half and half mixed with cornstarch, so you can feel good about eating this gluten free veggie-loaded soup!

3. Homemade Chicken & Veggie Soup

5-Ingredient Homemade Chicken Soup in a bowl with spoon and crockpot in background. This soup is thick, creamy, and hearty. It's filled with flavorful broth, meaty shredded chicken, and sweet bursts of bright veggies. You can prepare all of the ingredients ahead and freeze them until you are ready to cook. Then, thaw, pour into the Slow Cooker, set and forget.

This 5-Ingredient Homemade Chicken Soup is thick, creamy (but, no dairy!), and hearty.  It’s filled with flavorful broth, meaty shredded chicken, and sweet bursts of bright veggies.  But, this version is also the easiest ever because you prepare all of the ingredients ahead (even months ahead) and freeze them until you are ready to cook this wonderful meal.  Then you thaw, pour all of the ingredients into the Slow Cooker, set and forget.  Forget until those amazing and comforting aromas remind you that you have a Homemade Chicken Soup waiting for you!

4.  Easy Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Easy Slow Cooker Short Ribs are always a show-stopper and the perfect main dish for entertaining.  I have made them for holiday dinner parties, for Sunday family dinners, visits from out-of-towners, and thank you meals for friends.  They are incredibly decadent and taste like you slaved away in the kitchen for your guests.  The flavors from the onion, carrots, demi-glace, thyme, and garlic all seep into the meat, which is fall-apart tender and absolutely delicious.  These Easy Slow Cooker Short Ribs taste amazing with Creamy Parmesan Polenta, so check out that recipe too!

5. Simple Weeknight Paprika Pork Stew Recipe

Paprika Pork Stew Recipe in a bowl with carrots, onion, parsley. It's an easy family dinner. 

This Paprika Pork Stew Recipe is loaded with flavor and texture.  With each spoonful you get a smokey and salty bite flavor from the pork, paprika, oregano, garlic and onion.  Carrots balance out this dish with a slightly sweet and tender bite.  Finally, the pork is so moist and fork tender.  But the best part is that this entire dinner can be made in the slow cooker during the day.  Or you can make it ahead in the oven and then reheat on a busy weeknight!

6. Mouthwatering Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos with with Pickled Onions, Shredded Cheese, and Cilantro Lime Crema drizzled on top!  It's such an easy dinner since the pork cooks in the slow cooker to be perfectly seasoned and fall apart tender. #tacos #easydinner #glutenfree #dinner #mexican #pork

These Slow Cooker Pork Tacos are mouthwateringly fantastic!  Top them with with Pickled Onions, Shredded Cheese, and Cilantro Lime Crema drizzled all over!  You get the salty and smoky flavor from the perfectly seasoned and slow cooked pork, a sweet and tart bite from the pickled onions, with creaminess from the cheese, and tang from the cilantro lime crema.

7. Shredded Beef Ragu Recipe

Shredded Beef Ragu Recipe with Pappardelle with a fork on plate with basil and parmesan on the table. It's so easy to make and has a thick meaty texture and a super rich delicious flavor.

This is my easy, made-for-busy-moms Shredded Beef Ragu Recipe!  It has a thick meaty texture and a super rich delicious flavor.  It’s made with beef chuck, so it’s affordable and easy to work with.  It’s made without wine, but instead gets that acidic backdrop from Balsamic Vinegar.  And it’s easy for busy moms because it’s made in a slow cooker!  Just toss all ingredients in, set for 6-8 hours, shred the beef, and that’s it!

8. Slow Cooker Detox Cabbage Soup

Comfort soups can be good for you too.  This Slow Cooker Detox Cabbage Soup is really easy, low-calorie, veggie-packed, which is a great way to get some healthy in between the holiday feastes! This soup is light, but filling with cabbage, tomato, carrots, onion, and garlic. It is also so easy because it is made in the slow cooker, but you can make it faster on the stove as well. It is so good for you and so low calorie, that this makes a great dinner, lunch the next day, and snack whenever you get hungry!

BONUS: 9.  Brazilian Black Beans (Feijão)

Slow Cooker Brazilian Black Beans are thick, rich, and delicious! Serve as a side or main over rice.

These Slow Cooker Brazilian Black Beans, known as Feijão, are a traditional dish in Brazil. The slow cooker makes it incredibly easy to make these anytime and it allows all of the flavors from the meat, onion, cilantro, and garlic to cook into the beans for a distinctive, thick, saucy, and hearty dish. They are great as a side or a main dish. If you have never tried these beans, you really MUST and I promise you will love them.

 

What are YOUR favorite Slow Cooker recipes?  Please share in the comments!

😍 Carrie

Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

Jump to Recipe

Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork.  This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has a super creamy and cheesy curly pasta on the bottom that lays a perfect foundation.  Then it’s topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili filled with tomatoes, onions, and carrots for layers of sweet and savory flavors.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners. 

This recipe is also a great one to make directly from your freezer and pantry!  The chili can be cooked ahead and frozen to pull out, warm, and add to mac and cheese any time you want!  Click here to get lots more Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

Scooping Chili out of pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Substitutes – Because you don’t have time to worry!

With our crazy schedules and limited time, you sometimes have to make do with whatever you have in the house, so here are your swaps and substitutes!

Chili Subs

  • Ground Beef – you can easily sub with ground turkey or chicken here!  I use 90% lean beef, but you can use any fat content.  You can also ADD chorizo or ground pork.
  • Seasonings – Feel free to use a Chili Spice mix you like, just taste for salt and pepper.  Paprika and Cayenne are optional, but I find they really boost the smokiness and give a bit of heat.  You can also add more of both of these!
  • Veggies – I use mirepoix for this recipe – onion, carrot, and celery – which bring the right amount of sugar and flavor.  You could eliminate the carrot and celery, but the onion is a must as it brings so much flavor!  You can also add in green or red pepper!

Mac and Cheese Subs

  • Pasta – I suggest using a short-cut curly pasta, such as Rotini, Fusilli,  or Riccioli.  These will hold the cheese and chili in every nook and cranny.  You can also use tube-cut pastas, such as Penne, Rigatti, or even elbows.  Frankly, any pasta will taste great, if you don’t have any of these!
  • Cheese – I prefer to shred my own aged cheddar for homemade mac and cheese.  I find that a little goes a long way for deep cheesy flavor and it melts perfectly smooth and creamy!  Any cheddar you have on hand can be used for shredding.  You could also use Fontina, Monterey Jack.  You can also use a pre-shredded cheese.

Here are a couple other comforting family dinners to try:  Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale  or Easy Cottage Pie with Beef & Chorizo!

Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

You need 2 pots for this recipe, unless you make the Chili a day or more ahead. For the Chili, you need a large (5-6 quart) pot with lid that can go from the stove to the oven. My prized possession dutch oven was perfect for this! Or any good quality enameled cast iron 5-6 quart dutch oven with lid is great. For the pasta, any large pot to boil the water and cook the pasta will work!

PREP-AHEAD FOR YOUR CHILI MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (Full recipe below!) 

For this recipe, you can either just prep the veggies and seasonings or make the Chili entirely ahead, as it reheats perfectly!  In fact, you can make it months ahead and freeze too!

For the veggies…Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves. 

Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days! 

COOK YOUR CHILI! 

Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

Diced tomatoes and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

COOK YOUR MAC AND CHEESE 

For the pasta, I recommend a short curly variety, such as Rotini, Fusilli, or this fun Riccioli.

Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts.

Butter and flour in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you’re set.

Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Whisking cheese sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta.

Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Mixed Mac and Cheese for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

To serve, simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners.  #macandcheese #chilirecipes #familydinnerideas #easydinners #comfortfood

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chili, easy dinner, ground beef, Mac and cheese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Chili

  • 1 lb ground lean beef, 90% lean raised without antibiotics
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 28 oz Diced Tomatoes (whole peeled tomatoes in sauce or crushed tomatoes are fine too.)
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth (vegetable stock is fine too)

Mac and Cheese

  • 10 oz Dry Curly Pasta
  • 2 tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Salted Butter
  • 1.5 cups Milk warmed
  • 4-6 oz Shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves.

    Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

    Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

  4. At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days!

Cook your Chili

  1. Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

    Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

    Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

    Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Cook your Mac and Cheese

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it's all immersed in the water and doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

  2. In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

  3. Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts. Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.

    Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  4. Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you're set.

    sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  5. When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

    Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  6. Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta

    Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Serve!

  1. Simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

    Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes