Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes. Simmered in savory herb broth and sweet apple juice, this delicious Wild Rice Pilaf is light, fluffy, and extra delicious when mixed and mingled with sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, tart apples, and crunchy pecans.
Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf
With the holidays in full swing, I thought it would be fun to update an old favorite. Bursting with a few of my must-have autumn essentials- sweet potatoes, apples, dried cranberries, and crunchy crumbled pecans- this Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf makes a beautiful addition to any dinner table.
Of course, this rice dish isn’t just for the holidays. With so many flavors, enjoy this wild rice pilaf with roasted acorn squash, poached fish, juicy baked chicken thighs, honey mustard chicken breasts, or leftover holiday ham.
The ideal side dish for entertaining, this delicious rice is easily customized to be completely vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free.
Ingredients in Wild Rice Pilaf
The list is longish. I know. Feel free to customize according to your own personal tastes and preference. and substitute where necessary.
Cook your rice in flavor – vegetable or chicken broth, apple juice, Dijon mustard, butter, dried herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley), garlic powder, and a bay leaf. Far better than simmering your rice in water, cooking your rice in broth and herbs infuses each rice granule with flavor.
Rice – In this particular recipe I used Lundberg Wild Rice Blend. My absolute favorite. Feel free to substitute with white or brown rice.
Mirepoix – Yet another awesome flavor base made with onion, celery, carrots, garlic. Cooked low and slow before adding the sweet potatoes.
Add your favorite stuff – In this recipe I added sweet potatoes, apples, a dash of apple cider vinegar, dried cranberries, and pecans, but this is really where you can go wild and have fun (or have no fun and keep your rice super plain and simple). Other delicious additions or substitutions include,
- Butternut Squash
- Caramelized Onions
- Slivered almonds or chopped walnuts
- Roasted cauliflower or Brussels sprouts
How to Make Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf
While this rice recipe is one that I would consider easy, it is also one with several steps. Depending on how much time you have, you may cook this using one pot (longer cook time, less clean up) or use two pots (faster cook time, more multi-tasking, more to clean up).
The images and instructions you see are for the faster cook time with two pots.
Step 1 + 2. Add the vegetable broth, apple juice, Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of the butter, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and bay leaf to a large, wide saucepot set over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately reduce heat to a simmer.
Step 3. Uncover and add the rice, mixing well to combine. Cover.
Step 4 – Multi-task. Chop your onions, celery, carrots, and sweet potatoes and set aside. Meanwhile, after approximately 20 minutes begin checking your rice at regular 5-minute intervals. Total cook time will vary depending on the type of rice being used (plain white rice will cook much faster). To check the doneness of your rice try several grains yourself, OR smash a few grains between your thumb and index finger. They should be soft, but not mushy. Some firmness is good. Once your rice is done, strain through a mesh strainer (optional – reserve the leftover broth for later use).
Step 5. Meanwhile, set a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and onion to the skillet. Cook the onion for 5-6 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes.
Step 6. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not brown or burn the vegetables. Add the apples and garlic and continue to cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until apples are tender. Finally, add the dried cranberries.
Step 7. Cook everything, all together, for and additional 2 minutes.
Step 8. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the drained rice back to the pan with the softened vegetables. Mix in the apple cider vinegar and pecans. Mix to combine. Season to taste and garnish with fresh thyme and rosemary, if desired.
What is Pilaf?
Pilaf is believed to have originated in ancient India. Made by cooking rice in a seasoned broth, pilaf is an essential dish throughout the Middle East, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, India, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Depending on the method of cooking, sometimes the rice is sauteed in butter or oil before adding broth, to give it a golden brown color. Other times, and in many recipes, meat (chicken, beef, lamb, rabbit) will be added, in addition to vegetables and dried fruit.
Every country, region, and cook will have their own unique method for preparing pilaf.
What is Wild Rice?
Wild rice, despite its name, is not directly related to Asian rice. Historically gathered in India, North America, and China, wild rice has become the less popular choice in China over the years, but remains a popular grain in North America.
There are four species of wild rice grasses; three species are native to North America and one species is native to Asia.
Grown in shallow waters like small lakes or streams, wild rice grains are a dark brownish-black color and have a somewhat chewy outer sheath with a more tender inner grain. Nutty, earthy, and heartier in flavor, wild rice is sold by each individual species or, more popularly, in wild rice blends.
Is Wild Rice Good For You?
Yes. Unlike other starchier rice varieties (such as basmati, jasmine, etc), wild rice boasts several key nutritional benefits.
- Wild rice is high in protein, coming in second when compared to oats.
- High in the amino acid Lysine which may help with calcium absorption, wound healing, and reduce anxiety.
- High in fiber (whereas white rice is not).
- Low in fat.
Can You Make This Wild Rice Pilaf Ahead of Time?
Yes. And leftovers are just as delicious reheated two, or even three, days later.
A couple of tips should you decide to prepare this rice ahead serve to a group of people-
- The rice is the easiest part to prepare ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. It will show little effects of storing and reheating and look as if you had just prepared it that afternoon.
- As for the vegetables, these will taste just as delicious reheated the next day, but visually, there may be some discoloration in the apples. Should you decide to prepare the vegetables ahead of time, keep stored in a separate container from the rice and wait to saute the apples until approximately 15 minutes before serving.
- Approximately 15 minutes before serving, first, reheat the vegetables (including fresh apples) in a large pot over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, dried cranberries, and prepared rice, mixing to combine. Continue to cook until heated through. Finish with the chopped pecans.
More Rice Recipes,
- Easy Korean Beef Bibimbap Recipe (Mixed Rice)
- Cilantro Lime Rice Recipe
- Turmeric Broth Soup with Wild Rice
- Wild Rice Salad with Beets, Oranges and Whipped Lemon Ricotta
- Cranberry Saffron Rice Recipe
- Cajun Chicken and Rice Bake
- Easy Thai Fried Rice Recipe (Khao Phat Kaphrao)
If you try making this Wild Rice Pilaf Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to read your thoughts and feedback!
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Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes
- 1.5 cups vegetable ((or chicken broth))
- 1.5 cups apple juice
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon butter (divided)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup wild rice blend (rinsed)
- 1 large yellow onion (diced)
- 3 stalks celery (chopped)
- 2 large carrots (chopped)
- 1 sweet potato (scrubbed and chopped into small bite-size pieces)
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 Fuji apples (cored and chopped)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup pecans (roasted and chopped)
- Fresh thyme and rosemary (to garnish)
- Prepare the Rice. Add the vegetable broth, apple juice, Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of the butter, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and bay leaf to a large, wide saucepot set over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Uncover and add the rice, mixing well to combine. Cover with a tight-fitting lid.
- Cook and check the rice. After approximately 20-25 minutes, begin checking the rice at regular 5-minute intervals for doneness. The liquid will be mostly absorbed, but this may also vary greatly depending on the type of rice used. To check if your rice is done, try a few grains or smash a few grains between your thumb and index finger. The rice should not be mushy- some firmness is good. Once the rice has finished cooking, strain the rice through a fine-mesh strainer and (optional) set the broth aside in a separate bowl.
- Cook the vegetables. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and onion to the skillet. Cook the onion for 5-6 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not brown or burn the vegetables. Add the apples and garlic and continue to cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until apples are tender. Finally, add the dried cranberries.
- Return the Rice. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the drained rice back to the pan with the softened vegetables. Mix in the apple cider vinegar and pecans. Mix to combine.
- Garnish and Serve. Remove rice from heat and add additional seasoning, as needed. Garnish with fresh thyme and rosemary, if desired.
- You may also cook this dish in one pot by waiting to cook the vegetables until the rice has finished cooking Simple use the rice pot to sauté the onion, sweet potatoes, and apple.
- To make this recipe vegan: swap the butter for a vegan butter alternative and use vegetable broth or water to simmer the rice.
- I used Lundberg Wild Rice Blend for this recipe.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)