Wild Rice Pilaf

4.93 from 14 votes

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Wild rice pilaf is a popular holiday dish with vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. Save time by making this rice recipe up to 3 days ahead!

large platter of wild rice pilaf

When you’re trying to decide what side dishes to make for a holiday meal, there are usually a few things that factor into the decision. You need to think about how many people you’ll be feeding and what type of protein the sides will be served with.

Fortunately, rice dishes go well with everything from fancier dishes like roast turkey, prime rib, and holiday ham, to simple weeknight dinners like burgers and Instant Pot lamb stew. Not only that, but rice recipes like this one are easy to adapt for a small family meal or enough to serve a large crowd.

What is a wild rice pilaf?

Rice pilaf is a dish that originated in India. Traditionally, the dish was made by toasting grains of white rice in ghee, butter or oil before cooking them in a seasoned broth.

A wild rice pilaf typically includes both white and one or more wild grains. In addition to the grains, sometimes diced vegetables, dried fruit, and/or chopped nuts are included.

Wild Rice Pilaf

Ingredient notes and substitutions

Wild rice pilaf is a dish that can be made nice and simple or as fancy as you’d like it! Because I typically serve it with holiday meals, I like to add a few things to fancy it up.

  • Wild rice blend– At the store, you’ll see that there are several different wild rice varieties, and any of them can be used. The blend I buy has long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice bits, wehani, and black japonica.
  • Vegetables– I use yellow onion and carrot coins. Other veggies that work well in pilaf are fresh or canned mushrooms and tiny bits of chopped broccoli.

Pro Tip:
If all you have on hand are baby carrots, they work really well too! If they’re small enough, you can simply cut them in half lengthwise. If you prefer even smaller pieces, grate a large carrot on the largest holes of a box grater.

  • Toasted pecans– Feel free to swap these out for walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds if you’d like.
  • Dried cranberries– The sweet-tart flavor that cranberries add tastes amazing in this dish, but you could use other dried fruits like cherries or apricots.

Thanksgiving side dish on white platter

Video: Making wild rice pilaf

For the most part, this side dish is very simple to make. To see the process from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Recipe notes

  1. Steam the wild rice separately from the white.

    I think the dish tastes best with a combination of white and wild grains, but they have different cooking times. Cooking them separately makes all the difference.


    Nobody has time for goopy, uncooked rice, am I right?
  1. Rinse the white rice before cooking.

    The key to really fluffy rice is rinsing away any excess starch before you cook it. Just place the uncooked grains into a colander or strainer and run cool tap water over them until the water runs clear.

Wild Rice Pilaf

Make Ahead Option

The holidays are a busy time in the kitchen, so dishes you can make ahead will save you time later. Thankfully, wild rice pilaf is relatively quick and easy to make, but it’s also a make-ahead side dish!

It can be fully prepared and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time! Just be sure to keep it covered while it’s in the fridge.

When you’re ready to reheat the pilaf, the rice may appear dry. If so, pour a couple of tablespoons of broth, stock or water over the top before you reheat it. Also, cover the dish with aluminum foil to trap the moisture inside with the rice.

If it’s going directly from the fridge to the oven, reheat the wild rice pilaf at 350°F for about 20, or until it’s warmed through.

Thanksgiving rice side dish on white platter

This post, originally published on Nov. 20, 2018, was last updated with new content on Sept. 30, 2021.

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large platter of wild rice pilaf

Wild Rice Pilaf + Video

4.93 from 14 votes
Wild rice pilaf is a popular holiday dish with vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. Save time by making this rice recipe up to 3 days ahead!
Servings: 8
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes



  • Bring chicken broth, bay leaves, and 1 bundle thyme to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rinsed wild rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until rice is plump and tender and has absorbed most liquid, 40 minutes (See Note 4). Keep covered to keep warm and set aside.
  • Rinse white rice in mesh strainer until water runs clear to remove excess starch and drain completely.
  • Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.
  • Add rinsed white rice and stir to coat grains with butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until grains begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 2 1/4 cups boiling water and second thyme bundle to rice and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, sprinkle cranberries evenly over rice, and cover. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 18 minutes. Fluff rice with fork off heat.
  • Combine wild rice, white rice mixture, pecans, and parsley in large bowl. Toss with large spoon or rubber spatula and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.



  1. Divide fresh thyme into 2 bundles, each tied together with kitchen twine.
  2. The wild rice packet I use had a blend of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice bits, wehani, and black japonica.
  3. Toast pecans in small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 minutes, then rough chop.
  4. If wild rice still has a little liquid on bottom of pan: Drain rice in mesh strainer to remove excess liquid. Return rice to now-empty saucepan. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated.


Calories: 348kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 262mg | Potassium: 270mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1535IU | Vitamin C: 8.4mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1.4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: side dishes
Cuisine: Melting Pot
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
overhead of wild rice pilaf with herbs and chopped nuts


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 4 stars
    Thanks for the recipe Kevin.
    I thought it was very good…but lacked a bit of pizzazz for 5 starts..but would def make again. Would be very helpful to have a guideline on salt…I salted the rice during cooking…but found the finish dish def needed a generous addition of kosher salt…which def made a big difference. As suggested – easy to make ahead and reheat.

    This recipe makes WAY MORE than 8 servings. I doubled it for a dinner party of 15 and had TONS left over (and everyone enjoyed it for sure). Served with prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloins.

    I really liked the wild rice blend (and loved the idea of cooking with the thyme bundles) vs white..so next time may reduce the amount of white rice to 1 cup for a 50-50 ratio. May also try adding some apple cider with the water when doing the white rice to give more flavor (this is how I cook farro at times and it’s very tasty).

    Thanks again – def a keeper and a good base to experiment with. Happy New Year!

  2. 5 stars
    This was a delicious dish to pair with bourbon glazed game hens. The single recipe actually served 12 people with a 1/2 cup scoop. I will definitely put this on the repeat list.

  3. Kevin..haven’t made this yet. How big is your calculated serving size when you say it makes 8 servings? I’m going to make it for 6 people and wonder if a single recipe is enough. Thanks.

    1. This makes about 9 cups total with both rices and vegetables. I think this would be great for the 6 you are serving.