This cold wild rice salad is made with apples, celery, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans. Everything is tossed in the most delicious orange vinaigrette. Perfect addition to your Thanksgiving or holiday meal.
This hearty and nutritious wild rice salad is so easy to make. It's packed with nutritious ingredients, is naturally vegan, and gluten free. It's one of those salads that is must during autumn. Once you try it, you'll be making it time and time again. It's truly goodness in a bowl!
It's also a festive side dish that needs to make an appearance at your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holiday dinner table. Speaking of the holidays, you might also like one of these side dishes: slow cooker wild rice pilaf, air fryer carrots, butternut squash and goat cheese salad, gluten-free butternut squash mac and cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.
A complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below. Here are some specific notes and substitutions.
WILD RICE - You can either use all wild rice or a wild rice blend. I use all wild rice, but either will work.
DRIED CRANBERRIES/CRAISINS - These add a tangy sweet pop of flavor!
Clean food tip: Most craisins are loaded with added sugars! Look for dried cranberries without any added sugar. I always use Honestly Cranberry (I have seen these at my local grocery stores cheaper than Amazon).
EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL - You can use either EVOO or avocado oil in the dressing.
MAPLE SYRUP - Make sure you are using pure maple syrup and not the artificial stuff.
ORANGE JUICE - Fresh orange juice is best, plus you need the zest from an orange so you can just use the juice from the orange as well.
Wild Rice and the Benefits of It
What is wild rice? Wild rice actually comes from an aquatic grass and grows naturally in waterways all over the united states. And it’s not actually a “rice,” but the seeds that come from the grasses it’s harvested from. You won’t find it growing in a field somewhere, like other “grains." It's technically not even a grain, even though it’s referred to as a grain.
Wild rice has an earthy nutty flavor that lends amazing flavor and texture to the dishes it's in. The grains are much longer than typical rice and have a slight crunch to them when cooked properly.
What are the benefits of wild rice? There are so many advantages when it comes to including wild rice in your diet. Wild rice is a high-antioxidant food and also high in fiber, zinc, iron, and a plethora of other nutrients.
What's the difference between wild rice and black rice? First off, as mentioned, wild rice is actually a grass, whereas black rice is a grain. Black rice is a little more "earthy" when it comes to flavor and is typically grown in China. Both have their uses and are extremely beneficial to your health.
How to Make
1. Start by cooking the wild rice according to package directions. After rice has cooked, spread out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to help the rice cool down.
2. Next, toast your pecans. You can either toast them in the oven or on the stove top. I typically use the oven, but both work.
Oven: Preheat oven to 350F. Place pecans on a lined baking sheet and bake for 6-9 minutes, mixing halfway through. Pecans are done when they are fragrant. Make sure to watch so they don't burn!
Stove top: Place in a skillet (no oil needed) and cook over medium heat for roughly 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Again, don't allow to burn. Once golden and fragrant they are done.
Pro tip: Toasting raw pecans enhances their flavor. I don't recommend skipping this step, but you can use them raw.
Chop pecans once toasted and set aside.
3. While the rice is cooking, prep the remaining salad ingredients; chop the celery, scallions, apple, and parsley.
4. Next, prepare the dressing. Add all dressing ingredients together in small bowl and whisk to combine.
5. Combine the cooked wild rice, scallions, pecans, dried cranberries/craisins, apple, parsley, celery, and orange vinaigrette dressing in a serving bowl. You can serve right away, or store in the fridge until ready to eat.
Now you can enjoy this festive and flavorful cold wild rice salad!
There are so many ways to customize this cold wild rice salad. Try some of these suggestions!
- Add some pomegranate seeds for more festive color, or swap these for the dried cranberries (especially if you can't find sugar-free dried cranberries).
- Make it a green salad by adding 2-3 cups arugula. The peppery flavor of the arugula would be a great addition!
- Add some protein and make it a meal by adding in some cubed or shredded cooked chicken.
- Add some blueberries or sliced grapes (green or red).
- Swap out the toasted pecans for toasted walnuts or sliced almonds. Or make it nut-free by skipping the nuts all together.
Tips for Making Wild Rice Salad
When making the dressing, strain the orange juice to get ride of all the pulp.
For a sweeter dressing, add more maple syrup. For a tangier dressing, reduce maple syrup and add additional apple cider vinegar. Taste dressing and adjust as needed.
Make the wild rice the day before and store in the fridge overnight so the rice is already chilled.
Making Ahead of Time
This salad is a great make ahead recipe. It actually tastes better as it sits and the flavors have time to permeate. Mix everything together, with the exception of the toasted pecans. Store the toasted pecans separately (in the fridge or at room temp) and add to the salad before serving.
I recommend making ahead no more than 24 hours before serving.
This cold wild rice salad should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and will stay fresh for 3-4 days. I don't recommend freezing.
More Salad Recipes to Try
If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think! I would so appreciate you leaving a star rating and/or comment below. And don't forget to share a photo on Instagram or Facebook and mention @CleanPlateMama!
Eat Clean.Be Healthy!
Wild Rice Salad
- 1 sauce pan (for cooking rice)
- 1 Baking sheet (for toasting pecans)
- 2 bowls (for making salad and dressing)
Ingredients for Salad
- 1 cup un-cooked wild rice
- 1 cup pecans
- ¼ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
- ¾ cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
- ½ cup dried cranberries (recommend no sugar added)
- 1 small chopped green apple
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional, but I really like the flavor this adds)
Ingredients for the Dressing
- 1 tsp. orange zest
- 3 tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- To start, cook the wild rice according to package directions. After wild rice has cooked, spread out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool.
- While rice is cooking, toast the pecans, make the dressing, and prep remaining ingredients. ° Preheat oven to 350F. Place pecans on baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper and bake for 6-9 minutes, stirring half way through. Pecans are done when slightly toasted and fragrant. Watch closely so they don't burn. Remove from oven, chop pecans, and set aside. °Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. If you'd like the dressing to be sweeter, add additional maple syrup. If you'd like it tangier, reduce maple syrup and add an additional tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking.
- After rice has cooked and cooled, add wild rice, toasted pecans, scallions, celery, dried cranberries, green apple, and parsley to a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to eat. Enjoy!
- When making the dressing, strain the orange juice to get ride of all the pulp.
- For quicker prep, make the wild rice the day before and store in the fridge overnight so the rice is already chilled.
- If refrigerating until ready to eat, do not add the pecans until right before serving.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.