How to Cook With Wild Rice—and 6 Recipes to Get You Started

Wild rice is a common winter ingredient—hearty, nutty and versatile—but what is it exactly? 

Ever feel like rice is just so… tame? Enter wild rice! This visually stunning, texturally intriguing, and wonderfully named grain is, in fact, the only cereal grain indigenous to North America. It's a fantastic ingredient to stock in your pantry, for both taste and nutritional benefits, and you can even mix up some of your favorite recipes by swapping in wild rice as the central grain.

Ready to get wild? Here's everything you need to know about wild rice!

What Is Wild Rice?

"Despite its name, wild rice is not a rice at all," explains Beth Nelson, president of the Minnesota Wild Rice Council. "It's the seed of an aquatic grass which grows naturally in the lakes and rivers of Northern Minnesota. This nutrient-dense whole grain is rich in antioxidants and is gluten-free." In fact, wild rice is so popular in Minnesota—the world's largest producer of wild rice—that it's the official state grain! "Wild rice is distinguished by its uniquely nutty flavor with smoky overtones," Nelson says. "No other rice on the market compares to the distinctive flavor of wild rice."

Nutritional Benefits of Wild Rice

Nicknamed the "Caviar of Grains," this midwestern-sourced ingredient is naturally free of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar, making it an appealing health food. With more protein and fewer calories than white or brown rice, this not-rice is also an attractive substitute if you're looking to add dietary fiber, phosphorus, calcium, and iron to a well-balanced diet.

White rice and Black wild rice in a bowl with a wooden spoon
Adobe Stock

Types of Wild Rice

There are three main types of wild rice. First, there's hand-harvested lake and river wild rice, which, in the state of Minnesota, must be harvested by hand in a non-motorized boat or canoe with some sort of wooden flail. Cultivated wild rice, the second variety, is an agricultural crop, and the third type is Canadian wild rice, which is lake and river wild rice that is, in most cases, machine-harvested. All three types, when processed, boast a very similar taste.

"Although suppliers have their own grading systems, wild rice does not have a standardized U.S. grading system," explains Nelson. When grocery shopping, you'll likely find top-grade, whole kernel wild rice, as well as broken wild rice, in your supermarket.

How to Cook Wild Rice

"Wild rice is easy to prepare," assures Nelson. Her foolproof method: Add one cup of uncooked cultivated wild rice to three to four cups of boiling water. Return to boil; stir. Cover and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the kernels begin to open. Drain any excess liquid. After getting used to cooking with wild rice, you will learn your precise preferred cooking time and water content.

"The texture of wild rice is a personal preference," Nelson says. "For a chewier texture, cook for less time. For a tender, fluffier texture, cook longer." One cup of uncooked wild rice yields three to four cups of cooked wild rice, which is six to eight servings!

How Long Does Wild Rice Stay Good For?

Uncooked wild rice keeps up to five years in an airtight container, Nelson advises. Plain cooked wild rice, such as rice prepared using the method above, keeps for one week when refrigerated. Drain it well and store in an airtight container. Cooking and freezing wild rice ahead of time can also help turn wild rice into a convenience food. Cooked wild rice will keep for about six months in your freezer.

Wild Rice Recipes

Ready to start incorporating this versatile food into your weekly meal plan? Keep reading for some tasty wild rice recipes!

01 of 06

Wild Rice Dressing

Wild Rice Dressing
Sang An

Swap out the traditional bread-based dressing (or stuffing, as northerners call it) with this gluten-free wild rice version. It's savory and filling, and the perfect compliment to poultry all year round.

02 of 06

Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Bake

In this recipe for wild rice and butternut squash, chunks of roasted butternut squash mingle with caramelized onions and mushrooms.
Victor Protasio

This rich casserole is full of nutrients, and works well as a side dish or main course. Swap in any type of squash you like for a seasonal variation.

RELATED: 23 Delicious Squash Recipes You Can Cook in Any Season

03 of 06

Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf With Cranberries

Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf With Cranberries in a Brown Bowl
Gentl + Hyers

Here, earthy mushrooms bring out the rustic notes of wild rice. Make this side to pair with pretty much anything!

04 of 06

Roasted Vegetable and Wild Rice Salad With Almond-Parsley Sauce

Roasted Vegetable and Wild Rice Salad with Almond-Parsley Sauce
Charles Masters

Keep this recipe in your back pocket for a satisfying vegetarian dinner that feels elegant and healthy.

05 of 06

Chicken With Wild Rice and Grapes

Chicken With Wild Rice and Grapes
Get the recipe for Chicken With Wild Rice and Grapes. Christopher Baker

Wild rice works nicely as a base, and is hearty enough to not get too squishy under various sauces and accoutrements. Case in point: This recipe pairs wild rice with roasted chicken thighs and seedless grapes.

RELATED: 23 Rotisserie Chicken Dinner Ideas That Are Quick and Easy

06 of 06

Trout With Wild Rice, Radicchio, and Oranges

Trout With Wild Rice, Radicchio, and Oranges
Juicy orange segments add a fresh, citrusy sweetness to delicate trout and slightly bitter radicchio. Get the recipe for Trout With Wild Rice, Radicchio, and Oranges. Con Poulos

Due to its dense texture, wild rice also works well as a garnish, not just a dish or a base. Try it here in this mild fish dish, which is both bitter and sweet.

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