By Vanessa Greaves

Takin' it slow for summer.

Want to make sure your summer cookouts are fun and relaxing? Let your slow cooker handle the side dishes that go along with whatever's going onto the grill. Making slow cooker side dishes frees you up to enjoy yourself, whether you're hosting the cookout or bringing a dish to share. Here are 10 crowd-pleasing side dishes you can load into your crockpot hours before things heat up outside.

Get this recipe: Mexican Pintos with Cactus | Photo by Soup Loving Nicole

1. Mexican Pintos with Cactus

Five ingredients and 10 minutes are all it takes to get this prepped and into your slow cooker. Several reviewers said they used jarred cactus because they couldn't get their hands on fresh (ouch) but still loved this recipe. Top servings with avocado, cilantro, onion, and crumbled Mexican cheese.

VIDEO: See how to make Mexican Pintos with Cactus.

2. Mother Earth's Baked Beans

This crowd-pleasing side dish has a speedy 15-minute prep. Just pop the ingredients into your slow cooker, turn it on, and come back later to a delicious side dish you'll want to make again all summer.

Photo by lutzflcat

3. Slow Cooker German Potato Salad

Recipe creator dramamath explains, "I tried this recipe for some friends who had requested my German potato salad. I didn't have time to make in on the spot so I gathered my ingredients and put it in a slow cooker. They loved it!"

Photo by lutzflcat

4. Slow Cooker Creamed Corn

Try this easy, creamy corn to balance out spicy or saucy barbequed main dishes. Shelby raves, "This recipe was INCREDIBLE! This is the closest recipe I can find to Rudy's Cream Corn in Texas. I made it as a side dish to a BBQ brisket dinner with my family."

Photo by Molly

5. Slow Cooked Collard Greens

Allrecipes community member lutzflcat says it best: "Two things that I really liked about this recipe are the rich flavor that the chicken stock adds and the little kick from the fresh jalapeño peppers. And the fact that this is a slow cooker recipe, keeping me out of the hot kitchen at dinner time, is a bonus."

Photo by lutzflcat

6. Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

"I only got a forkful of this because that's all that was left when I got to it but it tasted great to me, creamy and cheesy. I doubled the recipe for a picnic," says Matlyn. The moral of this story? Make sure you scoop some onto your own plate right away before the hungry hordes descend.

7. Judy's Sauerkraut

Got some brats on the grill? A pot of this tangy sauerkraut would be a perfect side dish. You'll start with a big jar of sauerkraut and dress it up with bacon, onion, cloves, bay leaf, juniper berries, caraway seeds, and just a touch of sugar.

Photo by lutzflcat

8. Grandpa's Classic Coney Sauce

Take hot dogs from grilled to great with a ladle of this spicy sauce over the top. (BTW — Don't make the mistake of calling it chili.) "My Grandfather owned a drive-in restaurant back in the 1950's," says recipe submitter Sean S. "This is his exact recipe for Coney Dogs from back in the day. I make this on special occasions and it is always hit with friends and family. Enjoy."

Photo by admiral870

9. Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Reality check: It can take almost an hour to make properly caramelized onions. But, who's got that much time to spare? The solutions is to put your slow cooker to work making a big pot of caramelized onions to top grilled burgers, steaks, hot dogs, pizza, and more. You can easily freeze portions so they're ready to heat at a moment's notice.

Photo by foodelicious

10. Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash

Can't stand the heat? Why heat up your kitchen baking summer squash? "This worked very well as an alternative to baking spaghetti squash," says mkstevens09. "A nice idea for if you are going to be out of the house for a while and want to cook something with the squash when you come home, or if you simply don't feel like using your oven. I cooked mine for the full 6 hours and it turned out perfectly tender."

More: Get more recipes and ideas for summer side dishes.