Best Crockpot Holiday Recipes

Shopping, decorating and traveling may be all you can think about these days. If you haven’t noticed, this holiday trifecta has a tendency to run us ragged by the time our holiday meal rolls around.

Enter your crockpot: “Slow cooking is extremely helpful for meal planning because in order to get the food plopped in the pot at a decent hour, you need to already have it in the house,” says Stephanie O'Dea, a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and slow cooking expert. “Even on the busiest days, I can come home knowing that dinner is hot and cooked. This keeps us out of the drive-thru line and is healthier for our waistlines and wallets.”

Slow cooking is both convenient and timesaving year-round, but these one-pot wonders (which require minimal prep), will taste particularly delicious around the holidays. This year, why slow down your hectic holiday schedule with some slow cooking recipes?

Pre-Holiday Recipes

Warm, hearty meals are indicative of winter, but may go by the wayside the second things get busier than normal. When you need quick, pre-holiday meal, O’Dea turns to some of her favorites such as slow cooker lasagna, salsa black bean soup and 20-40 garlic clove chicken. “I like that we can keep to our weekly budget by sticking to a meal plan during the hectic winter holiday planning,” she says.

Holiday Recipes

Now, time for the good stuff! The day has arrived, and you may be getting ready to host a boatload of people (O’Dea entertains 30-plus people for Thanksgiving dinner). “Although I really enjoy testing new recipes, there's something about the holidays which makes me want to stick to our favorite comfort foods,” says O’Dea. Even if you aren't playing entertainer, you can still utilize your slow cooker. “[They’re] great for potlucks, especially since it can be troublesome to expect an open burner or oven at your host's house,” says O’Dea, “but there is always an available outlet somewhere!”

Cornbread stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce in the slow cooker top the list of O’Dea’s holiday favorites. Here, we’ve rounded up those recipes, as well as others from around the web, to make for a memorable holiday feast:

  1. Traditional Stuffing: Flavored with apple, sage and thyme, this classic recipe is made in an unconventional way: It takes two hours in the crockpot.
  1. Candied Sweet Potatoes: Layer sliced sweet potatoes with brown sugar, cinnamon and other flavors. For a marshmallow top, pop the dish in a broiler for a few minutes before serving.
  1. Cranberry Sauce: Save stovetop space by simmering fresh cranberries in the crockpot.
  1. Turkey Breast: Forget all the brining and basting. The secret to perfectly juicy turkey is popping it in your slow cooker.
  1. Fruit-Stuffed Pork Roast: This impressive roulade is as beautiful as it is tasty. And the recipe is deceptively simple.
  1. Apple Cider Ham: Four to five hours in the slow cooker is all it takes to transform a bone-in ham into a salty-sweet masterpiece.
  1. Creamed Corn: Transform frozen corn into a delicious side with this easy and economical recipe.
  1. Creamy Ranch and Garlic Potatoes: In the morning, place the potatoes with a few added ingredients -- and you’ll have a perfectly creamy and flavorful side at dinnertime.
  1. Pumpkin pudding: This creamy pudding has all the flavor of pumpkin pie without the fat-laden crust. Your guests -- and waistline -- will thank you! 

Thanksgiving Sides We Love

Sure, the turkey is typically the star of Thanksgiving dinner. But it’s really the side dishes that make or break the meal. Put together an all-star lineup with these mouthwatering Thanksgiving sides:

Side dish No. 1: Cranberry sauce

Forget that cylinder-shaped blob of canned cranberry sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce is surprisingly simple to make -- and packs in more flavor. With Savory Sweet Life’s recipe, you simmer fresh cranberries, orange juice and sugar for 15 minutes (add a little rum for extra taste!). The tart-citrus bites pair perfectly with turkey.

Side dish No. 2: Stuffing with sausages, cherries and pecans

Elevate a regular herb stuffing to a new status with the addition of savory sausage, sweet cherries and crunchy pecans. The Bitten Word’s crusty sage-and-thyme-infused bread makes this dish a perennial crowd favorite.

Side dish No. 3: Green bean casserole

Even green bean casserole purists will fall in love with this made-from-scratch version from The Pioneer Woman which incorporates cheddar cheese, bacon and onion. Whether you top it with panko breadcrumbs or the classic fried onions, your family will love this dish -- and you’ll love how it’s made from fresh ingredients.

Side dish No. 4: Balsamic braised Brussels sprouts with pancetta

You won’t have to encourage your kids to eat their veggies with this version of Brussels sprouts from Smitten Kitchen. Braised in balsamic vinegar and salty pancetta, this breadcrumb-topped dish is loaded with delicious crunch and flavor.

Side dish No. 5: Maple-glazed sweet potatoes

Instead of the usual marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, try Simply Recipes’ sophisticated spin on the dish. This version features the same flavors -- butter and brown sugar -- and adds in maple syrup, orange zest and a crunch pecan topping.

Side dish No. 6: Dinner rolls

No Thanksgiving table is complete without a basket of warm rolls. This year, upgrade from that store-bought bread to your own freshly baked batch. This no-knead recipe from The Pioneer Woman doesn’t require elbow grease, so you’ll get that homemade taste without all of the effort.

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe Takeover

A classic roasted turkey is a safe dish, but it can also feel a little tired. Liven up your feast by flavoring your bird in an unexpected way by trying a nontraditional Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Here are seven recipes that will take your meal from ho-hum to yum.

Turkey twist #1: Wine smoked

Who says you can’t fire up the grill in November? Soak some wine-infused wood chips or shavings in water for at least 20 minutes. Then mix in olive oil, sage, parsley, majoram and pepper, like My Recipes suggests. Prep your turkey and add one cup of your chips to the grill’s metal smoking box. The entire recipe should take around four hours. Don’t forget the glass of vino to wash down the delicious meal.

Turkey twist #2: Coconut milk and pomegranate marinated

Call on flavors from a place where the sun is shining and trees are green all-year long. This island-inspired marinade calls for 2 cups of coconut milk, 2 cups of buttermilk and 1 cup of pomegranate juice. Food Republic recommends brining the turkey in a saltwater mixture the day before. Then pour in the flavorful marinade the day of to seal in the moisture.

Turkey twist #3: Chili rubbed

For those of you who enjoy a little heat, this turkey-prep is the way to go. Epicurious first suggests making your own chili paste, which allows you to control the intensity. Next, the key is in the brine: Combine beer, brown sugar, 1 bunch oregano, 1 cup salt, 3 cups chili paste and 8 cups water in a very large stock pot. Add the turkey, cover and chill for 12 to 14 hours.

Turkey twist #4: Cajun deep fried

Why not put your fryer to use? Real Cajun Recipes says adding in some Cajun spices to Italian dressing is an easy way to ramp up the taste factor. After injecting your seasoning, dip the turkey in the hot oil (if you don’t have a fryer, use a large pot). Cook the turkey for 3 minutes per pound, plus 5 minutes per bird.

Turkey twist #5: Orange roasted

A can of concentrated orange juice infuses citrusy good taste to your turkey. Grandmother’s Kitchen blends OJ with some brown sugar. This mixture is used in the turkey’s basting pan for a sweet-and-savory sauce.

Turkey twist #6: Southwest flavored

Take your turkey to the southwest by stuffing it with jalapenos, corn and mole sauce. Food Network suggests using Dijon mustard to create a flavorful crust.

Turkey twist #7: Dry brined

Food 52 deems this cooking technique the simplest possible way to serve up a succulent turkey. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of kosher salt on your turkey; you can begin the brining process on a frozen bird as it defrosts in the fridge. Unlike wet brining, this method will always produce a crispy skin, because the bird soaks up the salt to add moisture to the meat.