This piece originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.
Calling all who lean on and cherish their slow cookers through the hustle in bustle of day-to-day life, and are ready to take that relationship to the next level: bringing it to family Thanksgiving.
As any Crockpot convert knows, slow cookers are crazy versatile and highly lovable (no matter what the haters say). Minimal prep is required for slow cooking, creating time for other things–thus, making them the perfect kitchen assistant during the holidays. The humble appliance grants us–the frazzled home cook with 6 billion things to do–the freedom to walk away from a specific dish, or even the kitchen altogether, for hours. The cooker does the work. The cooker gives us confidence.
Now, let’s get down to the matter at hand: Thanksgiving. You don’t HAVE to use your slow cooker for every dish this Thanksgiving, but, in theory, you could. Pick and choose what makes the most sense to you in order to free up some of your time, attention, and oven/stovetop space. From pre-feast breakfast, to cocktails, to the turkey itself, the slow cooker can show up and show out. Here are some of our favorite slow cooker recipes to get you all the way through Thanksgiving day:
A Smooth Sailin’ Breakfast
We talked about this earlier in the week, no Thanksgiving cook has time to get off-track cooking breakfast. But breakfast is made easy when done in the slow cooker. Your holiday guests can eat as they please and you can keep on keeping on with the turkey day prep. For a wholesome oatmeal recipe that you throw together the day-of, try our Hearty Oats and Grains recipe. If you wanna try a more festive version that could be made the night before, go for Maple Hazelnut Oatmeal. For a savory option, try these Simple Grits with Toppings and allow your family to personalize their bowl of grits with toppings like hot sauce, green onion, Gouda, sharp cheddar, or crumbled bacon.
Soul-Warming Drinks All Day
Whether it’s spiked, spicy, or sweet, nothing says holiday cheer like sipping a warm drink. Treat your guests to any of our soothing slow cooker drinks, from Mocha Hot Chocolate in the morning with breakfast, Ginger Lemon Hot Toddies in the afternoon, and Spiced Caramel Cider to keep cozy on Thanksgiving night. Your slow cooker keeps it warm so that your guests can serve themselves throughout the day.
Appetizers (to serve as that makeshift “other meal” on Thanksgiving)
If you plan on serving an appetizer or second lighter meal on turkey day, try our Slow-Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup. It’s satisfying but also leaves room for the real deal. This crowd-pleasing Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip can be served with soft or hard pretzels, pita chips, corn chips, or tortilla chips… no matter what you serve it with, it’s always a winner. You’ll want to make this Beer Cheddar Fondue on the stove, but serve it out of your slow cooker outside of mealtime as a constant warm snack for your guests. For something a little meatier, Chipotle-Barbecue Meatballs are an excellent option for a satisfying snack. Some people eat a late Thanksgiving meal, sort of a lunch-dinner hybrid, so these come in handy around noon.
Homemade candies are a fun and easy way to treat your guests during the day or as parting gifts. Plus, they basically double as holiday decoration when placed on a festive platter on the coffee table. Make a batch of Peppermint-Coated Pretzels or Triple Chocolate-Covered Peanut Clusters and keep your fingers crossed that there are leftovers.
The Thanksgiving Meal
It’s not common to see a WHOLE turkey cooked in the slow cooker (good luck finding a slow cooker big enough), but for a less involved Thanksgiving main, you can definitely make moist and marvelous turkey breasts, like in our Slow Cooker Turkey and Dressing. If you are serving a smaller crowd this year, perhaps just you and your significant other, and aren’t totally committed to turkey, there are countless comforting slow cooker chicken dishes perfect for your table. Rosemary Slow Cooker Chicken has a holiday feel and flavor, and our Slow-Cooker Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic allows you to slow cook an entire 4 pound chicken to achieve that traditional whole bird centerpiece.
Thanksgiving must-haves like Cornbread Dressing , Classic Green Bean Casserole , Sweet Potato Casserole (complete with the Pecan Topping), can likewise all be prepared to perfection in your slow cooker. After you’ve covered the basics, consider adding another less expected side to liven up the meal. Peppered Corn on the Cobb, Stewed Green Beans and Tomatoes, Balsamic Root Vegetables, Squash and Cornbread, or Extra-Cheesy Macaroni and Cheese are all great options to consider.
Ah, yes, what some (i.e. me) might argue is the most important meal of the day. Not only can you make cake in a slow cooker, but you can also make cheesecake. Both this Triple Chocolate Cake or our highly popular Fudgy Pudding Cake will make the biggest chocolate lovers swoon, while Tiramisu Bread Pudding is likewise a decadent and delightful option for the Kahlúa-lover in us all.
You might use it for assistance on one or two recipes, or you might use it for the whole feast; either way, don’t hesitate to tap your slow cooker for turkey day aid. As evidenced by the recipes above, your slow cooker always has your back–no matter the meal.