Although slow cookers are arguably most well known as a popular way to cook meat, slow cooking is gaining a foothold as an equally useful method to prepare plant-based dishes.
Cooking with a slow cooker essentially means that you can prepare your dish in the morning and come home to a warm meal.
There are many plant-based recipes that take advantage of this method, and even a novice can easily incorporate this technique into their culinary repertoire with a little patience and practice.
Check out some of our top tips for plant-based slow cooking success!
Get to know your appliance
Like any addition to your kitchen, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your appliance before you get started.
There are several types of slow cookers on the market — you can purchase a slow cooker that only functions as such, or a multi-use appliance like an Instant Pot (we found both at Bed Bath and Beyond), which has a slow cooker setting as well as other time saving features like pressure cooking, yogurt making, and baking.
A thorough read of your appliance’s instructions is imperative, and YouTube videos are helpful in understanding everything from assembly to cleaning.
If you’re using a conventional slow cooker you’ll have a ceramic pot, whereas an Instant Pot uses stainless steel, so cleaning techniques will differ.
The Kitchen recommends either soaking the slow cooker’s ceramic insert in the sink and then scrubbing it, or heating a vinegar-baking soda mixture inside the insert, which will help it self-clean.
The Instant Pot website recommends putting the stainless steel insert into the dishwasher or hand washing it in the sink.
The difference in a slow cooker and an Instant Pot’s heat distribution means that the temperature setting will also vary slightly; you’ll want to adjust your cooking time to account for the specifics of the appliance you’re using.
For example, the Normal setting on an Instant Pot corresponds to the Medium setting on most slow cookers — if you’re following a recipe written for a conventional slow cooker keep this adjustment in mind.
Regardless of which appliance you choose, use common sense, (and oven mitts!), as things will be getting steamy!
Gather recipes and inspiration
YouTube is full of inspiration as are social media channels — check out #veganslowcooker to follow fellow veggie-based folks and their culinary adventures. You can also visit your local bookstore — Instant Pot and slow cooking books will likely be housed together in the cookbook section.
Another useful idea, which we’ve tried, is to go through our favourite plant-based recipes and bookmark dishes that could translate to the slow cooker, like soups and stews.
WATCH: How to make vegan spiced winter squash soup. Story continues below video.
Rachel Bies, a culinary nutritionist and chef, told HuffPost Canada that when converting conventional recipes to slow cooker recipes, “make sure there is liquid, and to scale back on ingredients if necessary — a pot that is too full won’t cook well under pressure.”
Get to know your ingredients
Pick your recipe (we share a few yummy ones below if you need some inspiration) and make a list of the ingredients to make grocery shopping more efficient.
Slow cooking opens up so many options to make use of seasonal veggies as well as pantry staples. We stock up on chickpeas and beans (both freeze well after cooking) as well as a variety of veggies, tempeh, and tofu.
Root veggies, such as carrots, onions, yams, beets, and garlic, fare well in the slow cooker, whereas leafy greens are best added towards the end of cooking time.
Watch: How to make slow-cooker sweet potatoes. Story continues below video.
Remember those oven mitts when adding ingredients, and if you’re using an Instant Pot to slow cook, you can purchase a glass lid separately which makes mid-cook additions that much easier.
Bies suggests adding noodles towards the end of cooking soups (miso and mushroom soups are among her faves), and adding coconut milk later in the cooking time for curries to prevent separation.
Have fun and experiment
Playing around in the kitchen is our favourite way to discover which techniques and recipes work best.
We learned that both the slow cooker and the Instant Pot have the ability to sauté right in the pot and then set to slow cook (we love preparing tempeh steaks and root veggies this way), which means way less clean-up and delicious flavours — win win!
Bies recommends experimenting with some lower priced items like carrots and potatoes as you get to know slow cooking. We’ve found that the appliance you choose and the recipes you follow will likely yield slightly different results, so get ready for a slow (pun not intended!) ride as you figure out your preferences.
Here are some plant-based slow-cooker recipes that you’ll definitely want to add to your dinner rotation.
Sweet potato and quinoa chili
Get the recipe at The Simple Veganista.
Curried vegetable and chickpea stew
Get the recipe at The Kitchn.
Vegan saag paneer
Get the recipe at Delish Knowledge.
Thai pineapple vegetarian curry
Get the recipe at Don’t Waste the Crumbs.
White bean and kale soup
Get the recipe at Jessica in the Kitchen.
Get the recipe at SkinnyMs.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
Get the recipe at Simply Quinoa.
Veggie pot pie stew
Get the recipe at This Healthy Kitchen.
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