How often do you cook wild rice? Maybe once a year to make a pilaf of some sort? Or perhaps as an addition to your Thanksgiving stuffing? Maybe you don't cook it at all? But you should! This chewy, nutty-tasting grain definitely deserves a spot at the table year-round. It's time to shake up your side dishes — here's how to make a pot of perfectly cooked wild rice to have with dinner tonight.
What Is Wild Rice?
Wild rice isn't technically "rice," but actually the seed of a species of aquatic grass that grows primarily in the Great Lakes region of North America. It was once a dietary staple of the Native Americans living in this region, and these days, most of the wild rice available in the supermarket is specially cultivated in Minnesota and California.
Wild rice is gluten-free, low in fat, and high in both lysine (an amino acid) and fiber. It is also quite high in protein, coming in behind oats and in front of quinoa in terms of protein content. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and a distinctly chewy texture. It can be eaten on its own, but its flavor can be fairly intense (and the cost sometimes prohibitive). More often, wild rice is used in dishes alongside other ingredients — it gets cooked in pilafs with other grains; sprinkled over salads; or added to soups, casseroles, and stuffings.
Cooking Wild Rice
Wild rice is a tough seed that absorbs water slowly. It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for wild rice to fully cook and no longer be crunchy. Since the cooking time can vary and I don't want to be tied to the stove the whole time, I prefer to cook wild rice in an ample amount of water, like pasta.
Since wild rice cooks so slowly, I often cook a big batch at once and freeze the rest for later meals. The frozen rice can be reheated briefly in the microwave before using, or you can add it right into a pot of soup.
Rinse the wild rice: Place the wild rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse in the sink under cold running water. Shake to drain.
How To Cook Wild Rice on the Stovetop
Makes about 3 cups
What You Need
1 cup wild rice
4 cups water, stock, or a mix of both
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rinse the wild rice: Place the wild rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse in the sink under cold running water. Shake to drain.
Bring the rice and water to a boil: Place the rice in the saucepan and add 4 cups of water or stock, along with the salt (unless the stock is already salted). Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce to a simmer: When the water has reached a boil, lower the heat to maintain a slow but steady simmer and cover the pan.
Cook the wild rice: Cook at a simmer for 45 minutes. Check the rice. It should be chewy and some of the grains will have burst open. It may need an additional 10 to 15 minutes — keep checking the rice and stop cooking when the grains are tender.
Drain the wild rice: When the rice is done, pour it into a strainer to drain off any remaining liquid.
Fluff and serve: Fluff the rice with a fork and serve, or add it to any number of dishes for a delicious, nutty taste and chewy texture.
- Try pairing wild rice with any of the following: sautéed mushrooms; sautéed onions; fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, or sage; dried fruits, such as apricot or cherries; and nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios.
This post has been updated — originally published February 2014
(Image credits: Christine Han)