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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
This post, originally published on Nov. 20, 2018, was last updated with new content on Sept. 30, 2021.
Wild Rice Pilaf + Video
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme (See Note 1)
- 1 cup wild rice rinsed, (See Note 2)
- 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion chopped fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 large carrot chopped fine (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup pecans (See Note 3)
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves minced
- 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.
- Divide fresh thyme into 2 bundles, each tied together with kitchen twine.
- The wild rice packet I use had a blend of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice bits, wehani, and black japonica.
- Toast pecans in small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 minutes, then rough chop.
- 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.
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.