If you don’t have much time to spare on weeknights, you probably agree that coming home to an already-cooked dinner feels like a huge weight off. And while of course it’s great when someone else has done the cooking, that isn’t always possible. That’s where make-ahead slow-cooker recipes come in—you can throw things together on a weekend or a slow weeknight, let your slow-cooker do all the work of cooking, then either refrigerate or freeze the meals to reheat later.
A quick plug here for proper food safety: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most leftover cooked food can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in an airtight container in the freezer for up to four months. It’s helpful to label leftover containers with dates, so that you know you’re staying within that window.
There’s plenty to love about make-ahead slow-cooker recipes. For one thing, most yield big batches, which means plenty of reheatable meals for later. And, most are super easy to refrigerate and freeze. The recipes below cover a huge range of cuisines and dietary preferences, so you’re bound to find something you like!
Butternut squash risotto
When making traditional risotto, you have to spend a lot of time stirring and standing over the stove. With this slow-cooker vegetarian version, there’s no fuss!
No freezer is complete without a few servings of chili.
Who doesn’t love lasagna? This vegetarian version is so cheesy, you won’t even miss the meat
Chicken tikka masala
Store a cooked batch of chicken tikka masala in your freezer, and you won’t need to order takeout every time you get a craving.
Where’s the beef? Nowhere to be found in this three-bean chili.
Beef stew makes for a great dinner, but it tastes even better reheated for lunch on a chilly day.
Another instant classic, baked ziti also works as a slow-cooker meal.
Five-Ingredient Steak Fajitas
Keep tortillas around, and you’ll have steak fajitas at the ready whenever you need them.
You’ll need to assemble these chicken tacos yourself, but otherwise the slow-cooker does all the work.
Quinoa enchilada casserole
Enchiladas take some effort to throw together, between the rolling and the filling. This enchilada casserole keeps all the great flavor, but eliminates the prep/
White chicken chili
For days you want something cozy and a little decadent, this white chicken chili has your back.
This stuffed pasta dish is filling and flavorful, thanks to a ricotta mixture, large shells, and plenty of tomato sauce.
Saag paneer, an Indian dish made with stewed spinach and cheese, might not be a regular part of your at-home cooking routine. It’s time to change that.
Butternut squash dal with red lentils
Another Indian-inspired vegetarian favorite, this lentil dal is perfect for fall.
Wild rice, chicken, and mushroom casserole
If you want something filling but don’t feel like stew or pasta, try this tasty rice casserole with chicken and mushrooms.