Wild Rice Pilaf
Wild rice pilaf is a flavorful and nutritious side dish that can be served with a variety of main courses. It is colorful, bright, chewy, high in protein, and absolutely delicious. Plus, it can be made ahead to make holiday cooking easier, and is easily customized to personal preference.
Serve with Roast Chicken and Roasted Carrots for a great meal.
One of the great pleasures in life is a solid side dish. And while I am a huge fan of an Easy Rice Pilaf, there is just something about wild rice that makes this wild rice pilaf just so good. And it is an excellent side for just about any protein:
- High in Protein. Wild rice is actually fairly nutritious, making this not just a delicious side, but one with some real benefits nutritionally. Including the fact that it is high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Easy to Make: While it does take a little time, and a few saucepans, this recipe is relatively easy to make, and packs a real flavor punch. It is loaded with yummy stuff, and makes a lot, so you can even serve it more than once. It requires minimal effort. You just have to cook the wild rice blend according to the recipe instructions and mix it with your choice of vegetables, herbs, and other ingredients to create a flavorful and satisfying dish.
- Versatile: It can be a main or a side, and pairs well with a number of entrees. Serve it with Chicken Fricassee, Grilled Skirt Steak, or Garlic Butter Shrimp for an amazing meal.
- Economical: Wild rice pilaf is a great side because not only is it nutty and yummy, but it is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables or herbs you have on hand. Make a few swaps, and chop up what you’ve got to create a tasty side dish, and use what you have.
What You Need to Make Wild Rice Pilaf
Here is what you need to make this simple, delicious wild rice pilaf, all of the ingredients are easy to find, and many of them you likely already have on hand:
- Low-sodium chicken broth: If you use a regular chicken broth, do not add salt until you taste it.
- Bay leaves: You cook your wild rice with the bay leaves to add flavor.
- Dried thyme: Also helps add flavor and richness to the wild rice.
- Wild rice: Do not use a wild rice blend. Wild rice blends are made by combining wild rice with other types of rice or grains, usually brown rice, quinoa, or barley, and they may be flavored with herbs, spices, or other ingredients. This will change the results of the dish, so just use wild rice.
- Long grain white rice: long, slender grain and its light, fluffy texture when cooked. It is widely available in supermarkets and grocery stores.
- Unsalted butter: Again, we are trying to not make this dish too salty.
- Onion and Carrot: This is going to add so much flavor, and color to your wild rice pilaf
- Dried cranberries: Use sweetened or unsweetened.
- Toasted pecan pieces: Get them already toasted, or toast them yourself.
- Minced fresh parsley leaves: See below for how to mince it, and how to store leftovers.
- Salt and Ground black pepper
What is Wild Rice?
Note: For this recipe we use Wild Rice, not a wild rice blend.
Wild rice is a grain native to North America. It grows in the shallow waters of lakes and streams.
It has a long, slender grain and a nutty, earthy flavor that is distinct from other types of rice. It is usually a dark brown or black color. And it is highly nutritious as it is a good source of protein and has more fiber than many other grains. Wild rice is also a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins.
Funny enough though, wild rice is not actually a rice, but rather a type of grass that is related to rice.
Wild rice pairs well with a variety of flavors, including nuts, herbs, and vegetables, which is why it is the perfect base for your rice pilaf, and makes for a nutritious, while also delicious, side dish.
Do You Need to Rinse Wild Rice?
Note: be sure to rinse and pick through the wild rice before adding it to your pilaf.
I recommended rinsing wild rice before cooking it, and taking a minute to sift through it to remove any dirt, small rocks, or debris from it.
To rinse wild rice:
- Use a fine-mesh sieve and run cold water over it
- Uuse your fingers to gently rub the grains together to help loosen any dirt
- Rinse the wild rice until the water runs clear, then drain
- Pat rice dry with a paper towel
Taking time to rinse it will remove the debris and impurities, and help improve the taste and texture of the wild rice pilaf, while also reducing the amount of excess starch that is released during cooking, making the rice fluffier as opposed to mushy or gummy.
Some wild rice may be pre-rinsed and ready to use, simply check the packaging, and instructions before preparing the rice.
How to Mince Fresh Parsley
Fresh parsley makes a great addition to this pilaf, adding a fresh, bright flavor. To mince fresh parsley:
- Rinse the parsley under cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Remove the parsley leaves from the stems. Discard the stems, and place the leaves on a cutting board.
- Chop the parsley leaves into small pieces. You can use a rocking motion with a sharp knife to chop the parsley quickly and evenly. Alternatively, you can use a food processor fitted with a chopping blade to mince the parsley.
Note: If you are not using the minced parsley right away, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To freeze parsley, place the minced parsley in an ice cube tray, fill the tray with water, and freeze until solid. Transfer the parsley ice cubes to a resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer until needed.
How to Make Wild Rice Pilaf
Making wild rice pilaf is fairly simple, you cook and flavor the wild rice, cook and flavor the white rice and vegetables, then stir it all together with additions like toasted nuts and fresh herbs! Let’s look at how:
Step One: Prep the Rice and Wild Rice
Rinse wild rice and remove any debris as described above. Set aside.
Rinse white rice in water, gently swishing to remove excess starch, rinsing gently until water runs almost clear. Strain in a mesh strainer.
Step Two: Cook Wild Rice
We cook the wild rice in chicken stock for added flavor.
Bring chicken broth, 1/4 cup water, bay leaves, and ¼ teaspoon dried thyme to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add wild rice, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer until wild rice is plump and tender and has absorbed most liquid, 35 to 45 minutes. Test the rice at the 35 minute mark to ensure it is tender.
Remove bay leaves, and drain rice to remove excess liquid.
Return rice to now-empty saucepan; cover to keep warm and set aside.
Step Three: Cook Vegetables and White Rice
In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt butter, and heat for about 2 minutes.
Add in onion, carrot, and 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon of thyme; cook, stirring frequently, until softened but be careful not to brown. This should take about 4-5 minutes.
Once veggies are tender, add rinsed white rice to the saucepan and stir to coat grains with butter.
Cook, stirring frequently, until grains begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 2 1/4 cups water to boil in a small saucepan or using the microwave.
Add the boiling water to the rice; return to boil, then reduce heat to low heat, sprinkle cranberries evenly over rice, and cover to let simmer.
Simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes. Turn the heat off, and fluff the rice with a fork.
Step Four: Mix It All Together
Once your white rice mixture is done and fluffed, pour it into a large bowl, add in the wild rice, toasted pecans, and parsley, and toss to combine.
Step Five: Season and Serve
Season with salt and pepper to your preference, and serve with your favorite main dish.
Wild Rice Pilaf FAQs
What makes pilaf a pilaf?
The technique of cooking rice in broth or stock with onions and other aromatic ingredients is what makes something a pilaf. For this wild rice pilaf, we cook the wild rice in stock, and the white rice with the onions and carrots, and combine them both with herbs. There are a lot of fun ways to add variation to this dish.
Is Wild Rice Good for you?
The answer is yes, it is nutritious and offers a lot of health benefits. You can learn more about the benefits here.
Wild rice pilaf is a really versatile side dish. Not only is it delicious, and easy to customize with added herbs and spices, it also pairs well with a huge variety of main courses. Here are a few ideas for things you can serve this awesome wild rice pilaf with:
- Grilled or roasted meats: Smoked Prime Rib, Island Style Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Greek Chicken, Sirloin Steak, Roasted Chicken Thighs.
- Fish or seafood: Oven Poached Salmon, Pistachio Crusted Halibut, Oven Fried Fish, Garlic Shrimp,
- Vegetarian dishes: Roasted Vegetables, Roasted Greek Vegetables
- Salads: Wild rice pilaf can be added to salads to add flavor and texture. Try serving it with a mixed greens salad, a kale salad, or a chopped salad.
- Sandwiches: Wild rice pilaf can be served as a side dish with sandwiches, such as burgers, grilled cheese, or wraps.
Tips and Tricks
Making this recipe is Eazy Peazy, but here are a few tricks to get perfect results every time:
- Watch Your Rice: Wild rice goes quickly from tough to pasty, so begin testing the rice at the 35-minute mark and drain the rice as soon as it is tender. Unlike regular rice, it doesn’t absorb all the liquid every time.
- Toast Your Pecans: If you can’t find already toasted pecan pieces, toast pecan halves in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 minutes, then chopped coarse.
- Use Good Wild Rice: Choose a high-quality wild rice that is plump and has a dark, chocolate brown color. Avoid shriveled or discolored wild rice, as it may not be as fresh or flavorful.
- Rinse Well: Rinse the wild rice before cooking it to remove any dirt or debris.
- Use a Good Broth: Use broth instead of water to cook the wild rice, my favorite brand is Zoup!
- Don’t Skip the Onions and Carrots: The aromatic vegetables and herbs can help add flavor and depth to the pilaf.
- Serve the pilaf hot: Wild rice pilaf is best served hot, although it is delicious reheated as well, just be sure to reheat it thoroughly if you are making it ahead of time. To reheat, add a little butter or oil to the pan, as well as a little broth in order to moisten it back up and give it a richer flavor.
Make Ahead and Storage
How to make this recipe ahead of time:
You can make wild rice pilaf ahead of time and reheat it when you are ready to serve it. And this can even result in a better flavor, as it gives everything a chance for the flavors to meld. However, here are a few tips for making wild rice pilaf in advance:
- Cook the wild rice according to the recipe instructions, but undercook it just slightly. Remember, it can go from tender, to overcooked quickly. By under cooking, it can finish cooking when it is reheated, and will not become mushy.
- Don’t make it too far in advance. It can keep in the fridge about 3 days, so once the wild rice is cooked, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
- Use a pan to reheat. When ready to serve, add the pilaf to a large skillet with some butter or oil, and pour some stock over the top to help moisten the rice. Heat the pilaf until it is warmed through, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
- You can also freeze the cooked wild rice for longer storage. To do this, transfer the cooked wild rice to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag and place it in the freezer. The wild rice will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Then add it to your wild rice pilaf when ready to use. The entire wild rice pilaf can also be frozen, but this can impact texture. To reheat, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat as described above.
Other Great Recipes:
- Easy Rice Pilaf
- Mushroom Rice Pilaf
- Red Beans and Rice
- Super Easy Shrimp Fried Rice
- Chicken Fried Rice
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Wild Rice Pilaf
- 1 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 1/2 cups water divided
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme divided
- 1 cup wild rice rinsed well and picked over to remove debris
- 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cup onion chopped fine (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 cup carrot chopped fine (about 1 large carrot)
- 1 tsp Salt
- ¾ cup dried cranberries sweetened or unsweetened
- ¾ cup toasted pecan pieces
- 1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Salt and Ground black pepper
- Rinse wild rice and remove any debris. Set aside.
- Bring chicken broth, 1/4 cup water, bay leaves, and ¼ teaspoon dried thyme to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add wild rice, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer until rice is plump and tender and has absorbed most liquid, 35 to 45 minutes. Test the rice at the 35 minute mark to ensure it is tender.
- Remove bay leaves, and drain rice to remove excess liquid.
- Return rice to now-empty saucepan; cover to keep warm and set aside.
- While wild rice is cooking, rinse white rice in water, gently swishing to remove excess starch, rinsing gently until water runs almost clear. Strain in a mesh strainer.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt butter, and heat for about 2 minutes.
- Add in onion, carrot, and 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon of thyme; cook, stirring frequently, until softened but be careful not to brown. This should take about 4-5 minutes.
- Once veggies are tender, add rinsed white rice to the saucepan and stir to coat grains with butter.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until grains begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring 2 1/4 cups water to boil in a small saucepan.
- Add the boiling water to the rice; return to boil, then reduce heat to low heat, sprinkle cranberries evenly over rice, and cover to let simmer.
- Simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes. Turn the heat off, and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Once fluffed, pour the white rice mixture into a large bowl, add in the wild rice, pecans, and parsley, and toss.
- Season with a little salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasoning to preference.
If you can’t find already toasted pecan pieces, toast pecan halves in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 minutes, then chopped coarse.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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