Slow Cooker Pesto Chicken with Barley + Lentils


Anyone else in a cozy autumn supper mood?

I admittedly just began exploring the slow cooker method, which Alex and I received as a wedding gift last winter. I nostalgically associate slow cookers with Southern gatherings around football and outdoor potlucks, immediately invoking a sense of sharing and community. Don't you?

For the entirety of my childhood, I witnessed the "crockpot" process in action as a source of ease for a host with her hands full, an insured portion size for whoever joins the party, and a steady temperature setting for potential longwinded SEC rivalries.

In my kitchen, my palette is personally more drawn to colorful and fresh flavors and presentations—so upon hosting parties, I would throw myself into the challenge of last-minute prepping, dicing and plating. But recently, I've learned that the slow cooker is more than a community chili bowl or seven-layer dip mechanism; it’s a dynamic and reliable method for making an exceptional dish.

This beautiful chicken-based recipe marks the perfect entrance to a new season. Upon slow cooking chicken breasts and grains, whose textures fully encompass the depth of chicken broth and garlic, a swirl of fresh pesto immediately weaves in a bright and bountiful hue. Fresh baby kale and pops of frozen English peas—stirred in just before serving—add crunch and color to an initially rich, risotto-like rendition. The balance of greens and grains is simply divine. And, of course, don’t forget the shaved parmigiana reggiano to garnish each bowl.

(Slowly) cook away, my friends!


Makes 4 servings

3/4 cup barley, uncooked
3/4 cup green lentils, uncooked
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 cups + 2 cups chicken broth, separated
6 cloves garlic
Salt + pepper
6 ounces pesto
2 cups baby kale
1 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh herbs, to garnish
Olive oil, to garnish
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, to garnish

1. Place lentils, barley, chicken breasts, 4 cups of broth, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

2. When cooked, the mixture should be sticky, like a risotto. Add additional broth (up to 2 cups) if needed, and stir to resemble a creamy risotto. Stir in pesto, peas, baby kale, and lemon juice. Cover to heat through, about 5 minutes.

3. Top each serving with fresh herbs, parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil.

Inspired by Pinch of Yum