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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 recipe

wild rice pilaf in a bowl
wild rice pilaf recipe

Every October C and I try to make our way to Minnesota to visit family. This will be the first year we aren’t visiting but actually live here! Next month will be a full year of calling Minneapolis our home. Shortest and longest year of all time. Time makes no sense!

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

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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.

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 side servings 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Cook
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 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

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Meet the Maven

Hi! I'm Davida and welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm a wellness blogger, yoga teacher, certified herbalist, and green beauty lover.

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  1. Fyi the Ojibwe continue to harvest wild rice in Minnesota to this day. It is a major part of their culture and economy. Excited to try this recipe. 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!