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

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Simple crockpot recipe with lentils and brown rice, chicken, and two variations: Italian and Mexican. Fast and frugal - an easy dinner idea!

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.

Simple crockpot recipe with lentils and brown rice, chicken, and two variations: Italian and Mexican. Fast and frugal - an easy dinner idea!

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!

Simple crockpot recipe with lentils and brown rice, chicken, and two variations: Italian and Mexican. Fast and frugal - an easy dinner idea!

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.

Simple crockpot recipe with lentils and brown rice, chicken, and two variations: Italian and Mexican. Fast and frugal - an easy dinner idea!

Slow Cooker Chicken, Lentil and 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.

Simple crockpot recipe with lentils and brown rice, chicken, and two variations: Italian and Mexican. Fast and frugal - an easy dinner idea!

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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I’m happy to join up with Kimi at the Pennywise Platter Thursday, where you’ll find nourishing, frugal meals!

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35 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    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 says

      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

  2. ~Michelle says

    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 says

      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

  3. says

    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 says

      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

    • Katie says

      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 says

        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!

  4. Kathy says

    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!

  5. Jennifer says

    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 says

      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

    • Katie says

      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 says

        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.

  6. says

    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 says

      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

    • says

      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

  7. AshleyB says

    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!

  8. Alyssa says

    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?

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