Southwest Lentils And Rice Skillet

$5.65 recipe / $1.41 serving
by Marsha - Budget Bytes
4.88 from 24 votes
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I don’t know about you all, but I love one pot skillet meals! This simple Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet was inspired by a protein meal bag that I used to buy in the grocery freezer section. I loved the flavors and combination of ingredients, but I realized that I could make 3 times as much and save more money by making it at home. But the best part about this dish is that it’s a “pantry cleaning” recipe. Meaning most of the ingredients are pantry staples like canned beans and tomatoes, lentils, rice, corn, herbs and spices. It’s truly budget-friendly, super filling, easy to make, and probably your new favorite meal prep recipe! :)

Overhead shot of southwest lentils and rice skillet garnished with green onions and a wooden spoon placed inside the skillet.

What’s in Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet?

The good news is you probably already have most of these ingredients for this tasty skillet meal in your pantry right now! So here’s a brief rundown of what you’ll need:

  • Lentils & Rice – Lentils and rice are the base components of this recipe and a great combination for a filling meal. There are several different types of lentils, but we used brown lentils and long-grain white rice for this recipe. I’ll provide more details about lentils in the section below.
  • Vegetables – I used a simple combination of black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, and frozen corn for this recipe. Feel free to use canned corn (drained) or regular diced tomatoes if that’s what you have on hand. Just know you’ll be missing out on the smoky flavor you would get from using fire-roasted tomatoes.
  • Red Onion and Garlic – Both of these aromatics add depth and great flavor to the dish. You can certainly substitute yellow onion instead of red onion if you prefer.
  • Vegetable Broth – Vegetable broth to cook the lentils and rice and to keep this recipe vegetarian. Feel free to use chicken broth if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Spices – Spices like cumin, chili powder, adobo seasoning, and oregano create a bold Southwest-inspired flavor base for this skillet meal.
  • Cheddar Cheese & Green Onions – We topped things off with some fresh shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions for extra flavor and color.

What Type of Lentils To Use?

There’s usually a wide variety of lentils sold in grocery stores these days including brown, red, yellow, black and french-style lentils. For this recipe you’ll want to use brown or brownish-green lentils which cook with about 20 minutes of simmering and do not require soaking. I don’t suggest using red or yellow lentils for this recipe because they break down quickly when cooked and they don’t hold their shape as well as brown lentils.

Can I use Brown Rice?

This recipe would be a little tricky to substitute brown rice in because brown rice takes much longer to cook than white rice, and it requires more liquid. The longer cook time would also cause the lentils to become mushy. So I recommend just sticking with the white rice for this recipe.

Topping Ideas

One of the best parts about this Southwest Lentils & Rice skillet is being able to customize it with all your favorite taco-style toppings! You can top it with some cilantro, your favorite cheese, and even a few diced tomatoes.

Or get really fancy with some diced avocado, pickled jalapeños, or a drizzle of lime crema. My personal favorite is to just serve it with shredded cheese, green onions, a side of salsa, and some tortilla chips. Sooo good!! :)

Storing & Reheating

This lentils and rice meal holds up great in the fridge. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. And it’s perfect for meal prep! I’ve meal-prepped this recipe quite a few times in separate storage containers, reheated in the microwave until warm, and boom…a quick and easy lunch or dinner any day of the week!

Overhead view of a white bowl full of southwest lentils and rice with tortilla chips, a napkin, and black fork on the side.
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Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet

4.88 from 24 votes
This Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet is packed with veggies and bold flavors for a super filling, budget-friendly, and easy to make one pot skillet meal!
Overhead shot of southwest lentils and rice skillet garnished with green onions and a wooden spoon placed inside the skillet.
Servings 4 (1.5 cups each)
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.11)
  • 1 small red onion ($0.42)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1.5 tsp cumin ($0.15)
  • 1 tsp chili powder ($0.10)
  • 1 tsp adobo seasoning ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.04)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed ($0.38)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed ($0.79)
  • 1 14.5oz. can fire roasted tomatoes ($1.25)
  • 1 cup frozen corn ($0.60)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth ($0.34)
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinsed ($0.32)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese ($0.58)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.24)
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Instructions 

  • Dice the red onion and mince the garlic. Add olive oil and onion to a large deep skillet over medium heat and sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté an additional 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the cumin, chili powder, adobo, oregano, salt, and pepper to the skillet, stir and toast spices for about 30 seconds.
  • Next add in the lentils, black beans, fire roasted tomatoes (with juices), corn, and vegetable broth. Stir everything to combine. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the mixture to come to a full boil. Once boiling, immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. This will allow the lentils to start cooking first before adding the rice.
  • After 5 minutes, remove the lid and add the rice. Stir briefly just to evenly distribute the rice, cover with a lid, bring the skillet back to a boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While the mixture is cooking, grate the cheddar cheese and slice the green onions.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and let it rest, with the lid on, for 5 minutes. After it has rested, remove the lid, fluff the rice and gently stir to redistribute the veggies.
  • Top the lentils and rice mixture with shredded cheese and sliced green onions. Serve with more of your favorite toppings and enjoy!

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Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cupsCalories: 369kcalCarbohydrates: 59gProtein: 14gFat: 9gSodium: 872mgFiber: 10g
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Side front view of southwest lentils and rice skillet with a wooden spoon scooping some out.

How to Make Southwest Lentils And Rice Skillet – Step by Step Photos

Diced red onion, garlic, and spices in a skillet.

In a large deep skillet, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 small red onion, diced. Sauté over medium heat until onions are translucent, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and sauté an additional 30 seconds. Now add 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp adobo seasoning, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper. Stir and toast the spices for about 30 seconds.

Lentils, fire-roasted tomatoes, black beans, corn, and vegetable broth added to the skillet.

Add 1/2 cup brown lentils, one 15oz. can black beans (drained & rinsed), one 14.5oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (with juices), 1 cup frozen corn, and 2 cups of vegetable broth to the skillet. Stir everything to combine. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the mixture to come to a full boil. Once boiling, immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. This will allow the lentils to start cooking first before adding the rice.

Long grain white rice being added to the skillet.

After 5 minutes, remove the lid and add 3/4 cups long grain white rice (rinsed). Stir briefly just to evenly distribute the rice, cover with a lid, bring the skillet back to a full boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer for 20 minutes. While the mixture is cooking, grate 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and slice two green onions.

Cooked southwest lentils and rice skillet with rice being fluffed with a fork.

After 20 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and let it rest, with the lid on, for 5 minutes. After it has rested, remove the lid, fluff the rice and gently stir to redistribute the veggies.

Finished Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet with shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions on top.

Top the lentils and rice mixture with the shredded cheese and sliced green onions.

Overhead view of a white bowl full of southwest lentils and rice with tortilla chips, a napkin, and black fork on the side.

Serve with more of your favorite toppings and enjoy!

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Comments

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  1. Very easy to put together, I think next time I’ll try it as a stuffed pepper filling!

  2. As a college student this is really cheap for me to make. It’s also very versatile which helps when u need to clear the fridge

  3. This seems to be a very healthy recipe. Rice topped with lot of lentils that are rich in protein. I would always prefer to have one pot meal like this.

  4. Very tasty! I subbed in garbanzo beans for the black beans (already had the garbanzo beans in the pantry), and also squeezed one lime over it prior to fluffing the rice at the end. This one is going into my meal prep rotation for sure! Thank you!

  5. I modified the recipe a bit to suit my tastes (and what I had around). I used chipotle powder and liquid smoke instead of adobo seasoning, used leftover blackeyed peas instead of black beans. I used red football lentils, because that’s what I had in the house, they broke down but still has tasted great. Used regular canned tomatoes, the liquid smoke made up for their loss. Added lime, raw spinach, and chopped avocado at the end. Very good! Hearty and filling, reminds me of something similar my mom made with ground beef when I was a kid, probably some ricearoni situation. This will be a staple going forward, I think. It makes a good, cheap filling meal. Also makes a great burrito filling with a fried egg.

  6. I am attempting to learn how to cook in a way that is healthy, affordable, and non wasteful. I can confidently say this recipe gave me the needed confidence to know i can do this!!
    This recipe is super versatile in that i can serve it in a different ways. This is super important to me given i’m cooking for both my boyfriend and I.
    This meal was delicious and made me feel good knowing it was made from healthy and whole foods. I’m so excited to continue cooking!! I found my new favorite tool!!

  7. I made this with brown rice and it turned out great. I partially cooked the brown rice with 1.5c broth separately for 20 minutes and added only 1c broth to the skillet, for a total of 2.5c. I started the rice before starting the recipe and, with the 20 min simmer after adding the rice to the skillet, everything was perfectly cooked. It’s no longer one pot, but did add any time to the recipe.

  8. Used yellow onion instead of red, added frozen bell pepper strips, and accidentally added the rice at the same time as the lentils but turned out SO GOOD and was so easy & pantry-friendly! Super filling as well. I could see adding some chopped walnuts as well for a meatier taste

      1. I think that’s an excellent idea! You’d basically just need to replace some of the rice with lentils and make sure you cook them a little longer than the rice and you’re good to go!

  9. I loved this recipe! I was looking for something on the “cheaper” end. I didn’t change anything, except I used medium grain rice (it’s all I had). Turned out perfectly! I added a bit of sour cream as a topping too. So yummy and easy to put together.

  10. What a fantastic and delicious recipe! Just what I needed after deciding I’ve eaten quite a bit of meat in the last couple weeks and looking for a vegetarian dish.

    The only changes I made were I like a bit of smoky heat, so I added 1/2 tsp. Chipotle powder in with the spices, and I love toasted corn, so I toasted the corn in a separate pan and just mixed it in at the end.

    Looking forward to trying more new recipes in the near future, keep ’em comin’!

  11. So yummy and easy. I added a pound of ground beef for more protein and doubled the tomatoes (they are so good in the dish).

  12. I’m excited to try this but I’ve recently switched to brown rice. Any recommendations on how to adapt this recipe for brown rice? TIA!

    1. Brown rice requires more liquid and about 3x as long to cook, so the recipe would need to be adjusted quite a bit and we’d need to do some testing before offering a concrete suggestion.

    2. I had some brown rice that I had already cooked separately in the rice cooker, which I just incorporated in the last 5 minutes (essentially lentils for 20 min, then add rice — as opposed to lentils for 5 min followed by adding the rice).

      Absolutely delicious recipe, my wife loved it! Has immediately earned its place as a favorite in our meal prep rotation.

  13. Can I substitute something for the adobo seasoning? I don’t like to buy a blend for just one dish.

    1. Yes, you can mix your own using a few simple ingredients and the amounts below. This will make a big batch, so just use the amount called for in the recipe, then store the rest in an airtight container.

      2 Tbsp salt
      1 Tbsp garlic powder
      1 tsp ground oregano
      1 tsp onion powder
      1 tsp black pepper
      1 tsp ground cumin
      1/2 tsp turmeric (*optional for added color)