This easy Thanksgiving rice recipe is a side dish made for a holiday feast. This harvest rice is packed full of chewy wild rice, buttery pecans, tart and chewy cranberries, onion, celery, apple, and fresh rosemary!
This post may include affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
It's the holiday season! And this year is all about unique Thanksgiving recipes. From my deconstructed green bean casserole to this light and fluffy potato souffle recipe, I am all about traditional with a twist.
This wild rice pilaf recipe is one of my favorites! This recipe basically embodies autumn with all of the classic fall flavors packed into one mouthwatering dish.
This rice pilaf recipe is quick and easy, so tasty, and the perfect way to fill out your Thanksgiving feast.
📖Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is made with a blend of easy-to-find ingredients that come together to create a fantastic gluten-free vegetarian Thanksgiving side dish.
This rice is all about texture, lightly sauteeing the crisp apples leaves them still crunchy while the cranberries absorb some of the moisture to become plump and soft.
Combine that with rosemary and buttery pecans, this wild rice dish exemplifies balance. A little sweet and a little savory.
Just 10 minutes of hands-on time is needed to put this side dish together, it deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table.
Wild Rice - I use wild rice because its hearty, chewy texture and earthy flavor hold up perfectly alongside the other ingredients. If preferred, you can use other varieties of rice such as basmati rice or brown rice.
Vegetable Stock - I like to use vegetable broth to keep this recipe vegetarian but feel free to use chicken broth or chicken stock if that's what you have on hand.
Apples- Use a crisp tart apple. I usually use 2 apples, but if your apples are very large you may only need one. You can swap out the apple with pears if preferred. I would use 3 medium-sized pears.
Fresh Orange- You are going to need both the orange juice and the orange zest,
Cranberries- Because dried cranberries are sweetened I prefer to use the ones with ⅓ less sugar to ensure my rice isn't overall sweet.
Pecans- Chopped pecans are ideal but you add walnuts or slivered almonds if you prefer.
Aromatics - Onion and celery are pretty straightforward. A bay leaf adds flavor depth while a little bit of salt and pepper enhances the flavors and gives the rice a kick of heat. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving.
Fresh Rosemary - I use fresh rosemary to garnish the rice but feel free to use other fresh herbs such as sage, thyme or parsley.
Butter- To make this recipe vegan simply use dairy-free butter.
⏲️How to Make Thanksgiving Rice Pilaf
First, rinse the rice thoroughly under cold water. Rinsing the rice helps get rid of excess starch which creates a better rice texture!
Step 1 - Prep the Rice
Rinsing the rice helps get rid of excess starch on the outside of the grains which creates a better rice texture!
Do not skip this step!
Cook the rice according to the package instructions. That means that the amount of broth you use will depend on the amount of water listed on your specific rice package!
Once the rice is cooked al dente, remove it from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes or so with the lid on.
This finishes the cooking process without over-cooking the rice! If, after 10 minutes, the rice is still too firm, simply add a little bit more broth and cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked to your liking. Drain off excess water.
Step 2 - Sauté the Aromatics
While the rice is cooking, you can start on your aromatics to keep the prep time to a minimum!
Use a large skillet so you have room to add the cooked rice.
To the skillet with the celery, onion, apple, and cranberry, add the prepared rice, pecans, and stir in fresh rosemary.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
🥗What to Serve with Wild Rice Pilaf
This Thanksgiving rice is a Thanksgiving dinner classic! Serve it with all of the traditional dishes served for the holidays.
I love to enjoy it alongside a main course of roast turkey with sage and orange, then with all the other holiday sides! I think it pairs well with roasted cranberries, Balsamic Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts, Garlic Green Beans, and of course my favorite Gluten-Free Crescent Rolls.
But this recipe also pairs well with beef tenderloin, roast chicken, or cornish hens.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
Want to get ahead on holiday food prep? The plain wild rice can be cooked 1 day in advance and stored in the fridge, then reheated before serving and mixed with the sauteed apples.
Leftover Thanksgiving rice can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat, simply warm on low on the stove with a splash of broth to moisten if needed. Serve with all the leftovers from your holiday meal!
More Thanksgiving Recipes
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Rice pilaf, which is a rice dish made with rice cooked in broth and tossed with various mix-ins such as apple and cranberry, is a Thanksgiving classic. It's a hearty side dish that packs all the classic Fall holiday flavors into one decadent dish. But you can eat all Fall and winter long.
That depends on the rice you use! I recommend checking your package of rice and cooking it according to its specific instructions.
Did You Enjoy Making This Recipe? Please rate this recipe with ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ or leave a comment. It helps other wonderful people connect with our food.
Thanksgiving Rice with Apples and Cranberries
- 1 ½ cups wild rice
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 orange zest and juice
- 4 Tablespoon unsalted butter divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 2 apples cored and chopped
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecans chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary minced
- Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold water but do not soak. Measure the roange juice and add enough stock to get 3 cups. Add to a saucepan with the vegetable stock and orange juice, 2 tablespoons butter, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook rice per package instructions, use enough broth or stock to equal the amount of water needed. Drain excess water.1 ½ cups wild rice, 3 cups vegetable stock, 4 Tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 orange
- After cooking, let stand off heat, covered, for 10 minutes. If still too firm, add more broth, cover, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Drain off any
- While the rice is cooking melt the remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, saute for 5 minutes. Add the apples and cranberries cook another 3 to 4 minutes.4 Tablespoon unsalted butter, ¾ cup yellow onion, 2 stalks celery, 2 apples
- Add in the drained rice, pecans, orange zest, and rosemary. Serve immediately.¾ cup dried cranberries, ½ cup pecans, 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
- If your apples are very large you may only need one.
- The plain wild rice can be made 1 day in advance and reheated before adding to the saute.
Use vegan butter.