Wild Rice and Quinoa Pilaf with Pecans and Pomegranate Seeds

rice pilaf

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole. Most people will say that Thanksgiving isn't a holiday without these traditional dishes, but that doesn't have to be the case. Although they are classics, it doesn't mean they can't be reinterpreted, reimagined, or replaced with an equally interesting seasonal side dish. When vegetarians are around, it's also courteous to keep them in mind when planning the menu.

Rice rarely gets attention on Thanksgiving. Some people make it just in case it's requested, but most often it's ignored altogether. Rice pilaf is actually a very appropriate dish to serve at Thanksgiving. This recipe, made with wild rice and quinoa, is perfect for the holiday. It's altogether symbolic of the season and is studded with toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds. It's a good side kick or even alternative to classic dishes, such as stuffing.

wild rice

Wild rice is very American. It was and still is cultivated by Native Americans. But it's actually not a rice but a seed of a grass that grows in marshy areas and it can only be collected by boat. Pecans are a specialty of the South, where pecan trees are everywhere. So what could be more American than this dish? The addition of quinoa, a South American grain, adds protein and texture to the dish. Gladly serve it to the vegetarians in your family.


Pomegranate seeds add beautiful gem-like color and bursts of sweetness to this pilaf. Even though the fruit is native to the Middle East (and therefore breaks the American theme of this dish), it still makes a nice addition. You could also substitute dried cranberries or raisins to add that requisite sweetness. Try this recipe on Thursday and you might just want to make it a new family classic.

Wild Rice and Quinoa Pilaf with Pecans and Pomegranate Seeds

Note: Make sure to rinse the wild rice and quinoa, separately, under water before cooking.

1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup quinoa
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
freshly ground black pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add wild rice and a large pinch of salt. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain.

In another saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to the boil. Add quinoa and a large pinch of salt. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the water is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Warm oil in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Off from the heat, add wild rice and quinoa; stir to combine. If too dry, drizzle with additional olive oil. Stir in pecans, pomegranate seeds, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Turn out into a serving bowl and garnish with additional pomegranate seeds and parsley. Serve warm or cold. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.