Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Recipe Connection: Slow Cooker Chicken, Lentil and Rice {Mexican or Italian Versions!}

October 14th, 2010 · 35 Comments · Real Food Recipes

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Dish Recipe

The first time I made this original recipe, it was a total disaster.

That really inspires confidence and makes you want the recipe, right?

Never fear, I’ve not only added tomato sauce, chicken, stock, and cheese, but I’ve also upped the spices considerably and offer both Mexican and Italian versions, PLUS I adapted it for the slow cooker. It was originally a simple pauper’s meal, low on the budget but also on flavor, and now it’s even simpler to put together but gets accolades whenever I serve it to the family.

Don’t Let Disasters Get in the Way of Good Food

The first time I tried the baked version, the rice and lentils didn’t get cooked, and I had to decide between crunchy rice or a very, very late dinner. We ended up with both, as I baked the dish twice as long as it called for and still had underdone rice.

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken, Lentil and Rice

I’m not sure what made me try it again, but the remix has become a staple in the rotation, perhaps because it’s so easy and uses a lot of ingredients I often have on hand. I’m always trying to think of ways to use up my shredded chicken from the whole chickens I buy to make homemade chicken stock…which of course wasn’t even in the original uber-simple recipe. For an easy meatless meal, you could certainly omit the chicken.

Find this recipe, updated and perfected and with even more frugal tips and transformation options, along with 29 other bean recipes and a ton of information on cooking dry beans, the health benefits of beans, and ideas for bean haters in The Everything Beans Book, available now at Kitchen Stewardship!


Slow Cooker Italian Chicken, Lentil and Rice

In keeping with the “Keep it Simple” theme for this week, I’m happy to share this simple slow cooker meal with you. I think it will be the first one I make when we introduce rice after the grain-free experiment. I was tempted to jump into that this weekend, but I’m sure we should have more than one week with the legumes brought back in before foraying into “real” grains. We’ve already introduced lentils – here’s how I use lentils and some other recipes.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Dish


Slow Cooker Chicken, Lentil & Rice {Mexican or Italian}
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Meatless Entree
  • ¾ c. dry green lentils
  • ½ c. brown rice
  • 1 c. water
  • 2½ c. homemade chicken stock
  • 1 c. tomato sauce (8 oz. can) or 1 6-oz. can tomato paste + and extra ½ c. stock
  • ¾ c. chopped onion
  • 1 c. of chopped green or red pepper
  • 1 grated or finely chopped carrot
  • 2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
  • optional: other vegetables like spinach, broccoli
  • 3 tsp. Italian seasoning or taco seasoning
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic or ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1 c. grated cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar, but Mexican blend with the taco seasoning or mozzarella with the Italian is also great)
  1. Combine rice, lentils, and water in the slow cooker following this rice soaking method.
  2. Allow to soak overnight with the machine turned off.
  3. Drain the water off (save some for next time; see method), then add all the other ingredients except the cheese to the slow cooker and mix well (use a non-metal spoon for most ceramic slow cookers).
  4. Set slow cooker to high for four hours or low for 8 hours, adding cheese about a half hour from the end of the time.
  5. Serve with salsa and sliced avocados for the Mexican version, and optional warmed spaghetti sauce with the Italian is great.

Recipe inspired by Cents to get Debt Free, where almost everyone loves her recipe. I must have been a fluke! But I’m glad for the disaster because it pushed me to make it much, much better in my humble opinion.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Lentil and Rice

Do you think we could make other flavor versions? If you try any new spices, be sure to let me know in the comments!


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35 Comments so far ↓

  • Kelli M

    So do you have to soak the lentils if you sprout them first? I’ve always wanted to try sprouting but I don’t want to do anything I have to turn around and dry. Lentils seem like a good thing to start off with.

    Katie Reply:

    I’m embarrassed to notice this comment has no reply! Yikes! If you sprout lentils, you do not have to soak them at all. Good question! I don’t know how I missed answering it… :) Katie

  • ~Michelle

    Do you soak the rice and/or lentils first? Also, if I omit the chicken, do I need more or less of any other ingredients? Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    I’m embarrassed to notice this comment has no reply! I don’t know how I missed answering it… You wouldn’t need to sub anything for the chicken, and yes, the rice and lentils soak overnight in the water, then drain the water and add chicken broth. :) Katie

  • Julia

    I make lentil soup all the time. I think my family would like this too. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us.

  • Sarah W

    I think you might be missing a link to the soaking method?

    Katie Reply:

    By golly, thank you, Sarah, I was! It’s fixed now:
    :) Katie

  • Krissa

    So do we discard the water after soaking overnight and add in a new cup of fresh water? Or just add in all the ingredients after soaking, except for the lentils, rice, and water?

    Katie Reply:

    I have no idea how I missed all these questions on this post! Sheesh. So sorry.

    Yes, you discard the soaking water (saving some if you’re doing the accelerated fermentation method), then add the chicken stock and other ingredients. No need to repeat the water unless your slow cooker is letting too much evaporate.

    Thank you! :) katie

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  • 52weekbabyfood

    Good stuff! We had this tonight (italian style) and it was a hit!

  • shannon

    Hi Katie. I only have brown lentils. Would those work? Thanks

    Katie Reply:

    Shannon, Sorry I’m so late to reply; we’ve been on vacation! I’ve never heard of brown lentils, though, only green or red. I will say my green lentils look brown, so maybe that’s what you have. Give it a whirl! ;) Katie

    Dana Reply:

    About the lentils. Brown are the most common kind you can get in the store. If they are green it is usually stated on the package. And red are more of an orange color. But the red almost dissolve when cooked, then the brown can get soft if cooked a long time and the green hold their shape the best even in long cooking. Hope this helps!

  • Kathy

    I found your site not too long ago, and my family is starting to have a meatless meal at least once a week. This recipe was great…we made it Mexican style and really enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Jennifer

    So if you are soaking rice for the first time, would you have to soak the rice for 24 hours then soak it again with the lentil the night before making this recipe? Or would the soak with the lentils and rice be the first soak of the rice?

    Katie Reply:

    You can just soak them together, one time, no problem. I just use part of my “rice water” from previous batches and save the rest for more rice. :) Katie

  • melissa

    can you put your chicken in uncooked? i would think it would cook nicely over the 8 hrs… ?

    Katie Reply:

    I’ve never tried it, but you’re probably right – that’s plenty of time to cook chicken. Let me know how it tastes if you try it – I love offering options like this! :) Katie

    melissa Reply:

    i DID try it (roughly cut up skinless/boneless breasts) and it turned out great! Logistically i didn’t add it until the lentils, rice, and garlic had been on low for a couple of hours, then turned it on high for about 2-3 hours. my crockpot cooks very quickly, so i wouldn’t necessarily reccomend that for everyone.

    Katie Reply:

    what a great success – thank for letting us know how it went! ;) Katie

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  • Michelle

    Just made this today…oh my! So delicious!! Thank you :)

  • Michelle

    I’m sorry, but I must be missing something. I’ve got my 1/2 cup rice and 3/4 cup lentils soaking in 1 cup water, but the water is already absorbed and there’s not going to be any left to drain off by morning. Am I doing something wrong?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’m sure your meal turned out just great (I hope!) – but I’m way too late to help! Sometimes it just soaks up…

    :) Katie

  • Heidi

    Could this be baked in the over or cooked stove top alternately? My slow cooker gave out on me! : /

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Yes, it could! It started out on another blog as a casserole, baked in the oven, but the rice always seemed crunchy for me. It would take about 90 minutes at 350 if I remember right…or look up how to use a Dutch oven as a slow cooker – I think you can cook at 200F for 4-6 hours just like a slow cooker. If you try it, I’d love it if you’d comment again and I can update the post. Thanks!
    :) Katie

  • AshleyB

    Hi Katie–
    Your recipe says “1 c. tomato sauce or 1 6-oz. can tomato paste (if using sauce, use 2 1/2 c. chicken broth)”. Do you mean if using *paste*? Looks super yummy & easy, can’t wait to give it a try!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Ack, yes! I read that a few times today and missed it completely! Thank you!! :) Katie

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Oh, wait – I looked again and it’s actually right, because 2 1/2 cups stock is the low end of “2 1/2-3 c.” but I changed it to be worded differently so it’s super clear. Thanks!

  • Alyssa

    Looking at the recipe, all of the ingredients are listed, but I don’t see any instructions for how to make this dish. Am I missing something?

    Helen @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:


    Yikes! We updated our recipe plugin last weekend and something weird happened here. It should be fixed now, hopefully in time for you to start cooking :)

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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