Crock pot cooking is the busy bee’s secret weapon for weeknight meals and cooking for a crowd. Although it’s a handy tool year-round, it’s particularly useful when temperatures drop and we start dreaming about comfort foods. Not only does it manage the cooking for you, but it keeps meals warm and ready to heat you up when you come in from a blustery afternoon of apple picking or a fall football game. From soups, sauces and braises to snacks and desserts, this guide has a recipe for every occasion (and craving!)


1. Teriyaki Chicken: This flavor-packed chicken is a double win. It’s healthy and easy, so you can tuck that takeout menu back in the drawer. (via Gimme Some Oven)


2. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs: Cooking meatballs the traditional way is a little tricky to navigate; finding a way to hold their shape while keeping them tender is no small task. Try out this crock pot method for perfect results every time. (via Damn Delicious)


3. Skinny Parmesan Dip: Nobody wants to guard the stovetop during a party. This hands-off recipe leaves you hands-free, so you can enjoy your drink a little more easily. (via The Cookie Rookie)


4. Rosemary Balsamic Chicken With White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes: This might be the most genius recipe we’ve seen. The potatoes cook in broth alongside the chicken so they get an extra dose of flavor. Plus, it’s all done in one (crock) pot. (via Crockpot Gourmet)


5. Mongolian Beef: This beef comes together with the help of just a few pantry staples. Leave it to simmer in its own sauce and, voila! The most melt-in-your-mouth beef you’ve ever tasted. (via The Recipe Critic)

6. Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup: This meal is made in true slow-cooker fashion; no need for browning or sauteing separately. Cook the beans and veggies first and toss in the meatballs toward the end. (via Foodie Crush)


7. Beef Bourguignon: This dish gets its name from its signature ingredient — burgundy. It acts as a tenderizer as the meat slowly cooks and makes a rich base for the sauce. It’s a classic recipe versatile enough for an elegant dinner party but accessible enough for weeknight cooking. Top with tons of fresh herbs just before serving. (via The View from Great Island)


8. Creamy Potato Soup: We usually love potato soup for its major potential for toppings (hello, cheese and bacon) but this one is so good we’ll take it all on its own. (via The Girl Who Ate Everything)


9. Coconut Hot Chocolate: If there’s anything better than a fresh cup of cocoa, it’s smelling a whole batch of it in your home for hours at a time. Put on a pot during your next party or for an extra special holiday morning. (via How Sweet It Is)


10. Butter Chicken: This is another recipe that requires zero extra steps to cook the meat. Plus, it uses coconut milk in the sauce for a lighter version of a classic. (via Half Baked Harvest)


11. Bolognese Sauce: Slow cooking is crucial to getting the perfect bolognese, but it tends to scorch on the stovetop. Try this slow cooker recipe for a lower-maintenance version. (via Little Broken)


12. Honey Garlic Chicken: It’s hard to find cold-weather meals that are satisfying and still healthy. This curbs all your indulgent cravings and it’s easy, so basically you have no excuse not to make it on the regular. (via Just a Taste)


13. Slow-Cooked Brisket and Onions: This brisket requires a couple extra steps beyond the crock pot, but it yields such a tender meat you won’t regret the effort. Serve alongside coleslaw and creamy polenta or on soft rolls as a killer sandwich. (via The Kitchn)


14. Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas: This vegetarian entree yields high return on little investment; the prep is minimal and the slow cook allows the flavors to meld together for maximum flavor. (via The Kitchn)


15. Applesauce: If you’ve never attempted homemade applesauce, now is the time. Be generous with the spices for an extra cozy treat. Oh, and it smells aah-mazing. (via Neighbor Food)


16. French Onion Soup: We’re not sure which is the best part of this meal: the super savory caramelized onions or the excuse to eat toast COVERED in cheese. This recipe also suggests the use of swiss cheese in place of traditional gruyere, so it’s a little easier on the old budget. (via Creme de la Crumb)


17. Butternut Squash, Chicken and Quinoa Soup: Your slow cooker probably sees its fair share of chili, but when you need something on the lighter side, this soup is an autumn afternoon’s dream. You can add all the ingredients at the same time and forget about it until you’re ready to eat. (via Chelsea’s Messy Apron)


18. Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup: Think of this as a modern spin on tomato and grilled cheese, except this time the cheese comes in the form of delicious little pasta dumplings. Don’t forget to serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up whatever your spoon misses. (via Cooking Classy)


19. Pork Carnitas: Taco Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… You’ll be having a fiesta every night of the week with this simple method of making carnitas. (via The Recipe Critic)


20. Dulce de Leche: One ingredient, seriously, is all you need for this recipe. Rather than constantly stirring milk in a pot and praying to the kitchen gods that it doesn’t burn, you can toss this can in a crock pot full of water and sit back while it turns to gold. (via Recipe Tin Eats)

Chili? Carnitas? Hot Toddy? What’s your favorite way to use a crockpot? Let us know in the comments below!