It can be tricky to meal plan as a vegetarian: It requires a little creativity to keep meals interesting as well as to include important nutrients — like protein, iron and vitamin D — that are more readily available in animal-based foods.
That's why busy weeknights could use some help from your slow cooker. "It lets you just throw ingredients into the basin the night before or that morning. And when you come home at the end of the day, the house smells great and dinner is ready," Kelly Jones RD, CSSD, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
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"Your slow cooker opens the door to doing so many different things with vegetables, which can keep vegetarian meals exciting," Maggie Michalczyk, RD, adds. "It's especially great when the weather starts to get cooler because you can add in a lot of fall veggies like sweet potato, butternut squash and kale, and have a really cozy, nutritious meal from just a few simple ingredients and spices."
For nutrient-dense dishes made with little effort, try these vegetarian slow cooker recipes.
1. Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
A slow cooker spin on a classic soup recipe, this minestrone soup is sure to warm you up on a cold winter day. It's also packed with nutrients thanks to carrots, onion, celery hearts, cabbage, zucchini and legumes that make this soup come together.
Get the Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup recipe and nutrition info from Eating Bird Food.
2. Slow Cooker Cauliflower Lentil Curry
Spice up your meal rotation with this feel-good and fulfilling dish. The warm spices, red lentils and cauliflower florets make this recipe the ultimate comfort food. It also comes with health benefits like improved digestion from the turmeric and ginger, plus a punch of protein from the lentils.
Get the Slow Cooker Cauliflower Lentil Curry recipe and nutrition info from Dishing Out Health.
3. Slow Cooker Potato and Chickpea Tikka Masala
This vegan twist on tikka masala is creamy, colorful and comforting. Made with a blend of spices, potatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk, it's a nutrient-dense meal that can be paired with rice, naan or stand on its own. It also has about 18 grams of protein so you can be confident this will satisfy your appetite.
Get the Slow Cooker Potato and Chickpea Tikka Masala recipe and nutrition info from The Recipe Well.
4. Slow Cooker Mushroom Ragu
Elevate your pasta with a vegetarian take on ragu pasta sauce. The crimini mushrooms add texture, flavor and nutrients to this slow cooker recipe. Once it's simmered, just boil your pasta and cover it with this savory sauce. For an extra layer of flavor, add a dollop of ricotta to top it off.
Get the Slow Cooker Mushroom Ragu recipe and nutrition info from This Savory Vegan.
5. Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
This may be a simple slow cooker tomato soup, but it's bursting with flavor that sets it apart from any canned version. Keep this dish vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken. The longer you allow it to simmer, the more flavorful it will be.
Get the Creamy Tomato Basil Soup recipe and nutrition info from Tastes Better from Scratch.
6. Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut squash is the star of this recipe, but sweet potatoes and carrots help round out this dish with major nutrients. And with a short list of ingredients, this will be ready in no time. Garnish with pumpkin seeds for added texture and pair with crusty bread for some crunch.
Get the Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup recipe and nutrition info from Little Sunny Kitchen.
7. Crock-Pot Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Pasta e Fagioli means pasta and beans in Italian. The title is just as much of a mouthful as this hearty traditional soup. There's no need for fancy ingredients — just pasta, beans, vegetables and herbs. The ingredients list is short and inexpensive, making a hearty and healthy soup even if you're on a tight budget.
Get the Crock-Pot Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup recipe and nutrition info from Salt and Lavender.
8. Black Bean Soup
Flavorful and filled with good-for-you ingredients is what makes this soup a hit. Black bean soup offers plant-based protein and a good source of fiber, keeping you full and satisfied. Don't let the name fool you: Black beans aren't the only ingredient in this recipe that has a hidden amount of vegetables, adding to its nutrient density.
Get the Black Bean Soup recipe and nutrition info from Chelsea's Messy Apron.
9. Cabbage Soup
This soup with only six ingredients keeps your grocery list short without sacrificing nutrients and flavor. Not to mention it's dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. Cabbage is rich in vitamin C and vitamin K and fiber. This soup can also be altered in many ways by adding extra veggies or a can of beans for more protein.
Get the Cabbage Soup recipe and nutrition info from the Recipe Rebel.
10. Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats
A traditional dessert paired with a mainstay breakfast food makes this dish a unique and comforting combination. Steel-cut oats offer whole grains, fiber and protein — all great things to start your day with. Add in the aromatic ingredients and it comes together like a warm slice of pie.
Get the Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats recipe and nutrition info from Dishing Out Health.
11. White Bean Chili
Chili might be a popular recipe for cold days, but what makes this chili different is its untraditional color. With no tomatoes used in this recipe, the base is white instead of red. White beans, green chilies and salsa verde are at the core of this recipe, plus tons of spices to make this chili sing. It's vegan, full of fiber and packed with plant-based nutrients.
Get the White Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info from Easy Chickpeasy.
12. Slow Cooker Lima Bean Tomato Stew
This is a well-rounded stew with vegetables, grains and legumes. Its hearty ingredients are all gluten-free and vegan but full of flavor. You likely already have all of the ingredients in your pantry, and if not, there aren't too many items that go into it, making it fairly hassle-free. Make the stew for the week ahead or freeze it for later for up to six months.
Get the Slow Cooker Lima Bean Tomato Stew recipe and nutrition info from Vegan Yack Attack.