Food & Nutrition

Easy Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries and Orange

easy brown rice salad with cranberry and oranges in a bowl
brown rice salad with orange and cranberries with text overlay

This Easy Brown Rice Salad has fresh oranges, dried cranberries and toasted nuts. It is the perfect make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or any festive occasion. 

a bowl of brown rice salad with segments of oranges on top

Table of contents

Why We Love This Brown Rice Salad Recipe

This brown rice salad is the perfect side dish, and luckily has all the classic flavorings you’d want for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving dinner. 

It has fresh orange, a burst of sweetness from dried cranberries, and the crunch of toasted nuts all brought together with a delicious citrus dressing! Easily throw this dish together and enjoy as you and your loved ones gather around the table this holiday season.

Recipe Highlights

  • Make it ahead of time! No fuss in the kitchen if you’re cooking it up for a busy holiday.
  • We use the juice, zest, and segments of the orange, so you’re getting so much citrus freshness in this salad.
  • The creamy dressing in this recipe means the rice salad is creamy and delectable – no dry rice here!
  • Between the fruit, nuts, and herbs, this healthy salad is bursting with texture.
  • It’s a great vegetarian option for non-meat eaters, but it pairs wonderfully with a meat-based main!

Key Ingredients For Healthy Rice Salad

ingredients to make healthy brown rice salad
  • Long Grain Brown Rice: My favorite is brown jasmine, but brown basmati is also great.
  • Oranges: You’ll need one to zest and juice, and the other two for orange segments. For a shortcut, use a small can of drained mandarin oranges instead of the segmented orange.
  • Nuts: Sliced almonds, chopped pecans, pistachios or walnuts all work. Make sure to toast them to bring out the flavors.
  • Fruit: Dried cranberries are my preference, but dried cherries work well here too.

Step By Step Instructions To Make This Recipe

make the rice and dressing

Step 1: Cook Rice

Stir water, rice, and salt in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan set over high heat. Bring it to a simmer, and then stir well, cover, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Allow the rice to simmer covered for 35 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let it sit covered for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Mix Dressing

Whisk your lemon juice, orange juice, zest, shallot, oil, Dijon, pepper and the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

mix the dressing and rice, and then add the toppings

Step 3: Combine Rice and Dressing

Stir the hot rice into the dressing and let it cool, stirring once or twice, for about 30 minutes.

Step 4: Add Flavorings

Stir in the parsley, orange segments, nuts, cranberries, and tarragon. Serve your side dish room temperature or chill it before serving.

brown rice salad with cranberries, oranges, and nuts

FAQs and Expert Tips

How do you segment or supreme an orange?

Work over a small bowl to catch the orange juice. I like to use a small serrated knife like a tomato knife. Start by cutting the skin off of the orange and removing all of the white pith. Then, cut between the membranes to remove individual segments, working all the way around. You can watch a video I made demonstrating how to supreme an orange here.

segmenting an orange

How To Toast The Nuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. It’s as simple as that! Toasted nuts are going to add so much more flavor and warmth to your salad!

Make Ahead

Your brown rice salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance! Bring the dish to room temperature for 1 hour before serving, and make sure to stir it well to recombine all of the flavors.

Serving Suggestions

Variations To Try

  • Add pomegranate arils.
  • When in season, sub in fresh stone fruit (like peach) for the orange segments, and pitted cherries for the cranberries.
  • Include another dried fruit like chopped apricots.
  • Use another dressing like my Lemon Salad Dressing, Apple Cider Vinaigrette or Walnut Balsamic Dressing.
  • Add additional herbs like either fresh mint or dill.
overhead photo of a bowl of healthy brown rice salad with cranberries

More Holiday Worthy Grain Dishes and Salads To Try

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

Print

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Description

This Easy Brown Rice Salad has fresh oranges, dried cranberries and toasted nuts. It is the perfect make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or any festive occasion.


  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups long grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 oranges, segmented *See ingredient note
  • ½ cup toasted sliced almonds or chopped pecans, *See tip
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon


  1. Stir water, rice and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan. Set over high heat and bring to a simmer. When it simmers, stir well, cover and reduce heat to maintain a steady gentle simmer (medium low to low depending on your stove.) Simmer covered for 35 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit, covered for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk lemon juice, orange juice, zest, shallot, oil, Dijon, pepper and the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. 
  3. Stir the hot rice into the dressing and let cool, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in parsley, orange segments, nuts, cranberries, and tarragon. Serve room temperature or chill.

Notes

Tip: To toast nuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until toasted and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.

Make Ahead: Can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before serving, and stir well. 

Ingredient note: To segment the two oranges follow my video here. For a shortcut, use 1 small can of Mandarin oranges, drained.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Active Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
  • Calories: 260
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Keywords: Brown Rice Salad, Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries, Healthy Rice Salad, Easy Brown Rice Salad, Brown Rice Salad with Orange, Rice Salad with Cranberries and Orange

About the Author

Katie Webster

Katie Webster studied art and photography at Skidmore College and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. She has been a professional recipe developer since 2001 when she first started working in the test kitchen at EatingWell magazine. Her recipes have been featured in numerous magazines including Shape, Fitness, Parents and several Edible Communities publications among others. Her cookbook, Maple {Quirk Books} was published in 2015. She launched Healthy Seasonal Recipes in 2009. She lives in Vermont with her husband, two teenage daughters and two yellow labs. In her free time, you can find her at the gym, cooking, stacking firewood, making maple syrup, and tending to her overgrown perennial garden.

Source: healthyseasonalrecipes.com