Wild Rice Pilaf

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This show-stopping cranberry-orange Wild Rice Pilaf is made with seasoned wild rice, juicy clementine oranges, sweet, dried cranberries, crisp apples, and more! To amp up the flavor even more, we toss the pilaf in a simple orange-honey vinaigrette. 

 

Close-up view of Wild Rice Pilaf.

Wild Rice Pilaf

After testing Crockpot Chicken Wild Rice Soup, I had a good amount of wild rice leftover and was brainstorming ways to use it. Suddenly it came to me: why not make a fall-inspired pilaf? I combined elements from these two beloved salads — Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with a brand-new dressing recipe to create this pilaf. Truly, I couldn’t be more excited about how it turned out.

The wild rice is deeply savory and is balanced with sweet additions like cranberries, apples, and oranges. The sweet-tart dressing ties everything together beautifully. Wild Rice Pilaf makes the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners this year. I know it has a spot reserved on our holiday table!

There are a few components to this pilaf — the wild rice, the veggie/fruit additions and the dressing. I’ll break down each aspect below and share some great make-ahead tips if you’d like to prepare this in advance for a holiday dinner.

Process shots: rinse wild rice blend; add broth, butter and seasonings; bring to a boil and add rice; cook until tender.

Wild Rice

While you can use plain wild rice (not to be mistaken with black rice — read about differences here), I like using a wild rice blend best. Wild rice isn’t like regular rice; it’s much heavier and dense, so the blend helps keep it from being weighed down.

The rice that I’ve had the best results with is this wild rice blend by Lundberg®. I highly recommend that blend if you are able to find it; you’ll find it near other varieties of rice, quinoa and couscous. 

To infuse the wild rice with plenty of flavor, we cook it in chicken broth with a few seasonings and a pat of butter. Wild rice takes a while to cook and needs to be completely cooled before being added into this pilaf, so make sure to plan ahead time-wise.

Process shots: make dressing by putting ingredients into a jar and shaking; add the pilaf to the other salad ingredients; drizzle dressing over the salad.

Wild Rice Pilaf add-ins

  • Celery: Celery adds a nice crunch! Dice it into small pieces; I like to slice celery stems in half width-wise before thinly slicing length-wise.
  • Dried sweetened cranberries: we’ve also used dried tart cherries in this wild rice pilaf and love both.
  • Clementine oranges: We use clementines in both the pilaf and the dressing. 
  • Flat-leaf Italian parsley: Go with flat-leaf Italian parsley, as opposed to curly for this recipe. Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor and curly parsley is used more commonly as a garnish.
  • Pepitas: Roasted and crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds) make for the best addition in this Wild Rice Pilaf! They add a sweet and nutty flavor, similar to sunflower seeds, but a bit sweeter. You can make your own roasted pepitas or buy them at the store. If you buy them, make sure they’re roasted and salted (not raw). You can generally find them in the bulk section of a grocery store, or with other salad toppings like candied nuts and dried cranberries.
  • Pecans: If you have extra time, I recommend toasting the pecans before chopping and adding to the pilaf. 
  • Apple: Any sweet and tart apple will work in this recipe. Our personal favorites are Honeycrisp or Fuji, but if you’d like more of a tart flavor, grab a Granny Smith. If you’d prefer the apple without skin, simply peel it before chopping and adding to the pilaf.

QUICK TIP

Clementines which are a hybrid of mandarin and sweet oranges. These clementines are easy to peel, usually seedless, and sweeter than most other citrus fruits. I highly recommend “Cuties” or “Halo” brands. While clementines look similar to tangerines, the flavor profile is quite different.

Close-up view of the finished Wild Rice Pilaf.

Clementine dressing

This sweet-tart dressing is the perfect finishing touch to this Wild Rice Pilaf. We use clementines — both the zest and juice to infuse the dressing with a lovely orange flavor. A few notes on the dressing:

  • Use a microplane (like this one) to zest only the very outside bright orange part of the clementine. Avoid the white pith below the peel.
  • This citrus juicer makes juicing the clementines a breeze!
  • Make sure to use Dijon mustard, not yellow. There’s a big flavor difference.

Converting Wild Rice Pilaf into a main dish

We love this wild rice pilaf with thinly sliced grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken added in.

We’ve also enjoyed it on the side with a grilled flank steak (check out this Grilled Flank Steak recipe and skip the chimichurri). 

Overhead view of a fork in a bowl of Wild Rice Pilaf.

Make Ahead

Wild Rice Pilaf is a great dish to make ahead. Here’s what you can do ahead of time:

  • Prepare the wild rice 1-2 days in advance. Refrigerate in a separate airtight container and make sure to fluff with a fork before adding in the other pilaf ingredients.
  • Prepare the dressing 1-2 days in advance and store it in a mason jar. Don’t be concerned if the dressing separates or forms clumps — this is just the olive oil solidifying which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes or so before you need it to bring it back up to temperature; then shake it up to remix.
  • Chop nuts. Chop the nuts and measure out the pepitas; store together in a plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature.
  • Prepare the toppings. The oranges, parsley, and celery can all be chopped ahead of time and stored together in the fridge. 
  • To assemble: Toss the chilled wild rice, prepared toppings and dressing together. Quickly dice an apple and throw in the prepared nuts. Gently stir everything to combine and enjoy!

The assembled Wild Rice Pilaf keeps nicely in the fridge for a few hours, but after that, the apple will begin to brown and the nuts will soften.

More Holiday Side Dishes

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Wild Rice Pilaf

0 from 0 votes
This show-stopping cranberry-orange Wild Rice Pilaf is made with seasoned wild rice, juicy clementine oranges, sweet dried cranberries, crisp apples, and more! To amp up the flavor even more, we toss the pilaf in a simple orange-honey vinaigrette. 
Print Recipe

Wild Rice Pilaf

0 from 0 votes
This show-stopping cranberry-orange Wild Rice Pilaf is made with seasoned wild rice, juicy clementine oranges, sweet dried cranberries, crisp apples, and more! To amp up the flavor even more, we toss the pilaf in a simple orange-honey vinaigrette. 
Course Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, thanksgiving, Vegetarian
Keyword wild rice pilaf
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings 6 -8 as a side
Calories 583kcal
Cost $4.21

Ingredients

Wild Rice

  • 1 cup (180g) wild rice blend (we use Lundberg)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (775g) low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon EACH: Fine sea salt, dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH: cracked pepper, dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Pilaf

  • 3/4 cup (87g) thinly sliced celery (~2-3 stalks)
  • 3 clementine, peeled, segmented, and segments halved. Cuties and Halo are two popular brands.
  • 1/3 cup (20g) flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1 large apple Fuji or Honeycrisp
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice optional
  • 1/2 cup (63g) pecans coarsely chopped (See Note 1)
  • 3/4 cup (91g) dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (45g) roasted and salted pepitas

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) juice from a clementine (plus 1/2 teaspoon zest)
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons (23g) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (20g) honey

Instructions

  • WILD RICE: Start by thoroughly rinsing the wild rice blend in a fine mesh sieve with cold water until the water runs clear. Meanwhile, add chicken broth, Dijon mustard, butter, salt, parsley, pepper, and dried thyme to a nonstick medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the rinsed rice. Cover and reduce heat to low (just above the lowest low setting). Simmer for 45-60 minutes, or until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (stir occasionally, returning the pot lid as soon as stirring is done). Add additional broth if needed (if rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not tender). Check to see if the rice is done at 45 minutes and then every 5-10 minutes after that (my stovetop takes about 50-55 minutes). If the rice is tender, but still has liquid left, drain any additional liquid off. Once tender, remove the pot from the burner, leaving the lid on, and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and then transfer to a large bowl. Cover and chill in the fridge until cooled through.
  • DRESSING: Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a Mason jar. Season with salt and pepper (I add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Add the lid to jar and shake to combine. Refrigerate until ready to dress pilaf.
  • PILAF: Prep the ingredients: Cut celery stalks in half width-wise and then thinly slice. Peel the clementines and separate into segments and then cut the segments in half. Finely chop the parsley. Peel (if desired; we leave peel on) the apple and finely chop. Squeeze fresh lemon over all. Coarsely chop pecans. Add everything to the large bowl with the chilled wild rice -- the celery, clementines, parsley, apple, pecans, dried cranberries, and pepitas. Toss gently to combine. Drizzle dressing over everything to your desired preference (you may not want to use all the dressing). Gently toss again and then taste and adjust seasonings; I usually add another 1/4 teaspoon salt here. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving. Gently toss again to combine and serve.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If desired, toast the pecans before chopping and adding to the pilaf. Spread the (un-chopped) pecans in an even layer in a small, dry (no need to add oil or anything) skillet over medium heat and stir them around a bit until they are fragrant and toasted to your liking. Watch the pecans carefully; they can go from perfectly cooked to burnt in an instant! I like to remove them as soon as they begin to smell fragrant.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 583kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 112mg | Potassium: 751mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 1339IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 4mg

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