How to use your slow cooker in summer (plus recipes)

Think your slow cooker is for chilly nights in the depths of winter? Think again! Cookery writer Anna Glover knows how to use a slow cooker all year round - even in summer

There are days when you really can’t be bothered to turn the oven on; that’s when I turn to the slow cooker for inspiration. Low and slow means no hot kitchen (ideal for the summer months) and no stressy dinners… throw everything into the machine first thing in the morning, or overnight on low.


Melanzane Parmigiana

Aubergine and tomatoes are at their best in summer, so take advantage of the glut and make this classic Italian dish. Layer up aubergine slices and they’ll turn meltingly soft in the slow cooker.

If your slow cooker has a fry button, you can cook them in a drizzle of olive oil before assembling. Chunky tomatoes slices, mozzarella slices, a drizzle of olive oil, basil leaves and some seasoning make for a delicious recipe. Scatter with grated parmesan and cook for six hours on low.

Pork Carnitas

Huge pieces of meat don’t need to be saved for a roast. Carnitas are a great idea for a crowd, and with no knives and forks needed it works great for a garden party, too. Cook following this recipe, but fry the salsa ingredients in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the meat for eight hours on low.

Fresh tomato (marinara) sauce

Batch cooking pasta and pizza sauce is a great way to use up any tomatoes that look like they’ve seen better days – plus if you grow them, they can ripen quicker than you can use them up.

Add about 1.5kg blanched and chopped tomatoes, a bunch of basil, bay leaf, a good glug of olive oil, some seasoning and a few crushed garlic cloves in the slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours until the tomatoes have completely broken down. You can use a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.

If your tomatoes are super ripe, you don’t need to add sugar or vinegar to make a piquant sauce; but taste and add a sprinkle of each if it needs it. Add a spoon of creme fraiche or mascarpone for richness post-cooking, if you like.

Slow cooker oats

Minutes are valuable in the morning, so save another 15 for something useful – make your porridge in a slow cooker overnight. Use the keep warm function so it’s ready straight away in the morning.

Use your usual porridge recipe (reducing the milk a little, to account for no evaporation) and you’ll wake up to warm porridge. Porridge isn’t just a winter warmer: top with summer berries, a dollop of yoghurt, a few sunflower seeds and a drizzle of maple syrup for a summery version.

Dr Pepper ribs

Ribs tend to be slow cooked in water or stock (or in this case, Dr Pepper!) before they’re roasted or barbecued to make the meat super juicy.

Get ahead and cook the ribs the day before in the slow cooker for four hours on high or six hours on low. To finish them off, drizzle with the glaze and chuck on the barbecue for sticky, charred, fall-apart ribs.

Beef summer rolls

Slow cook beef brisket in lemongrass, coconut milk, star anise and kefir lime leaf infused stock, then cool and shred. Pile into rice paper rolls with cooked rice noodles, cucumber, coriander and thai basil. Serve with a chilli dipping sauce and a bucket of beers in the garden.


Slow cooked peppers make a great pizza topping, pasta sauce, sandwich filler or even a condiment for cauliflower fritters. Fry peppers and red onions in a drizzle of olive oil, then slow cook for 2-4 hours with chopped tomatoes, chilli and red wine vinegar. This will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, so make double.

Summery chickpea and veg tagine

Tagine just means the pot it’s cooked in, and that’s not stopping us making a summery veg-packed stew in the slow cooker. This recipe is bulked with chickpeas and lots of summery veg to make the most of in-season produce.

Chicken cacciatore

Cacciatore is such a versatile dish. Serve with pasta, potatoes in the winter or a side salad, buttered orzo or some steamed veg in the summer. Cacciatore means ‘hunter’ in Italian and refers to the sauce, made with onions, herbs, mostly tomatoes and sometimes peppers.

Pulled pork and slaw

Nothing says BBQ party like pulled pork, soft floury buns and crunchy slaw. We’ve adapted this epic recipe to suit your slow cooker so hopefully you don’t have to put your oven on at all.

Quinoa and black bean chilli

Quick and easy midweek meals don’t have to be salads in summer. Try our quinoa chilli: it’s healthy, high in protein, and only 343 calories per serving!

Coconut chickpea and squash curry

This curry is light and fresh, so you can eat it whatever the weather. Make a batch overnight and cook on low for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner.

Spicy chicken and pepper stew

Spiced with fresh chilli and smoked paprika, and packed with lean chicken and pinto beans, this recipe is perfect for hungry dieters – It’s filling and low calorie. Serve with a herby quinoa for a summery dish, at just over 300 calories per portion.

Poached pears

For an easy dessert, with minimal preparation, try cooking peeled pears slowly. Poach them in cider with a cinnamon stick for 4-6 hours on low until tender. Serve with vanilla ice cream and flaked almonds, or crushed amaretti biscuits. For the deluxe version, go here!

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listen to cookery writer Anna share her brilliant slow-cooking tips for summer. (Hint: your barbecue routine will never be the same!)

olive magazine podcast ep16 – Dan Doherty’s new book, summer slow cooking and afternoon tea sundaes