Colorful and festive are two words that describe this recipe for Wild Rice Pilaf with Squash, Cranberries and Pecans. Other words would be delicious, hearty, and healthy! Start with wild rice or a wild rice blend and add either butternut or acorn squash. Pecans give a creamy crunch and fresh thyme adds a hint of pepper and lemon. Add the cranberries for a pop of color or leave them out if you’d rather. I added them this time but my family actually likes the flavor without the cranberries, making it even better for you!
Can Wild Rice Pilaf with Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans be made ahead?
This is a delicious recipe and easy to make. You can make it a day ahead of serving, but my tasters preferred it right after it was made fresh.
Can other types of rice be used in Wild Rice Pilaf?
If you can’t find a good wild rice source or wild rice mix, you can substitute brown rice in the dish. Brown basmati rice is also a great option and you can even use quinoa if desired for great results.
Can other types of squash be used in Wild Rice Pilaf?
Butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin (not jack-o-lantern), or delicata squash can all be used in this recipe. Any favorite squash is fantastic.
At the holidays, this is a great side dish or a good gluten free stuffing substitute. You can’t go wrong with this one. Feel free to change it up to make it your own. Use brown rice instead of wild if you don’t have it but the wild rice has a distinct flavor that really works in this dish. Shallots are preferred for their mild, sweet taste, but a regular yellow onion will do as well. Hearty enough for a vegetarian main dish, as written this recipe serves four as a side or two as a main dish.
Ingredients and health benefits in Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans-
Wild rice- Wild rice is a great option in this recipe because it’s high in fiber, counts as a whole grain with antioxidants. Be careful to wash your wild rice or buy organic.
Butternut squash- Full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, butternut squash adds the creamy and healthy sweetness to this dish.
Pecan halves- Pecans are jam-packed with healthy vitamins and minerals, is a healthy protein fat, and helps lower cholesterol.
Vegetables (Shallot, garlic, carrot, celery)- Vegetables are just good all the way around, low calorie, high vitamins and fiber.
Fresh thyme- Fresh herbs are great for good health and flavor. Thyme adds an earthy, almost minty flavor to this dish.
Dried cranberries- So dried cranberries are high in sugar for sure, so in this recipe despite the vitamins in the cranberries, added to this recipe is a sweet treat and adds a pop of color.
This recipe is easily adapted and will be a beautiful addition to a hearty meal and is powerful enough to be a main vegetarian or vegan adaptable meal. Add peas or edamame, change out pecans for mixed nuts or walnuts, though the walnuts have a more bitter flavor. Mix in with cooked Brussels sprouts just before serving. Swap out dried cranberries for golden raisins, or add fresh cranberries that have been heated until they soften and start to pop. As you can see, this recipe can be made into a favorite and changed up time and again. I hope you love it as much as we do.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans
- 1 cup wild rice, or wild rice mix
- 1 small butternut or acorn squash, peeled and cubed – about 2 cups
- ⅔ cup pecan halves
- 1 Tablespoon butter, or coconut oil
- ½ cup shallots or 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1-2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
- 1 small carrot, sliced at an angle
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Place 1 cup wild rice or rice mix in medium sauce pan with 2 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook 45-50 minutes, covered. The rice should be cooked, but firm.
- Cook 2 cups squash by any of the following methods. Steam for 15 minutes. Or boil in water for 10 minutes. You can also roast the squash in a 450F for 20-25 minutes. Roasting gives the squash a deeper flavor due to caramelization. It is also the most time consuming method. For convenience, you can roast the squash 2 or 3 days ahead, refrigerate and use when needed.
- Meanwhile heat a large, wide skillet over medium low heat. Gently toast ⅔ cup pecan halves until aromatic. Keep a close watch on the nuts. They go from lightly toasted to burnt in less than a minute. Transfer nuts to the board, cool, loose chop and reserve.
- Turn the heat to medium-high, heat 1 Tablespoon butter and/or oil, and sauté ½ cup onions and 1 chopped garlic until soft. Add 1-2 chopped celery, 1 sliced carrot and ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and stir-fry briskly for a couple of minutes. Then add cooked rice, squash, 1 Tablespoon thyme, ¼ cup cranberries and ⅔ cup pecans. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper or to taste, toss to combine. This rice tastes great whether served warm or at room temperature.