Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake

4.65 from 127 votes
2 hours 20 minutes
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Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake is cheesy, delicious meatless comfort food even a carnivore will love and is super easy to prepare!  Simply combine everything in a baking dish, pop it in the oven and let it bake away while you do other things.

“LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! It’s easy and healthy!”

Photo of Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake on blue background with some served up into bowls.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

Oh, the lentil joy!  It seems like forever that my hubby and I have been making this dish!  My husband and I began making this casserole back in my vegetarian days.  We’ll just say those days were a long time ago so as not to date me.

The recipe we originally followed is “Lively Lentil Bake” from Hot, Spicy and Meatless, Over 150 Delicious, Fiery and Healthful Recipes by Dave DeWitt, et. al., the folks behind Chile Pepper Magazine.  This collection of spicy vegetarian fare was published in 1994 and we’ve used that cookbook a lot.

This Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake is one of our favorites when we’re both busy and don’t have a lot of time to prep and cook.  Quite often, we already have the ingredients on hand in the pantry.

The only fresh things you need is an onion, green bell pepper and cilantro for garnish if you like.  It’s very easy to make minor substitutions as this is a versatile and forgiving recipe.

How to inspect lentils for debris:

One thing you always want to do when working with lentils is to look them over well for stones, twigs and odd-looking shriveled ones because those can be stone-like.

What I do is:

  • Place a small amount–about 1/4 cup–on a plain white paper plate.  A white surface makes debris easier to find.
  • Look them over for any odd things and discard.
  • Then, gently fold the plate to guide them into your pot or into a bowl.
  • Repeat with the remaining lentils.

Photo of brown lentils in glass jar.

How to make Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake:

My recipe is significantly different from the original in the cookbook, however, the procedure remains the same:

  • Combine all the ingredients in the baking dish!
Photo of ingredients for Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake.
  • Cover and let it bake away while you do other things!  About all you make dirty in the process is your knife and a measuring cup.
Photo of ingredients for Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake combined in white baking dish before being baked.
  • Stir once during the baking process.
  • Add cheese near the end and top with cheese at the end.
Photo of baked Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake with serving spoon garnished with cilantro.
Close-up photo of Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake with some served to expose interior.

Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake for the win!  Little to no effort and you have a cheesy, vegetarian dish even a carnivore would love!

Photo of one serving of Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake garnished with cilantro.

For more great vegetarian casseroles, be sure to try my:

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Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake - Overhead shot on blue background with some served up into bowls

Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake

4.65 from 127 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Southwestern Lentil and Brown Rice Bake is cheesy, delicious meatless comfort food even a carnivore will love and is super easy to prepare!  Simply combine everything in a baking dish, pop it in the oven and let it bake away while you do other things.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Vegetarian / Vegan Entrees
Cuisine Southwestern / Mexican
Servings 6
Calories 245 kcal


  • 1/2 large onion - (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper - chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15-ounce) petite diced tomatoes - undrained
  • 1 can (4-ounce) diced green chiles - undrained
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning blend - or another Southwestern-style blend
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme - leaf–not ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese - Monterey Jack, Pepperjack or white Cheddar, divided
  • Chopped fresh cilantro - for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients, except the cheese, in a deep 2-3 quart glass or ceramic baking dish and mix well. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 1/2 hours, stirring once while the mixture is baking.
  • Remove the foil, stir in half the cheese and place the remaining cheese over the top.
  • Return to oven (uncovered) and bake until cheese has melted, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.



FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Bake and thoroughly cool.  Store in airtight containers and freeze 1-2 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator.  Reheat in the oven, toaster oven or microwave.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 1131mg | Potassium: 340mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 643IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 227mg | Iron: 3mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 3 stars
    I made and followed this to a T, time, ingredients, etc. It had great flavor but I thought it was too mushy. Thank you, I love most of your recipes.

  2. Hi! This looks awesome but I can’t do peppers of any kind. Do you have a substitution suggestion? Or can I just not add the green and can chili peppers?

    1. Hi, Maggie, Thanks so much for your question. Yes, I’ve cooked for several people who can’t do peppers of any kind so I totally understand. You can leave them out and perhaps use some celery for added texture. Also, you could add a can of black beans which would add more texture. Thanks again and hope you enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely excellent recipe. Can I make this recipe in the instant pot? Thank you so much for everything

    1. Hi, Sandra, Thanks so much and so glad you enjoyed! Yes, you can do this in the IP and in fact, I’ve been meaning to update this recipe with those instructions. Here they are: Combine all the ingredients except cheese and cilantro in the Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes then release all the pressure. Stir in half of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and cover. Allow everything to stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. Thanks again!!

      1. Do you have to reduce the water?

        Thank you so much for these instructions.!!!

      2. Hi, Sandra, It wouldn’t hurt to reduce it a little bit, perhaps by a half-cup or so. Just be careful it won’t burn. You don’t want it soupy, either. Thanks again and please let me know how it goes.

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe was shared on a Facebook cooking group connected to Forever 35, and I made note of it.

    Really really easy and so delicious!

    I can see putting spoonfuls of the casserole into corn tortillas for tacos.

    This recipe is going into my “make often” rotation!

    1. Hi, Mary and thanks so very much! Glad you enjoyed! The recipe is very versatile and tacos are a great idea! The leftovers are wonderful in stuffed peppers, too and the casserole also freezes great. Thanks again!

  5. 5 stars
    Seldom have I served something so delicious that is also remarkably easy to prepare. The rice I had on hand was brown basmati; no plain diced tomatoes in the cupboard but there was a can of Rotel, perfect for this dish. We mixed a seasoning blend of 1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder and 1.5 tsp cumin. Add this recipe to your list of comfort food. We three are all adults, this might be too spicy for some youngsters.

  6. I have a question. I was looking for brown lentils at the grocery. I found everything but brown. I mean, there were brown looking ones that said they were green and French lentils that looked brown but were also called green. So I’m not sure what to use. I ended up getting the Green lentils. What will the difference be in using those?

    1. Hi, Rachel, Thanks so much for your question. Yes, can be confusing. Green lentils tend to take longer to cook than brown unless they are “sprouted” green lentils which will cook fairly quickly. However, I’ve purchased green lentils that take all of 45 minutes to cook when boiling while some cook in half that amount of time. Are there cooking directions on the package? You may need to give the green lentils a quick parboil to get them started before adding them to the casserole. Here’s more information from Cooking Light that I hope will be helpful: Thanks again and hope you enjoy!!

  7. I have been making this recipe for years. It is sooo easy, cheap and healthy. Throw everything in a bowl and put it in the oven. I had to come back on here and reprint it because I couldn’t find my copy. Thanks for this recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    Hi i am currently making this recipe i couldn’t use brown rice so i have put jasmine rice in instead. Do you have any idea of how long i should bake this for? I have read a few comments and they said with white rice it will overcook. I bought 3 brown rice packs but when opened they all smelled rancid. (Husband not happy as he had to return to store each time lol) Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hi, Vanessa, Thanks so much for your question. You could use jasmine rice but there may be a slight difference in flavor as jasmine rice has somewhat of a floral taste. Someone used white basmati rice a while back and they said the cooking time was too long. I’ve cooked a lot of jasmine rice over the year as a personal chef and have found different brands cook up differently so it’s hard to tell you exactly how much time it will need. I’d cut back on the liquid a little bit if you’re not using brown rice. You can always add a little more later. Thanks again and hope it works for you!

  9. This was amazing! The whole family loved it (including the kiddos 8 and 5). Best part is it comes together fast and you can get a bunch of other things done while its cooking. I didn’t have any brown/green lentils so I ended up using red lentils. I also increased most of the ingredients (this family lives on leftovers)! Thanks a million for a new crowd pleaser 🙂 Oh, I did fry up some corn on the side and added that when we plated it, its a great addition.

    1. Hi, Andi, Thanks so very much! Glad you all enjoyed–especially those kiddos! They’re usually a tough crowd. Thanks again and hope you’ll try some of my other vegetarian entrees.

  10. 5 stars
    I tried this last night as we wanted to include more pulses and whole grain rice in our diet. It was lovely and simple to make. I did not have brown lentils so substituted split red lentils and also used whole grain basmati and wild rice. It turned out very well. Thank you.

  11. 5 stars
    Thank you sooooo much! I have been making the recipe from the very book you mentioned, since the cookbook was published. I am away from home (sans cookbook) and craving this dish so I cannot thank you enough! I love the addition of the taco seasoning. I might add chipotle peppers instead. Cheers and again thank you

  12. Thank you for your feedback, Brenda. The reason for the ads is so that I can provide you with a FREE recipe. Perhaps there was something hung up with your internet connection or your computer was doing something in the background because I’ve loaded that post numerous times without any problems. I also had my tech guy check everything and there were no problems.