Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice Casserole

Slow cooker chicken and rice with onions, peas, and tomatoes—but no canned soup, please! This one's unique thanks to the combination of cumin and cinnamon.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice Casserole
Elise Bauer

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 as a way to avoid using the oven and heating up the kitchen.

This chicken and 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. Two hours later, it's done!

The seasoning we are using is a shade Middle Eastern, with ground cumin and a touch of cinnamon. It's a truly wonderful combination. If you haven't tried it, I recommend it.

Chicken and rice casserole in a slow cooker
Elise Bauer

The Trick for Making Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

To make rice in a slow cooker with chicken, you have to drastically reduce the amount of liquid you would normally use to cook rice, otherwise, your rice will be completely mushy. The main ingredients (chicken, onions, tomatoes) release moisture while they cook, which the rice then absorbs.

The trick is to figure out the right amount of liquid to add to the rice, considering that it cooks with ingredients that release moisture. Assuming you are adding the amounts of rice, chicken, onions, and tomatoes called for in the recipe, the amount of liquid to add can depend on your slow cooker.

Not All Slow Cookers Are Created Equally

We have learned through experience that 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.

The timing in this recipe works for my slow cooker (I use this model), but for yours, you may need to add more or less liquid for the rice to turn out properly. So, don't get discouraged if it doesn't work out as well as you would like the first time. If the rice is mushy, add less liquid the next time. If it is dry, add more liquid the next time.

A golden brown chicken thigh and rice sit atop a white plate.
Elise Bauer

How to Store and Freeze

You can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days, and leftovers will freeze in a covered container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge, and reheat directly on the stovetop with a little bit of stock or in the microwave.

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Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice Casserole

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 40 mins
Servings 6 servings

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.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skin-on chicken thighs)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin 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 raw 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

Method

  1. Salt the chicken:

    Sprinkle salt (about 2 teaspoons) on both side of the chicken thighs, and let them sit while you prep and cook the onions.

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  2. Sauté the onions, garlic, spices:

    Heat 2 tablespoons of 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.)

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    Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice Casserole cook the onions until they soften
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  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 to 12 minutes).

    Turn the chicken pieces over and brown the skinless side for 4 to 5 minutes more.

    Best Chicken and Rice Casserole brown the chicken in the saute pan
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    Best Chicken and Rice Casserole brown the other side of the chicken in the pan
    Elise Bauer
  4. Combine everything in the 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.

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  5. Slow cook for 2 to 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.

    Best Chicken and Rice Casserole chicken and rice in slow cooker ready to eat
    Elise Bauer