This simple to make wild rice kale salad made with the flavors of fall is the only salad you need this fall. It is loaded with so much goodness and all of it in season! It's perfect for Thanksgiving or any time you are craving a hearty fall salad.
Crisp, tart apples, earthy wild rice, tender kale leaves, and crunchy pecans bring so much flavor to this fall salad! It's the perfect side dish for meals or you can add a protein to turn it into a main meal!
I love to serve this Thanksgiving salad up for the holidays! It's always a hit and appeals to lots of different types of eaters.
Why You Will Love Kale Wild Rice Salad
- An easy holiday salad you can make ahead!
- Great flavor and texture combining lots of crunch, sweet, tart and earthy flavors.
- A healthy rice salad recipe everyone will love!
What is Wild Rice?
It is one of only two native grains grown here in the US. Its flavor is a bit nutty with a chewy texture quite different from white and brown rice.
Whatever it is, and whatever you call it, I love it! It is easily accessible in most major grocery stores.
Not sure what else you can make using this ingredient? I love using it to make simple rice pilaf dishes and this wild rice casserole.
This easy wild rice salad recipe focuses on using fall ingredients though likely you can find many of them year round making it accessible any time of year!
- Apples: I used gala apples, which are a favorite in our house. If you prefer another variety, go for it. My only recommendation is to choose apples with a crisp texture for the best flavor! But it's up to you because there are so many good varieties of apples you can use! If you want to swap out the apples, pears would make a great substitute!
- Wild rice: Look for this rice in the aisle with white rice. Be sure to give it a good rinse before cooking it!
- Kale: Curly kale is truly the best to eat raw in salads. You can also use baby field greens, spinach, or arugula.
- Pepitas: These are toasted pumpkin seeds. You can buy them already toasted or use raw pumpkin seeds you toast yourself.
- Pecans: Pecan halves look more striking in the salad but you can also opt for pieces. If you don't have pecans, walnuts would also go great!
- Pomegranate arils: Find these fresh in most grocery stores in the fall and early winter months. You can also save time by buying pomegranate seeds already prepped in the produce section. If they aren't an option, dried cranberries have a similar sweet, tart flavor though they are missing the crunch.
How to Make Kale and Wild Rice Salad
Let's look at the main steps that go into making this wild rice salad recipe along with some helpful tips. The detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the end of the page.
- The first step in this salad is cooking the wild rice. Start by bringing your lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rinsed rice, cover, and turn to low heat. Allow this to cook for about 35-45 minutes. You will want most of the grains split. Take off the lid and allow it to cool.
TOP TIP: Plan ahead a bit for this recipe! Wild rice takes time to cook -- sometimes as much as an hour!! Also, it needs a bit of time to cool down before assembling the salad. cool a bit.
- While the wild rice is cooling, let’s start prepping everything else. Cut the apples into bite-sized pieces. Prep the pomegranate arils if needed and gather everything else together.
- Clean and wash the kale leaves. Start by removing your kale from the stem. It can be cut off, or use your thumb and index finger to slide along the stem, and the kale leaves will come right off. Then cut it into bite-sized pieces.
- Massage the kale. Place the prepped kale in a bowl and drizzle with a touch of olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Gently massage into the kale for 30 seconds or so. It won’t take long.
TOP TIP: Is massaging the kale worth it? The only way I like kale is when it is massaged. It is so much better, to me anyway, massaged as opposed to right off the stem! It tenderizes the kale and cuts down the bitterness.
- Now it is time to put it all together! Everything should be ready to go at this point. Place the massaged kale, wild rice, apples, toasted pecans, pomegranate arils, celery, and pepitas into a big bowl and toss it.
- Add your favorite dressing and mix again! My favorite dressing to use on this salad is my creamy apple cider vinaigrette.
How to Make Cold Wild Rice Salad Ahead
This fall salad recipe is great to make ahead of time whether for the holidays or your weekly meal prep. Here's some tips to keep in mind.
- Wild rice: Cook in advance and store in the refrigerator up to three days in advance.
- Kale: Wash and prep the kale in advance but wait to massage it you're ready to serve.
- Apples: To slow down the browning of fresh apples, soak your apple chunks in diluted lemon water. I like to use four cups of water to two tablespoons of lemon juice. Let it soak for about 3-5 minutes.
- Dressing: Don’t add in the dressing until until right before you plan on serving, then add and toss. If you add it too early, it gets soggy and the flavor isn’t as good!
How to Serve with Wild Rice Salad
How about some carb options to go with that salad? Yeah, I have a few to suggest!!
- How about a Parker House Roll? These are new to the blog and really popular.
- Or even these Garlic and Herb Rolls. I feel like they go well with just about everything!
- Maybe you want something quicker to make. Then check out Sundried Tomato and Olive Scones.
- Are you looking for a sandwich to go with that salad? This BLAT is such a good sandwich and everyone loves it!!
- Not sure what dressing to serve? My favorites are Balsamic Poppy Seed, Creamy Apple Cider Dressing, and Easy Red Wine Vinaigrette.
- Add on a protein for a main meal! Keep it vegetarian with some chickpeas or lentils! Or you can add this Citrus Salmon or grilled chicken.
- Don't overcook the wild rice. You want it to retain a bit of the chewiness.
- Massaging the kale makes it more tender, so don't skip it!
- Wild rice can be a bit more expensive than other varieties. For a more budget-friendly option, swap half of the wild rice for brown rice.
- Add the dressing right before serving!
What happens if you don't massage your kale?
Massaging the kale helps to make the leaves more tender and the flavor milder. If you skip it, the kale will have a much tougher texture and more bitter flavor than if it's massaged.
How long does it take to cook wild rice?
Generally, it takes about 30-45 months to cook perfectly though it may take up to an hour in some instances.
Wild Rice Kale Salad with Pecans and Apples
- Heat water to boiling in a medium pan. Once it is boiling, add the salt and wild rice. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook for about 40 minutes. You will know when it is done as most of the grains will pop open.
- Remove the lid and allow to cool.
- I like to massage my kale. If you don't care, skip this step. If you are, drizzle the kale with a touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The massage for a minute or 2.
- Combine all your ingredients and mix well to blend it all.
- Drizzle with your favorite dressing.
- Now, sit back and enjoy. You deserve it!!
- This salad is also great for meal prep. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. If you are storing it, don't add the dressing until you are ready to use it though, otherwise you wind up with soggy salad!!