I have an everyday Italian recipe for you today! Easy Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers. This was my first time cooking sausages in the slow cooker, and oh my, have I been missing out. The low, slow cooking method makes the sausages fall-apart tender and thickens the sauce as if it had been simmering away on your stove all day. The addition of onions and peppers makes this recipe a dynamo all-in-one meal, and you have plenty of ways to serve it!
When I’m scheming ways to create healthy recipes that taste as scrumptious as their no-holds-barred indulgent counterparts, turkey- or chicken-based Italian sausage is one of my most treasured tools.
This one-pan Sausage and Rice Casserole was one of the first healthy meals I learned to cook, this sheet pan Italian Sausage and Peppers hits the spot when I’m in a hurry, and this Italian Sausage with Butternut Squash Gnocchi (and its cousin, Skillet Lasagna) are two of your recent favorites.
Although it is lean, Italian turkey sausage (and/or chicken sausage) is packed with spices and more marbled than plain ground turkey or chicken, meaning that it has more flavor built in. More flavor=less work for the cook (ahem, you and me) since it has extra pizzazz right out of the package.
Turkey sausage does still take some finesse to maximize its flavor (since it is lean, I would not not recommend throwing a plain link on the grill or in the oven then walking away for 20 minutes to see what happens), but with a trusty recipe (helllllllo, this ultra tasty Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers), it can help you create some of the best tasting healthy dinner recipes to ever come from your kitchen.
How to Make the Best Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers
This easy crock pot meal is exactly that: EASY. Because the ingredient list is so short, however, you want to make a few key moves the ensure that you are left with a slow cooker full of the best sausage and peppers to have graced your table, forever and ever amen.
- Brown the Onion. I know that throwing raw onions in the crock pot is convenient, but I promise you the extra few minutes spent sautéing them on the stovetop first will be richly rewarded. It completely enhances the sauce, and the flavor of the onions themselves is better too.
- Splash in Some Wine. It’s a tasty way to deglaze the onions, which is fancy speak for getting all that brown goodness (i.e. FLAVOR) the onions leave in the pan out of the skillet and into your Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers. I used red wine we had leftover from dinner the night before. White wine also works. For another spin, slow cooker sausage and peppers with onions and beer would be tasty too!
Not into the beer or wine? Swap low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.
- Low and Slow. I tested this recipe on both low and high heat. In the slow cooker, sausages take 4 to 6 hours to cook on low or 2 to 3 hours to cook on high, depending upon your slow cooker model. Overall, I recommend the low method. The sausages were noticeably more tender. High works if you are in a big hurry, but for the best Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers, patience is key.
Once you have your Slow Cooker Sausage and Peppers ready, it’s time to serve them up!
How to Serve Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers
- Spoon generously over whole wheat pasta and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
- Swap the pasta for zucchini noodles, or try our favorite: a 50/50 mix of spiralized zucchini and whole wheat spaghetti noodles.
- Italian-style sandwich: Pile inside of split and toasted hoagie buns. Top with Provolone cheese, arrange on a baking sheet, and broil until the cheese is melted and golden.
- Serve over prepared brown rice or cauliflower rice.
- Enjoy all on its own with a side of roasted vegetables.
Recipe Adaptations and Tips
- Depending upon your family’s preferred level of spice, you can make this a mild Italian sausage slow cooker recipe or kick things up and use spicy Italian turkey sausage. The heat level is up to you.
- Be sure to use uncooked Italian sausage in its casing and not precooked chicken or turkey sausage links. You can usually find this in your grocery store next to the ground turkey. Some stores also carry it in the butcher case.
- I haven’t yet tried this as a slow cooker sausage with peppers, onions, and potatoes, but if you’d like to try something similar, check out this recipe for my Italian Sausage Skillet.
How to Make Ahead and Store
- To Make In Advance. Add all of the ingredients to the crock pot as directed, but do not turn the crock pot on. Cover the crock pot insert and refrigerate the insert with the ingredients in it for up to 1 day. When ready to cook, let the insert stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, remove the plastic, then place it in the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, then on low for 5 to 6 hours or high for 2 to 3 hours.
- To Store. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container and free for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat gently on the stove.
So, which Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers serving option will it be for you? Over pasta? Sammie style? Or how about one of my faves: on its own, right out of the slow cooker when no one is watching!
Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 2 1/2 pounds Italian turkey sausage links uncooked, in their casing, cut into thirds (sweet or spicy both work here, depending upon your preference)
- 1 large yellow onion halved and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus additional to taste
- 1/4 cup dry red or white wine or swap additional low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper cored and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 large green bell pepper cored and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- Cooked whole wheat pasta
- Zucchini noodles
- Split and toasted hoagie buns (with provolone cheese for a true Italian spin)
- Lightly coat a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil. Once the oil is hot, add half of the sausages in a single layer (do not crowd the pan or the sausages will not brown properly). Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on all four sides, or until the outsides are golden brown (the sausages do not need to be cooked all the way through.) Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the next 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and repeat with remaining sausages.
- Increase the heat slightly. Add the final 1/2 tablespoon oil, then the onions, 1 tablespoon water, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onions are starting to brown and become tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 additional minute, then add the wine. Let cook until the wine evaporates, scraping up any bits that have stuck on to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the onions and any pan juices to the slow cooker with the sausages.
- Add the bell peppers and crushed tomatoes to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on low or 2 to 3 hours on high, or until sausages are cooked through and tender. (I prefer and recommend the low, long cooking time, as it makes the sausages more tender, but high works if you are in a hurry.) Serve over pasta or inside rolls with provolone cheese on top.
- To make in advance: Add all of the ingredients to the crock pot as directed, but do not turn the crock pot on. Cover the crock pot insert and refrigerate the insert with the ingredients in it for up to 1 day. When ready to cook, let the insert stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, remove the plastic, then place it in the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, then on low for 5 to 6 hours or high for 2 to 3 hours.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat gently on the stove.
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