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.
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.
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.
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.
What is Wild Rice Blend?
This Wild Rice recipe calls for 1 1/2 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 1/2 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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.
Looking for more Rice Recipes?
- Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries, Apples and Pecans
- Mexican Style Rice
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Coconut Ginger Rice with Black Beans
- Cilantro Lime Avocado Rice
- Greek Lemon Rice
- Parmesan Risotto
- Coconut Rice with Pineapple and Cashews
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