14 easy cookout foods you can make in a slow cooker this Memorial Day weekend

  • If you're entertaining this Memorial Day weekend, set-it-and-forget-it dishes can be a lifesaver.

  • From ribs to pulled pork, these slow-cooker recipes are perfect for summer gatherings.

  • You can also make sides like potato salad and delicious dips in a slow cooker.

From mouthwatering barbecue ribs to savory pulled-pork sandwiches, these slow-cooker recipes are perfect for any Memorial Day cookout.

WalletHub recently reported that 52% of Americans plan to host cookouts over Memorial Day weekend, making it one of the biggest weekends of the year for barbecuing. However, while grilling certainly captures the spirit of the holiday, slow cookers can make preparing sides and meats for all your guests a breeze.

Here are 14 easy cookout foods you can make in a slow cooker this Memorial Day weekend.

For your Memorial Day cookout this year, try making the potato salad using your slow cooker.

a bowl of potato salad with mustard and dill
Potato salad.ziashusha/Shutterstock

You might not know that you can parboil potatoes in a slow cooker. To do so, chop and cover the potatoes with water, a little salt and pepper, and butter and cook them until they're fork-tender, usually about six hours on low.

Then, mix the dressing for your potato salad as you normally would, such as mayonnaise, dill, whole grain mustard, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

You can also make a German-style potato salad with bacon, light dressing, and baby potatoes.

Dips, such as this spinach-and-artichoke dip, are also easily made in a slow cooker.

spinach and artichoke dip in a slow cooker
Spinach-and-artichoke dip.Damn Delicious

"I love to make spinach-and-artichoke dip in my slow cooker," Chungah Rhee, the author of the blog Damn Delicious, told Business Insider.

"You can just free up so much of your time by using a slow cooker and hang out with your guests instead of laboring in the kitchen," Rhee continued. "Especially for side dishes or dips. You put it all together, set the time and it comes out ready to go."

This set-it-and-forget-it corn-and-jalapeño dip is deliciously creamy and easy to make.

corn and jalapeno dip in a white bowl with bacon on top
Corn-and-jalapeño dip.Damn Delicious

"Another favorite of mine is this corn-and-jalapeño dip," Rhee told Insider.


Buffalo-chicken dip is another quick and easy favorite you can make in a slow cooker.

slow cooker buffalo chicken dip
Slow cooker Buffalo-chicken dip.Erin McDowell/Insider

One of the benefits of making a slow-cooker Buffalo-chicken dip, like this recipe on Rhee's blog — or any other side dish in a slow cooker — is that it can be prepared well ahead of time and reheated when you're ready to eat.

Rhee's advice for someone using a slow cooker for the first time for entertaining is actually to start out with a dip or side dish.

"If for some reason it doesn't turn out, because we all know that can happen using an appliance for the first time, it's not detrimental to your dinner party being a success," she said.

Queso gets super creamy and serves a whole party when done in a slow cooker.

slow cooker queso
Slow cooker queso with red onion, cilantro, and sliced jalapeños.Erin McDowell/Insider

This creamy queso dip from Martha Stewart uses ingredients like American cheese and pepper jack cheese, a can of evaporated milk, diced tomatoes with chilies, sliced jalapeños, red onion, and cilantro.

Brisket is perfect for feeding a larger family and can easily be made in a slow cooker.

cut beef brisket on a plate
Beef brisket.iStock / Getty Images Plus

"Brisket is a natural partner for the slow cooker, as a gentle braise renders it meltingly tender," Kim Laidlaw writes in her cookbook, "Everyday Slow Cooking: Modern Recipes for Delicious Meals."

Laidlaw's recipe for slow-cooked braised brisket includes garlic, onion, dry red wine, carrot, and chicken or beef stock, with a chimichurri sauce.

Pulled-pork sliders are a great way to use your slow cooker for a cookout.

pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw on a plate
Pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

One of the best ways to use braised and slow-cooked pork shoulder is to make pulled-pork sliders, like this Damn Delicious recipe, with all that tender meat.

To elevate the dish, top the meat with barbecue sauce and slaw before sandwiching it between two fluffy brioche buns or potato rolls. You can also use the carnitas to make tacos.

You can also make barbecue ribs in a slow cooker.

barbecue ribs on a serving platter
Barbecue ribs.David P. Smith/Shutterstock

Nothing screams an end-of-summer cookout like sauce-covered ribs, like Laidlaw's recipe as shared on Cooking by the Book. After cooking them in the slow cooker, place them on a baking sheet in your oven and broil them until they're slightly crispy.

You can also make slow-cooked sausages and beer brats that pack a ton of flavor and save space on your grill.

bratwurst sausage with sauerkraut and dijon mustard on a bun
Bratwurst with sauerkraut and Dijon mustard on a bun.Charles Brutlag/Getty Images

Brats with onions, peppers, and garlic simmered in the slow cooker with beer — like this recipe by The Magical Slow Cooker — are one way to use your slow cooker on Memorial Day.

Top your brats with a bit of sauerkraut and put them on buns for a delicious summer dish.

Mac and cheese can also easily be made in a slow cooker.

a wooden spoon of finished mac and cheese
A spoonful of Martha Stewart's slow cooker mac and cheese.Erin McDowell/Insider

If you're looking to add some carbs to your menu, look no further than a piping hot pot of mac and cheese. Martha Stewart's recipe for mac and cheese in a slow cooker calls for evaporated milk, three kinds of cheese, and homemade breadcrumbs.

Garlic-and-herb mushrooms are a delicious side dish but can also be used as a burger topping.

garlic herb mushrooms in a black slow cooker
Garlic-and-herb mushrooms.Damn Delicious

"The recipe for slow-cooker garlic-herb mushrooms is divine and so easy," Rhee said. "Mushrooms made in a slow cooker are truly the best."

Shredded Buffalo chicken goes great on top of salads.

shredded buffalo chicken with lime wedge
Shredded buffalo chicken.from my point of view/Shutterstock

One of the best — and easiest — ways to use your Crock-Pot or slow cooker is by making shredded Buffalo chicken, such as this recipe by The Magical Slow Cooker.

Add seasoned chicken breasts to the slow cooker and cover with your preferred Buffalo sauce. Then add a splash of ranch dressing and a cube of butter, toss your chicken breasts in the mixture to coat fully, and cook until the chicken is shreddable. You can use it for Buffalo-chicken sliders, salads, or tacos.

You can even make Buffalo or barbecue chicken wings using a slow cooker.

slow cooker buffalo wings
Slow cooker Buffalo wings.Erin McDowell/Insider

You can make any style of wings in a slow cooker, from Asian-style to barbecue and Buffalo wings. Add your wings to the slow cooker, add in your sauce of choice, toss to combine, and let them cook for a couple of hours on high.

To make them crisp up, add a cornstarch and water mixture to your slow cooker. After they're cooked through, broil them for a few minutes in the oven.

Meatballs make a great appetizer for guests and don't require cooking over a hot stove.

meatballs and sauce in a white slow cooker
Meatballs and sauce in a slow cooker.anewlifephotostudio/Getty Images

Meatballs make the perfect appetizer for parties big and small and are easy to make in a slow cooker.

Place your seasoned, raw meatballs into the slow cooker, top with sauce, and let the slow cooker finish them off, says one recipe by Spend With Pennies. Serve them on their own with toothpicks or stuff them inside toasted sub rolls for a meatball sandwich.

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