How to Cook Wild Rice

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Want to add protein, fiber and flavor to your meals? Learn how to cook wild rice—the healthy grain you haven't been using enough.

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When it comes to making dinner, you might switch up your grain routine by subbing in brown rice or quinoa for standard white rice. These alternatives boast more fiber and protein than their white counterpart. But if you’re looking for a grain that really packs a lot of nutrients, you should look a little closer to home: Wild rice is one of the only grains native to North America.

Wild rice is packed with nutrients like fiber and protein and is heart-healthy. Beyond these health benefits, wild rice is delicious and adds great texture and color to recipes. The best part: It’s not hard to make. Learning how to cook wild rice is a breeze (if you can boil water, you can make this rice). We’ll show you how!

What Is Wild Rice?

Wild RiceWestend61/Getty Images

Want to know something surprising? Wild rice isn’t technically rice at all. It’s actually a seed from North American aquatic grasses commonly found in the Great Lakes region. Technicalities aside, wild rice does have a similar shape to white or brown rice and it’s cooked using the same technique.

Wild rice does differ drastically in flavor and appearance compared to other types of rice. The grains are longer and darker. The exterior color of the rice varies depending on where the rice is harvested from, but it’s typically dark brown to almost black. The flavor of wild rice is also distinct; wild rice is almost nutty and retains a slightly chewy texture once cooked.

Outside of the differences in taste, wild rice boasts some unique health benefits. This kind of rice has lots of fiber, protein and antioxidants—much more than traditional white rice.

True Wild Rice vs. Cultivated Wild Rice

When you shop for wild rice, it’s important to know that there are two varieties, the first being real wild rice. This wild rice is harvested from lakes, rivers and creeks where it grows truly wild.

Most grocery stores stock a domesticated version of this rice which is called paddy or cultivated wild rice. This varietal was adapted by the University of Minnesota to grow in paddies where it can be harvested by farmers. It’s not quite the real deal in terms of being “wild” but it’s still tasty and healthy.

How to Make Wild Rice

Wild Black Rice, Shot From Above On A Dark Background With Copy SpacePlateresca/Getty Images

Making wild rice is very simple. If you know how to cook rice on the stovetop at home, wild rice won’t be any trouble at all.

Ingredients and Tools

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • Dash of salt
  • Wild rice: True wild rice harvested from the Great Lakes region is a treat. Native Harvest wild rice is harvested by members of the Ojibwe Nation in northern Minnesota. Wild rice, called manoomin in their native language, is important to the tribe. It’s something they take very seriously—and when you buy from them, you know you’re getting the good stuff.
  • Saucepan: This is essential for making any type of rice. A nonstick version helps with cleanup.
  • Sieve: A mesh strainer is essential for rinsing your rice. You’ll find lots of other uses for this tool in the kitchen too, like sifting flour, straining pasta and more.

Directions

Step 1: Rinse the Rice

Just like with any other type of rice, it’s a good idea to rinse the rice before cooking. Pour a cup of wild rice into a mesh sieve and give it a good rinse. This will rid the rice of any starch that’s lingering on the outside of the grain. This extra starch can make your rice—be it wild or any other kind—gummy once it cooks.

Step 2: Bring to a Boil

After rinsing, add your rice to a saucepan with three cups of water and a dash of salt. With the pot uncovered, bring this to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat.

Step 3: Simmer

Bring your water down to a simmer and let the rice cook until tender (though it should retain a little crunch). This should take about 30 minutes. If you find it’s still very crunchy, let it simmer a bit longer—up to an additional 15 minutes.

If there’s any remaining water, strain it away. Then fluff the rice with a fork and serve. The finished rice should be chewy and some of the grains should pop open revealing the tender inside.

Editor’s tip: Keep an eye on your rice after the 30-minute mark. You don’t want to overcook the rice. You can tell the rice is overcooked if the seed coating splits and the grains roll up into curlie-cues. It won’t harm you to eat overcooked rice, but it does lose some texture and doesn’t look as appealing.

What Goes with Wild Rice and How to Cook with It

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Wild rice just might be the grain you’re not using often enough in your cooking. With its nutty flavor and hearty texture, it can add personality—not to mention protein, fiber and antioxidants—to plenty of dishes.

  • Soups: Instead of adding rice or noodles to your next batch of soup, consider adding wild rice instead. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also soaks up the broth much more slowly so the rice won’t be soggy. Start with this top-rated chicken and wild rice soup.
  • Salads: Adding grains to salads is nothing new. Next time you’re prepping a salad, sub in wild rice for the quinoa or barley the recipe may call for. It adds flavor and texture like in this peach and arugula salad and lentil salad.
  • Side dishes: Rice sides are a staple at the dinner table. Add a little wild rice to your pilafs for color and texture. You can also add wild rice to your stuffing.
  • Mains: Don’t forget that rice can play a part in your entrees too. Learn how to cook wild rice so you can add it to casseroles or even use it as a stuffing like in this stunning pork loin.
  • Baking: You can even use wild rice in baking! Like adding oats or seeds, wild rice can add texture and protein to bakes like this seeded bread.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.