My Emotional Journey with the Instapot #nonspon (+ A Round Up Of Pantry Friendly Recipes)

That shot is the the blogger version of a swimsuit model leaning on a sportscar. Oh, the Instapot. I succumbed to cultural peer pressure last year and bought one only to find out that they turn what should be a 45-minute delicious chicken soup into a 45-minute MUSHY chicken soup. Nobody really told me that the time it takes to warm up, pressure cook, and then steam release is THE SAME amount of time as cooking soups on the stove (but without the therapeutic romance of stirring and tending to your soup). I was enraged, and banished it to the back of the closet, by the juicer that has 17 parts. UNTIL NOW.

Last week I found a lot of recipes in books that only had a slow cooker or Instapot recipe and I felt left out, sad that I couldn’t participate in what was the domestic version of a PARTAY. So when Brian went to LA to grab supplies (our janky bikes and more underwear) he snagged the Instapot and now I, too, and donning my prom dress, ready to dance.

Like you, these days we’re all trying to rely more on pantry staples like dried beans, and frozen veggies or meat, which is what this slow cooker/Instapot is supposed to excel at. We remembered we’d actually written a post all about slow cooker meals, and decided it was time to give it a pantry friendly update (I’m still learning the benefits of the Instapot, but at least I can cook pulled pork in it).

So here you go – some pantry friendly, slow-cooker recipes that are family-friendly (we hear). And at the end there is a video from earlier this week that you guys MUST have missed of me acting like an idiot chef – not a character, just me playing myself. HERE. YOU. GO. (And take it away Sara.)

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili4

Sara here and I cook a lot. Now that my commute in the mornings and evenings has been greatly reduced (i.e. non-existent) I’m fully taking advantage of it. Maybe in two more weeks I’ll be tired of constantly washing dishes, but for now I’m psyched to replace my drive time with kitchen time. But I’m also trying to make my ingredients stretch in order to minimize shopping trips. So here’s what we were going for with these recipes:

1.) The ingredient list had to be small, and mostly things someone might already have sitting in their fridge and pantry.

2.) The instructions had to be simple. Otherwise, it just defeats the purpose.

3.) The meals needed to be decently healthy. Em can make her kids cheese quesadillas, but what she needs are more delicious recipes with vegetables.

4.) And finally, the recipes had to be meals that the whole family could eat—not kid-specific but not adults-only either.

Slow cookers/crockpots/Instant Pots are great for so many reasons, but the biggest one is the time they can save you. You can dump everything in that thing before walking out the door (or just, you know, walking to your couch “office”) and come home to a dinner that’s basically ready to serve. Slow cookers sound old fashioned, but they might just be heroes we need.

The real question is, do these recipes work (as in, are they yummy, easy, and kids will ACTUALLY want to eat them)? We knew before we published this post originally we had to try at least one of them out. So, I picked a recipe that sounded tasty and Em and I took it for a test drive in her kitchen. Friends, it was so easy and so delicious. (This was pre mushy chicken soup which I guess happened later).

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili1

We decided to try out a recipe for White Chicken Chili from food blog Gimme Some Oven. It only called for five essential ingredients—chicken breasts, chicken stock, canned great northern beans, store bought salsa verde, and ground cumin. We bought everything from the Trader Joe’s and spent about $30 getting enough for two batches. I also grabbed sour cream, shredded cheese, avocados, cilantro, tomatoes, lime and chopped onion as garnish options, but tweak this as you must to make what you’ve got work.

Chickin Chili

The method of attack was this: Pull out the slow cooker, place the raw chicken breasts at the bottom of the pot, pour over the salsa, chicken broth, and cumin, then cover and let cook for 3 1/2 hours on high OR 8 1/2 hours on low (check out the recipe for all the right amounts, etc.). When your timer goes off, add in your canned beans (drained), and let cook for another 30 minutes on low (the perfect amount of time to set the dinner table, pull out the garnishes, and wrangle toddlers). Did it work? Yes. Was it delicious? YES.

Any notes? We found the recipe called for a little more liquid in our chili than we would have liked, so we’d recommend omitting 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock for a thicker chili. And when we make this again, we’ll also be adding huge handfuls of spinach right before serving, to get in some iron and vitamins. There’s no dairy or sugar in this recipe, and you can top bowls with extra veg like diced onion or avocado, whatever you’ve got on hand.

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili9

Most importantly, it was approved by Birdie herself (who was 2 at the time). The recipe checked all our boxes. (Exceedingly cute side note from Emily: The first thing she said was “what are these?” to the cherry tomatoes and when I reminded her what they were, she said, “oh, I DO NOT LIKE TOMATOES.” We’ve had this conversation so many times, by the way. Cherry tomatoes are deceptive. I get it.)

Now, we haven’t tried the rest of the recipes in this post, but they all sound as simple and delicious as the chicken chili. And they’re all pantry friendly, meaning they rely mostly on ingredients that can be found and stored canned, boxed, frozen, or dried. Think canned beans, frozen veggies and meat, and boxed stock.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals 3 Ingredient Mexican Shredded Chicken Recipe 5

Shredded Chicken (Via Gimmie Some Oven

What makes this recipe pantry friendly? The fact that it only calls for THREE ingredients – Uncooked chicken breasts, one can of salsa, and one packet of taco seasoning (Trader Joe’s has a great taco seasoning packet, FYI).

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals 5 Ingredient Crockpot Pork Roast And Potatoes 6

Pork Pot Roast (via SweetPhi

This dish is going to make you look so much fancier and put together than you actually are (this is a broad generalization—disregard if you are currently very fancy and put together). All you’re going to need is uncooked pork roast, potatoes (I always have a few leftover potatoes rolling around in my pantry), garlic salt, an Italian seasoning packet, and chicken broth. But imagine all the added veggie options you could sneak in here.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Slow Cooker Beef Broccoli 5

Beef & Broccoli (via Creme de la Crumb)

This recipe technically calls for nine ingredients, but we almost guarantee you that you probably have at least four of them sitting in your pantry and fridge. A bottle of soy sauce that’s rarely used? That box of cornstarch from a past science experiment that’s sat untouched in the back of your pantry? And what about a frozen bag of broccoli? I have one of those hanging out in my freezer. They’re about to become useful again.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Tortellini Spinach Soup 2 Final

Crock Pot Tortellini & Spinach Soup (via Lil’ Luna)

This is another recipe that leans on a pre-packaged item to round it out. Just seasonings, a bag of spinach (feel free to use frozen if needed), chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and a package of chef’s choice tortellini (the chef being you). The recipe calls for a block of cream cheese as well, and while that sounds SO GOOD, I’m sure it can be omitted in the name of “health.” Make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Slow Cooker Whole Chicken 2

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (via Oh Sweet Basil)

There’s nothing more versatile than a whole juicy chicken. Cooked up for dinner one night and the leftovers are easily used in wraps, sandwiches, salads, or soups for days to come.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Garlic Butter Chicken And Veggies 1

Garlic Butter Chicken and Veggies (via The Magical Slow Cooker)

You can’t really go wrong with chicken, carrots and potatoes covered in a herby butter. I would probably sneak some extra veg in the form of green beans.

Vegan White Bean Soup (via Just What We Eat)

This vegan and dairy-free soup relies mostly on dried herbs and dried navy beans to create a warm and filling dinner.

Hot Tip

I'll bulk chop onions, carrots, and celery and store in mixed baggies in my freezer, so I don't have as much chopping to do when I want to make soup. But Trader Joe's also has a great pre-packed mirepoix.

Taco Chicken Chili

Chicken Taco Chili (via Skinny Taste)

Between the canned veggies and dried beans, this recipe is truly a pantry’s best friend. Serve it over rice, in a burrito, or as fillings for tacos. Plus, there’s a lot of room for improvisation.

Instant Pot Dahl – aka Lentil Stew (via Bon Appetit)

Dahl (lentils) are one of the most versatile dried legumes. If you’ve got an Instant Pot (or equivalent), water, and dried lentils you’re in business. Then throw in whatever spices or veggies you have on hand to add flavor. Serve covered in yogurt, with naan, or over rice for a hearty vegetarian dinner. This post has a handy graphic that helps you understand exactly how different lentils can be cooked.

Back to me, Emily. Now I can see my problem, I clearly have no ingredients in my pot!!! In case you missed it from earlier this week, here’s my latest delicious chicken tomatillo soup. It’s not a slow cooker recipe, but it is wildly delicious and if I can prepare it, anyone can. But we were also thinking that it easily COULD be made in a slow cooker – once you get to the step about adding your chicken to poach, just throw a lid on your slow cooker and let it simmer away for a few hours. It’s only going to soften your veggies more (great for blending), and deepen the flavor of the tomatillos. And don’t miss my extremely professional, highly produced step-by-step video at the end of the post. Bon appetit!


Chicken Tomatillo Soup

  • Author: Emily Henderson
  • Total Time: 45 Minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 (not four grown men, double it for bigger family)


68 tomatillos (peeled and washed) or 1 16 ounce can of tomatillos
1 4 ounce can hatch chilis
1/2 4 ounce can jalapeños (or fresh)
1/4 cup cilantro
1 onion (white or yellow, or leeks I’ve done all)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 large chicken breast
1 tsp cumin (I used cumin seed, but likely ground cumin would be better?)
4 cups chicken broth (or veggie)
4 cups spinach
1/2 cup diced yellow pepperFor garnish (all optional):
1/2 avocado
Cherry tomatoes
Sour cream
Tortilla chips


1. Peel and clean tomatillos, then roast in oven at 350 for 20 – 30 minutes (until soft with brown marks)
2. Sauté diced onions and smashed garlic in a large stock pot until transparent and fragrant, add 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
3. Add 4 cups broth to pot, bring to boil, then turn down to simmer
4. Poach chicken in broth for 15 – 20 minutes, then remove and set aside
5. Chop/prep garnishes while chicken and tomatillos are cooking
6. When tomatillos are done, let cool then blend with cilantro
7. Blend tomatillo and onion/garlic broth (chicken removed) in batches til creamy
7. Shred chicken and put back in pot with blended mixture, bring to simmer 10 minutes
8. Add spinach (chopped or baby spinach) and yellow peppers (near end, only need 5 minutes in pot to soften and wilt)

Ladle into bowl, throw on all the garnishes to your pleasure. Put in your mouth. Chew, swallow and enjoy that warm healthy heat in your tummy!!!


Keywords: chicken, soup

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