You already know that using a slow cooker to prepare meals saves energy by helping to keep your home cooler in the hot summer months. The same energy-saving ideas apply to year-round slow-cooking, too. You don't have to heat the entire oven to cook a pot pie or spend hours hovering over the stove to get perfect winter soups. However, with this installment of slow cooker recipes, I decided to up the energy-saving ante and go meatless.

Why go meatless?

Raising livestock is one of the most energy-intensive and greenhouse-gas-producing agricultural practices. Livestock require more water than plants (1850 gal./lb. vs. 39 gal./lb.) and produce approximately 30 times more greenhouse gases. To top it off, Americans consume four times more animal protein than the global average.

Now, factor in the expense of animal protein, increased risks of  chronic diseases associated with a diet high in animal protein and the associated medical costs for treating these diseases and you have some pretty compelling reasons to go meatless one night a week.

Going meatless doesn't have to be a big sacrifice. In addition to boosting your budget through grocery and energy savings, starting a new routine can bring the family together. Use meatless Monday as an opportunity to explore new dishes and get everyone involved in meal planning and preparation.

Here are three easy recipes to help get you started:

Vegetable pot pie with parmesan and black pepper biscuits



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups diced peeled baking potato (8 ounces)
  • 1¼ cups diced carrot (3 carrots)
  • 1 cup diced parsnip (2 parsnips)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen petite green peas
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen pearl onions

Biscuit topping:

  • 7.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 ounces grated fresh Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk


  1. To prepare filling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1½ teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potato and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper); sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Coat a 5-quart electric slow cooker with cooking spray. Transfer vegetable mixture to slow cooker.
  2. Heat remaining 1½ tablespoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 2½ tablespoons flour, stirring with a whisk. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly with whisk. Pour sauce into slow cooker. Stir in peas, thyme and onions. Cover and cook on LOW for 3½ hours or until vegetables are tender.
  3. To make biscuit topping, weigh or lightly spoon 7.5 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and next 3 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese and chives. Add buttermilk, stirring just until moist.
  4. Increase slow cooker heat to HIGH. Drop biscuits onto filling in 8 equal mounds. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until biscuits are done. Uncover and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Three-bean vegetarian chili


  • 1¾ cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (2 peppers)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Combine first 12 ingredients in a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
  2. Ladle soup into bowls; top with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro.

Butternut squash soup


  • 2 cups chopped sweet onion (1 large)
  • 2 cups chopped parsnip (3 large)
  • 1½ cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (12-ounce) packages frozen butternut squash, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ cup light sour cream (optional)
  • 8 teaspoons chopped fresh chives (optional)


  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
  2. Place one-fourth of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Stir in whipping cream, paprika and cumin. Ladle soup into bowls; top each serving with sour cream and chives, if desired.

Meatless Monday Slow Cooker Recipes

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