“I made this salad for Thanksgiving and it has since become a regular rotation in my family’s dinners. Sooo good. Great textures and zing. Thanks for sharing!” ~Marisa
Why do I only think about wild rice once a year?
Every November, it’s like clockwork, I’ll pick up a package at the supermarket and make something wonderful with it, like this wild rice salad with cranberries. Then I’ll wonder (again) why it’s not part of my regular rotation. I love to cook with unique foods that have a little oomph — things that have great visual appeal, or an unusual texture, or flavor, and wild rice has all that going on. The long black grains are glossy and slightly chewy — they split open during cooking to reveal the softer inside. The rice (technically a grass) is harvested in the fall and originated in the Great Lakes region, where in some places you can actually go out and forage the wild grains by shaking them right into your boat
Wild rice is beautiful, and adds an earthy touch to fall dishes, so even if you only give it a try once a year, it’s worth it. You can mix it with regular rice, or use it in stuffings and soups, but it also makes a fantastic salad.
RELATED: Wild Rice Recipes
If you’re into all the trendy ‘ancient grains’ like quinoa and farro these days, you can include wild rice on the list. It’s second only to oatmeal in protein, and it’s gluten free. I loaded this healthy salad with toasted pecans, cashews, and pistachio nuts, along with minced red onion ,the tiny inner stalks of celery (with the leaves) and sweet dried cranberries. It’s a symphony of colors and textures, and it would make any vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free eaters at your holiday table very happy.
what you’ll need
- wild rice
- red onion
- green onions
- dried cranberries
for the dressing
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
tips for making wild rice salad with cranberries
- Wild rice takes longer to cook than regular rice, so make sure to cook them separately if you plan to mix them.
- I like to under cook my wild rice so the grains stay dark and whole. Longer cooking will tend to split the grains, which is fine, but my preference is for the look and texture of a firmer grain.
- The cranberries will bring natural sweetness to the salad. For a balanced flavor profile balsamic vinegar adds a nice tartness to the dressing.
- If you enjoy cheese, consider adding crumbled feta or goat cheese for a creamy element that pairs well with the nutty taste of wild rice.
- After mixing all the ingredients together, refrigerate the salad for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld, and the salad will taste even better.
- The grains of wild rice are firm and chewy and keep well, so think about making this salad on Sunday and bringing it to work for lunch all week.
I’m not gonna lie, this is a chewy salad. There’s texture upon texture in here; you know you’re eating real food and it’s wonderful. Most grain based salads are either too mushy for me, or too heavy to really be called a salad. This one is neither. I think you’ll love it for the holidays, but will find yourself making it over and over again.
more healthy grain salads to try
- 5 Easy Grain Salads that will feed your soul!
- Vegan Ancient Grain Salad
- Wheat Berry Salad with Beets and Feta
- Lunch Prep: Instant Pot Wheat Berry Salad
- Loaded Tabbouleh Salad
- Lunch Prep: Loaded Farro Salad
Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Nuts
- This first soaking step is optional, but will help keep your wild rice from splitting as much, which I think makes a prettier salad. If you have the time, soak the rice in plenty of water for 8 hours. Then drain and continue.
- Bring a quart of water and a teaspoon of salt to boil in a saucepan and add the rice. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 30-40 minutes, or just until the rice is tender. Wild rice will always have a little bite to it, so don’t try to cook it until completely soft.
- While the rice is cooking, put the pecans and cashews in a large skillet and toast, over medium heat, until you smell them and they start to turn slightly brown. Take them off the heat and let them cool before giving them a rough chop.
- Drain the rice and put in a bowl.
- Toss the warm rice with the rest of the ingredients.
- Whisk together the dressing in a small jar. If you put the top on and shake it vigorously, it should emulsify. Taste it to adjust the amount of vinegar or seasonings. Toss the salad with half of the dressing, and then refrigerate until completely chilled.
- When ready to serve, add more dressing and toss well.