Bring a delicious but unexpected side dish to your table by making this Thanksgiving Rice Recipe with Cranberries & Pears. This brown rice and wild rice pilaf is packed with fruit, nuts and herbs for the perfect balance of savory and sweet.

Overhead photo of wild rice and vegetable pilaf in handmade pottery bowl with spoon in it.

I’ve probably mentioned before that my real-life Thanksgiving dinner is actually quite small. My husband and I are both only children, meaning that between us and our parents, our entire immediate family is just six people.

It makes Thanksgiving dinner a very low-stress meal to host, because cooking for six doesn’t require shuffling dozens of pans and casserole dishes into the oven (or multiple ovens, which we don’t have!).

On the the other hand, it also makes it impractical to prepare a HUGE feast – there’d just be way too many leftovers to deal with, and food waste bums me out. No sense in making too much food and having it end up in the trash.

Overhead photo of ingredients for Thanksgiving rice pilaf, including chicken broth, walnuts, rice, cranberries, carrots and herbs.

So, in real life, I stick to just the basics for our party of six – which is usually turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy from scratch, cranberries, stuffing (or some years, even two small dishes of different kinds of stuffing, if i’m feeling wild), rolls and green beans or brussels sprouts.

Sometimes a salad, although it’s honestly not necessary. But this blog is where I kind of live out my Thanksgiving FEAST fantasies.

Here, I get to create and share all of those “other” side dishes that aren’t needed at my small table, but would be perfect for a larger gathering where more options are welcomed.

Enter this Thanksgiving Rice Recipe with Cranberries & Pears.

This Thanksgiving Rice Recipe is a pilaf.

This recipe is a pilaf, although the exact definition of pilaf will vary depending on who you ask. Most commonly, a pilaf is a dish of rice cooked with something else (meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.) for flavor.

And generally, it means rice grains that, when cooked, are separate (rather than sticky and clinging together like sushi rice).

In culinary school, pilaf meant rice cooked with aromatic vegetables and herbs, started on the stove and finished in a covered pot in the oven. And we made a LOT of pilaf at the student-run restaurant we “worked” for at the school.

Why should I serve rice for Thanksgiving?

If you or one of your guests follows a gluten free diet, this rice pilaf would be a good gluten free alternative to old fashioned bread stuffing. Or, if you’re having a big feast, this festive side dish will just add to the deliciousness!

I also personally think that this dish is equally as yummy whether it’s served hot, warm or even at room temperature. That makes it a great take-along dish if you’re traveling to somebody else’s home and bringing a side.

It’s also fine to cook this dish a little bit before dinner and just set aside in a warm spot until you’re ready to eat.

Large serving of a Thanksgiving rice recipe in handmade pottery bowl on wooden tabletop.

About this Thanksgiving Rice Recipe with Cranberries & Pears:

  • The liquid for this pilaf is a combination of chicken broth and apple juice, for a sweet-savory combo. Apple cider works great, too! Or, you can use 100% broth. Up to you!
  • This pilaf is made using the classic technique I learned in culinary school – sautéing aromatics (shallots, carrots, mushrooms) in butter on the stovetop, adding the rice, liquid and other ingredients and bringing to a boil, then covering the pot and transferring to the oven to complete the cooking process.
  • The pears in this recipe almost “melt” into the pilaf, infusing the dish with a sweet fall flavor. If you’d prefer firmer chunks of pear, feel free to stir them in at the end of the cooking time instead (when you stir in the walnuts and parsley).
  • Feel free to substitute based on ingredients you have on hand, and what your family likes best:
    • If you can’t find shallots, 1/2 cup of minced white onion will work perfectly.
    • Don’t like mushrooms? Just leave them out!
    • Want to use an apple instead of a pear? Go for it!
    • Dried cherries or even golden raisins are delicious in place of dried cranberries (and all of these can do double duty in Thanksgiving Fruit Salad as well).
    • Just like with my pear muffins, you can use pretty much whatever nut you want. Instead of walnuts, feel free to use pecans or almonds. Or, omit the nuts altogether.

Psst – if you have extra rosemary (you will!) – try out something new with my lemon and bourbon sour rosemary cocktail.

Overhead photo of wild rice and vegetable pilaf in handmade pottery bowl with spoon in it.

Thanksgiving Rice Recipe with Cranberries & Pears

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Bring a delicious but unexpected side dish to your table by making this Thanksgiving Rice Recipe with Cranberries & Pears. This brown rice and wild rice pilaf is packed with fruit, nuts and herbs for the perfect balance of savory and sweet.


  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 box (8 ounces) button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/4 cups brown rice
  • 3/4 cup wild rice
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pear, diced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium saucepot, heat broth and juice over medium heat until simmering.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter in high-sided saute pan over medium heat. Add carrots and shallots and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; cook 7 to 8 minutes or until mushrooms are browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add brown rice and wild rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, pear, rosemary, cranberries, salt, pepper and broth mixture.
  4. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, then cover and transfer to oven. Bake 50 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
  5. Remove from oven; remove lid and let stand 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and herb sprigs. Stir in walnuts and parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 257Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 376mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 5gSugar: 14gProtein: 5g

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Other delicious Thanksgiving side dishes:

Collage of images of wild rice dish with fruit and nuts with overlay: THANKSGIVING RICE PILAF with cranberries + pears