Thanksgiving Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Let You Enjoy Hosting

Thanksgiving is one of America's favorite holidays, bringing together the cherished fundamentals of family, food and relaxation. However, the person (or people) tasked with cooking the big day's meal may find the festivities anything but relaxing.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving cooks can make their kitchen work a little easier with one handy appliance: a slow cooker.

Meredith Laurence, a cookbook author who is known to her fans as the Blue Jean Chef, told Newsweek recently that slow cookers should not be neglected by any cooks wanting to unload some of the Thanksgiving burden.

"The best thing anyone could have in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day is help, and the slow cooker can be your best kitchen assistant," Laurence said. "It frees up your oven, can make a lot of food at one time, doesn't require last-minute work, keeps foods warm and never answers back."

What Are the Best Slow Cooker Recipes for Thanksgiving?

Laurence helpfully shared three of her favorite slow cooker recipes for Newsweek readers, taken from her website. Her top three recommendations all check off two important categories: 1) They are easy to prepare, so the home chef can actually take part in some of the day's fun, and 2) They will leave all of your guests satisfied.

Comp Image, Slow Cooker and a Turkey
Above, a combination photo picturing a slow cooker and an inset image of a cooked turkey. Slow cookers should not be neglected by any cooks wanting to unload some of the Thanksgiving burden, according to one cookbook author. iStock / Getty Images

Slow Cooker Stuffing Recipe by Blue Jean Chef

"This is a great way to make a TON of stuffing (which is always the first to disappear) and to keep your oven free for the turkey and any other side dishes," Laurence wrote in an email.

She recommends doing some prep work in advance for her stuffing recipe, which yields 15 servings. On her website, Laurence notes the ingredients can be assembled a day in advance, except for the eggs and chicken stock. Another tip: Preheat your slow cooker for 30 minutes, and this dish should be ready in about three to four hours after cooking on the low setting.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large loaf white bread (about 12 cups cubed)
  • ½ pound whole chestnuts (or 5 ounces cooked and peeled)
  • ½ pound pork sausage with sage
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups chopped celery—about six ribs
  • 1½ cup chopped onion (about two small)
  • ¾ pound mushrooms chopped
  • 1 14-ounce package dried herb seasoned stuffing mix
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Cooking

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Cut the loaf of bread into ½-inch cubes and spread out in one layer on a baking sheet and toast at 350ºF for five to 15 minutes until lightly colored. Set aside.
  • If using whole chestnuts, increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Using a sharp paring knife, place the flat end of the chestnut on a cutting board and carefully cut an "X" on the top of each one, just cutting through the shell. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400ºF for 25 minutes until the skin curls up away from the nut. When the shells of the chestnuts are darker in color and the cut skin has peeled away from the center, remove them from the oven. The shell should peel away easily at this point. If it doesn't, continue to roast for a few more minutes. Allow the chestnuts to cool so that you can handle them and then peel away the shells and chop the nuts into small pieces.
  • If you are using cooked and peeled chestnuts, chop into small pieces and set aside.
  • Preheat your slow cooker for 30 minutes using the "sauté" setting or preheat a large skillet on the stovetop. Brown the sausage until it is no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the cooker with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Melt the butter in the cooker along with any leftover fat from the sausage. Add the onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes, until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms and sauté for another five minutes, until the vegetables have cooked through.
  • Add the cooked sausage, chopped chestnuts and parsley to the cooker and toss everything to evenly combine the ingredients. Add the stuffing mix and combine well. Stir the toasted bread cubes into the cooker batches, combining them with the other ingredients carefully.
  • Mix the eggs and the parmesan cheese together in a small bowl and stir into the stuffing mixture. Gradually add 2 cups of the chicken stock, stirring to evenly combine. Add more of the remaining stock as needed—the stuffing should look and feel moist. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • If you are making this stuffing ahead of time, hold this mixture in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook. Remove the stuffing mixture from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to start the slow cooker to bring the ingredients to room temperature. In the meantime, preheat the slow cooker on high for 30 minutes. Pour another ½ cup of chicken stock evenly over top of the stuffing in the cooker and proceed with the recipe.
  • Slow cook on high for three to four hours. Check the stuffing after two and a half hours and if it starts to dry out, add a little more chicken stock. Leave on the "keep warm" setting until you are ready to serve.
Food in a slow cooker
This undated stock image shows food cooking in a slow cooker. "The best thing anyone could have in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day is help, and the slow cooker can be your best kitchen assistant," said Meredith Laurence, a cookbook author who is known to her fans as the Blue Jean Chef. Getty Images

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast by Blue Jean Chef

"The next also frees up your oven but in the opposite way. You can use your slow cooker to make a super moist and delicious turkey breast," Laurence said. "With the slow cooker looking after the turkey, you can use your oven for the stuffing and vegetable side dishes."

That's right: Even Thanksgiving's star attraction—the turkey—can be handled by a slow cooker. This will free you up for all the various side dishes and doesn't require the constant checking that an oven-roasted bird needs. Also, if you're having a large gathering, you can put a full turkey in the oven while using this recipe, which makes eight servings, to cook up some extra meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 (5- to 7-pound) turkey breast bone in, skin on
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons butter room temperature
  • olive oil

Cooking

  • Preheat the slow cooker for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the ingredients.
  • Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the slow cooker and toss the smashed garlic cloves, lemon slices and fresh sage leaves on top.
  • Combine the salt, thyme, rubbed sage, paprika and black pepper in a small bowl. Rub the room temperature butter all over the turkey breast, on top of as well as under the skin. Sprinkle and pat the spice mixture evenly onto the buttered turkey and transfer the turkey breast to the slow cooker on top of the onions and lemons. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and cover the cooker with a lid.
  • Slow cook on high for three to four hours or low for five to six hours.
  • Check the internal temperature of the turkey breast with an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat. The temperature should register 165°F when the turkey has cooked sufficiently. Remove the turkey breast from the slow cooker and tent it with foil. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
  • Use the juices from the bottom of the cooker to make a gravy or simply pour the juice over the sliced turkey.
  • For a crispier skin, place turkey breast under broiler for five minutes until browned before letting the turkey rest.
Slow cooker with soup
This undated stock image shows an arm lifting the lid of a slow cooker, which is cooking a soup. Even Thanksgiving's star attraction—the turkey—can be handled by a slow cooker. Getty Images

Turkey Pot Pie Soup by Blue Jean Chef

This recipe presents two options. One is for a chicken pot pie soup, which could appeal to families who are especially in love with poultry. The other is using Thanksgiving leftover turkey instead of chicken. Either option yields eight servings.

Ingredients

  • 3½ pounds turkey (or chicken) breasts and four bone-in thighs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 3 ribs celery diced
  • 4 carrots sliced
  • 1 large russet potato peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ cups frozen corn and peas
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Cooking

  • Preheat the slow cooker for 20 minutes on the high setting.
  • Remove the skin from the turkey thighs. Cut the turkey breasts in half crosswise. Season the turkey pieces on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the onion, celery, carrots and potatoes in the slow cooker and toss together. Add the chicken stock, dried thyme and bay leaf. Nestle the seasoned chicken into the stock and vegetables, cover the cooker with the lid and slow cook on high for three hours (or low for six hours).
  • Remove the lid from the slow cooker and skim any fat that has risen to the surface with a ladle. Remove the turkey from the cooker and transfer to a cutting board. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and discard the bones. Return the shredded turkey to the slow cooker. Rinse the frozen peas and corn with warm water and add them to the slow cooker, along with the heavy cream.
  • Slow cook for an additional 30 to 60 minutes on high until the vegetables are soft.
  • Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and serve in bowls with some warm biscuit croutons on top.

"Bonus points? The slow cooker is actually a great way to keep your mashed potatoes warm throughout the Thanksgiving dinner," Laurence said.

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