Slow Cooker Soups, Stews and Chowders

In the depths of this winter season there is nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup, stew or chowder. There are hundreds of recipes for these delicious dishes and you need only your imagination and some basic ingredients to make a hot bowl of soup to warm you up and to please your taste buds. Most soups, stews and chowders can be made in a slow cooker, Dutch oven or large saucepan.

Basic ingredients use what is called mirepoix, a mixture of diced onion, carrots, celery and herbs along with some chopped fresh parsley. This mixture is usually sautéed in butter and then added to a flavored stock or broth, which is the basis of a soup, stew or chowder. Make sure to note that dried herbs are added during the cooking time of a soup while fresh herbs are added in the very last few moments of cooking. Fresh herbs are garnished on soups to get the best flavor enhancement. Try some fresh chopped parsley or cilantro as a garnish. If a soup tastes too acid add some sugar to it, or if it tastes a bit “flat” add some vinegar for a pick-me-up. I like using a little bit of rosemary in my meat and vegetable soups and stews.

Starting a soup with a good chicken, beef or vegetable stock or broth will increase the full flavor of the recipe. Stock is similar to broth but is more concentrated and richer, it usually gels when it is chilled, but liquefies when it is heated. There are many ways to thicken a soup, stew or chowder. Do not thicken so a spoon will stand up in it, it takes away from the recipe. Potatoes will naturally thicken a soup, so will barley and rice. When using a thickening agent clear soups will call for cornstarch. When making a vegetable puree it can become too thick after being pureed or refrigerated so always reserve some of the cooking liquid for a thinning liquid or use a chicken broth. White wine, beer, apple cider and/or apple juice may also be used as a thinning agent.

Use vegetables that are firm for clear broth soups like peas, green beans, carrots, celery, parsnips, sweet and/or white potatoes. Soft vegetables like tomatoes and squashes will make the soup cloudy. For white chowders make sure not to brown the mirepoix or roux (flour and butter base mixture). Use butter to sauté mirepoix and roux. Tomatoes will give a strong and sometimes overpowering taste to soups, so think twice when using them. A tomato or minestrone soup works well with tomatoes. Use a salsa to pick up the zest and flavor of a soup.

Use leftover meats for soups, especially store bought rotisserie chicken or deli thick chicken, turkey or roast beef slices cut into strips or small cubes to add to your soup base or broth. Pasta, rice, barley, noodles, tortellini or legumes added to soup gives it a body, a comfort texture and a satisfying taste.

The definitions of soup, stew or chowder are broad, but are basically a food made as a liquid from a meat or vegetable source and then have added various spices and ingredients both vegetable and meat or fish to the liquid.

Soup: a liquid food prepared from meat or fish or vegetable stock often containing pieces of solid food chunks which is cooked in milk, water, or broth and is combined with other ingredients and spices.

Stew: a hearty, rustic slow-cooked meal with melt-in-your-mouth meat that is in red wine at a low temperature making a deep savory sauce like a boeuf bourguignon.

Chowder: a thick soup or stew made with milk, bacon, onions and potatoes and usually shellfish of some type and other seasonings. It can also contain corn, tomatoes or other vegetables.

Chicken Stock

1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken

4 large sweet onions, quartered

5-6 whole carrots, peeled and cut in thirds crosswise

4-6 stalks of celery, cut in thirds crosswise

2 large parsnips

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

1-2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 tablespoons dried parsley leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons dried thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed (optional)

4-5 quarts water

Place chicken in large pot, about 4 to 6 quarts, add onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Add 4 to 6 quarts of water to cover chicken making sure to cover chicken and vegetables. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer uncovered for about 3 hours until chicken is very tender and starts to fall off the bones.

Remove chicken and set aside on a plate. Pour the entire vegetable contents of pot into a colander. Reserve vegetable mixture. Pour the strained liquid into quart containers and chill overnight. May be refrigerated for 5 to 6 days or freeze up to 6 months. Makes 4 to 5 quarts. This stock will fit into various recipes.

Use cooked chicken for chicken soup. Strip chicken skin off meat and discard. Remove meat from bones and cut into small pieces. With some broth from the stock puree the vegetables in a blender or food processor and use in a vegetable soup.

Simple Chicken Soup

1 3 to 4 pound whole chicken, giblets and liver discarded and rinsed and patted dry

1 pound baby carrots

2 large parsnips, peeled and sliced into ½ inch diagonal slices (optional)

2 large sweet onions cut into 2-inch chunks or wedges

1 stalk celery, chopped into ½ inch pieces

4 garlic cloves, cut in half

1-2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup uncooked wide egg noodles or other pasta

Place chicken in large pot and cover with water; add carrots, parsnips, onions, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cook partially covered until chicken is tender about 40 to 50 minutes. Skim off any fat or foam. Remove chicken to a platter and let it cool. Heat soup and add noodles, cook until noodles are tender, about 10 minutes. Cut up into small pieces 1 to 2 cups reserved chicken meat and put into soup. Heat soup and serve.

Use the remaining chicken meat in other recipes like chicken salad, fried rice and/or chicken and gravy with noodles.

Vegetarian Winter Vegetable Soup

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 cup frozen endame, defrosted

4 cups cauliflower, coarsely chopped

2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, about 3 cups

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 stalks celery, cut into 1- inch pieces, about 3 cups

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, about 2 cups

3 cloves of garlic, halved

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable broth

In a large pot melt butter and sauté chopped onion until tender about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, celery, parsnip, sweet potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and broth. Bring to boiling and reduce heat. Simmer, covered about 25 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add endame, heat through and serve.

Special note: To make this a cream soup. Transfer soup mixture in small batches to a blender or food processor, cover and blend or process until smooth. Return all soup to pot, heat and add 1 ½ cups milk or half and half, stir. Heat through and serve with springs of fresh parsley.

Smashed Potato Soup in a Slow Cooker

1 head of garlic, unpeeled

1 tablespoon butter

1 large sweet onion, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

3 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes

½ cup heavy cream, half and half, or light cream

Ground black pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

Chopped scallions for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice off top ¼ of garlic and discard. Wrap garlic in foil and roast for 40 minutes. Let it cool and squeeze garlic from skin and place in a bowl, discard skin.

Sauté chopped onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet about 5 minutes.

In a slow cooker combine potatoes, roasted garlic, cooked onion, black pepper and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Mash potatoes slightly with a potato masher. Stir in cream and cheddar cheese. Stir and heat for 10 minutes. Serve with garnish of chopped scallions

Beef Stew with Mushrooms and Red Wine

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces, cooked

2-3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 large sweet onions, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried rosemary, powder

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups dry red wine

2-3 cups beef broth

12 small red or Yukon unpeeled potatoes

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch diagonal slices

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into ½ inch diagonal slices

3 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 pound white button mushrooms, if large cut in half from top to bottom

In a skillet cook the bacon until done. Remove and set aside. Pour off the drippings into a small bowl, and set aside leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan. Brown the beef pieces on all sides in the bacon trimmings in small batches; add more bacon drippings as needed.

Place browned meat in a large baking casserole dish with a cover. After the meat is browned sauté onion and garlic in skillet for about 5 minutes, add to casserole dish. Add cooked bacon, thyme and bay leaves to casserole dish. Stir together and sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Add beef broth, wine and 1-cup room-temperature water and bring to a boil. Cover and place in 350 degree oven and bake for 1 ½ hours, stir and then add carrots, potatoes and parsnips, cook until meat and vegetables are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and let set. Skim off any fat that rises to the top and discard.

In the skillet melt butter and sauté mushrooms until browned and caramelized. Reheat stew for a few minutes until hot then add mushrooms, fold in and serve immediately. Make sure to remove and discard bay leaves.

Brunswick Stew in a Slow Cooker

3 cups white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1–inch pieces

2 cups frozen lima beans, defrosted

2 cups canned kernel corn

2 cups frozen sweet green peas, defrosted

2 cups okra, cut into 1-inch pieces (Optional), you may use frozen

1 large sweet onion, cut into small pieces

2 gloves garlic, minced

4 bay leaves

2-3 pounds boneless beef roast, trimmed preferably chuck roast, cut up into 1-inch cubes

1 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed

1 28-ounce bottle barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray.)

2 cups beef or chicken broth

1 cup ginger ale, not diet

Brown the meat cubes on all sides in a skillet with some butter.

In a 4-quart slow cooker add and mix potatoes, lima beans, corn, okra (optional) peas, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Place beef roast on top of vegetables. Pour crushed tomatoes, barbecue sauce, ginger ale and beef broth over meat. Cover and cook on high for about an hour, do not stir or open. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours until meat is tender. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Helpful hint: Chicken may be substituted for beef or you may use a combination of both meats. Also frozen succotash may be substituted for corn and lima beans.

French Onion Soup in a Slow Cooker

4-5 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 cups beef broth

1 cup dry white wine

2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

6 slices French bread, toasted or croutons.

½ cup Swiss or Mozzarella cheese, shredded or 6 slices

Cook onions in butter until tender and transparent. Do not burn. Add flour, stir and cook until flour is well blended into the butter. Pour onion mixture into slow cooker add beef broth, white wine and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Pour soup into oven-proof bowls and place a piece of French bread on top of each bowl, sprinkle with Swiss or Mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese melts and is slightly golden. Serve immediately.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

4 cups chicken broth

1 large onion, chopped and sautéed in 1 tablespoon butter

1 cup dry split peas

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 smoked, meaty pork hock or 1 meaty ham bone

4 bay leaves

Ground black pepper to taste

1 cup half and half or milk (optional)

4 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbles for garnish

In a large saucepan combine broth, split peas, pork hocks or ham bone, bay leaves, chicken broth and pepper. Bring to boiling then lower heat and simmer covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove meat. Cool meat and cut meat off bones, coarsely chop meat. Discard bones. Add carrots, celery and onion to pea soup. Return to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Puree pea soup in small batches in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and simmer, add chopped ham and stir in half and half, stir and heat through, do not boil. Serve and garnish with bacon bits.

Clam Chowder

2 large carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, about 2 ½ cups

2 6 ½ ounce cans minced clams, undrained

1 cup chicken broth

2 cups milk

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

3-4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

4 bacon strips, crisply cooked and crumbled, reserve 1 tablespoon drippings

Cook bacon strips until crisp. Drain and place on paper towels, cool and crumble. Set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings.

Drain 2 cans of chopped clams into a measuring cup, add enough water to make 1 cup clam juice. Place chopped clams in a bowl and set aside.


In a bowl whisk together milk with half and half and flour. Add to potato mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and just bubbles. Stir in clams and cook over low heat another 4 to 5 minutes, stirring. Serve and garnish with crumbled bacon bits.

Helpful hint: If you like your chowder thicker try adding some instant potatoes and stir thoroughly.

Edited by Hope Cusick

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