Nutty, chewy wild rice shines in this hearty, flavourful wild rice salad featuring butternut squash, pomegranate, kale and citrus vinaigrette.

A bowl of colourful wild rice salad topped with pomegranate arils and pumpkin seeds.

About this Salad

This beautiful wild rice salad features winter favourites like butternut squash, kale and pomegranate.

You’ll love the tangy pomegranate with crunchy nuts, roasted squash and zesty orange vinaigrette for plenty of flavour and texture in every bite.

It’s easy to make and wonderful as an everyday recipe or for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, pairing well with other sides like golden beets, stuffing or sautéed green beans.

For plant-based main dishes, it pairs well with chickpea meatloaf, veggie pot pie or shepherd’s pie.

The salad is versatile and easy to customize too, from apple to feta, pecans to almonds, dried cranberries to apricots, you can mix and match to make this salad your own.

It’s also easy to throw together and you can prepare the dressing and rice ahead of time to make the final prep nice and quick.

Quick Highlights

  • Vegan and gluten-free.
  • Beautiful winter salad.
  • Perfect side dish for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
  • Good for potlucks & parties.
  • Easy to make.
  • Hearty enough for a meal.
  • Stores well (make in advance).
  • Versatile.

Ingredient Notes

All the ingredients gathered for making a wild rice salad with kale, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, wild rice and butternut squash.

Please note the full ingredient list is located in the recipe card below. This section covers some notes on specific ingredients and possible substitutions.

Salad Ingredients

  • Wild Rice: Use your choice of wild rice. You can substitute brown rice or a wild rice and brown rice blend.
  • Butternut Squash: You can substitute any variety of winter squash but butternut squash is perfect here.
  • Oil: You can use any oil for roasting the butternut squash.
  • Cumin & Cinnamon: These are used for roasting the butternut squash and are perfect for enhancing it’s natural flavours
  • Kale: You can use any variety of kale but I like Tuscan (dinosaur) kale because it’s a bit more tender and mild than other varieties. Black or curly kale would be good too. You can substitute baby spinach or arugula.
  • Green Onion (Scallions): Green onion is milder than other varieties of onion but for more punch, you can use red onion or shallot.
  • Parsley: Use fresh parsley.
  • Pomegranate: Perfect for their sweet, tart flavour and crunch. You can substitute cranberries or raisins, or even chopped dried cherries or apricots.
  • Pistachios or Pumpkin Seeds: Use shelled chopped pistachios, toasted pumpkin seeds or substitute walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pecans.

Dressing Ingredients

  • Orange: You’ll need the juice and zest from a fresh orange to make the dressing.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is nice for the dressing but you could also use white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar.
  • Maple Syrup: You can substitute agave syrup or honey.
  • Dijon Mustard: Any dijon mustard or grainy mustard works well.
  • Oil: A good quality extra virgin olive oil is best for the dressing.
Overhead view of a bowl of wild rice salad with kale, pomegranate, squash, parsley, green onion and pumpkin seeds. A spoon rests in the bowl and the bowl is sitting on a dishtowel..

Step-by-Step Instructions

Cook the Wild Rice

The first step is to get the wild rice cooking. You can do this on the stovetop or in and Instant Pot or rice cooker.

Cover the wild rice with water in a large pot and add about 1/2 tsp salt. Bring it to a boil then cover and reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 40-50 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain it well, shaking off any excess water.

I suggest spreading the rice out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe but this step is not required.

Roast the Squash

While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 425 F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional) and prepare the squash for roasting.

Cut the top and bottom off, peel then cut it in half so you have the top and bottom half. Cut each of those in half in lengthwise so you now have 4 portions. Scoop the seeds and pulp out of the bottom pieces, then dice it all up.

Cubed butternut squash in a pile on a cutting board with a knife beside it.

Spread the squash on the baking sheet and toss with the oil, cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast it for 20-25 minutes until the pieces are tender and golden.

Cubes of butternut squash tossed in spices on a baking sheet.

Make the Dressing

To make the orange dressing, add everything to the bowl you plan to mix the salad in and whisk until it’s fully combined.

An orange vinaigrette mixed up in a large bowl.

Mix the Salad

Add the cooked rice, squash, green onion, kale, parsley and half of the pomegranate arils to the mixing bowl with the dressing and mix it all up.

Reserve the extra pomegranate arils and pistachios for serving on top (you can also just mix these in, totally fine!).

Quick Tip: To remove the arils from the pomegranate, cut it in half so you have the top and bottom pieces. Hold each half over a bowl and hit the sides with a wooden spoon. Keep tapping around the edges and top until all of the arils fall out.

A wild rice, kale and squash salad mixed in a large mixing bowl.

Serve

Serve right away as a main dish or side salad, topped with the remaining pomegranate and pistachio or pumpkin seeds.

Overhead view of a holiday-inspired wild rice salad with pomegranate arils, pumpkin seeds, kale and cubes of roasted butternut squash in a bowl.

If you’re serving at a holiday meal, it pairs well with other sides like golden beets, stuffing, broccoli apple salad or sautéed green beans.

To serve with a main dish, try it with chickpea meatloaf, veggie pot pie or shepherd’s pie. It also goes well with soups like lemon chickpea orzo soup or lemon lentil soup.

For an everyday dish, it’s hearty enough to make a meal on its own or can be paired with your choice of protein like marinated tempeh or any entree.

A bowl of wild rice salad with pomegranate arils, squash, kale, pumpkin seeds and green onion.

Variations & Additions

  • Crunchy celery makes a nice addition. Add up to 1/2 cup thinly sliced.
  • Nuts: Use pistachios, slivered almonds, toasted cashews, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds. Toast them for extra flavour if you like!
  • Try halved grapes or diced apple instead of or in addition to the pomegranate.
  • It’s still yummy without the butternut squash if you want to make a simpler wild rice salad.
  • Add feta. Try crumbled regular, store-bought vegan feta or tofu feta.
  • For alternative dressings, try maple dijon tahini dressing or balsamic dressing.

Notes & Tips

  1. Extra parsley? Make this simple chickpea salad or chickpea tabouleh salad.
  2. Extra wild rice? Add it to a soup like this cauliflower wild rice soup or make this stuffed butternut squash recipe.
  3. Extra kale? Make this sweet potato kale salad, Tuscan kale salad, kale brown rice salad or throw it in a smoothie or soup.
  4. Serve with orange segments on top for a pretty presentation.
Overhead view of a bowl of wild rice salad with kale, pomegranate, squash, parsley, green onion and pumpkin seeds. A spoon rests in the bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use brown rice instead of wild rice?

Sure! You can use any brown rice you like as a substitute for wild rice or you can use a wild rice brown rice blend.

Is this a warm or cold wild rice salad?

It can be either! If you’re serving it right away, enjoy warm, otherwise, chill in the fridge for even better flavours the next day! After storing, it can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave. I like it warmed up bit.

Close up of a wild rice salad with a spoon resting in the bowl and a cube of roasted squash on the spoon.

Storing Instructions

  • Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Enjoy cold or reheat in the microwave until warm.
  • This recipe is not suitable for freezing.
  • The wild rice and dressing can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge for easy prep.
  • The flavours are even better the next day so feel free to make it in advance if serving for Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

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A bowl of colourful wild rice salad topped with pomegranate arils and pumpkin seeds.

Wild Rice Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Description

Featuring roasted butternut squash, pomegranate, kale and orange dressing, this stunning wild rice salad is bursting with flavour and texture. It’s sure to be a hit at your next holiday gathering.


Ingredients

Scale

For the Wild Rice Salad

  • 1 cup wild rice (200 g) 
  • ½ medium butternut squash, cubed (4 cups/600 g)
  • 2 tsp oil (10 mL)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups finely chopped kale (75 g)
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped (20 g)
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded 
  • ¼ cup pistachios or pumpkin seeds (40 g)

For the Dressing

  • 1 orange zested & juiced 
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (30 mL)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (15 g)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard 
  • ⅓ cup olive oil (43 g)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook Wild Rice: Cover the wild rice with water in a large pot and add about 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 40-50 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain well. If you have time though not required, spread the drained rice on a baking sheet to cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe, otherwise drain well and then add to the salad in step 4.
  2. Roast Squash: While the rice cooks, on a parchment-lined baking sheet (optional to line with parchment), toss squash with 2 tsp oil, cumin and cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 min, shaking the pan half way through, until tender and golden. 
  3. Make Dressing: In the bowl you plan to mix the salad in, add the orange juice, 2 tsp orange zest (avoid bitter white pith and use outermost peel only), maple syrup, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine. 
  4. Toss Salad: To the bowl with the dressing, add the cooked wild rice, roasted squash, kale, parsley, green onions and half the pomegranate. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.
  5. Serve: Sprinkle pistachios or pumpkin seeds over top, along with remaining pomegranate and serve.

Notes

Dressing can be made 1-2 days ahead. You can cook rice 1-2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish. Nutrition facts are for 6 servings.

To remove the arils from the pomegranate, cut it in half so you have the top and bottom pieces. Hold each half over a large bowl (there will be some spray from the juices) and hit the sides with a wooden spoon. Keep tapping around the edges and top until all of the arils fall out, squeezing a little to loosen them.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/6th of salad
  • Calories: 331
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 8 g

Keywords: wild rice salad