The best Wild Rice Salad with acorn squash, cranberries, fresh arugula, and a delicious lemon tahini vinaigrette. This salad is packed with fall flavors and is perfect for holiday meals.
This Wild Rice Salad is exactly what I want to be eating in the fall. Made with nutty wild rice, roasted butternut squash, dried sweet cranberries, and an easy homemade lemon dressing.
If you aren't cooking with wild rice, today is the time to start! Wild rice is nutritious, nutty, and has a great texture that makes it delicious and interesting. It is usually reserved for soups, but it is perfect for hearty salads.
This salad celebrates wild rice and combines it with the flavors of fall including roasted squash, cranberries, and maple syrup. It would work with any roasted vegetables and is seriously delicious.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make this delicious whole-grain salad.
- Wild rice: Wild rice is naturally gluten-free and as more protein than brown and white rice. It also has lots of magnesium and phosphorus, making it a healthy and delicious base for this salad. Swap in brown rice, white rice. quinoa, barley, or farro if you prefer.
- Acorn squash: This salad can be made with acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or any other roasted veggies you like including brussels sprouts, red cabbage, or green beans.
- Dressing: This delicious dressing is made with olive oil, tahini, dijon mustard, lemon juice, and maple syrup. You could leave out the tahini for a vinaigrette-style dressing, just add some extra olive oil and lemon juice. Swap in apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice if you like.
- Arugula: Arugula is a great green that has a slightly peppery flavor. Swap in butter lettuce, baby spinach, kale, or any other greens you like.
- Green onions: To balance the sweetness of the cranberries and maple syrup in the dressing, green onions add the perfect mild onion flavor. Shallots or red onions would also be delicious.
- Dried cranberries: Use any dried fruit you like (raisins, apricots, dates, or blueberries) or swap in fresh pomegranate arils, apples, or pears.
- Parsley: Parsley adds a much-needed herbal flavor to this salad. Use cilantro, basil, mint, or dill if you prefer.
What is wild rice?
Believe it or not, wild rice is actually not rice! Wild rice is actually a seed that comes from aquatic grass. It has fewer calories, fat, and carbohydrates than brown and white rice. Plus it has more fiber.
Like quinoa, it is also a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
In terms of taste and texture, wild rice is nutty with a chewy texture.
Many times wild rice is sold as a rice blend with black seeds (wild rice) combined with other whole grains and rice.
How to Cook Wild Rice
Wild rice takes longer to cook than the traditional rice, but it is relatively easy. If you are buying a wild rice blend, make sure to follow the directions on the package.
- Stovetop: Bring 3 cups of water or broth to boil in a large pot. Rinse the wild rice in a strainer. Add the rice to the boiling water with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a simmer. Stir and cover the pot. Cook for 45-50 minutes until the wild rice is tender. Let the wild twice rest for 5 minutes in the covered pot. Open and fluff. Drain any excess water in the pan.
- Instant Pot: Rinse the wild rice in a fine mesh strainer. Add 1 cup of wild rice to the Instant Pot with 1 1/3 cups of water and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook on manual mode for 35 minutes. Let naturally release for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and drain any excess liquid.
Ideas for Customizing this Wild Rice Salad
Here are some of my favorite ways to customize this wild rice recipe:
- Use two kinds of rice: If you're not a super fan of wild rice, you can try half a cup of wild rice and half a cup of white or brown rice. (Follow package directions for both.)
- Dry a different squash: Use a different kind of squash, like butternut, cousa, or buttercup.
- Add more veggies: Skip the squash and instead roast zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, bell peppers, or another sort of hearty veggies that you do enjoy.
- Change the fruit: Instead of craisins, try adding raisins, dried blueberries, or apricots. It is also delicious with fresh fruit like apples, pears, or pomegranates.
- Change the greens: Use spinach, baby spring mix, kale, or even shaved Brussels sprouts instead of (or with) the arugula.
- Don't have time to make the dressing: Use one you already have. Red wine vinegar or other vinegar-based dressing will go splendidly.
Storing Leftover Wild Rice Salad
This salad keeps really well in the fridge and is great to make ahead of time for holiday meals. Simply wait to add the arugula, parsley, and dressing until it is time to eat.
This salad keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge. If the greens have already been mixed in, they will wilt slightly but can still be eaten.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this rice salad.
Wild rice salad can be frozen and stored for up to 3 months without the greens and dressing. Wild rice freezes very well and is great for meal prep.
Wild rice can be eaten raw but it needs to be soaked first. Cover the wild rice, which is technically a seed, with water and soak for at least 48 hours to soften.
It is ready for consumption when it is softened and chewy. Soaked wild rice can be used in this salad.
Wild rice shouldn't be consumed with soaking since it will be very hard to chew and digest.
Wild Rice Salad
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1 cup wild rice blend
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. tahini
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juice
2 tsp. maple syrup (pure is best)
2 cups arugula
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp. parsley
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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