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Cooking small meals in a large slow cooker might sound challenging, but it’s surprisingly simple and efficient. This approach is ideal for those who love the convenience of slow cooking but often find themselves preparing meals for one or two. The key lies in adapting recipes and the slow cooker’s capacity to ensure even cooking without sacrificing flavor. Whether you’re cooking for a cozy dinner or meal-prepping for the week, this method is a game-changer, offering all the slow-cooked goodness in smaller, manageable portions.

RELATED: Slow Cooker and Crockpot recipes

Optimizing Small Portion Cooking In Your Large Slow Cooker

At One Dish Kitchen, our passion for slow cookers shines through in our collection of delightful recipes tailored for one or two servings. But what if you own a large slow cooker? Is it necessary to invest in a smaller model? Absolutely not!

You don’t need to buy a smaller slow cooker to enjoy single serving or double serving meals. In fact, your large Crockpot is perfectly capable of whipping up small, easy-to-make dishes with just a few clever tweaks. Let us guide you through adapting your favorite recipes to fit the size of your larger slow cooker, ensuring you get the most out of this versatile kitchen appliance. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or a plus one, we make it simple and enjoyable to prepare perfectly portioned slow cooker meals.

How To Adapt Recipes To The Size Of Your Slow Cooker

  1. Size Matters: Choose an oven-safe bowl that fits inside your slow cooker. This bowl should be big enough to hold your meal but small enough to allow space around it.
  2. Filling Right: Aim to fill the oven-safe bowl two-thirds to three-quarters full to ensure even cooking. Too little and your food cooks too fast, too much and it might not cook thoroughly.
  3. Temperature and Time Adjustments: Smaller portions may cook faster. Start by reducing the cooking time and check for doneness towards the end.
Steps for placing a small bowl inside a large slow cooker to adapt a recipe to fit your slow cooker

Why This Method Works

  1. Efficient Cooking: Using a smaller dish within the slow cooker allows for efficient and even cooking of smaller meals.
  2. No Need for Additional Appliances: Avoid the cost and space of an extra small slow cooker.
  3. Versatility: Easily adapt a wide range of recipes to suit your smaller portion needs.
  4. Prevents Overcooking: Properly filling the oven-safe bowl ensures food doesn’t cook too quickly or dry out.
  5. Maintains Flavor and Texture: Slow cooking in a controlled environment preserves the flavors and textures of your ingredients.

Expert Tips

  • Quality Cookware: Ensure your inner bowl is oven-safe and can withstand slow cooking temperatures.
  • Optimal Filling: For best results, fill your oven-safe bowl to about two-thirds or three-quarters. This ensures even cooking and prevents over or undercooking. If the bowl isn’t adequately filled, your food may cook too quickly, increasing the risk of burning. Conversely, an overfilled bowl can lead to undercooked meals, requiring longer cooking times than your recipe suggests.
  • Avoid Lid Lifting: Resist the temptation to open the lid frequently, as it releases heat and can alter cooking times.
  • Layer Wisely: If cooking multiple items, layer them with the longest cooking items at the bottom.
  • Regular Checks: For new recipes, check your meal towards the end of the cooking time to gauge doneness.

RELATED: 15 Easy Dessert Recipes For One

Cooking a meatloaf in a small bowl placed inside a large slow cooker.

Choosing The Ideal Slow Cooker For Single Serving Recipes

When considering a purchase of a smaller slow cooker specifically for single serving recipes, the ideal size range is between 1.5 to 2 quarts. This compact size is perfect for those who typically cook for one and don’t require the capacity for larger items like a whole chicken or a big roast.

These small slow cookers are incredibly versatile, not just limited to your main dishes. While they might not accommodate larger cuts of meat, they’re perfectly suited for a wide array of recipes, from hearty stews to savory soups (explore our recipe section below for ideas). Their size makes them particularly handy in the kitchen.

In addition to their cooking capabilities, small slow cookers offer the convenience of easy cleaning thanks to their removable stoneware crocks. But their utility extends beyond just meal prep. These compact cookers are also excellent for keeping dips and sauces at the perfect serving temperature during gatherings or family meals, making them a multipurpose tool in your culinary arsenal.

Chicken with orange sauce inside a small slow cooker

Understanding The Difference: Slow Cooker vs. Crock Pot

There’s often confusion between the terms ‘slow cooker’ and ‘Crock Pot,’ with many using them interchangeably. However, there are distinctions worth noting.

The term ‘Crock Pot’ specifically refers to a brand of slow cooker introduced in the 1970s. Originally marketed as a bean cooker, the Crock Pot has undergone various redesigns to become the modern appliance we know today. A key characteristic of Crock Pot models is their stoneware pot, which sits within an external heating element. This design allows for even cooking and has become synonymous with the brand.

On the other hand, ‘slow cooker’ is a broader term that encompasses a range of similar appliances made by various manufacturers. While they share the same fundamental purpose of slow cooking food at low temperatures, their designs can differ. Some slow cookers, for example, have heating elements only at the bottom, and the pot (which can be metal or stoneware) is placed directly on top. These types are heated solely from the bottom, distinguishing them from the all-around heating method of a Crock Pot.

Regardless of these differences, both Crock Pots and other types of slow cookers are versatile and can be used for any of the delicious slow cooker recipes listed below. Whether you own a Crock Pot or a different slow cooker, you’ll find that these appliances are superb for preparing a wide range of dishes, offering convenience and flavorful meals.

RELATED: 20 Single Serving Meatless Recipes

A small slow cooker

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my bowl is oven-safe?

Look for a label or marking on the bottom of the bowl indicating it is oven-safe.

What if my food isn’t cooking properly?

Adjust the position of the bowl in the cooker, check the seal of the lid, and ensure you’re using the right temperature settings.

What kind of maintenance does this method require for my slow cooker?

Regular cleaning is essential. Ensure both your slow cooker and the oven-safe bowls are cleaned after each use to maintain their condition. Also, periodically check the slow cooker for any wear or damage, especially in the heating elements.

Slow Cooker Time Conversion Guide For Single Servings

Whether you’re in a bit of a hurry or want to enjoy a leisurely cooked meal, knowing how to convert cooking times for your slow cooker is essential. Here’s a handy guide to help you adapt the cooking times from low to high settings for single-serving recipes:

  • 7 hours on Low is equivalent to 3 hours on High
  • 8 hours on Low translates to 4 hours on High
  • 9 hours on Low corresponds to 5 hours on High
  • 10 hours on Low equals 6 hours on High
  • 11 hours on Low is comparable to 7 hours on High
  • 12 hours on Low can be switched to 8 hours on High

This conversion chart is particularly useful when you’re using a large slow cooker for smaller portion sizes, allowing you to adjust cooking times efficiently for perfect results every time. Keep this guide handy as a reference when you’re converting your favorite slow cooker recipes to fit your schedule.

Easy Single Serving Slow Cooker Recipes

Discover our top picks for easy-to-make, single serving slow cooker recipes, perfect for convenient and delicious meals for one.

sesame chicken over rice in a yellow bowl

Mini Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken

4.96 from 22 votes
Quick and easy mini slow cooker sesame chicken for one made with a sweet honey sesame sauce. The perfect amount if you're cooking for one.
View Recipe
a plate of ropa vieja and rice on a silver tray.

Mini Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

5 from 10 votes
Make Cuban inspired Ropa Vieja effortlessly with our mini slow cooker recipe. Perfect for single servings, enjoy tender beef in a savory sauce with minimal effort.
View Recipe
a blue bowl filled with a pot roast and vegetables

Mini Slow Cooker Pot Roast

5 from 7 votes
Craving comfort food but short on time? This single serving pot roast recipe is perfect for your mini slow cooker. Simple prep work and enjoy tender beef, veggies, and rich gravy – all in one crock pot!
View Recipe
chicken thighs topped with marinara sauce next to roasted potatoes on a clear plate

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken For One

5 from 14 votes
A recipe that's been in our family for years, this slow cooker Italian chicken is a winner! Made with simple ingredients and packed with amazing flavors. This single serving version features tender, juicy chicken with a flavorful tomato-based sauce. Wonderful served over pasta, rice, or potatoes.
View Recipe
a bowl of red beans and rice next to a plate of cornbread

Mini Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice For One

5 from 9 votes
Enjoy an easy Red Beans and Rice recipe for 1 or 2, packed with Southern flavors. Includes simple slow cooker and stovetop instructions for quick comfort food.
View Recipe
a chicken breast topped with slices of white onions and capers on a blue plate.

Slow Cooker Chicken Piccata For One

4.80 from 10 votes
Indulge in a healthy, single serving Slow Cooker Chicken Piccata, low in calories and carbs, featuring juicy chicken in a zesty lemon sauce.
View Recipe
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken For One | One Dish Kitchen

Mini Slow Cooker Orange Chicken For One

4.83 from 17 votes
Transform your dinner plans with this single serving Slow Cooker Orange Chicken! A healthier, flavorful twist on your favorite takeout. Ideal for busy days.
View Recipe
mini meatloaf with red sauce on top sliced.

Slow Cooker Meatloaf For One

4.94 from 16 votes
This Mini Slow Cooker Meatloaf is tender and juicy and so easy to make! Made with onions, garlic, spices and topped with a sweet and tangy sauce. This simple recipe makes the perfect amount to serve one or two people. Included in the recipe are instructions for converting a Crockpot or Crockpot-style slow cooker into a single serving slow cooker.
View Recipe
baby back ribs on a plate next to a jar of bbq sauce and a bowl of beans

Slow Cooker Ribs For One

5 from 10 votes
Indulge in tender, fall-off-the-bone slow cooker ribs in a single serving recipe! Juicy, flavorful ribs made with a finger-licking BBQ glaze.
View Recipe
chicken burrito bowl on a silver tray next to fresh cilantro and an avocado.

Mini Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowl

4.97 from 29 votes
Create a delectable, single-serving Chicken Burrito Bowl in a slow cooker, brimming with tender chicken, sweet corn, hearty black beans, and juicy tomatoes. Irresistible!
View Recipe

RELATED: Empty Nest Recipe Ideas – The Joy Of Cooking For Two

For information on the cooking and baking dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.

For examples of the dishes used at One Dish Kitchen, please visit our Store page.

Red 5-inch square baking dish with One Dish Kitchen branded paper sleeve around it.

Make 80+ Recipes With This Dish!

Ideal for home chefs, this individual square ceramic baking dish is safe for oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. Simple to use & easy to clean!

Welcome!

I’m Joanie and I’m incredibly happy you’re here! Our aim is to inspire individuals with access to single serving recipes, education, and a supportive community that will enable them to enjoy the preparation of a meal that will nourish both body and soul.

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20 Comments

  1. I’ve looked at the smaller crockpots, and none of them seem to have a timer on them. All I see is the dial for high, low, and off, and some of them have warm. Am I missing something?

    1. I completely understand where you’re coming from. In my experience too, smaller slow cookers typically don’t come with timers. They usually feature basic settings like high, low, and warm. The one I personally use is from Elite Gourmet, which has these three settings. It’s been quite effective for my needs. If you’re interested, you can find the exact model I use on our Store Page. It sounds like your observations about the available options are spot on!

  2. Hi – if I’m cooking for 2, do I need to double the ingredients in your “for 1” recipes? Most of the recipes say either specifically for one, or for one or two. Thank you!

  3. I am thrilled to have found your recipes. I am alone now after cooking for a family and find it extremely difficult. I either eat said recipes for days, yes I do freeze, or just don’t bother. I made your fetticine Alfredo tonite and I loved it! Thank you for such easy and awesome recipes.
    May I add, I am disabled and your recipes are quite easy for me to make. Oh I am so excited!

  4. Putting a smaller dish in a large cooker is a great idea, thanks for posting it. Definitely will use that idea

  5. If I put a dish in side my large crockpot for a single person meal; do I have to add water down the side

    1. No, you do not need to add water inside your large crockpot. Just make sure the bowl you use inside the crockpot is oven-safe and fill it about two-thirds to three-quarters full.

  6. I have an original “Crockpot”, I think it’s 1.5, but it doesn’t say on it. Can’t find my little book at the moment, but I’m pretty sure. Anyway, it has no dial at all. I used it once for a small pot of beef stew. It just s3med to be on high all of the time so I kept my eye on it. It came out very well! My problem is I’m afraid to try anything else in it unless I’m here all day to keep an eye on it. Any suggestions? Sorry so long..

    1. Hi Jacqui,

      The problem with so many small slow cookers is that they don’t come with timers. The ones I use just have a warm, low, and high setting. I think your best bet with yours is to keep an eye on it, unfortunately.

  7. I have a 4qt, if I cook the smaller portion in the oven safe bowl is the cooking time the same? That is my problem…everything is usually overcooked which you mentioned may happen if the slow cooker size is too big.

  8. The last time I signed up for something (crochet) I started getting all kinds of things popping up on my computer screen. I really don’t want to do that again. Will I only get these recipes from you and nothing else?

    1. You will only receive emails from me. I send out a weekly newsletter on Friday afternoons. Occasionally, a separate email will go out if there is a special giveaway we’re offering but that happens rarely.

      Thank you.
      Joanie

    1. Laurie,

      It’s a Hamilton Beach Party Crock and I’m not sure they make them anymore, unfortunately. I did a quick check and it’s not on Amazon or Walmart online. The party crock is a 1.5-quart.
      Joanie

      1. It is a thing of beauty!!! I was going to ask about it also! Thanks for all you do!

    1. Gloria,
      I’m really not sure that it will work. I haven’t tried modifying the Instant Pot and would not recommend it.