Bring a delicious but unexpected side dish to your table by making this Thanksgiving Rice packed with veggies, dried fruit, nuts and herbs. Naturally gluten free and can be made vegetarian.
The irony of being a food blogger who makes a VERY small real-life Thanksgiving dinner has always amused me.
But for the holiday, I’m usually cooking for just four adults and one kid. It makes Thanksgiving dinner a very low-stress meal to host, because cooking for five 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 (even after making my leftover mashed potato recipe and cranberry sauce muffins the next day), and food waste bums me out.
So, in real life, I stick to just the basics, which is usually a small Cajun turkey or turkey with maple bourbon glaze, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, cranberry sauce, my husband’s grandmother’s old fashioned Thanksgiving dressing recipe, and green beans or maple glazed Brussels sprouts.
But this blog is where I kind of live out my Thanksgiving FEAST fantasies (and test and eat them in the weeks BEFORE the holiday).
In my dreams, I envision a table loaded with a dozen side dishes, like Thanksgiving salad and roasted acorn squash slices and every other vegetable imaginable. Oh, and Thanksgiving Rice! Let’s talk about this Thanksgiving Rice recipe.
Why should I serve rice for Thanksgiving?
If you or one of your guests follows a gluten free diet, this Thanksgiving rice pilaf would be a good gluten free alternative to my fennel stuffing or another type of bread stuffing. My warm apple lentil salad is another gluten free favorite.
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 rice for Thanksgiving a little bit before dinner and just set it aside in a warm spot until you’re ready to eat.
You could even keep this Thanksgiving wild rice warm in a crockpot set to a WARM or LOW setting (I would do this for an hour or less, because you don’t want the rice to get mushy).
What you’ll need for this Thanksgiving rice recipe:
- rice – we will be using a combination of brown rice and wild rice in this pilaf.
- carrots – these add great aromatic flavor and color to this Thanksgiving rice dish.
- shallots – I seem to always have these on hand for Thanksgiving, and they add a nice mild onion-like note to the rice.
- mushrooms – you don’t need anything fancy, just a box of classic button mushrooms will work.
- pear – I love the subtle sweetness of the pear that balances all of the savory flavors. Buy a few extra pears for a pear strudel for breakfast this weekend!
- dried cranberries – you might already have these on hand for Thanksgiving fruit salad! Dried cherries or even golden raisins are good subs.
- walnuts – these are stirred in at the end to add a bit of crunchy texture.
- broth – I like chicken broth, but you can use vegetable broth to keep this a vegetarian dish. If you need to keep the dish gluten free, be sure to read broth labels and choose a gluten free broth.
- apple juice – this again adds a subtle sweetness to this rice for Thanksgiving, and more autumn flavor!
- herbs – thyme, rosemary, parsley and a bay leaf will provide the herby notes for this recipe.
- butter – you will need unsalted butter to saute the aromatic vegetables and rice before adding the liquid. Also a crucial ingredient in my cranberry curd tart. Save the salted butter for a butter board!
- salt and pepper – always!
This Thanksgiving rice dish is a pilaf.
This rice for Thanksgiving 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).
This Thanksgiving rice recipe 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.
How to make this recipe your own:
- The liquid for this rice for Thanksgiving is a combination of chicken broth and apple juice, for a sweet-savory combo. Apple cider works great, too, and can be used to a make a round of apple cider old fashioneds before dinner. Or, you can use 100% broth. Up to you!
- The pears in this Thanksgiving wild rice 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!
- 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.
- 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 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 pear, cored and diced
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium saucepot, heat broth and juice over medium heat until simmering.
- Meanwhile, heat butter in Dutch oven 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.
- Add brown rice and wild rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, pear, cranberries, salt, pepper and broth mixture.
- 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.
- Remove from oven; remove lid and let stand 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and herb sprigs. Stir in walnuts and parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 380mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 15gProtein: 4g
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.