Holiday Wild Rice Salad
This deconstructed Holiday Wild Rice Salad recipe pairs beautifully with an easy, delicious maple Dijon dressing. It’s hearty and nourishing. You’re going to want this salad all winter long!
I Adore this Loaded Holiday Wild Rice Salad!
The very best salads are loaded salads, don’t you agree?
I adore fresh greens that are piled high with different flavors, colors, and textures. Salads that eat like a meal, leaving me feeling satisfied and nourished. And when they’re extra pretty, like this fresh holiday salad, it makes me extra happy!
This Holiday Wild Rice Salad is all of that. The combination of salad ingredients, paired with an easy-to-make maple Dijon dressing or balsamic vinaigrette, is perfection. You’ll want these items at the ready all winter long!
You can also find this recipe over at The Pioneer Woman – check it out!
Here are the main ingredients I use when making this salad:
- chicken broth – I like to cook wild rice in chicken broth for more flavor.
- wild rice – one of my favorite ingredients ever!
- lemon juice – to sprinkle over the apples, to prevent browning
- fresh greens
- pomegranate seeds – they’re like bright, juicy holiday jewels!
- red grapes
- blue cheese
- roasted, salted pecans
Other Ingredients and Substitutions
When making a deconstructed salad of your own for the holidays, feel free to substitute items that you prefer more. Just aim for a well rounded mixture of textures, colors, and flavors.
- Don’t like pecans? Use pistachios, walnuts, or almonds.
- Pears would be lovely instead of the apples.
- Blue cheese can be pretty controversial. I totally get it. This stinky, veiny cheese is not for everyone. But I think it’s the perfect choice for this salad. Otherwise…goat cheese or thick shreds of Parmesan would be a nice substitute.
- Swap out the dressing for this balsamic vinaigrette.
- Thin sliced prosciutto or chopped ham would be a good substitute for the bacon.
- I oftentimes add thinly sliced red onion.
- Dried cranberries would be nice.
- Chopped avocado would add a lovely creamy texture.
- And a good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper is always welcome!
It’s ALL good!!
What IS Wild Rice, Anyway?
You already know how much I looooove wild rice, as I’ve featured this ingredient quite a number of times. From Turkey Wild Rice Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (so pretty for the holidays!) to my Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup that’s been a longtime family favorite, I love it all!
But I do realize that many people don’t know what wild rice is, or they’ve never tried it.
While it does grow in several parts of the US, wild rice is very much a Minnesota thing. You’ll find it grown in the northern part of our state.
It’s called “rice”, but wild rice isn’t a true rice. It’s actually an aquatic grass with an edible grain. The grain is longer and has a dark, rigid outer sheath. When cooked, the exterior “pops” open to reveal a tender inner grain that has a chewy, satisfying texture.
Its flavor is nutty and earthy, and plays well with salads, side dishes, and soups.
Tips for the Best Holiday Wild Rice Salad
I’ve covered all the bases here in this deconstructed salad. There’s a beautiful mix of earthy, chewy, nutty, salty, crunchy, tart, bright, fresh, and creamy.
And while there is a bit of prep involved, none of it is difficult. Plus, much can be prepared ahead of time. Here are my best tips!
- Incorporate fresh, sturdy greens – I recommend greens that are on the sturdier side, such as peppery arugula, baby kale, or spinach. These will stand up better in a deconstructed salad like this, for a longer amount of time. Sometimes I serve each ingredient in their own separate bowl – in which case, I often combine a sturdy green with a mixture of baby greens. This lends even more flavor and texture.
- Use a good quality bacon – When bacon is such a prominent ingredient in a recipe, such as this salad, I like to splurge on really good bacon. Our local butcher has an awesome double-smoked variety that I request be cut extra thick. :)
- Include good quality blue cheese – I hope you know what I mean here. Some of those prepackaged crumbles are really quite bland and lacking in texture. Pick up a little wedge of creamy, pungent blue cheese and crumble it yourself with a fork. It takes hardly any time and adds so much to a showy recipe like this!
Maple Dijon Dressing is the Perfect Match
And finally, I have an incredible dressing to share with you that marries everything together for this bountiful salad platter. They are the perfect match!
The main flavors are equal parts Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and red wine vinegar. And some fresh shallots and a touch of curry round it out. It’s so delicious that we usually double the recipe to ensure we have leftovers.
Another great option is my balsamic vinaigrette. You truly can’t go wrong either way!
Like this salad recipe? Save it to Pinterest!
for the salad:
- 4 c. low sodium chicken broth
- 1 c. whole (not cracked) wild rice
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 lb. good-quality, thick-cut bacon
- 2 large crisp apples, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 10 c. fresh greens - I recommend sturdier varieties like arugula, spinach, or baby kale - or a mixture of baby greens with one of these sturdy greens
- fresh pomegranate seeds from 1 large pomegranate
- 3 c. halved red grapes
- 1 c. blue cheese crumbles
- 1 c. large-chopped roasted and salted pecans - I recommend the ones from Trader Joe's
for the maple dijon dressing (about 1.5 cups of dressing):
- 3/4 c. vegetable oil
- 1/4 c. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c. pure maple syrup
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. very finely minced fresh shallot
- 1/8 tsp. curry powder
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a large rimmed pan with foil and set a metal cooling rack inside of it. Place bacon on rack, in an even layer. Cook in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until chewy-crisp. Total time will depend on thickness of bacon. Remove bacon from rack to a paper towel lined plate. Once cool, chop into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- While bacon is cooking, heat a medium to large saucepan over high heat. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in wild rice and salt. Turn heat down to low/medium-low, cover, and simmer until wild rice is split open and curled. This should take 50 to 60 minutes. If you see a good amount of wild rice still not split open, simmer a bit longer. Remove from heat and drain any excess liquid. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- While bacon and wild rice are cooking, prepare remaining ingredients. Place apple slices in a bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over them. Toss a few times to coat. This will help them to not brown as quickly.
- For the maple mustard dressing: Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth and emulsified. If you don't have an immersion blender, place all dressing ingredients in a jar or container with a tight fitting lid and shake until emulsified - just know that the dressing will not be as smooth.
- To assemble the salad: Place a layer of greens on the bottom of selected platter. Then arrange the rest of the ingredients as desired. You could also serve this by placing individual ingredients in separate bowls. Serve with maple mustard dressing on the side.
Note: The ingredients possibilities are nearly endless for a salad like this. If you don't like pecans, use pistachios, walnuts, or almonds. Pears would be lovely instead of the apples. Goat cheese would be nice if blue cheese isn't your thing. And prosciutto or chopped ham would be a good substitute for the bacon. For creaminess, add chopped avocado. I oftentimes add thinly sliced red onion and dried cranberries. It's ALL good!!
Another great dressing option is to pair this salad with my balsamic vinaigrette.
from a farmgirl's dabbles
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 681Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 29gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 1646mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 14gSugar: 28gProtein: 25g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
This post was originally published in 2018, and then updated in 2020.