My Lentils and Rice recipe is a hearty, delicious and satisfying meat-free centerpiece for any family meal. It’s simple to prepare, gluten free and has only 7 ingredients. Five minutes of prep work will have your casserole ready for the oven.
Lentils and Rice Casserole is one of my favorite money-saving family meals. It’s not only affordable, it’s packed with protein and nutrients, too. I’ve been making it for my own family for more than 30 years.
I have tweaked the recipe several times, over the years, and this version is my favorite for flavor, texture and hearty, inexpensive nutrition.
Economical and Nutritious
Ingredients for this recipe cost around $6.18 per recipe/batch when I buy in bulk. It’s a great way to save money and stock up on pantry staples. (If you must sub in plain green or brown lentils, the cost is reduced to $5.34. But, I am calculating with French Green Lentils, because I believe they are superior for flavor and for texture, in this recipe. )
So, using French Green Lentils and quality chicken bone broth, that means the cost per batch/recipe is only about $.77 per serving (for 8 servings) and $1.03 per serving (for 6 servings). How many servings will depend on the appetites you’re feeding. 🙂 For a powerhouse of nutrition like this Lentils and Rice recipe that is a crazy economical main dish! Add a green salad or steamed broccoli for around $.25 per serving and you’ll have a full, healthy meal for a fraction of the cost of takeout.
French Green Lentils *[affiliate link]: (cost is $1.30/per recipe) [If you have to substitute plain brown or green lentils it will be only $.45, but the texture will be extremely different. Red lentils are absolutely not suited to the long cooking times of this dish.] After using French Green Lentils for a few years, now, they are my go-to, especially in this casserole recipe.
Brown Rice: (cost $.28/per recipe) I use long grain brown rice that I purchase at our local Walmart grocery. (White rice is not suitable for the long cooking time of this recipe.) Here’s a great recipe that uses quick cooking brown rice!
Red Onion: You only need one small one or half a large one. (cost $.39/per recipe)
Seasonings: Choose Spike Seasoning ($.27/per recipe) OR choose Italian Seasoning ($.30 per recipe) PLUS Homemade All Purpose Seasoning ($.17/per recipe). You’ll also add salt for a fraction of a penny.($.0033/ per recipe).
My favorite in Lentil and Rice Casserole is Spike Seasoning. It’s a combination of more than 40 different herbs and dehydrated vegetables and adds extraordinary flavor to this dish. It’s not always simple to find locally, however. So, I have to order it online. I get it through Walmart or Amazon and both usually get it to me within 2 days.
If you don’t want to order Spike, combining my homemade all purpose seasoning with Italian seasoning is a good alternative in this dish. The flavor will not be quite as complex, but it will still be delicious.
Chicken Bone Broth or Best Homemade Vegetable Stock: ($2.82) I use Sam’s brand and I purchase it at our local Walmart grocery store. If you have a preferred brand definitely use that.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese: ($.92) Definitely buy cheese in block form and grate it yourself. Melt-ability is very important in this dish. Pre-grated cheese simply does not melt as well because of the anti-clumping ingredients added to it.
What Are French Green Lentils?
Lentils come in brown, green and red varieties. But there is one lentil in the green variety that is very different from those we commonly see on store shelves.
French Green Lentils are much smaller than other varieties. They have a nutty, earthy and peppery flavor and a texture that is hearty and meaty. This variety of green lentils holds its shape better, even in long-cooking recipes.
The French type of green lentils are much darker in color than the plain variety commonly found in local U.S. grocery stores. French green lentils are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Plus they’re loaded with nutrients like manganese, thiamine, iron, phosphorus, folate and dietary fiber. French Green Lentils are very high in protein (36%). When mixed with brown rice, the combination creates a complete protein. When plants combine to create a complete protein, you get all the benefits of eating meat without the saturated fats.
Most French Green Lentils are grown in Canada, the U.S., France or Italy. But if your French Green Lentils are labeled as Puy Lentils, they are even more special. Puy Lentils are only grown in the mountainous volcanic soil of the Puy region of central France. The soil gives Puy lentils an even deeper earthy and peppery taste.
In larger towns and cities, it may be easy for you to find French Green lentils at your local market. They are not available in our small town. Typically, I *purchase French Green Lentils on Amazon [affiliate link]. They can also be added to my Walmart pick-up order and shipped to me in 2 days, and if you have a Whole Foods near you, you may also find them in-store there.
If you prefer to use sprouted lentils in your recipes, check out Kristen’s awesome post, How to Sprout Lentils.
Why BROWN Rice?
As mentioned previously, brown rice in combination with lentils creates a complete protein without the addition of meat in your meal. That healthy combination makes my Lentils and Rice recipe an easy choice when I’m choosing easy and economical recipes for the week’s menu. But, there are other reasons for using brown rice over white, too.
White and brown rice are exactly the same grain. The difference is in the way they are processed.
Brown rice is a whole grain and a source of Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B6. It contains fibrous bran, the nutritious germ, as well as the carbohydrate rich endosperm.
Brown rice has more fiber and antioxidants than white. It’s high in magnesium and that along with the fiber is helpful in controlling blood sugar levels.
White rice is the same grain as brown, but has the fiber-rich bran and nutrient-filled germ removed. This allows for a quicker cooking time, lighter color and softer texture. However, many of the health benefits of rice are completely gone. White rice has also been shown to quickly elevate blood sugar. You will need to add many more vegetables and fiber rich foods to help balance meals utilizing white rice.
How to Make this Lentils and Rice Recipe
The beauty of this recipe is the simple prep that leaves you free to accomplish other tasks while it cooks in the oven. Five minutes of prep will net you a hearty, flavorful and nutritious supper.
Preheat your oven to 300°.
Mix all the ingredients except the cheese in a 3 quart baking dish that has an oven-proof lid.
Cover the dish and place in the oven to bake for 2 hours.
Remove the lid, sprinkle with freshly grated cheese and place back in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
If desired, serve garnished with chopped parsley, sour cream and chopped fresh tomatoes.
Lentils and Rice Casserole is an inexpensive, meatless meal that is a powerhouse of protein and other nutrients. 5 minutes of prep time and your oven does all the rest.
We serve it with sour cream and chopped tomatoes as toppings, but it is delicious plain, too. Mix up your family’s favorite toppings or garnish and customize your own.
Lentils and Rice Casserole also makes an excellent burrito filling.
Serve this with steamed broccoli or creamy coleslaw and a wonderful, warm piece of crusty bread and it is a satisfying, comfort food meal. Yum!
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 1/4 cups French Green Lentils (Can substitute brown or green lentils, but texture will be different. Red lentils are not suitable for this recipe.)
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1 Tablespoon Spike Seasoning (or 1 Tablespoon Homemade All Purpose Seasoning + 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or bone broth
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- sour cream, optional
- quartered cherry tomatoes, optional
- Mix all ingredients, except the cheese, in a 3 qt. baking dish that has an oven proof lid. If your dish doesn’t have a lid, you will need foil to seal it tightly, when baking.
- Stir to mix and allow seasonings to distribute through the broth.
- Put the lid (or foil tightly sealed) on the baking dish.
- Bake in 300° oven for 2 hours or until lentils and rice are tender and chicken stock is fully absorbed.
- Uncover and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt.
- Remove from oven and serve.
We serve this with sour cream and chopped tomatoes as toppings, but it is delicious plain, too. It also makes an excellent burrito filling. Serve this with steamed broccoli or creamy coleslaw and a wonderful, warm piece of crusty bread and it is a satisfying, comfort food meal. Yum!
More Easy, Delicious & Economical Family Dinner Ideas
If you’re looking for another economical and hearty meal with bold flavor, you have to try this scrumptious Gigi Hadid Pasta recipe, over at Splash of Taste. It’s another winner from Mandy and Jane that is completely meat-free and yet, it’s a hearty and satisfying meal.