This Chicken and Lentil Casserole is a comforting protein-packed dish made with juicy chicken thighs and tender green lentils baked together to perfection.
It’s naturally dairy-free and gluten-free.
While researching a title for this baked chicken and lentils recipe, I discovered that the word “casserole” could mean a few different things.
For instance, a casserole can be a layered dish finished with bubbly cheese or something similar to a hearty stew.
The word “casserole” is also used to describe a one-pot meal slow-cooked in the oven allowing the flavors to naturally develop.
This chicken and lentil casserole has no cheese and certainly isn’t a stew, so it’s most similar to a satisfying one-pot meal. Everything about it gives it that comforting weeknight casserole feel and flavor.
This meal does a great job of keeping our bellies full and happy in the wintertime, but it is fantastic year-round.
I hope your family loves this chicken and green lentil casserole as much as we do.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Here are four reasons why this recipe is a keeper:
- Minimal prep work. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to put together. Your oven makes the magic happen.
- Hearty and healthy. Chicken and lentils are excellent sources of protein and fiber to keep you feeling full longer.
- No cheese. It’s the BEST dairy-free chicken casserole.
- Kid-approved. This recipe is a great way to cook delicious green lentils the whole family will love.
Here is a brief overview of the ingredients you will need to make this dish:
- Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs are perfect for casseroles because they are naturally full of flavor, juicy, and hard to overcook. You can use bone-in or boneless.
- Olive Oil: You will need some oil for sauteing the vegetables. I prefer to use olive oil or avocado oil.
- Vegetables: A mixture of onion, celery, and carrot adds great flavor and texture to this dish.
- Diced Tomatoes: Low sodium canned diced tomatoes add acidity and savory umami flavor to the casserole.
- Chicken Stock: Low-sodium chicken stock and tomato juices create a flavorful broth for the chicken and vegetables to cook in and for the lentils to absorb.
- Green Lentils: Green lentils stay intact during cooking, so they’re perfect for casseroles.
- Garlic Powder: Garlic powder adds flavor to the dish.
- Salt & Pepper: Salt and black pepper highlight the natural flavors of all the ingredients.
How To Make Chicken and Lentil Casserole
This dish doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to put together.
Basically, you just need to quickly saute the veggies, place all the ingredients in a baking dish, and let the oven do its magic. In an hour and a bit, you’ll have a comforting, flavorful, and protein-rich dish.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Prep the vegetables: Thinly slice the onion, chop the celery, and grate the carrot. Set aside.
- Season the chicken thighs: Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Then, season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside for a few minutes to marinate in the seasonings.
- Saute the vegetables: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and saute until the vegetables begin to soften (2 to 3 minutes).
- Make the vegetable mixture: Preheat the oven to 350F. Transfer the vegetables to a baking dish. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, lentils, a teaspoon more of garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
- Add the chicken: Place the seasoned chicken thighs above the vegetable mixture, slightly pressing them to submerge in the liquid.
- Bake: Transfer the baking dish to the preheated oven and bake until the liquid is absorbed, lentils are tender, and the chicken thighs are cooked through (about 1 hour and 15 minutes).
A 13″ x 9″ baking dish is good for this casserole, but two smaller ones will also work.
When sauteing the veggies, do not overcook them. As soon as they begin to soften, transfer them to the baking dish. They will continue to soften and tenderize in the oven.
Green lentils are cooked once they become soft and tender. The best way to check for doneness is to simply taste them. They should be firm but no longer dry and crunchy.
If the lentils aren’t quite soft enough, add a splash more of chicken stock to the baking dish, stir and return to the oven for a few more minutes.
Substitutions & Variations
Here are a few ideas on how you can customize this recipe:
- Chicken options: In addition to thighs, you could also use chicken legs or quarters. I do not recommend chicken breasts as they tend to dry out and overcook much quicker.
- Lentil options: Brown and green lentils can be used interchangeably in this lentils bake and will hold their shape. Avoid red and yellow lentils as they tend to get mushy.
- Add cheese: If dairy is of no concern, 20 minutes before the casserole is finished, add a layer of shredded creamy cheese. Return to the oven until the lentils and thighs are cooked through, and the cheese is melted and gooey.
- Add more vegetables: Feel free to saute minced garlic, grated parsnip, bell peppers, diced white potatoes, or sweet potatoes with the other veggies. A reader mentioned adding baby bella mushrooms (also known as crimini or brown mushrooms), which sounds fantastic!
- Experiment with spices: Add chili powder, curry powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, dried oregano, or basil.
- Add wine: That same reader also replaced half of the chicken stock with white Bordeaux, and I think that’s brilliant. Red wine would also be a great addition to this dish.
Sides to Serve with Chicken and Lentils
I served this chicken and lentils casserole over buckwheat with a side salad, and it was delicious. This dish also pairs well with:
- Low Glycemic Whole Grains
- Roasted Root Vegetables
- Fresh Vegetable Salad
- Instant Pot Steamed Vegetables
- Healthy Cabbage Salad
Storing & Reheating
- Storing: Let the casserole cool completely to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days.
- Reheating: The time and temperature needed to reheat a casserole will depend on how much you’re reheating. I recommend reheating leftover chicken and green lentil casserole at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few related questions about cooking lentils:
What exactly are lentils?
Lentils are edible pulses that grow in pods and are considered a legume. When cooked, they have a pleasant, earthy taste and a soft and tender texture.
Can you cook green lentils without soaking them?
For this casserole, the lentils do not need to be soaked. Simply wash the lentils in cold water, rinsing off any debris.
Do I need to cook lentils before adding them to a casserole?
No, you do not need to cook the lentils beforehand. There is an adequate amount of liquid in the recipe for the lentils to absorb during the instructed baking time.
- 8 to 10 chicken thighs
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 3/4 cup green lentils, rinsed
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Season the chicken with some garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside to marinate for a few minutes.
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Make sure not to overcook the vegetables.
- Transfer the vegetables to a baking dish. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, lentils and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.
- Place the chicken thighs on top of the mixture and press slightly so that they are covered with the liquid. Put the baking dish into the oven and cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1/6 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 738Total Fat 47.8gSaturated Fat 12.4gTrans Fat 0.2gUnsaturated Fat 35.2gCholesterol 249.4mgSodium 341.8mgCarbohydrates 24.4gFiber 4.2gSugar 5gProtein 50.6g
Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.