We all know protein is the priciest macronutrient and it’s usually the toughest to prepare. (Raw carbs and fat can be found anywhere. Raw meat, not such a great idea.)
Time and again, the strength athlete’s grace has been the almighty crockpot. “Set it and forget it” is the mantra of slow cooker devotees, and with the right seasonings, you can have extraordinarily flavorful protein with next to no prep time.
We scoured the web for the tastiest ways to prepare low-calorie protein, and here are our favorites. The best part? They’re freezable, so you can make ‘em in bulk and have a different lunch for weeks.
1. Kickin’ BBQ Shredded Chicken
While this recipe is reminiscent of sweet ‘n’ salty BBQ chicken, there are just three tablespoons of honey for a whole, large chicken. The rest of the ingredients are vinegar, garlic, half a can of tomatoes, two tablespoons of fat, and some spices. Shred everything together and you’ve got a lot of tasty protein for very, very few calories. The full recipe is here on NomNomPaleo.
2. Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken
This is a little higher in carbs than the other recipes here but besides the honey, most of the ingredients — low-sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger — have next to no calories. Dump everything in the pot, walk away, and come back five hours later to tasty, Japanese-inspired chicken. The full recipe is here on Crunchy Creamy Sweet.
3. Simple Slow Cooker Chicken
Here’s the simplest, lowest calorie, lowest sodium option you’re likely to find, and it’s stupid easy. All you need is chicken breasts, some powdered chili, paprika, and garlic, and a couple onions to cook everything on top of — dropping meat on onions is a brilliant tip for extra flavorful slow cooking. Click through to Paleoleap for the recipe.
4. Lemon Garlic Pulled Chicken
Garlic, lemon pepper seasoning, lemon zest, parsley, and chicken broth get thrown over chicken breasts in this super simple recipe that knows how to use low-calorie seasonings to their full effect. Pro tip: Cook it on high for three hours or on low for five. Take a look over on Laa Loosh.
5. Slow Cooker Honey Garlic and Sesame Chicken
A healthier version of the classic Chinese takeout, the main ingredients are garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil. With a quarter cup of honey for one chicken breast, it’s not the cheapest or lowest calorie option, but it’s great for when you need some peri-workout carbs and protein. Check it out on Closet Cooking.
6. Slow Cooker Greek Gyros
Easy to make and it only takes a few minutes to prepare, this recipe is pretty just lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, onion, and some olive oil on top of chicken. Cook it for five hours and stuff it into pitas (or nix ’em) for a healthier take on Greek street food. Bonus: this includes a recipe for home-made tzatziki, though it’s a little complicated. (We usually just mix random amounts of yogurt, shredded cucumber, lemon and garlic.) Take a look on The Recipe Critic.
7. Crockpot Buffalo Chicken
YES. We’re not kidding, someone managed to make this low calorie dish taste like buffalo wings. The ingredients are just chicken breasts, Buffalo wing sauce, some dry ranch mix, some crushed garlic, and some optional butter. (Wing’s sauce, like Frank’s, usually has butter flavoring anyway.) Everything gets cooked together for five hours, shredded, then devoured. While the final product is low-calorie, you may have an overwhelming desire to drown it in ranch. (We won’t blame you.) Recipe at Wanna Bite.
Those are all our favorite ways to save time and hit our protein goals on a budget. Let us know your own favorite methods in the comments below.