Vegetarian Crock Pot Recipes

Slow cooking involves cooking food slowly over low heat, instead of the stovetop method of using short bursts of high heat. Crock pots, the vessels used in slow cooking, are more closely associated with heavy meat dishes, as the method lends itself well to tenderizing tough cuts. But vegetables go surprisingly well in crock pots, and can even make convenient one-dish meals.

The advantage of slow cooking is that it gives food more time to render its flavor and allows different tastes to blend in the pot. On the practical side, it’s also less time-consuming, despite its name–all you have to do is place your ingredients in the pot, press a few buttons, and leave it to cook for the day. So you come home to a warm, ready-to-eat meal that’s worlds better than a TV dinner, not to mention healthier.

Vegetarian crock pot recipes often rely on heavy vegetables, including beans, legumes, and root crops. These provide most of the volume in meatless recipes, and also absorb flavors from the rest of the dish to make it richer. Potatoes and carrots are fairly popular, but don’t be afraid to experiment–turnips, radishes, and rutabaga also make excellent crock pot ingredients. You can use dried or canned beans, but the former may need to be soaked overnight as they can get mushy if allowed to soften in crock pots.

Greens and light vegetables can also go in the pot, but the long cooking time can make them too soft and/or wash out their flavor. This can be avoided by adding them a little later than the rest, or if you’re going to be out most of the day, putting them on top where the heat is less intense. Likewise, the slower-cooking ones such as potatoes and carrots should go at the bottom where it’s hottest. Dark greens such as broccoli and kale work best for crock pots.

Meat imitations also go fairly well in the crock pot, although it largely depends on their consistency. Dense products such as tempeh and tofu can keep their texture fairly well, but some varieties of seitan can go soft. If you plan on slow-cooking fake meat, go for premium brands and choose only the freshest. Also make sure to set the times right; most crock pot recipes take eight to twelve hours to soften the meat, but with vegetables it can take as little as four.

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