Wild rice salad is a feast for the senses! Nutty wild rice, jeweled pomegranate seeds, crisp apples, fresh herbs, and a lemony dressing combine to create a colorful, nutrient-rich, and flavor-packed side dish.
You know the saying, "We eat with our eyes first," — well it's true! Colorful food is pretty common when eating a Mediterranean Diet, but this wild rice salad takes eating the rainbow to a whole new level!
Wild rice, with its long slender multi-colored grains, makes for a photo-worthy platter, especially combined with crimson tart pomegranate seeds, baby spinach, chopped apples, and fresh herbs. Wild rice even has 6 ½ grams of protein per cup, according to the USDA. When combined with all the other fruits and vegetables you have grain salad that looks good, tastes good, and is good for you!
What I love most about wild rice, though, is the subtle nutty flavor and the springy texture. As the rice cools it soaks up all the delicious lemony garlic flavor from the dressing. Plus, it's served at room temperature, which makes it an easy salad to bring to office parties, holiday gatherings, or to your neighbor who just had a baby!
Grain salads, be it a wild rice salad like this one, barley, farro, or freekeh, provide body and heft and add a delicious layer of texture and flavor to traditional vegetable salads. If you're new to the idea let this salad be your entrance into a whole new world of flavor makers!
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Wild Rice Salad
This wild rice salad recipe uses mostly pantry ingredients, many of which you likely have on hand. Here’s what you need:
For the Dressing
- Lemon juice: Acidity balances the sweet and savory flavors. Fresh is best!
- Honey: Use a high quality honey that’s not overly rich, like our delicate Greek Alfa honey.
- Seasonings: Garlic powder adds a savory layer and sumac adds a tart burst of flavor—you can read all about this essential Mediterranean spice in our guide, "What is Sumac?" and stock up at our shop. Salt and pepper enhance the flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Because the rice soaks in the dressing as it cools, a delicious olive oil is essential. Any of the oils from our shop would work well, but I especially like a rich, full flavor oil that tastes very fresh, like our Greek Early Harvest.
For the Wild Rice Salad
- Wild rice: Has a distinct nutty flavor and a chewy texture, and rich, earthy taste. If you want to substitute here, you’ll need something with a similar bite to it when cooked. Standard rice will be too mushy, but you could try farro, freekeh (keep in mind the flavor will be very smoky), pearled barley, or even a small pasta like pearl couscous or orzo.
- Spinach: Adds a nice freshness and ups the nutrition. You can substitute with other tender salad greens, like arugula or stemmed, thinly shredded, and massaged kale.
- Apples: Use the best crisp semi-sweet and tart apples at your store—I used a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.
- Shallot: Add an oniony flavor without overpowering. You can substitute with thinly sliced green onion or ½ of a small red onion.
- Pomegranate seeds: Add a nice crunch and big, juicy bursts of tart flavor. You can buy the tubs of seeds at the store, but a fresh pomegranate will be less expensive and with a better flavor. Check out how to cut a pomegranate to learn how to get those stubborn seeds out, and never buy an overpriced tub again!
- Walnuts: Add crunch and a nice buttery, toasty flavor. Feel free to leave these off if you avoid nuts, or substitute with almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, or pistachios—really any nut you prefer will work here.
- Dried cranberries: Add sweet and tart flavor and a nice chewy texture. You can substitute with other dried fruits, like chopped dried apricots, figs, or currants.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley and mint bring the wow-factor with their refreshing flavor. You can substitute with other tender green herbs if you prefer, like basil or dill.
How to Make Wild Rice Salad
Wild rice salad is easy to make, you just need to give yourself enough time to cook the rice and allow everything to cool. The rice absorbs the dressing as it comes to room temperature, making the flavors that much more vibrant. Here’s how you make it:
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey. Add ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sumac, and a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk continuously as you drizzle in ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
- Cook the wild rice. Cook 1 ½ cups of wild rice according to the package instructions (mine took about 40 minutes).
- Prep the fruits and vegetables. While the rice cooks, chop 2 apples and 2 shallots. Remove the seeds of 1 pomegranate (see our tips). Roughly chop enough walnuts to yield 1 cup, and enough parsley and mint leaves to yield ½ cup each.
- Mix the salad. Transfer the cooked rice to a large serving bowl. When it has cooled just slightly (but not completely), add the apples, shallots, walnuts, parsley, mint and 1 cup of the pomegranate seeds. Add ¾ cup dried cranberries and 2 cups spinach.
- Dress and rest. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking, then set aside to cool completely before serving.
What to Serve with Wild Rice Salad
You can make a big batch of this wild rice salad to meal prep lunches for the week. It’s filling enough on its own, but you can always add a boiled egg or chicken to increase the protein if you’d like.
This salad keeps well so it’s also great for getting ahead of a dinner party. And it covers the grain and salad in one easy dish! The pomegranate seeds give it a festive feeling that’s perfect for holiday parties. Serve as a side to roast meats like baked cranberry chicken or leg of lamb.
Sides and Small Plates
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Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Pomegranate, Cranberries, and Walnuts
For the Dressing
For the Salad
- 1 ½ cups wild rice
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 crisp semi-sweet apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and honeycrisp), chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds (from about 1 small pomegranate)
- 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped parsley leaves
- ½ cup chopped mint leaves
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and honey. Add the garlic powder, sumac, and a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk continuously as you drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
- Cook the wild rice. Cook the rice according to the package instructions (mine took about 40 minutes). Transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Mix the salad. When the rice has cooled just slightly (but not completely), add the spinach, apples, shallots, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, dried cranberries, parsley, and mint.
- Dress and rest. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking, then set aside to cool completely before serving, and serve at room temperature.
- Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Dress the salad while the rice is still warm, as warm rice will do a better job of soaking in the flavorful dressing.
- I used water, but you can use low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth to cook the rice if you’d like. Just be sure to cook it until it’s tender but not mushy. It should still have some resistance when you chew it, but no crunchy or chalky center.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.