Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Nuts is the perfect fall and holiday salad, it’s healthy and bursting with colorful fruits and nuts in every bite. Use it as a side dish, or a healthy grab and go lunch.
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 and Nuts. 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.
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.
TIP: 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.
Wild rice takes longer to cook than regular rice, so make sure to cook them separately if you plan to mix them.
TIP: 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.
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.
Some other grain salads you might like ~
- 1 cup wild rice, rinsed
- 1/4 cup raw pecan halves
- 1/4 cup whole raw cashews
- 1/4 cup pistachios
- 1/4 small red onion
- several small inner stalks of celery, with leaves
- 3 green onions
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp of your favorite vinegar, I used fig
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- 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.
slightly adapted from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Don’t forget to pin this Wild Rice Salad!