Slow Cooker Chicken Rice Casserole
Usually I think to use my slow cooker in the winter, for a braise or stew or maybe some pulled pork. But I’m also finding it rather convenient in the summer too, as a way to avoid using the oven and heating up the kitchen.
This chicken rice casserole recipe is designed for a slow cooker. You brown onions and chicken thighs, place in a slow cooker with basmati rice, tomatoes and stock. 2 hours later it’s done!
A couple of notes. First, the seasoning we are using is a shade Middle Eastern, with ground cumin and a touch of cinnamon. It’s a wonderful combination if you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.
Second, to make rice in a slow cooker with chicken, you have to drastically reduce the amount of liquid you would normally add to cook rice, otherwise your rice will be completely mushy.
The reason is that all of the other ingredients release moisture while they cook. That moisture gets absorbed by the rice so you just don’t need as much to begin with.
The basmati rice we are using in this recipe usually needs 3 cups of liquid for 2 cups of rice. For this recipe we are only adding 1 1/2 cups of liquid because the chicken and other ingredients will release moisture while the casserole cooks.
If you are using rice that requires a different amount of liquid to cook, you'll need to experiment for the right amount of liquid to reduce.
Also, different slow cookers come to temperature at different rates, and have tighter or looser lids. So you will likely need to experiment with the timing as well as the amount of liquid. Your slow cooker may require adding more liquid to keep the rice from drying out.
- 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skin on chicken thighs)
- Kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups sliced yellow onion, 1/4-inch thick slices, sliced root to tip (about 2 large onions)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 2 cups basmati long grain rice
- 1 cup diced canned (or fresh) tomatoes
- 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
1 Salt the chicken: Sprinkle salt (about 2 teaspoons) on both side of the chicken thighs, and let sit while you prep and cook the onions.
2 Sauté the onions, garlic, spices: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. When the oil is shimmery hot, but not smoking, add the sliced onions and cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes.
Lower the heat to medium and stir in the ground cumin and cinnamon. Let cook for a minute. Add the garlic and cook for half a minute more. Place cooked onions and garlic into the bowl of a slow cooker. (Do not wipe down the sauté pan.)
3 Brown the chicken thighs: Heat the sauté pan on medium. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side-down in the pan. Let cook on medium heat until the skin is well-browned and much of the chicken fat from the skin has rendered out (about 10-12 minutes).
Turn the chicken pieces over and brown the skinless-side for 4 to 5 minutes more.
4 Add onions, rice, tomatoes, peas, stock, salt, pepper, bay leaves to slow cooker: While the chicken is cooking, add the raw long grain rice into the slow cooker with the onions, stir to combine. Stir in the diced tomatoes, peas (if using), stock, pepper, bay leaves. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
When the chicken has finished browning, place the chicken pieces skin-side up in the pot.
5 Slow cook for 2-3 hours on the high setting of your slow cooker. The timing depends on your particular slow cooker. My All-Clad model with a metal bowl heats up very quickly and only takes 2 hours to cook this dish. Slow cooker models with a ceramic bowl heat up much more slowly and probably would take 3 hours to cook.
I suggest checking about halfway through the cooking time to see how the rice is cooking. If it is drying out (could be your lid isn't tight fitting, or the rice just needs more water), add another half cup to cup of water.
Fluff the rice with a fork to serve. Add more salt to taste.