13 amazing desserts to make in the slow cooker

When it comes to the handiest gadgets in your kitchen that you probably only use once in a blue moon, your slow cooker is probably on that list. It's just one of those things that seems vastly underrated, but it shouldn't be. In fact, it should be on your go-to list of most useful things in your kitchen, and that's because it's good for so much more than just simmering chili or stew all day. Let's be honest, dessert is probably your favorite part of the day. (Or it's at least close.) Have you ever considered using your slow cooker for dessert? There's not much that's better than coming home after a long day to the smell of a warm, mouth-watering dessert filling the house. These tried-and-true recipes deserve a chance.

Banana cake

Even if your family loves bananas, it can be tough to finish off a whole bunch before they get too brown to make for a tasty snack. Fortunately, that means they're perfect for banana bread or banana cake. Instead of mixing up a traditional loaf, try this slow cooker recipe from Averie Cooks. Her version isn't exactly banana bread — it's closer to cake — but you don't have to tell anyone that! This recipe adds a brown sugar sauce that keeps the whole thing moist, and that means you're going to be eating it with a fork instead of on a plate with a bit of butter. Brown sugar adds an incredible flavor to any dessert, so there's everything to love about this recipe.

If you're looking for something a bit more traditional, you can use your slow cooker for an amazing upside-down cake. This Food Network recipe is going to take more bananas than the leftovers you couldn't finish, so you'll need to plan ahead a bit to make sure you have enough super-ripe bananas on hand. You're also going to need some non-traditional ingredients, like a splash of dark rum. The brown and white sugars mean this one isn't healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but dessert isn't supposed to be!

Baked apples

There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it: baked apples are amazing. They can be tricky, though, and you might have given this entire idea a miss more than once. But if you use your slow cooker, it turns this challenging dessert into something super easy and super delicious. Lexi's Clean Kitchen shares this recipe for easy slow cooker baked apples, and easy, they are! These apples are filled with pecans, walnuts, and raisins, and finished off with spices like cinnamon and more than a dash of maple or coconut sugar. There's also butter, because everything is better with butter.

The cost of nuts can add up quickly, and Budget Bytes has this slightly different version that relies on oats and walnuts as the center part of the apple, instead of the often expensive pecans. Add some cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and you've got an amazing single-serving dessert that's as good for your willpower as it is for your wallet. (And if you swap out the butter for coconut oil, you have a vegan version that will work just as well!)

Fudge

Fudge can be another one of those things that you either hate to make or just don't bother making. It's a pain, and it requires a lot of work and careful monitoring. Fortunately, you can make it in your slow cooker and not have to worry about it burning! If you have a hectic home that just doesn't let you dedicate time to making traditional fudge, try this easy recipe from Rainy Day Mum. Not only is it easy, but it only takes four ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now: chocolate, vanilla extract, unsalted butter, and sweetened condensed milk. Just stir a couple times throughout the two hours it takes to melt and mix this fudge, then transfer to a silicon pan and you have fudge that tastes like it took hours.

But let's face it: fudge isn't the healthiest thing for you. If you're looking for something to keep on a plate for a quick chocolate fix that isn't going to make you feel guilty after indulging, Skinny Ms. has a version of slow cooker fudge that comes with half the guilt. This one uses coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut oil, and dark chocolate for a fudge that will satisfy all your cravings, no matter how good you're trying to be when it comes to watching your diet.

Dulce de leche

Making dulce de leche can be a pretty scary prospect, let's face it. It's a huge time investment — hours of time — and a lot of waiting, watching, and hoping the can doesn't explode. Even at the end, you can end up with something that's just acceptable, but use your slow cooker and you'll end up with some dulce de leche that's amazing every time. Epicurious gives detailed directions on how to make an amazing dulce de leche that'll last for a week and a half in the fridge. Taking the condensed milk out of the can and transferring it to Mason jars before submerging it in water in the slow cooker will help preserve the taste, and at the end of eight hours or so, you'll have perfect, golden caramel sauce that's great for pouring over ice cream, adding to an after-dinner cappuccino, or drizzling over brownies. No one will judge you if you end up taking a few spoonfuls right from the jar, either!

Cinnamon rolls

There's nothing better than eating dessert for breakfast, and this is one dish that's just as good in the evening as it is first thing in the morning. It's light and fluffy, and just what you need after a filling meal. But making them is a pain, and most traditional recipes require a huge amount of planning and waiting for the dough to proof before finishing off the prep and popping them in the oven. If you use a slow cooker, you can do it all at once! Sally's Baking Addiction has assembled this set of recipes and instructions on how to put together the perfect cinnamon rolls for your slow cooker. The dough only has to rest for about ten minutes — time for you to make the filling and then keep moving. Before long, they're ready to roll; just pop them into the slow cooker for a few hours. The only down time is when they're cooking, and that's something every busy cook can appreciate.

You can try something a little different, too, with recipes like Spicy Southern Kitchen's slow cooker cinnamon roll casserole. Instead of turning the dough into rolls, you simply cut it into pieces, add some eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and maple syrup, and pop them in the slow cooker. What comes out is a delicious dessert casserole that's at home in the center of any after-dinner table.

Cheesecake

It's another dessert that's delicious but a total pain to make. If the idea of setting up a water bath in your oven makes you cringe, rest easy knowing that you can make some incredible cheesecakes right in your slow cooker. Cookistry has this handy recipe for a simple, basic cheesecake that's nifty for a couple reasons. Not only is simple sometimes best, but it's a small cheesecake that will let you gauge cooking times in your specific slow cooker. Since every one can be a bit different, you can use this for a test run to figure out just how hot the settings are on your cooker, and it'll help you gauge times better when you decide to go all in on a more decadent cheesecake.

And, if you're looking for ideas for those decadent cheesecakes, try the slow cooker Butterfinger cheesecake from the Domestic Superhero. It's exactly what it sounds like: a super-moist cheesecake topped with crumbled pieces of Butterfinger candy. (She also notes that if you're not a fan of Butterfinger, you can use pretty much any kind of candy bar to top this one.) For something with a slightly more standard berry topping, try BBC Good Food's slow cooker muscovado cheesecake with hazelnuts and blackberries. With a recipe that calls for full fat milk, lots of sugar, full fat cream cheese, and a package of sour cream, there's nothing about this one that's light, but there's everything about it that's delicious. A single slice goes a long way, and this one's sure to fill up dinner guests in the best possible way.

Nut clusters

This is definitely one of those things that slips through the cracks when it comes to deciding what to make for dessert. It's a pity, too, because they're perfect on their own or as an addition to a cookie tray. No one likes melting chocolate, though, because it's a long and often frustrating process. Fortunately, your slow cooker can make it even easier.

For her slow cooker chocolate-covered peanut clusters, the Brown Eyed Baker suggests using a combination of milk chocolate, peanut butter, and semisweet chocolate chips, along with whatever sort of nuts you prefer. But melting chocolate can still be tricky in a slow cooker. Stirring the entire pot every half an hour or so will help keep the chocolate from burning. Once everything is melted, just scoop out the clusters to cool and solidify on parchment paper, and you have perfect little bite-sized desserts that will last for weeks!

Bread pudding

If you're in the mood for something that's a little less on the sweet side, bread pudding might be just what you're looking for. Not only is it great for a warm, melt-in-your-mouth dessert that comes in high on the comfort scale, but it's a great way to use up that bread that's just a little too old for sandwiches. It definitely doesn't have to be boring, either, and The Gunny Sack has a couple recipes that prove this Old World favorite doesn't have to have an Old World flavor anymore. If you love pumpkin, you need to try this slow cooker pumpkin pecan bread pudding. With other flavors like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon, this is the perfect dessert for when you need a pumpkin spice fix. The only way you might be able to make it any better is to serve it with a scoop of ice cream, and that goes for the slow cooker chocolate turtle bread pudding, too. With caramel, pecans, chocolate chips, and a dose of strong coffee, this one is so decadent you'll forget that you're eating bread! In case you're looking for something a little simpler, Slow Cooker Gourmet has a great recipe for bread pudding that's tasty enough to serve as the base for any kind of syrup or topping you want to add. A salted caramel sauce is suggested, but the only real limit is your imagination!

Poached pears

Sometimes, you're in the mood for something that's not too heavy, with just the right amount of sweet. Fruit is always a good choice, and pears are incredibly easy to add a little extra kick to. Poach them in your slow cooker, and you'll find that there's a whole host of ways you can spice up these fruity favorites. Slowly poaching them over the course of a few hours means that they're going to be infused with the flavors you're adding, and there's really no way to go wrong here. The Cooking Channel suggests this recipe for cider poached pears, which uses apple cider, oranges juice, cloves, and cinnamon for a tasty, autumn-inspired treat. Spoon and Saucer has an easy recipe for poached pears that only takes a little brown sugar and cinnamon, and if you're looking for something a little more adult, try this recipe from Slow Cooking Perfected. Here, pears are poached in red wine, then the poaching liquid is reduced by half into a syrup just before you're ready to serve them. Whether this one's for wrapping up a dinner party or a romantic dinner for two, it's sure to be a winner!

Christmas pudding

Even though this has "Christmas" right in the name and it's traditional throughout the holiday season, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a little Christmas flavor any time of the year. (Christmas in July, anyone?)

If you have the time to start this one well in advance, the time investment is going to be worth it. For this slow cooker recipe, Every Nook & Cranny recommends starting the process a week in advance, and first soaking your dried fruits in Tia Maria to infuse them and turn them into something completely different. From there, it's a simple matter of combining the ingredients in your pudding basin, and setting it to cook on low for around eight hours. That's just the first cook, and you can put this one aside until the night you want to serve it, reheating it for up to another four hours before it makes it to the table. (If you like to experiment with recipes, there are plenty of suggestions for substitutions built right into this one.)

My Custard Pie provides not so much a recipe for making a Christmas pudding in your slow cooker, but instructions on how to adapt your own favorite recipe to be steamed this way, rather than in a pan on the stove or in the oven. This way, you don't have to feel like you need to give your favorite traditions a miss!

Peach cobbler

There's something special about summertime, and if you're a fan of dessert, you know that's more than just summer vacations. Summertime is about fresh peaches, and there's not much that's better than biting into that first juicy peach of the season. Unless, that is, you're making peach cobbler.

Well Plated knows just how important it is to get your fill of fresh peaches when they're in season, and has what might be not only the tastiest and easiest peach cobbler recipes you'll ever use. Prep work is simply a matter of first spreading out the peaches, sprinkling on the dry ingredients, and adding some butter. You're done! The beauty of this one is that there are no extra ingredients; it's all about the peaches. If you're looking for a peach cobbler recipe that allows all that summery goodness to stand alone, this is it!

And, let's face it: sometimes, you're in a hurry. You might have time to turn on the slow cooker, but you have other things to do. If you're looking for something incredibly easy (prep time of 15 minutes sort of easy), 365 Days of Slow Cooking has you covered. The die-hard foodie in you might think their three-ingredient slow cooker peach cobbler is cheating a bit, but when the kids need help with their homework before game night kicks off and you're responsible for the dessert, cheating a bit (and using cake mix right out of the box) is allowed.

Cinnamon apple ice cream topping

You can never, ever go wrong with ice cream, but sometimes just scooping up a dish of your favorite isn't going to cut it. That's where your slow cooker comes in. Elevate your favorite vanilla ice cream with some warm cinnamon apples right out of the slow cooker. Julie's Eats & Treats offers up this recipe for throwing together a quick and easy apple topping that can cook all day to be ready for an after-dinner treat. All you need is apples, butter, brown and white sugar, and a handful of spices, and you'll end up with a soft, sweet, warm topping that will go perfectly over ice cream. If you're trying to eat a little healthier without sacrificing dessert, Skinny Ms. has a version that leaves out the butter and substitutes coconut sugar and lemon juice to create some cinnamon apples that won't leave you feeling overly guilty about opting in for dessert.

Rice pudding

Desserts don't always have to overload you on the sweetness, and sometimes you might find yourself in the mood for something a little more on the warm, slightly savory, and definitely comfort food-ish side of the scale. In that case, rice pudding is perfect. The Scottish Mum has a great recipe for rice pudding in the slow cooker that cuts back on the sweetness even more, dishing up an after-dinner pudding that's full of cinnamon and nutmeg instead of being packed with sugar (although there's some of that, too). It takes about eight hours to cook on low (or four hours on high), so this is one that you can pot up in the morning, let simmer all day, and dish up when you get home. If you're looking for something a little sweeter, try this recipe from Ricardo Cuisine. Adding a bit of vanilla instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg will result in a totally different taste, but it's just as easy to put together. You can eat either hot or cold, making this a great choice no matter how warm — or chilly — it is outside.