This Wild Rice Salad features crunchy pecans, sweet apples, and dried cranberries. It’s the perfect side dish for a holiday menu!
This recipe comes from my friend Jenn’s book, Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook. It’s the perfect salad to bring to a Thanksgiving dinner and lends itself well to leftovers.
Add some leftover turkey on top for a lighter post-Thanksgiving meal, or serve it with some chickpeas for some plant-based protein, instead.
It’s also delicious when served with baked chicken breasts or stuffed into a baked sweet potato!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Wild rice is naturally gluten-free and has more protein per serving than brown rice. It takes slightly longer to cook than other varieties of rice and results in a tender, chewy texture you’ll love.
Paired with crunchy nuts, dried fruit, and diced veggies, this wild rice salad recipe is loaded with flavor. This recipe calls for toasted pepitas (which are hulled pumpkin seeds) but if you can’t find those at the store, sliced almonds, walnuts, or pistachios will also work.
It’s also easy to customize! Add crumbled feta cheese or goat’s cheese for creaminess, or sprinkle in some pomegranate seeds for extra festive color. You can also add in diced red onion or some spicy arugula if you’d like to bulk it up even more.
For another variation, you can replace the fresh orange juice and zest with the lemon zest and lemon juice from 1 lemon. Either way, it’s delicious!
How to Make the Best Wild Rice Salad
To prepare the rice, rinse it well in a fine mesh strainer. (This will improve the texture.) Transfer the rinsed rice to a medium saucepan, add 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and cover it with 4 cups of water.
Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pot. Let the rice gently simmer for 50 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and let it sit with the lid on for an additional 10 minutes.
The cooked rice should split open when it’s done, and there will most likely be excess water in the pot. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer to remove the excess water and set it aside to cool.
While the rice is cooking, combine the orange juice, orange zest, dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine the vinaigrette.
Add in the diced celery, apple, pecans, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, parsley, and green onions. Toss well to coat everything in the dressing.
When the rice has cooled down, stir that in and adjust any seasoning to taste.
Let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before serving. The flavors will get even better as they meld together.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can prepare the rice and vinaigrette up to 3 days in advance, but wait to stir in the nuts, chopped apple, and fresh parsley until shortly before serving. This will give you the freshest flavor and texture.
If you don’t have wild rice on hand, you can swap it for cooked quinoa to keep this recipe gluten-free. Or use any other cooked grain you love! (Farro would work well here, too.)
You can cook the wild rice in the Instant Pot by combining 1 cup of rinsed wild rice with 1 1/2 cups water. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes after that.
If you swap the honey for maple syrup, this salad is vegan-friendly.
Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries & Pecans
- 1 cup wild rice , rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt (divided)
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice , from one orange
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup toasted pecans , roughly chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 celery ribs , diced
- 1 apple , peeled, cored, and diced
- ¼ cup roasted and salted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- 2 green onions , light and green parts, thinly sliced
- In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 4 cups of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat but keep the lid on for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the lid and make sure the rice is tender, with most of the grains split open. Transfer the rice to a fine-mesh strainer to drain any excess water. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the cooled rice, pecans, dried cranberries, parsley, celery, apple, pepitas, and scallions. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you try this Wild Rice Salad recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it.