Wild Rice Salad is a fantastic Thanksgiving side dish that has a great texture and a slightly sweet, yet nutty flavor. It’s packed with roasted vegetables, crunchy apple, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. When the rice is hot, you’ll add a full bag of fresh baby spinach and stir until wilted. We love to toss this with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
This particular rice salad recipe definitely runs sweet, in large part because of the fruit, but we find it to be a great addition to the abundance of savory side dishes that are usually present on a Thanksgiving menu.
If you’re looking for a savory grain side dish, we absolutely adore this Farro Salad. Either way, both are vegan, which is great to have on your holiday spread, regardless of dietary restrictions!
What Is Rice Salad?
It’s not quite a pilaf — pilaf recipes begin by sautéing aromatics such as onion, garlic, or shallot — but it’s similar in that the wild rice cooks in vegetable both or chicken stock instead of water, which adds a depth of flavor to the rice.
Beyond that, you can add anything you like to the cooked rice. We’re adding lots of vegetables, but also sweet, seasonal dried and fresh fruit. This wild rice salad has not just a wonderful flavor, but a really great texture.
The wild rice is nutty and slightly chewier than a white rice, but the dried cranberries and fresh, sweet apples and almonds add great texture.
- Wild rice blend: You can use any variety of wild rice. We recommend Bob’s Red Mill.
- Vegetable stock: Or chicken stock — for cooking the rice.
- Apple: Choose a variety that isn’t too sweet, such as Honeycrisp, Braeburn, or Pink Lady apples.
- Dried cranberries: Or any dried fruit!
- Carrots: Or other vegetable, roasted — such as butternut squash, sweet potato, or pumpkin.
- Roasted Leeks: If you can’t find leeks, use thinly sliced scallions for a similar delicate onion flavor. Be sure to check out our quick guide on how to cut leeks!
- Nuts: We love the texture of sliced almonds, but toasted pecans work great too!
- Fresh baby spinach:
For the balsamic vinaigrette: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, shallot, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
When it comes to making salad dressing at home, we prefer to combine everything in a small mason jar with a tight lid and then shake. No whisk required!
Why is it important to rinse rice before cooking?
You should always rinse rice before cooking. When you do this, it helps to remove excess starch, resulting in rice that separate and fluff more easily when cooked.
It’s a really simple step that shouldn’t be missed. Place rise in a colander, then rinse with water for 30-60 seconds, shaking slightly as you go to make sure everything is will rinsed. That’s it!
The texture of wild rice should be tender, not mushy, and with a slightly chewy texture.
Because wild rice is often sold in a blend, getting the texture of the cooked rice right can be tricky (certain varieties of rice take longer to cook than others). We love to make all rice in our trusty Zojirushi rice cooker, but you can consult the back of the packaging for details on how long to cook the specific brand of rice on a stove top if that is preferred.
This wild rice salad can easily be made a day or two in advance, then reheated when ready to serve. Leftovers will keep for up to 5 days when sealed in an airtight container in a refrigerator.
How To Serve Wild Rice Salad
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Other Thanksgiving Side Dishes To Try:Southern Cornbread Dressing with Sausage 7 Tips For Crispy Roasted Brussel Sprouts! Grammy’s Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream & Chives Flaky, Impressively Tall White Cheddar Biscuits
Sweet & Savory Wild Rice Salad
For the rice
- 2 cups wild rice or wild rice blend
- 3½ cups vegetable stock
- 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into ½" thick slices
- 2 leeks ends and dark green portions trimmed and removed, light white parts cut into ½" thick rounds
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 small apple diced
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries rehydrated, see note below
- ½ cup sliced almonds or toasted pecans
- 5 oz baby spinach
- Flaky sea salt for serving
For the balsamic vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ shallot minced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the wild rice. Place 2 cups wild rice in a colander, then rinse under cool water for 30-60 seconds.
- Cook the wild rice. Transfer the rice to a rice cooker or medium saucepan, then cover with 3 ½ cups vegetable stock (or water). In a rice cooker, the wild rice should be fully cooked in about 45-55 minutes. In a saucepan, add both the wild rice and the stock (increase this to 4 full cups), stir, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 40-45 minutes.
- Roast the vegetables while the rice cooks. Preheat an oven to 425F. Place sliced carrots and leeks on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp Kosher salt. Roast until tender, tossing once halfway through, about 25 minutes.
- Make the salad dressing. Combine ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, minced shallot, ½ tsp Kosher salt and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper in a mason jar, then seal tightly. Shake until well mixed. Alternatively, you can combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then whisk well.
- Assemble the rice salad. Place 5 oz baby spinach at the bottom of a large bowl, then pour the warm wild rice on top. Add roasted vegetables, ⅓ cup dried cranberries, chopped apple, and ½ cup sliced almonds. Pour the dressing on top, then use tongs to mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot or room temperature with a generous pinch of flaky sea salt on top.
- Can use chicken stock or water in place of vegetable broth.
- Any type of roasted vegetables can be added: halved Brussels sprouts, cubed butternut squash, shallots, anything!
- Nuts: Instead of sliced almonds, try toasted pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.
- Leeks: Because of how they grow, leeks hold onto a lot of dirt. Make sure to rinse and dry well before roasting. Do not eat the dark green part of the leek, use only the white and light green parts. If you can’t find leeks, use thinly sliced raw scallions.
- Rehydrate dried cranberries: This is optional, but we like to cover the dried cranberries with water for 10 minutes, then drain. The result is plump dried cranberries instead of super chewy cranberries. You can skip this step if you prefer.
- Make ahead: Wild rice salad can easily be made a day or two in advance, then reheated when ready to serve. Leftovers will keep for up to 5 days when sealed in an airtight container in a refrigerator.