3 Ways to Cook Wild Rice

This grain is versatile, easy to prepare, and packed with goodness.

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on July 12, 2013
From the WebMD Archives

If there were a museum of the world's healthiest foods, wild rice might occupy a quiet, forgotten corner. "It's become less popular, and I rarely meet people who eat wild rice," says chef and nutritionist Gavin Pritchard, RD, CDE, of Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. But, he adds, they really should.

Consider this: A 1-cup serving of wild rice contains 50 fewer calories and almost 10 fewer grams of carbohydrate than a cup of brown rice. But it provides more folate, zinc, and vitamin E than brown rice.

Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all, but the seeds of edible grasses native to North America. Native Americans harvested wild rice in canoes, using long sticks to knock the seeds into the bottom of their boats.

Wild Rice Cooking Ideas

Instead of using boxed wild rice pilafs, which contain too much fat and sodium, Pritchard recommends making your own. Cook a batch, store it in the refrigerator, and add it to dishes throughout the week: Toss the wild rice with lentils or beans, stir into soups, or blend with cooked brown rice.

Other ideas: Wild rice's strong, nutty flavor and "toothy" texture pair well with ingredients like garlic, vinegars, and citrus fruits. And Pritchard likes to boil wild rice with vegetable broth or herbs. The rice absorbs the flavor as it plumps.

1. Mediterranean Wild Rice Pilaf

This delicious side dish combines favorite ingredients and has a festive color. It's also gluten-free and vegetarian.

Makes 6 servings


1 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups cooked wild rice (prepared according to package directions)

2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (not in oil)

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

2 tsp finely grated lemon peel

dash of salt

freshly ground pepper

½ cup crumbled feta cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 3 - 5 minutes until onion is translucent.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine onion and garlic mixture, wild rice, spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, nutmeg, lemon peel, salt, and pepper.

4. Add mixture to a 9x11 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Cover and bake 20-30 minutes, until hot.

Per serving: 182 calories, 7 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 313 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%.

2. Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Pairing meaty mushrooms with just a sprinkle of bacon, these tasty morsels may convince even hardcore carnivores to eat less animal protein.

Makes 6 servings


6 large portabella mushrooms

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 large shallots, minced

1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

¼ tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups cooked wild rice (prepared according to package directions)

¼ cup pecans, chopped and toasted

2 tbsp cooked bacon, crumbled

6 tbsp shredded

Parmesan cheese

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Clean mushrooms, removing black gills and stems. Finely chop the edible portion of the stems.

3. Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, heat it a bit, then add shallots, red pepper, chopped mushroom stems, and garlic. Sauté 3-5 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Stir in rosemary, salt, and pepper.

4. In a large bowl, combine wild rice, pecans, bacon, and the red pepper mixture.

5. Place portabella caps stem-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and brush them with the remaining oil. Fill each cap with the rice mixture and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered 15-18 minutes, or until the mushrooms are hot and the topping is lightly browned. Garnish with parsley.

Per serving: 193 calories, 8 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 4 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 271 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 47%.

3. Asian Wild Rice Edamame Salad

Along with wild rice, this flavorful salad features another super-food: protein-rich edamame. If you're using frozen, cooked edamame, thaw it first.

Makes 6 servings


3 cups cooked wild rice (prepared according to package directions)

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

1½ cups shelled cooked edamame

⅓ cup dried cranberries

½ cup shredded carrots

¼ cup fresh basil, julienne-cut

⅓ cup rice vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp honey

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

½ tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper


1. In a large bowl, combine wild rice, onion, edamame, cranberries, carrots, and basil.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, honey, sesame seeds, ginger, salt, and pepper.

3. Drizzle vinaigrette over rice mixture, and toss thoroughly to combine. Cover and refrigerate several hours to chill and allow flavors to meld.

Per serving: 231 calories, 8 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 4 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 207 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%

Wild Rice Pantry Picks

Here are a few of the healthy ingredients used in our three wild rice recipes. Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, offers a peek at the brands she keeps in her own kitchen.

Better Feta. Thanks to its intense flavor, a little feta (even a few crumbles) goes a long way. Zelman uses Fage, which is among the lowest in sodium, and Athenos Traditional.

Luscious Legume. Half a cup of shelled edamame has just 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, and an impressive 8 grams of protein. Look for brands without additives such as sodium. Zelman likes Cascadian Farm Organic Edamame and Seapoint Farms Edamame.

Ruby Red. Dried cranberries tend to contain lots of sugar, so Zelman uses them sparingly. Her two top brands, which contain the least sugar, are Eden Organic Dried Cranberries and Bob's Red Mill Dried Cranberries.

Store cooked, drained wild rice in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

The opinions expressed in this section are of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

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Gavin Pritchard, RD, CDE, culinary dietitian at Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, Conn.

USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition, WebMD.

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