Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries, Apples and Pecans

Wild Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays and easy enough for everyday!  

This Wild Rice Pilaf is an easy and scrumptious make ahead side dish all made in one pot!

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

WILD RICE PILAF

Back in my 3rd month of blogging I had the giddy idea to simmer rice in apple juice for my Cheesy Apple Juice and Dijon Chicken Broccoli and Rice Skillet.  It might sound way out there – but it is positively delicious! So as I was preparing to make this Wild Rice Pilaf, I remembered my beloved apple juice simmered rice and knew just what to do.  Thankfully, as I explained in my past post, I always have apple juice on hand thanks to Pass Out Park” when Kiwi and Patrick saved my life.

Apple juice is just one of the ingredients that help make this Wild Rice Pilaf so magical.  It is one of the most intoxicatingly delicious rice dishes I have ever consumed.  And consume I did.  I was shooting two recipes the day I photographed this Wild Rice Pilaf – the rice and my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake.  I shot the wild rice first and the cake second, so every trip back to the kitchen, I would pause and eat more rice – I could barely tear myself away.  And each time I did, I just made another excuse to head back to the kitchen for more rice.   Shooting that cake took twice as long as it should have.

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

What is the difference between wild rice and rice pilaf?

Pilaf refers to both the name of the dish and the method of which the rice is prepared rather than the type of rice used.  So you can use wild rice in pilaf to make Wild Rice Pilaf.

I chose to use a wild rice mix in this Wild Rice Pilaf instead of basmati or other white rices because of its inherent chewy, nutty texture that is hard to overcook.  Wild Rice Pilaf remains wonderfully al dente so it not only reheats beautifully but pairs with other add-ins from nuts to dried fruit extremely well.

What is Wild Rice?

Wild Rice looks like long-grain rice with a brownish-blackish color but it is not actually rice at all but a highly nutritious grain.  It boasts a toasty, nutty, earthy flavor and is deliciously filling.

Wild Rice comes from long-grain marsh grass that grows in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and bays.  Today, the vast majority of the wild rice sold in the United States is cultivated in controlled fields similar to rice paddies.

Wild rice is covered in a hard, inedible husk which has to be removed before selling, making it an incredibly labor intensive product.  After wild rice is harvested, the grains are left in moist piles to mature.  The Wild Rice is then toasted over a fire to dry out and make the husk easier to remove.

This time consuming process and the fact that wild rice must grow in a controlled wet environment is why it remains relatively more expensive than rice and why it is often found in “wild rice blends” like we are using in this Wild Rice Pilaf recipe.

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

What is Wild Rice Blend?

This Wild Rice Pilaf recipe calls for a wild rice blend.   Wild Rice Blends are an exciting blend of rices, which give you complementary firm, fluffy cooked textures and robust, nutty, earthy vibrant flavors.  I use Lundberg Wild Blend Rice which is made of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain wehani rice, whole grain black japonica rice.

You can find wild rice blends pre-packaged in a bag, box, or in the bulk bins at Sprouts.  If your wild rice package comes with a seasoning packet, you can discard that for our purposes.

HOW TO MAKE WILD RICE PILAF

This Cranberry, Apple, Pecan Wild Rice is perfect for the holidays, company, or just to exceed your everyday deliciousness quota and even more perfect because its cooked in one pot and there is hardly any “hands on” time.

It starts by bringing the apple juice, chicken broth, Dijon, butter, parsley, oregano and bay leaf to a boil then adding your wild rice.  After you dump and run for about 50 minutes, you strain your rice, then to the same pot, you saute your onion, apple and garlic, then stir in some apple cider vinegar, dried cranberries, and pecans – that’s it for this deceptively sophisticated yet super simple recipe.

The apple juice, Dijon, butter infused Wild Rice Pilfa is sweet and tangy, savory and buttery but not overpowering – just addicting.  So overpowering in a different way – will overpowering – with one bite you won’t be able to stop!

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

What Should I Add to Wild Rice Pilaf?

For this holiday version of Wild Rice Pilaf, I’ve chosen to add dried cranberries, apples and pecans.  The dried cranberries add pockets of sweetness while the apples balances with a subtle tart and the toasted pecans add a hearty, salty crunch for the most satisfying mouthful of rice you will ever eat.  Mouthful after mouthful, after mouthful…

You can choose to substitute the pecans with thinly sliced almonds, pistachios or pepitas.  You can substitute the craisins for dried cherries or raisins but I do recommend some sort of dried fruit to add the needed sweetness.   You could also add feta but be aware it will introduce more of a tangy element.

Can you Make Wild Rice Pilaf Ahead of Time?

Yes!   Wild Rice Pilaf reheats exceptionally well and is ideal for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.   If making in advance, then follow cooking instructions except hold the cranberries and pecans and add them in when you reheat the rice.

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

You might want to volunteer to bring the side to Thanksgiving this year but please don’t wait that long to make this Cranberry, Apple, Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf.  You deserve its deliciousness sooner.   Like today.

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Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!

Cranberry Apple Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf

Easy one pot Cranberry Apple Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf simmered in herb seasoned chicken broth and apple juice and riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples and roasted pecans for an unbelievable savory sweet side dish perfect for the holidays. Everyone always asks for this recipe!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup wild rice blend, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 Fuji or honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Garnish (optional)

  • fresh thyme
  • fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Bring broth, apple juice Dijon, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, pepper, dried thyme, oregano, parsley and bay leaf to a boil in a large nonstick skillet.
  • Add rice, cover and reduce heat to low (dial should be just above lowest LOW setting). Simmer 45-60 minutes, or until rice is tender and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally and replacing lid. Add additional water if needed if rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not done cooking. Check for doneness at 45 minutes. Once cooked, drain rice and leave in fine hole strainer.
  • To the now empty pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Increase heat to medium high and add onions and apples; saute for 5-7 minutes, or until onions and apples are tender. Add garlic and saute for 30 more seconds.
  • Return rice to skillet along with cranberries and pecans. Add apple cider vinegar a little at a time to taste if desired for more tang (I use 2 teaspoons). Toss to evenly combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired.

Notes

* I use the wild rice blend located in the bulk bins at Sprouts. That blend is wild rice, long grain brown rice, short grain brown rice, and red rice. I am sure anything similar will work great. Enjoy!
**I have cooked this rice a few different ways.  When I cooked it in my enamel cast iron skillet (as shown in the video), I cooked it on the lowest possible setting (as cast iron gets very hot) and it absorbed all the liquid within 30 minutes and I had to add quite a bit of additional water.  When I cooked it in my nonstick skillet as instructed in the recipe, the liquid in the recipe was perfect.  Either pan will work, but just be aware so you can improvise as needed.

Make Ahead

This recipe reheats exceptionally well due to the hearty wild rice blend. 
  • To make ahead: follow the cooking instructions except hold the cranberries and pecans and add them in when you reheat the rice.
  • To reheat on the stove:  reheat gently, adding a splash of water if the rice seems dry and/or drizzle in some melted butter to finish. 
  • To reheat in the oven: transfer to casserole dish, toss with 2 tablespoons extra water, cover and heat at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until warmed through. Drizzle in some butter to finish if the rice seems dry. 

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111 Comments

  1. Toni says

    I have been looking for a mention of making ahead but starving chilled or room temperature.
    Any thoughts on that? Thank you so much. I have made it one time awhile back and knew I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving.

    • Jen says

      Hi Toni, you can make ahead and serve at room temperature but I don’t recommend serving it chilled. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Lynn says

    WOW! What a wonderful fall side dish! The flavours are divine and the apples and pecans add a very nice crunch! This is a keeper for sure that will grace my Thanksgiving and Christmas table. This recipe is especially wonderful for vegetarians! Thanks, Jen! Your recipes have solidified my reputation as a cook!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Lynn! I’m so pleased you are loving my recipes and that this wild rice pilaf was another hit! I’m honored it will grace your Thanksgiving and Christmas table – the ultimate compliment!

  3. Lindi says

    This recipe looks wonderful! This might be a silly question, but if made a head of time, will the apples turn brown? Looking forward to trying this recipe!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lindi, not a silly question! The apples won’t turn brown due to the apple juice so you’re good to go!

  4. Tina says

    Sounds delicious! If made ahead of time and chilled. How would you recommend heating it up?
    Thanks!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Tina, I would heat the rice pilaf on the stove over medium-low stirring often. Enjoy!

  5. Kathy says

    Made this today for the first time. It is absolutely delicious! Will definitely be making it again & for the holidays! One question tho…could the liquid be reduced so that it wouldn’t require draining at the end? I assume theres a reason for doing it this way, but just wondered.

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy you loved this wild rice pilaf Kathy! Cooking wild rice in liquid and then draining is the most common and fool proof method.

  6. Stephanie Spinella says

    How do you think it would work to cook the wild rice (first part of the recipe) in a rice cooker? Also, wondering how it might reheat using sous vide? I’m taking my sides to TG and retherming them that way… keeps them at serving temperature without overcooking. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Stephanie, I don’t recommend cooking wild rice in a rice cooker – sorry! I’ve never tried reheating sous vide but I imagine it would work fine although because this is wild rice and not traditional white rice it is hard to overcook so you are also fine to just reheat it from the fridge to the stove. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Kristine says

    Delicious! I used all wild rice because that’s what I had. I cooked the rice I. A rice cooker a day ahead of time and then finished it off the next day. It worked great! Another great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Kristine, I’m so pleased it was a winner! Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Sue B says

    What if I used apple cider in place of apple juice and do I really need apple cider vinegar in the wildrice pilaf.

    Thanks,
    Sue B

    • Jen says

      I think apple cider will be great! No you don’t absolutely need the vinegar – it just awakens the flavors a bit – comes down to personal preference. enjoy!

  9. Melanie says

    Wow! Made this tonight. Cut it down to a third and shared it with my daughter. Amazing! Finishing it with the ACV really brings it over the top! I will definitely make again for the holidays! Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Melanie and thanks for the awesome review!

  10. Kate Caswell says

    Could the rice be cooked the day before to reduce prep time on Thanksgiving? Also, I will make half the recipe with wild rice, and half with riced cauliflower for for family and friends who must count carbs.

    • Jen says

      Yes, you can absolutely make this the day ahead of time. The texture wild rice is especially forgiving/great for reheating.

  11. Kimberly says

    Hello! I stumbled upon your recipe last year and was going to make it for our family, but because of Covid restrictions it was just my husband and I for dinner and we kept it simple. This year we’ll all be together and I am so very eager to try it. Thank you for sharing it.

    I promise I did read/skim through the comments to try and get an answer before I posted this but I either missed it or it wasn’t there. I saw how you recommended the reheat on the stove if made the day before and to omit the pecans and cranberries until the reheat. Do you think, since stove burners will be in short supply with other dishes, that I could put it in a casserole dish to reheat?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Jen says

      Hi Kimberly, I would add to a casserole dish and toss with 2 tablespoons water, cover and reheat for 20 minutes at 300 or until warmed through. If it seems dry, toss in some melted butter. Hope this helps, Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Lulu says

    This is delicious!! Easy to make but layers of flavor make it taste like you worked really hard. I am making it for the third time since Thanksgiving! Thanks for a keeper!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Lulu, I love hearing this recipe is a repeat favorite! Happy holidays!

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