It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and I can’t think of a better side for Thanksgiving dinner than wild rice, which is native to Canada! This wild rice blend is so easy, just let the Instant Pot do the work while you finish cooking the rest of dinner. The flavours are comforting and delicious, making it a perfect accompaniment to all your Fall Meals from around the world, like Frijoles de la Olla or Afghan Eggplant Casserole. This recipe is not only vegan and dairy-free, it’s also gluten-free, and it uses just a few simple ingredients.
History & Origins
Kevin and I went on a cross-Canada road trip this summer which included a stop in Winnipeg. While there, I grabbed takeout from a delicious eatery called Feast Cafe Bistro. I ordered their vegan bannock burger (which I will write about in a later post) which came with a side of wild rice blend. We had started that day from Thunder Bay, which is an 8-hour drive. The hearty bean burger and flavourful wild rice pilaf made the perfect end to a tiring day of driving.
Now I didn’t know this until a few years ago, but wild rice is a traditional Canadian food. And it’s local to the prairies where I grew up! The type of wild rice commonly found around here is native to the northern areas of the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) and the Great Lakes. In fact, although its scientific name is Zizania, it is also known as plain simple “Canadian rice.”
Wild rice was harvested by First Nations in North America dating back to prehistoric times. It’s sacred to many cultures in the area, such as those belonging to the Anishinaabe, who call it manomin. You can find many places across Canada, and even the US, which are named after this important crop.
For Aboriginal people, manoomin is a spiritual gift of the Creator that nourishes their spirits.– Dr. Bonita Lawrence, Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario
In many places in Canada, it’s still harvested the traditional way: since wild rice grows in the water, workers go out by canoe, with one person paddling while the rest of the team tap rice stalks over the boat to dislodge the kernels. The seeds are then cured and parched, turning into the long, dark grains you can then buy from your local grocery.
Wild Rice in the Instant Pot
If you use an Instant Pot to cook your rice, this Instant Pot Rice Calculator is an indispensable tool. It gives you ratios and cook times for eight different types of rice, including wild rice. I used it to help me figure out how much water to use for this recipe.
Because this recipe involves both wild rice and basmati rice, and white basmati rice cooks faster than wild rice, I was worried that the basmati rice was going to overcook. But after 15 minutes pressure and 10 minutes natural release, I was happy to see that the basmati rice hadn’t turned into mush at all. It was tender but still held its shape just fine, while the wild rice was springy and chewy. Such a perfect blend of textures.
I tried to recreate the flavours of the wild rice blend that I enjoyed at Feast Cafe Bistro. Since I don’t live in Winnipeg, I wanted to be able to make my own version any time at home. Luckily, the restaurant lists the ingredients for their wild rice side dish on their catering menu. The components of this dish are nice and uncomplicated, as you’ll see below.
What You’ll Need
For this recipe, we’ll be using a 1:1 ratio of wild rice and basmati rice.
- For the wild rice, you can go with plain wild rice or a wild rice blend. I’ve tried it with Floating Leaf Wild Rice Blend and Floating Leaf Sprouted Crimson Lentils, both purchased from Costco. All of them take the same amount of time to cook.
- I really recommend basmati rice because it’s less starchy, and holds up well against the 15-minute cook time. I haven’t tried other varieties, like jasmine or calrose, but they might get too sticky, which isn’t what you want in a pilaf.
Oil is important for the sautéing step and helps bring out the nuttiness of the rice. Any type of oil works, I usually use canola or vegetable oil. (I tried skipping this for a fat-free version but it just tastes better with some oil. At most, you can cut it down to just one tablespoon instead of two.)
The vegetables in this pilaf make up a typical mirepoix. What is a mirepoix? This culinary term refers to chopped vegetables—usually onion, carrot, and celery—which are slowly sautéed without browning. This releases the natural sweetness and aroma of the vegetables, and the result forms the base of many recipes, including this wild rice blend as well as my Savoury Lentil Soup. For this recipe, you’re going to want to dice the veggies really small, as small as you can get. Feel free to do this in a food processor or food chopper, just don’t go overboard and puree them lol.
- I used yellow onion because it’s what I usually use for mirepoix, and I like the flavour a bit better than red onions or sweet onions. But honestly, an onion is an onion is an onion so use whichever type you got on hand.
- Carrot is an another essential mirepoix ingredient. Feel free to leave the skin on for this recipe if you’re comfortable with that, since it won’t be noticeable in the finished dish.
- Celery completes the mirepoix trifecta.
I love using Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base for flavouring the rice. You can use another bouillon base or even homemade vegetable stock. The sodium content will vary though, so if you aren’t using Better Than Bouillon, then please adjust the saltiness to your taste.
Finally, I used water in this recipe, but feel free to replace with vegetable stock. (Again, adjust for salt based on your preference.)
Step 1: Prep the ingredients. Dice the veggies finely and measure out your rice.
Step 2: Set the Instant Pot to the Sauté function on Normal mode. Once the display reads “Hot” add the vegetable oil, followed by the vegetables.
Step 3: Cook the vegetables until they turn soft and begin to stick to the pot. (Important: don’t let them brown.)
Step 4: Add the rice and sauté for another minute or so. Each rice kernel should be fully coated in oil.
Step 5: Add the Better Than Bouillon and water. Turn off Sauté function.
Step 6: Secure the lid onto the Instant Pot, and switch to the Pressure Cook function (also called Manual on older models). Leave on High Pressure for 15 minutes.
Step 7: Once the Instant Pot turns off, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure. (If you’re new to the Instant Pot, check out this article which explains the difference between natural release and manual or “quick” release.)
Step 8: Let the rice cool for a minute or two, then fluff it by gently turning with a spoon or rice paddle.
Make Ahead & Storage Tips
This recipe is pretty delicious either hot or cold, and it reheats nicely in the microwave. This makes it pretty perfect for meal prep. Keep in the fridge for up four days.
Rice stored beyond four days has risk of developing unsafe levels of bacteria. So if you can’t finish it all within that time, I recommend freezing the rest. Rice can take defrosting pretty well, so don’t worry about freezing it.
This wild rice blend is so versatile! Although I love this recipe as written, you can make little tweaks to it that completely change the flavour profile. Here are a few ideas:
- Caramelized onions: I usually make caramelized onions in huge batches whenever I make French onion soup. If you’re like me and have a ton of extra caramelized onions, adding some to this recipe is a perfect way to use them up. (Not too much, though; you don’t want it to overpower the other flavours.)
- Herbs: Try adding 1/2 to 1 tsp of dried herbs, such as thyme, sage, basil, or Italian seasoning. It’s an easy way to switch up the flavour profile of the base recipe. You can even throw in some ground black pepper to add a little kick.
- Holy trinity: Out of carrots? Cajun cooking uses bell pepper instead of carrot for their version of the mirepoix, called the “holy trinity,” and it works for this recipe too. Swap out the carrot for some bell pepper for a slightly different take on this dish.
- Tomatoes: Why not add a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste or Homemade Tomato Sauce to make a tomato-flavoured rice? You can also try with fresh chopped tomatoes or canned tomatoes, but remember to reduce the water accordingly because they will release lots of liquid during cooking.
If you made this recipe with a flavour variation, make sure to leave a comment to let me know what you did and how it turned out!
What to Serve with Wild Rice Blend
Although I will happily eat an entire bowl of this rice as a meal in its own right, it also shines as a side dish. It’s a great side to Thanksgiving dinner, or even as part of the stuffing. If you’re looking for another easy entrée to serve this with, here are some good ones:
- Savoury Lentil Soup uses the same combination of onions, carrots, and celery that you’ll already have on hand for this recipe.
- Fresh fiddleheads are only available in the spring, but next time you get your hands on some, make these Lemony Sautéed Fiddleheads for the ultimate Canadiana-themed meal.
- Borani Banjan is an Afghan eggplant recipe that is usually eaten with flatbread or basmati rice, and I like wild rice blend with it too.
Did you make this recipe? Please consider leaving a rating and comment below to let me know how it went!
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Instant Pot Wild Rice Blend
- Instant Pot 6qt or 8qt model
- 1 cup wild rice see Note 1
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery
- 2 tbsp Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base
- 3½ cups water
- Prep the ingredients: dice the veggies finely and measure out the rice.
- Set the Instant Pot to Sauté function on Normal mode. When the display reads "Hot" add the vegetable oil, followed by the vegetables.
- Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables turn soft and begin to stick to the pot. (Don’t let them brown.)
- Add the rice and sauté for another minute or so. Each rice kernel should be fully coated in oil.
- Add the Better Than Bouillon and water. Turn off Sauté function.
- Secure the lid onto the Instant Pot, and switch to the Pressure Cook function (Manual on older models). Leave on High Pressure for 15 minutes.
- Once the Instant Pot turns off, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure.
- Gently fluff the rice with a spoon or rice paddle.
- You can use pure wild rice, or a wild rice blend with other different grains. They all take the same length of time to cook.