Wild rice pilaf is a fantastic holiday side dish if you want to add more vegetables to the menu or need a gluten free recipe for your family. Make it in the Instant Pot or on your Stovetop with just a few minutes of hands-on time!
Wild rice pilaf is one of my new favorite holiday side dishes because with just a couple tiny tweaks it is perfect for either a Christmas dinner side or an Easter brunch side dish.
Tender wild rice has savory vegetables in the mix with a hint of butter and seasonings.
Adding dried cranberries and pecans make it festive for Christmas dinner but if you add frozen peas or fresh asparagus, it is right at home on your Easter table, too!
With just a few minutes of hands-on time, it simmers on the stovetop while you finish the rest of your meal prep.
Want something even more hands-off? Check out the Instant Pot cooking instructions below, too!
Why This is the Best Recipe
I made this delicious wild rice pilaf as part of our Christmas dinner last year. It is for sure going to be on the menu again during the next holiday meal.
My entire family raved about it because:
- Stress-Free Cooking: Saute the vegetables and the rice cooks itself with very little attention needed from you.
- Gluten-Free Recipe: During the holidays, there is often a lot of bread and pasta served, this wild rice pilaf is a gluten-free option that makes a wonderful variation for your meal.
- Fresh Vegetables: Chop up a few fresh veggies and this side dish is packed with both nutrition and flavor.
- Perfect Partner for the Holiday Roast: Wild rice pairs perfectly with your holiday ham, roast turkey, or even a beef roast. You could even serve it alongside fish or shrimp.
- Easy Variations: One recipe can be mixed and matched with just a few easy tweaks to go on along with any menu you plan to serve. Be sure to check out the variations listed below!
This easy rice side dish is a perfect recipe because it only requires a short handful of things from your pantry:
- Wild Rice Blend: Look for the bulk wild rice container that includes a mix of wild rice, brown rice, and red rice. This gives the side dish so much flavor.
- Chicken Stock: We love the flavor chicken stock gives but to make this a vegetarian rice dish, you could use vegetable stock instead.
- Olive Oil
- Dried Herbs: I love using dried soup herbs that includes a pre-mixed blend of thyme, chives, marjoram, parsley, chervil, and bay leaf. But if you don't have an herb blend like this, I listed an easy homemade mix in the recipe card below.
Stovetop Cooking Instructions
If you plan to make your main dish in the oven, you can cook the wild rice pilaf right on the stovetop in under 30 minutes.
Saute the Vegetables
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the chopped onion, celery, and carrots to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions have become translucent.
Toast the Wild Rice
To give your rice the most flavor, add the dry wild rice blend to the skillet and toast it in the olive oil for 2 - 3 minutes.
This will help the rice to absorb all the flavors from the cooked vegetables and the olive oil before it finishes in the chicken stock.
Add the Broth
Add the chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian variation) to the skillet and bring it to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet with a lid, and cook the rice according to the time listed on the package.
My wild rice blend suggested 15 - 18 minutes and it was cooked perfectly.
Instant Pot Rice Pilaf Instructions
If your stovetop is full with other dishes for your holiday meal, you can also prep this easy wild rice pilaf in an Instant Pot!
I've tried both the stovetop and Instant Pot methods and they both work great.
Set your Instant Pot to the Saute setting and add the olive oil to the pot.
Add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.
Add the rice to the pot and toast it for 2 - 3 minutes or until it has absorbed all the liquid from the vegetables.
Pour in the chicken stock and stir the rice to make sure there is nothing sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Cover the Instant Pot and seal it. Cook the wild rice on high pressure for 4 minutes.
You can let the rice naturally release pressure while you finish up your other dishes or you can do a quick release and serve it immediately.
Make Ahead Tips for Holiday Prep
The wild rice pilaf is best served fresh right after you've cooked it, the rice loses a bit of the delicious texture when you make it ahead completely and reheat it.
However, I know how busy holiday cooking can be and there are definitely a few ways to make this recipe even easier:
- Pre-Chop the Vegetables: Cut down on the prep work and dirty dishes by chopping the onion, celery, and carrots and storing them in a plastic ziptop bag. They can be stored in the fridge for several days with no problem.
- Prep the Festive Mix-Ins: Measure and store the mix in ingredients you plan to use so you can just dump them and go.
With those items out of the way, when you plan to cook your rice, you just have to add everything to the pan and let it simmer!
There are so many different ways you could tweak this rice pilaf recipe so it works best with whatever holiday menu you're planning to cook.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
- Cranberry Pecan Wild Rice: Add dried cranberries and chopped pecans for a festive Christmas rice dish.
- Rice Pilaf with Peas and Asparagus: Add frozen peas and chopped fresh asparagus to the rice half way through the simmering time so they don't overcook. This would be a perfect Easter side dish.
- Cranberry Jalapeño Wild Rice: Mince a fresh jalapeño pepper and saute it with the other diced veggies. Add ¼ cup dried cranberries before stirring in the chicken stock. If you like it extra-spicy, keep the ribs and seeds of the jalapeño. If you want it medium-spicy, remove the ribs and seeds before mincing.
- Vegetarian Rice Pilaf: Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock.
- Garden Vegetable Rice Pilaf: Add ½ cup frozen peas and ½ cup frozen corn 2 minutes before the rice is finished cooking. Stir them in and let them thaw as the rice finishes.
- Cajun Wild Rice: Add 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to the vegetables before adding the rice.
Depending on the vegetables you choose to add to the pilaf mix, this wild rice is the perfect partner for any delicious main dish you plan to serve.
Add dried cranberries and nuts and it would make a festive Thanksgiving side dish with my roasted herb butter turkey for an easy gluten-free side to add to your menu.
It would also be a fantastic side to add to my macadamia halibut because it would soak up the lovely lemon butter cream sauce from that recipe.
How to Use Up Leftovers
If you made more wild rice pilaf than you needed for your meal, don't worry the leftovers don't need to go to waste!
Just add your favorite chicken or pork to turn the dish into a whole new entree!
Wild Rice Pilaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 3 carrots diced
- 1 onion diced
- Sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper
- 2 cups wild rice blend
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon dried herb blend *see notes
- ¼ cup dried fruit dried cranberries or golden raisins
- ¼ cup nuts chopped pecans, sliced almonds, chopped pistachios, or chopped walnuts
Stovetop Cooking Instructions
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the diced vegetables and stir together, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions have softened and become translucent.
- Add the dried herb blend to the vegetables and stir to coat.
- Add the wild rice blend to the skillet and stir to coat in the olive oil. Toast the rice for 2 - 3 minutes or until the liquid from the olive oil and vegetables has been absorbed by the rice and the dish smells slightly nutty.
- Pour the chicken stock into the pan and stir into the rice mixture, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.
- Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook for 15 - 18 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed the rice.
- Fluff with a fork and serve immediately.
Instant Pot Cooking Instructions
- If you prefer to cook this in an Instant Pot, set the appliance to the Saute setting and add the olive oil and chopped veggies. Cook them for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.
- Pour in the chicken stock and stir, making sure that all the rice and veggies are lifted from the bottom of the pot.
- Cover the Instant Pot with the lid and seal it. Cook the rice on high pressure for 4 minutes. You can let it naturally release pressure while you finish your other dinner items or you can do a quick release and fluff it with a fork and serve immediately.
For the Optional Mix-ins:
- If you plan to use dried fruit like dried cranberries or golden raisins, stir them into the skillet or Instant Pot after you've added the chicken stock and let them cook with the rice to soften.
- If you plan to add chopped nuts, sprinkle them over the cooked rice at the end of cooking. Cover the skillet or Instant Pot and let the nuts warm through for 1 minute before stirring them into the dish and serving. This will keep them nice and crispy. If you prefer a chewy texture, you can add them to the pan when you add the rice and they can toast before cooking in the chicken stock.
A Note on Dried Herbs:I love using a pre-mixed herb blend called "homestyle herb soup blend" that features dried thyme, chives, marjoram, parsley, chervil, and bay leaf. If you don't have something similar, you can use:
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 dried bay leaf, remove the leaf before serving
- 1 teaspoon dried chives OR 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced and reserved for sprinkling over the top of the finished rice as garnish
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