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This Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans is beautiful, fall-inspired side dish that will make a fabulous addition to your holiday menu.
I’m pretty excited about this recipe, friends.
It’s joined a very select group of recipes that are allowed to make an appearance on my holiday menus. It takes a lot to join that list and this delicious Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans meets all the criteria.
Although special enough to be included on your holiday menu, this recipe is easy enough to make any time you need tasty side dish option.
There is so much to love about it this pretty dish.
The wild rice, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries evoke a cozy fall feel. It is a snap to put together. And, I’ve included directions to prepare it in on the stove or in the oven. Depending on what else you’ve got going in your kitchen, having both options can be a lifesaver.
What Kind of Rice Should I Use?
There are some really nice rice blends available in most stores now. I found mine right here at the local Safeway in our new little Oregon town. RiceSelect Royal Blend Whole Grain with Texmati Brown and Wild Rice (that’s a mouth full!) is a convenient container full of a pre-mixed rice blend that is perfect for wild rice recipes like this one.
If you don’t want to purchase a blend you can make your own. Just combine equal amounts wild rice and short-grain brown rice. It won’t have quite as much going on but it will work just fine.
The Best Way to Add Flavor to Rice
The most important step in being sure any type of rice dish will be flavorful is to cook it in either low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. In addition to any aromatics, herbs, or seasonings called for, using broth is a sure-fire way to add more flavor to rice.
How to Make Wild Rice Pilaf
The rice blend is sautéed briefly with diced shallots in some butter and olive oil before low-sodium broth is added. This process helps the rice grains “open up” and absorb the flavors from the dried the bay leaf, thyme, sea salt and pepper. It also helps to ensure the rice will end up light and fluffy; not sticky.
Dried cranberries (aka Craisins) are the final ingredient added before the simmer time. They plump up as the rice cooks and add a nice tart/sweet element.
The skillet can remain on the stove to finish cooking or be transferred to the oven. I’ve used both methods with a great result so do what works best for you and your menu. See the printable recipe card at the end of this post for the full set of directions for both methods.
My pans of choice for this recipe are my Le Creuset Braiser or my Calphalon Stainless Steel Pan. They are both covered pans that go from stovetop to oven so they work well regardless of which method I go with.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in some chopped toasted pecans for even more flavor and some really nice texture. Sprinkle the finished dish with a little chopped fresh parsley and this gorgeous rice is ready to serve.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely diced shallot (use entire bulb of large shallot)
- 2 cups wild rice blend (I use RiceSelect Royal Blend)
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (like Craisins)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1/2 teaspoon fine ground sea salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place the pecans on a small baking sheet and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until fragrant and nicely toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy 2-quart oven-proof sauté pan or deep skillet over MEDIUM heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth, dried cranberries, bay leaf, thyme, sea salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stir and cover.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
- Follow as directed but instead of transferring to the oven, cover, reduce heat under the pan to LOW and cook for 30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender.
TO FINISH THE RICE FOR BOTH METHODS:
- Remove and discard the bay leaf. Use a spoon to scrape the thyme leaves from the sprigs into the rice mixture and discard the sprigs. Taste and season with additional sea salt and pepper, if desired. Coarsely chop the pecans and stir them into the cooked rice along with the parsley and mix well to fluff it up. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma