Here is my very best Wild Rice Salad recipe made with oranges, dried cranberries, apricots and avocado. It is a delicious make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah (or any celebration really!) It’s naturally vegan friendly (just see the notes below) and it goes well with pork, fish and roasted meats.
This recipe was originally inspired by the concept of the Nutted Wild Rice Salad in the Silver Palate cookbook. I shared it here on December 16th, 2014. I have updated the text, added a video and added new images today. This post contains affiliate links.
Table of contents
Why We Love Wild Rice Salad Recipe
This Wild Rice Salad with oranges, pecans, avocado and dried friut is a wonderful side dish to serve for the holiday season, or for a summer side dish for a picnic or potluck party.
This salad made with whole grains will be the star of the table! The sweet and savory ingredients pair well with a variety of meals. It is great served cold so it also happens to be a great make-ahead dish to serve for entertaining.
Ingredients Notes For This Recipe
- Wild rice is actually not the same type of plant as the brown rice and white rice we know, and it actually is the seeds of grasses native to North America.
- It has been wild-harvested since before European settlers came to the US.
- While wild rice continues to be wild harvested, it has also been commercially produced since the 1950s.
Read about shopping tips for Wild Rice here. If you cannot find it for this recipe or prefer a less expensive alternative, wild rice blend can be used instead. Follow the cooking instructions on the package for wild rice blend as it is different than wild rice.
Oranges or Tangerines
This recipe calls for three oranges (or tangerines.) The first one is zested and juiced for the dressing. The remaining two are segmented. Do so with a sharp knife over a small bowl to catch the juices. This way you can save the orange juice and add it to the salad too. If you missed my recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Orange, then you’ll want to review my tips on how to segment an orange on Youtube.
Pecans and other nuts are harvested in the fall and winter, and are common additions to holiday foods. I love the buttery and nutty taste of pecans in this wild rice salad. To bring out their natural flavors, toast them. My prefered way to do this is to use the toaster oven, just make sure to set an additional timer, because they’re very easy to burn!
Dried Cranberries and Apricots
Look for natural dried fruit that’s sweetened with juice and made without sulphur if you are sensitive. Unsulphured apricots taste better in my opinion, but they are not as pretty as those with sulphur, since they turn brown when they’re dried. I like to take my time to cut the apricots into little squares. They look like jewels in this salad!
This year I grew flat parsley in my garden, so that’s what kind I used today, but curly parsley would be great too. It’s quite a bit of parsley, almost like for tabbouleh, but it really adds a nice freshness to the salad and the green really makes the colors pop!
How to Make Wild Rice Salad
My wild rice salad recipe is made in stages. First you cook the wild rice and make the dressing. Once the rice is tender, drain it and toss it with the dressing and let it cool. Last stir in the fruits, herbs and nuts before serving. Here are some more details about how to cook the rice, about the dressing and how to make the wild rice salad in advance.
Step 1. Cook The Wild Rice
Simmer wild rice in a generous amount of gently boiling water until tender, about 45 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Step 2. Making The Dressing
While you’re waiting for the wild rice to simmer and soften, you can make the dressing. Add the orange zest and juice to a blender. Scoop ¼ avocado into the blender. Add shallot, oil, vinegar, mustard, honey or agave and salt and puree until smooth.
Step 3: Stir the Dressing and Hot Cooked Rice Together
While the rice is still steaming hot, stir it with the dressing and let it cool. The rice will absorb the flavors of the dressing and will make the overall taste of the wild rice salad better. This is the same technique I use with my potato salad and pasta salad recipes and it makes a big difference.
Tip: Spread the rice out on a large baking sheet lined with parchment to help it cool more quickly.
Step 4: Add the Salad Ingredients
Stir the cooled wild rice and dressing with the toasted pecans, dried fruits and orange segments. The avocado should be added last because it is so soft, so I like to stir everything else in first, then fold in the avocado at the end. Season salad with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Expert Tips and FAQs For This Recipe
This salad can be made 1 day ahead. Bring to room temperature stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or so before serving. Wait until before serving to add the diced avocado.
Use agave or maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing.
Store leftovers in an airtight container up to 3 days. The avocado chunks will brown, but it will still taste delicious! If the flavors are slightly muted after a day or two, perk them up with a squeeze of citrus.
Wild rice is grown in the shallow waters of streams, and Native American harvesting methods included threshing the grasses into their canoes. A very labor intensive way to gather the seeds. Today this is a much more mechanized process, but it is still expensive to produce, and explains the high price tag at the market
Most varieties of wild rice take about 45 to 50 minutes to cook. Follow package instructions because there are at least four different species of wild rice, so they vary in cooking times.
After checking with the package instructions to get a guideline of cooking time, the best way to test if it is done is to look for the rice grains starting to split. You’ll see that they no longer look shiny black, but they will have a little line of tan running along the length of the grain. As they soften more and more they will start to bend. Be careful not to cook them so much that they curl up. The texture will no longer be pleasantly chewy, but will become watery and mushy.
Buying Wild Rice
Look for wild rice in the rice section of the supermarket. It is available in bags and boxes.
I recommend buying wild rice in bulk so that you only buy the amount you need for a given recipe. While it will store well in a cool dry pantry, because it is unrefined, the natural oils in it can go rancid over time, so plan to use it within a year. I like to store wild rice in a large dry wide mouth jar.
Lundberg Farms (my favorite brand of rice) now sells quick-cooking wild rice. If you find that, make sure you follow the cooking instructions on the packaging, as it cooks much faster.
What To Serve With Wild Rice Salad
Variations To Try
- Add chopped cooked chicken or leftover turkey for a bit of protein to make this into a hearty salad for lunch.
- Serve over a bed of peppery arugula, watercress and romaine lettuce. Drizzle with additional salad dressing if desired or just squeeze on a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil to dress the greens. Top with goat cheese.
- Instead of dried cranberries use fresh pomegranate arils.
- Omit the avocado and use a creamy feta like goat feta instead. The orange and feta cheese are an amazing pairing!
- Use pinenuts, hazelnuts or walnuts instead of pecans.
- For an opulent touch, try using a gourmet nut oil instead of the olive oil. I love using walnut oil in dressings and adore the buttery flavor of hazelnut oil!
More Grain Side Dishes To Try
Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie
Here is my very best Wild Rice Salad recipe, that’s made with dried cranberries and apricots, oranges, pecans and avocado. A perfect healthy, make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.
- 2 cups wild rice
- 3 oranges or tangerines, divided
- 1 avocado, cut in half and pit removed
- 1 small shallot, peeled and quartered
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey or agave
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
- ½ cup dried sweetened cranberries
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- Place rice in a large saucepan. Cover generously with water. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low or to maintain a simmer, and cook until the rice is just tender but not mushy, 45 to50 minutes.
- Zest and juice one orange. Segment the remaining two oranges, and set aside.
- Add the orange zest and juice to a blender. Scoop ¼ avocado into the blender. Add shallot, oil, vinegar, mustard, honey or agave and salt and puree until smooth. Pour into a large bowl.
- Stir the hot rice into the dressing and let cool to room temperature, 35 to 42 minutes.
- Stir in parsley, pecans, cranberries, apricots and the reserved orange segments.
- Dice the remaining avocado and gently stir into the salad.
Vegan Option: This recipe is vegan if you use agave instead of honey.
Wild rice is different from brown and white rice in that it is actually a wild grass. Look for it in the rice isle. Store it in a sealed container or jar at room temperature.
To cook wild rice, simmer it in water until the grains split and are tender (taste a small bite to check.) Most varieties take about 45 minutes, but check packaging where applicable. Make sure the water doesn’t dip below the surface level so that the rice cooks evenly. Drain it as you would pasta through a fine mesh sieve.
To segment the two oranges or tangerines, follow the instructions here in my step-by-step video.
To Make In Advance: Prepare through step four up to 2 days in advance. Continue with step 5 just before serving.
- Prep Time: 28 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stove Top
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 2/3 cup
- Calories: 236
- Sugar: 9 g
- Sodium: 179 mg
- Fat: 13 g
- Saturated Fat: 1 g
- Carbohydrates: 27 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 2.6 g
Keywords: wild rice salad, wild rice side dish, wild rice with orange, wild rice with pecans