Treat your family to this scrumptious Wild Rice Salad tonight!
This gorgeous Vegetarian Rice Salad is super easy to prepare and bursting with the best, most delicious flavors and textures: earthy rice, chewy cranberries, creamy feta, peppery arugula, crunchy nuts, and the tastiest dressing. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but don't save it for the holidays ... it's great year round!
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Wild Rice is one of those grains that just doesn't get enough love! I don't know about you, but I tend to save it for the holidays, or maybe make one of those prepackaged blends once or twice a year.
Not anymore though, because this easy Wild Rice Salad deserves a place on our tables year round! Sure, it's great at Thanksgiving, and it makes for a festive Christmas salad, but this tasty recipe really is simple enough to make any day of the week.
This colorful salad has a mouthwatering combination of sweet and savory flavors that will make it a hit with everyone at your table. You can even prepare it in advance to save a little time at dinner.
Serve this beautiful salad alongside your meal, or enjoy it for a light lunch. You'll love it either way!
Ready to dig in? You'll find all the delicious details below!
This yummy salad is made with fresh, healthy ingredients! Here's what you'll need:
- Wild Rice - The star of the recipe! Wild rice has an earthy flavor that's nutty, grassy, and slightly smokey tasting. If you've never made it from scratch before, don't worry ... it's super simple to prepare!
- Dried Cranberries - Sweet-tart dried cranberries (craisins) add a wonderful chewy texture, and their sweet-tart flavor really brightens up this easy salad.
- Pecans - These classic nuts have a great crunch and warm flavor you'll love.
- Feta - Creamy feta cheese add a little richness to the salad.
- Arugula - Peppery arugula is the perfect counterpoint to sweet cranberries, creamy feta, and hearty rice.
- Homemade Dressing - This delicious, easy to make Maple Vinaigrette has a subtle sweetness that pulls all the flavors together!
Simple, right? And it's simple to customize, too ... you'll find some easy ideas below.
You'll Also Need
To make the recipe, you'll need a medium saucepan to cook the rice, a small bowl or jar to mix the vinaigrette (a mason jar works great), and a large bowl to toss the salad together.
How to Make Wild Rice Salad
This recipe couldn't be easier to make. You'll find a detailed, printable recipe below, but here's quick overview:
- Cook the wild rice.You'll boil the rice in a pot of salted water, then drain it. Cooking time can vary, but it typically takes about 45 to 60 minutes to cook, so give yourself a little wiggle room.
- Prepare the dressing. While the rice cooks, prepare the simple vinaigrette. You'll start by combining shallots with vinegar, which will lightly pickle them. Then just before serving, mix in olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
- Toss the rice, cranberries, pecans, and nuts together. As you do, add just enough of the vinaigrette to coat it (you may not use it all) and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Gently mix in the arugula. Add a little extra dressing, if needed, then serve.
How to Prep in Advance
Because the arugula will wilt, you shouldn't add it to the salad until just before you plan to serve it. However, you can cook the rice and prep the dressing in advance ... even a day or two ahead of time.
Then, when it comes time to serve the salad, just toss everything together, and you are good to go! It can be served cold or at room temperature, if you let rice warm up a bit first.
Tips for Cooking Wild Rice
The easiest way to prepare wild rice is by cook it in a pot of salted water ... just like you would pasta. You'll know it's done when it's tender, by still chewy, and some of the grains will have popped open. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, so make sure to give yourself enough time.
When it's done cooking, drain the rice in fine mesh strainer. Then return it to the pot you cooked it in (off heat), and set it aside until you're ready to use it.
This recipe is easy to customize. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Fruit - Replace the cranberries with another dried fruit, like cherries or golden raisins, or with fresh fruit, such as pomegranates, pears, grapes, oranges, or apples ... whatever is in season and looks good!
- Veggies - Want to go in a more savory direction? Mix in some fresh or roasted vegetables, like celery, sweet potatoes, or winter squash.
- Nuts - Swap in different nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios, cashews, or almonds, for the pecans. You could also replace the nuts with pepitas or sunflower seeds.
- Cheese - Creamy goat cheese would also be delicious here. Or you could stir in a nutty Parmesan.
- Vegan - Everything in this recipe is already vegan, except for the cheese. Simply leave it out to make the salad vegan / non-dairy.
- No Wild Rice? - If you can't find 100% wild rice, feel free to substitute a blend, or you could even use black rice. (Follow package directions to prepare.) It won't taste quite the same, but it will still be delish!
Because tender arugula has a tendency to wilt, this salad is best when freshly made. However, you can store any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate. They will keep for about three to four days. You may want to pick out the wilted arugula and add a fresh batch before enjoying the leftovers.
You can serve this hearty salad anytime of year, especially if you swap in seasonal ingredients. It makes a great lunch! However, the flavors are especially perfect for fall and winter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
I paired the salad with this impressive Vegetable Wellington and some of my favorite holiday side dishes, including Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, Onion Gravy, Cranberry Relish, Sourdough Stuffing, and Pomegranate Brussels Sprouts.
Craving more wild rice recipes? Make sure to try my Creamy Wild Rice Soup recipe next ... so delish!
If you're looking for more grain-based salads, then you're going to love these recipes, too:
- Warm Farro Kale Salad
- Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables
- Kale Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Freekeh Salad
- Lentil Brown Rice Salad
- Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Freekeh
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Superfood Salad with Citrus Dressing
Wild Rice Salad
- 1 cup wild rice
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
- 5 ounces arugula (about 5 packed cups)
- 1 small shallot, finely diced (about ¼ cup)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Rinse wild rice in a fine mesh strainer with cold water. Drain, then add to a medium pot filled with 4 cups salted water.
- Bring rice to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer rice until tender, but chewy (about 45 to 60 minutes).
- Drain rice, then return to pot and cover. Set aside to cool.
- When rice has cooled, add it to a large bowl, along with cranberries, pecans, and feta. Toss gently, adding just enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add arugula to wild rice mixture and gently toss everything together, adding a little extra dressing, if necessary (you may have leftovers).
- Serve salad immediately. Enjoy!
- While rice cooks, combine shallots and vinegar in a small jar (or bowl). Set aside for at least 15 minutes, or until just before serving.
- When ready to serve salad, add olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper to shallot mixture. Cover the jar, then shake until dressing is well mixed (or whisk together, if in bowl).
- Taste, then season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.