Fall gluten-free sides vegan

Wild Rice Pilaf Recipe with Butternut Squash

October 17, 2019

Spruce up your rice pilaf for fall with this Wild Rice Pilaf recipe with butternut squash! A delicious whole-grain salad made with wild rice, squash, almonds, cranberries and a simple balsamic vinaigrette for an easy dinner side dish or meal.

wild rice pilaf in a bowl
wild rice pilaf recipe

wild rice pilaf recipeEvery October C and I try to make our way to Minnesota to visit family. Every year we end up deciding on the same week to visit because we assume we’ll get great fall weather. And for the last 3 years it has snowed…you’d think we’d have learned right? Well apparently not, but nonetheless it is always so nice to be back in Minnesota even if it means spending most of our time indoors sitting by the fire.

When I think of wild rice, my mind immediately goes to Minnesota. I don’t think I had ever tried true wild rice until I met C and we started visiting his family there. Now I’m totally hooked. Admittedly it is a bit more time-intensive to cook, but it’s absolutely worth it. There nothing quite like the crunchy texture of a wild rice pilaf recipe!

Ingredients you Need

This recipe is extremely simple, letting the wild rice and roasted butternut squash shine. It doesn’t take much to pull together so it’s a an easy weeknight dinner side the whole family will love. You’ll need:

  • wild rice
  • butternut squash
  • yellow onion
  • almonds
  • dried cranberries
  • balsamic vinegar
  • honey (maple syrup works too)
  • thyme, salt and pepper

What is Wild Rice?

Let’s chat about wild rice and what makes it different from other types of rice. Wild rice is native to several regions in the world but 3 of the 4 varieties are most commonly grown in the Great Lakes region of North America (hence the connection to Minnesota!). It was originally grown and harvested by Native Americans. Interestingly it technically is not related to the rice plant. It is an aquatic grass like rice but it is grown along the banks and shores of streams and lakes. Wild rice has a stronger, nuttier flavor than conventional rice and is also higher in protein and nutrients. It’s a great, whole-grain substitute for any dish featuring rice, including pilaf!

How to cook wild rice on the stove top

Wild rice takes longer to cook than conventional rice. Typically it is a 3:1 liquid : wild rice ratio for cooking and takes 45-60 minutes to fully cook. Just combine water or stock and wild rice in a pot (add salt!) and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cover for roughly 45-60 minutes. Strain any excess remaining liquid.

Can I cook wild rice in the Instant Pot?

Yes you can definitely cook wild rice in an instant pot! It is much faster as well. You’ll want to reduce your liquid ratio so its 1.5:1 liquid : wild rice. For this wild rice pilaf recipe you’ll combine 1 1/2 cups of stock with 1 cup of wild rice. Add salt. Set Instant Pot to pressure cook for 20 minutes. Allow slow release for at least 10 minutes. Strain any remaining liquid.

wild rice in instant pot

What is a Wild Rice Pilaf?

So what is a pilaf? Pilaf is a rice dish in which rice is cooked with stock (veggie or meat) to bring out the flavor of the rice. In the case of this wild rice pilaf, wild rice is combined with veggie stock (or meat if not vegan or veg) and cooked until rice is fluffy. Typically pilaf is combined with other ingredients such as cranberries, nuts and veggies which in this case is butternut squash and onions. You can also skip the squash and add in cooked mushrooms for a different umami flavor.

roasted butternut squash for wild rice pilaf


Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Pilaf

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 side servings 1x


  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds (roasted)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp fresh)
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cook rice according to package instructions or using instructions above.
  3. Cook onion and butternut squash in oven for 15 mins and then flip and cook for another 10 mins
  4. Combine rice with butternut squash-onion mixture. Top with almonds, cranberries and vinegar, honey and spices.
  5. Stir until well-combined.
  6. Serve warm.

wild rice pilaf recipe with cranberries and butternut squash

Like this recipe? Here are a few others you might enjoy:


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  • Reply
    Katie | Honestly Nourished
    October 25, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Rhett is adorable so I can see how you got attached so quickly! And he’s lucky to have you guys! Dogs really are the best — the biggest thing ours has done for me is encourage me to stay in the moment and always be up for anything. Dogs don’t care if you wake them up mid nap, they are always, always ready to party and I love that about them! Speaking of partying, this wild rice pilaf looks like a party for my mouth! Yum!! XX Katie

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Can’t wait to have little dog parties with green smoothies and buying ALL THE FOOD at Whole Foods with you!

  • Reply
    Stella @ Stellicious Life
    October 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Aww, dogs are the best! We also want to have a dog with Boyfriend but now is not the right time yet for us, but every time we walk by a dog on the street Boyfriend has this yearning look that women get when they can’t wait to have babies. So yeah, until we can have a dog of our own I’ll be reading your Rhett’s adventures, so share with us lots of photos as well, ok? 🙂

    I hope his paw is better now!

    ps. Just wanted to let you know, that the instructions in the recipe are missing, maybe the puppy pushed delete while he was snuggling in your lap 😉

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 10:40 am

      hahahaha he actually may have! I likely just got distracted with snuggling and forget to add the rest. You’re always the best with your feedback. It is SO appreciated <3

  • Reply
    Emilie @ Emilie Eats
    October 25, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Ugh all your adorable puppy posts make me want a dog even more! We’ve always grown up with pets, but being at college makes it harder to take care of one on your own. But next year I’m getting one! I think it’s so awesome to have something that is completely your responsibility, that relies on you, but will love you unconditionally no matter what! Have fun with that pup 🙂

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Next year will be your year! And the meantime you can live through my instas and snapchats. I’ll give him extra love from you <3

  • Reply
    rachel @ athletic avocado
    October 25, 2015 at 11:13 am

    All puppies steal my heart, how could you not love them? I have a Labordoodle and she is the best thing thats ever happened to me, so furry and cute! Anyways, this butternut and rice pilaf sounds like a great GF alternative to stuffing for thanksgiving! I hate stuffing so i would eat this up! Pinned 🙂

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      That’s actually a bomb idea! I think C and I are hosting US Thanksgiving here and I’m totally making this as a stuffing alternative!!!

  • Reply
    She Rocks Fitness
    October 25, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    I cannot imagine my life without a dog…They’re the best and teach us so much about ourselves…If only humans behaved like our dogs, life would be a lot more simple and happier…Just saying! Oh and how they LOVE that cone…They know they look so silly!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      The cone is everything. Like so sad but also so hilarious watching them give in eventually haha. Also we also joke about what aliens would think if they landed on earth and saw how we treat dogs like kings and queens. They’d think dogs were the real guys on the top of the food chain haha

  • Reply
    Mary Leopold
    October 25, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    This looks delicious, but I was wondering if you have any tips on how to easily peel the thick skin of the butternut squash? Please share your secret! Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 25, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Honestly, I just use a vegetable peeler! Takes about 2 minutes but it does the trick! Sometimes I’ll use a knife but I find I’m not as efficient. Invest is a good veggie peeler and you should be good!

  • Reply
    October 26, 2015 at 5:07 am

    Oh dogs, my boyfriend is trying to convince me to get one, showing me pictures of cute puppies and videos of funny dogs, but our lifestyle is not appropriate for a dog, we work all day and a dog can’t really be alone so much.
    This pilaf looks delicious and super healthy, big thumbs up for it!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 26, 2015 at 9:23 am

      I knowwwww! I was pretty resistant too. But truth is that I’m home all day so it actually made a lot of sense! I totally understand though 🙁

  • Reply
    Lorrie Soini
    October 26, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Are the cranberries dried or fresh?

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 26, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Dried! Sorry about that. I’ll indicate more clearly in the instructions 🙂

  • Reply
    Lynn | The Road to Honey
    October 26, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Rhett is one lucky guy to have you as his foster mommie. It is so true that being the primary care giver for a beloved pet is far different from enjoying a pet as part of the holistic family. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. . .and it sounds like you feel the same.

    As for this rice.. . with a divine little dish like this. . .I think you quite possibly could make rice trendy again. Move over Quinoa!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 26, 2015 at 10:27 am

      hahahaha your comment was amazing and totally made my morning! It made Rhett’s too…even if he’s passed out on my bed right now…oh the life of a dog!

  • Reply
    Dani @ Dani California Cooks
    October 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Sometimes Nate and I dogsit for this amazing golden retriever puppy around the corner, and our whole weekend suddenly turns into revolving around him and his needs. We even tried to take him to a friend’s birthday party at Crissy Field and he started licking beer out of the bottles and we were like parents, admonishing this under-21 year old for trying liquor!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      October 26, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      HAHAAHHAHAHA spot.on. My life has become about making sure Rhett doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t and has his belly rubbed every 5 mins. Lord help me…

  • Reply
    Whitney @ To Live & Diet in L.A.
    October 26, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Such a festive fall dish! Looks delish 🙂

  • Reply
    Vicky & Ruth- May I Have That Recipe
    October 26, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    This picture is beautiful…i just want to take a forkful from my screen. I love how you added butternut squash! Who doesn’t love dogs…they are just so friendly and cuddly!

  • Reply
    Kelly | Eat Yourself Skinny
    October 27, 2015 at 9:30 am

    WOW this looks incredible!! Such a great fall side dish and I love that it’s sweetened with a little honey, can’t wait to try this! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 22, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Hey Davida – I made this recipe last night with dinner and it was delicious! I substituted sweet potatoes for the squash simply because the squash at the store looked iffy. But it worked perfectly. I plan to make this again. My boyfriend thought it was sooo goooood too. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      March 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      So happy to hear this! Love this recipe too 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Please tell me that you do not eat the rice uncooked? I couldn’t find anywhere in the directions on how to cook the rice.

    • Reply
      August 9, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      Oops! I see it. Never mind.

  • Reply
    Cassie Autumn Tran
    November 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Butternut squash and rice are such a delicious and hearty combo that I always enjoy, no matter what the time! Definitely have to get my hands on wild rice. I’m sure it tastes awesome!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    This is great! We liked the twist of the unexpected flavors. Everyone in the family liked it.

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