Wild Rice with Butternut Squash

This Wild Rice Recipe is a delicious side dish worthy of Thanksgiving, Christmas but easy enough for all season long!

Wild Rice simmered in herb seasoned broth and apple juice loaded with roasted butternut squash, sweet dried cranberries, crunchy sliced almonds, sweetly tarty pomegranate seeds and creamy feta.   It’s a savory side exploding with flavor and texture that will have everyone begging for the recipe and exclaiming this is the “best wild rice I’ve ever had!” 

WILD RICE RECIPE

With Thanksgiving upon us, I wanted to combine my two favorite loves – wild rice and butternut squash, to bring you an epic Wild Rice Recipe that still has me drooling.

The wild rice is rich and nutty, the salt and pepper squash is melt-in-your mouth savory, the dried cranberries add pockets of sweetness, the pomegranate seeds add pops of sweet tart crunch, the almonds add bursts of nutty crunch and the feta add a creamy, salty tang.  It is a perfectly balanced dance of complimentary flavors and textures – a dance you will savor long after the last bite.

This Wild Rice recipe is delicious served hot off the stove but also fabulous at room temperature and equally delicious the next day, making it fabulous for your holiday table.  Although this Wild Rice recipe is loaded with fixings and looks gourmet (more like a wild rice salad), it is super simple to make with very little hands on time.

top view of best wild rice recipe

What is Wild Rice?

I chose to use wild rice in this Wild Rice recipe due to its characteristic, nutty, toasted, earthiness and the fact that it is super difficult to overcook and become mushy like other rices.  Instead, it remains fabulously al dente and even slightly chewy so not only does it reheat beautifully but pairs with other add-ins from nuts to dried fruit extremely well.

The excellent texture of wild rice is in large part due to the fact that wild rice may look like long-grain rice with a brownish-blackish color but it is not actually rice at all but a highly nutritious grain.

Wild Rice comes from the seed of long-grain aquatic marsh grass that grows in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and bays indigenous to North America; this is considered “true” wild rice.  Today, however, the vast majority of the wild rice sold in the United States is cultivated in controlled fields similar to rice paddies.

far away view of basic wild rice recipe in a white bowl

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 recipe.

wild rice recipe side dish with a spoon coming out of the bowl

Is Wild Rice Healthy?

Wild rice is healthier than both brown rice and white rice.  It contains more protein, zinc, and potassium and is also significantly higher in folate and most other B vitamins.  It also contains an impressive amount of antioxidants.

top side view of vegetarian wild rice recipe

What is Wild Rice Blend?

This Wild Rice recipe calls for 1 ½ cups 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.

Can I make my own Wild Rice Blend?

Yes!  If you can’t find wild rice blend, then you can use 1 cup long grain brown rice and ½ cup wild rice.  You don’t want to use white rice in your wild rice blend because it cooks in shorter time than brown rice or wild rice and may become too soft or mushy during cooking.  Other rices that cook in about 45-50 minutes such as red rice or black rice will also work in place of or in addition to the brown rice.

showing how to make wild rice recipe side dish by adding wild rice, squash and pomegrantes to a white bowl

HOW TO COOK WILD RICE

Wild rice is very simple to cook.  The most basic way to cook rice is to boil, cover, then simmer gently on the stove until done, much like traditional rice.  What is different is the rice to liquid ratio and the length of time it takes to cook.

  • Liquid to Rice Ratio:  The ratio of liquid to wild rice is 3 to 1.  You can cook wild rice in water, chicken broth or in this wild rice recipe I use a combination of chicken broth and apple juice.  The chicken broth infuses the wild rice with savory flavor while the apple juice infuses it with sweetness.
  • Cooking Time:  As far as cooking time, it can vary widely depending on where and how the wild rice was grown, what pot is used and how “gentle” the simmer is.  Some wild rice can cook in as little as 40 minutes while others can take as long as 65 minutes under the same conditions.  I would say most wild rice cooks in about 45 minutes, but be sure to give yourself a little more time if you have not cooked a particular brand of wild rice before.

HOW TO MAKE WILD RICE RECIPE

This Wild Rice requires very little hands on prep.  Most of your time is peeling and chopping your squash, so if you buy pre-chopped squash, your side is practically made for you!

To make this Wild Rice Recipe:

  1. Saute.  Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat with a tight fitting lid. Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and rice and cook one additional minute. Sauteing the rice deepens its nutty flavor and aroma.  Cooking wild rice in this pilaf method also produces a firmer grain which helps the grains separate and be less sticky than traditional rice.
showing how to make vegetarian wild rice recipe by cooking onions and garlic in a skillet
  1. Simmer. Add chicken broth, apple juice, parsley, oregano, rosemary, cumin, salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to low.  Gently simmer 45-60 minutes, or until rice is tender.
showing how to cook flavorful wild rice by adding wild rice, seasonings, herbs, onions and garlic to a saucepan
  1. Roasts Butternut Squash.  While rice is cooking, drizzle squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss squash until evenly coated then line in a single layer.  Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until tender.
showing how to make healthy wild rice recipe by adding butternut squash, salt and pepper to a baking sheet o roast
showing how to make healthy wild rice recipe by roasting butternut squash
  1. Combine!  Stir in roasted butternut squash, sliced almonds, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and feta.  Toss to evenly combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
showing how to make best wild rice recipe by adding wild rice, squash, cranberries and feta to a white bowl
showing how to make basic wild rice recipe by adding ingredients to a white bowl

Tips and Tricks to Wild Rice Recipe

  • Wild Rice Blend:  Take care you are using a wild rice blend and not all wild rice. You can find pre-packaged wild rice blends in your grocery store or in bulk bins.
  • Nonstick Skillet:  We want to use a nonstick skillet because the apple juice tends to make the rice stickier and can burn if you don’t use a nonstick skillet.
  • Tight Fitting Lid:  Your skillet needs a tight fitting lid in order for the rice to cook properly.  If your lid does not fit well, then cover your skillet with foil then top with your lid.
  • Liquid:  You don’t have to use apple juice and can use all low sodium chicken broth, but I love the flavorful sweetness the apple juice adds to the wild rice.
  • Don’t Peak:  Don’t peak while your rice is cooking until towards the end of cooking and it looks like the liquid may be all absorbed  – then go ahead and give it a stir.
  • More Liquid:  Cooking times vary so add water if rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not done cooking.
  • Add-Ins:  This Wild Rice Recipe adds almonds, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and feta which I think is perfect.  You may, however, substitute the sliced almonds for chopped pecans, 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.
  • Protein:  You can turn this Wild Recipe into a complete meal by adding chicken, sausage or lean ground beef.  I actually cooked up some ground turkey with some beef bouillon and added it to my leftovers- yum!
seasoned wild rice recipe with a spoon raising rice out of the bowl

Can you Make this Wild Rice Recipe Ahead of Time?

Yes!  This Wild Rice recipe reheats beautifully.   If making in advance, then follow cooking instructions up through cooking and draining the rice then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Warm rice then stir in almonds, pomegranate seeds, craisins and feta.

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seasoned wild rice recipe with a spoon raising rice out of the bowl

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash

Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 55 mins

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Ingredients

Wild Rice

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice blend rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice may sub chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (may sub 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried rosemary, ground cumin, pepper

Add Later

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons feta crumbles

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 2 cups butternut squash peeled and chopped into 1/2-3/4” cubes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat (that has a tight fitting lid). Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and rice and cook one additional minute.
  • Add all remaining Wild Rice ingredients to the skillet. Cover and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer 45-60 minutes, or until rice is tender, stirring and replacing lid occasionally towards the end of cooking. Add additional water if rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not done cooking. Check for doneness at 45 minutes. Once rice is tender, remove from heat (with lid on) and let steam 10 additional minutes (this will make for fluffier rice).
  • While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Add butternut squash to a foil lined baking sheet (for easy cleanup). Drizzle squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss squash until evenly coated then line in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until tender.
  • Once rice is cooked, drain rice in a fine hole strainer if there is excess liquid (don’t rinse) and add to serving bowl. Stir in roasted butternut squash, sliced almonds, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and feta. Toss to evenly combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

  • Wild Rice Blend:  Take care you are using a wild rice blend and not all wild rice. You can find pre-packaged wild rice blends in your grocery store or in bulk bins.
  • Nonstick Skillet:  We want to use a nonstick skillet because the apple juice tends to make the rice stickier and can burn if you don’t use a nonstick skillet.
  • Tight Fitting Lid:  Your skillet needs a tight fitting lid in order for the rice to cook properly.  If your lid does not fit well, then cover your skillet with foil then top with your lid.
  • Liquid:  You don’t have to use apple juice and can use all low sodium chicken broth, but I love the flavorful sweetness the apple juice adds to the wild rice.
  • Don’t Peak:  Don’t peak while your rice is cooking until towards the end of cooking and it looks like the liquid may be all absorbed  – then go ahead and give it a stir.
  • Add-Ins:  This Wild Rice Recipe adds almonds, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and feta which I think is perfect.  You may, however, substitute the sliced almonds for chopped pecans, 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.
  • Protein:  You can turn this Wild Recipe into a complete meal by adding chicken, sausage or lean ground beef.  I actually cooked up some ground turkey with some beef bouillon and added it to my leftovers- yum!

HOW TO MAKE WILD RICE RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME

This Wild Rice recipe reheats beautifully.   If making in advance, then follow cooking instructions up through cooking and draining the rice then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Warm rice and squash then stir in almonds, pomegranate seeds, craisins and feta.

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16 Comments

  1. wendy barnes says

    I just recently started following your blog so glad I did!
    This looks so good. I just pinned it to replace a side I was going to make for Thanksgiving. Thanks for posting.

    • Jen says

      That makes me so happy, thank you Wendy! Welcome to my site and happy cooking! I think you will love this recipe for Thanksgiving!

      • Vicki Williams says

        This looks wonderful. For some reason I want to add chopped apricts also. Can’t hurt. I am building a wonderful dinner based on this inspiration! thanks!

        • Jen says

          You are so welcome! I think chopped apricots would be fabulous!

  2. Gwen says

    Do have any suggestions for how to make this ahead for Thanksgiving dinner?

    • Jen says

      Hi Gwen, yes I actually included a section on it: If making in advance, then follow cooking instructions up through cooking and draining the rice then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Warm rice then stir in almonds, pomegranate seeds, craisins and feta.

  3. Julie says

    Loved it. Don’t leave out the pomegranate seeds!

    • Jen says

      Awesome, thanks so much Julie! And I agree!

  4. Joan Grunewald says

    Made this for Thanksgiving dinner it was a big hit! I followed the recipe to a T, we will be making it again next year!
    Thank you I love following your blog!!

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased it was such a hit and a new repeat! Thanks for taking the time to comment! Happy Holidays!

  5. Vicki Williams says

    Your Wild Rice recipe is divine. Saw it last year and make it for grand hurrahs every special dinner! Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving. (I seldom cook anymore but have to for this dish!)

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Vicki! I’m so pleased this wild rice is a favorite! Happy thanksgiving!

  6. Ilene says

    Made this last night. Absolutely delicious. The pomegranate seeds really make it special. Will be making this again and again.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Ilene, I’m so pleased you loved it!

  7. Caitlin says

    Gosh, I have to tell you. I made this a couple weeks ago and am strongly considering replacing my favorite wild rice dish at Thanksgiving this year with this…I can’t decide! But considering how much I’ve always loved that dish, it’s saying a lot. I am pretty sure I’m going to go for it because this dish really brings something different to the table. So obviously I think this was delicious and I adore how colorful it is as well. I did make it work leftover cooked wild rice I had, so I sightly modified the recipe but it worked out great.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Caitlin! I’m honored this wild rice recipe is a contender for Thanksgiving, thank you!

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