Wild Rice Pilaf with Brussels sprouts, apple, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries. This holiday-worthy side dish is easy enough for weeknight cooking and sure to impress. Serve alongside your protein of choice, such as roasted chicken or turkey, for a flavorful, filling meal.
This recipe post is sponsored by USA Rice (@think_rice). I was compensated for my time, however all opinions are my own.
September is National Rice Month, which celebrates the U.S. rice industry, including farmers, producers and manufacturers.
My kitchen stays stocked with myriad varieties of U.S.-grown rice to complement different dishes I cook. This recipe calls for a California-grown wild rice blend, which I love for its nutty flavor and chewy texture.
This is a fantastic side dish to make for holiday entertaining this year. It pairs beautifully with roasted chicken or turkey, and is a texturally-pleasing alternative to many classic casseroles.
Beyond its hearty appeal, this pilaf boast many other benefits. It is:
- Meal prep-approved and last for days in the refrigerator.
- Freezer-friendly, so feel free to make a double batch to store for later use.
- Super versatile! Use any combination of aromatics, nuts, and/or dried fruit you prefer.
How to Make Wild Rice Pilaf:
You’ll find many classic holiday flavors in this recipe, such as toasted pecans, dried cranberries, and woodsy herbs. However there are ample substitutes for any ingredients you either dislike or don’t have on hand.
- Wild Rice: Technically, wild rice is not a rice, but rather a semi-aquatic grass native to North America. U.S. wild rice is grown in California and Minnesota, and you can typically find it in the bulk bin section or grain aisle of most well-stocked grocery stores.
- Due to its hearty texture, wild rice takes longer to cook than most other rice varieties. However, the finished result is always worth the extra stove time.
- Broth: I prefer using broth over water to cook the rice, which infuses it with more flavor. You can use homemade or store-bought vegetable, chicken, or turkey broth.
- Aromatics: The base of this pilaf starts with sautéed onion, apple, and celery, which gives the pilaf a sweet, aromatic backbone. You can use any variety of onion you have on hand, such as yellow, sweet, or even shallots.
- Brussels Sprouts: Thinly sliced (or shaved) sprouts add crunchy, hearty texture to the pilaf. They also add beautiful pops of green to the earthy tones of the rice.
- Pecans: It’s important to toast the pecans at the very start of cooking. Toasting enhances their nutty, rich flavor, and is worth the extra few minutes. Alternatively, you can use toasted pine nuts or walnuts.
- Cranberries: For a pop of sweetness and chewy texture, I love stirring dried cranberries in at the very end. If you’re not a fan of their sweet-tart flavor, you can use dried cherries or blueberries instead, or simply leave them out.
- Spices: I tested this pilaf with a whole assortment of spices, but ended up liking good ol’ poultry seasoning the best. This highly aromatic spice mix includes thyme, rosemary, sage, and a hint of nutmeg.
Step 1: Boil Wild Rice Blend
Combine rice, broth (or water), and 1/4 tsp. salt in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
Remove lid, stir, and place the lid back on rice to steam for 10 minutes (off burner).
Step 2: Toast Pecans
Meanwhile, place pecans in a large dry skillet over medium heat. Toast pecans until they smell nutty and aromatic, watching closely so they don’t burn, about 5 minutes.
Transfer pecans to a bowl.
Step 3: Sauté Aromatics
Return skillet to medium heat, and add olive oil and butter. Once melted, add onion, celery and apple; cook until softened, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in poultry seasoning and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.
Step 4: Cook Brussels Sprouts
Add Brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Continue cooking until Brussels are tender, about 5 to 7 more minutes. Stir in toasted pecans and cranberries; remove from heat.
Step 5: Combine all Ingredients
Add cooked wild rice to skillet, and toss to combine. Transfer pilaf to a serving platter and garnish with extra cranberries, pecans, and/or fresh thyme, if desired.
What to Serve with Wild Rice Pilaf:
This dish makes a fantastic holiday side dish. It adds welcome texture to the usual sea of creamy casseroles, and is super visually appealing. Here are some of my favorite entrees to serve it with:
- Roasted Chicken or Turkey: This pilaf pairs especially well with poultry. Whether it be your Thanksgiving turkey, or a beautiful roast chicken for a restaurant-worthy date night in.
- Soup or Chowder: Serve this hearty side alongside a creamy soup, such as this Cauliflower Potato Soup or Caramelized Broccoli Soup.
- Salad: Enjoy alongside a light, crisp salad, such as this Autumn Salad with Maple Vinaigrette.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:
- Make-Ahead: Slice and dice the onion, celery, and apple up to 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container refrigerated. You can also slice or shred the Brussels sprouts up to 2 days ahead, and store separately.
- Store: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: Heat pilaf in a skillet over medium heat, adding a splash of broth as needed to help rehydrate the grains, until warm.
- Freeze: Let pilaf cool until close to room temperature. Place in a gallon-size, freezer-safe storage bag, and lay flat in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before following reheating instructions.
More Wild Rice Recipes
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Wild Rice Pilaf
- Large skillet
- Medium Saucepan with Lid
- 1 1/4 cup dry California-grown wild rice blend
- 2 cups lower-sodium vegetable broth (sub chicken or turkey broth, or water)
- 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
- 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 small (or 1/2 large) apple, finely chopped (no need to peel)
- 1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
- 8 to 10 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shaved or thinly sliced (about 3 cups total)
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- Optional for garnish: fresh thyme leaves
- Combine rice, broth (or water), and 1/4 tsp. salt in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until rice is tender.Remove lid, stir, and place the lid back on to steam rice for 10 minutes (off burner).
- Meanwhile, place pecans in a large dry skillet over medium heat. Toast pecans until they smell nutty and aromatic, watching closely so they don't burn, about 5 minutes. Transfer pecans to a bowl.
- Return skillet to medium heat, and add olive oil and butter. Once melted, add onion, celery and apple; cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in poultry seasoning and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.Add Brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Continue cooking until Brussels are tender, about 6 to 7 more minutes. Stir in toasted pecans and cranberries; remove from heat.
- Add cooked wild rice to skillet, and toss to combine. Transfer pilaf to a serving platter and garnish with extra cranberries, pecans, and/or fresh thyme, if desired.