This wild rice with roasted chestnuts and cranberries is a healthy Thanksgiving side dish that also happens to be gluten-free. Made with dried fruits and chestnuts, it’s ideal for holiday entertaining as it can be made in advance.
This wild rice with roasted chestnuts and cranberries recipe does triple duty at any holiday meal, providing something healthy and gluten-free and make-ahead. Make that quadruple duty seeing as it’s also immensely satisfying.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Wild Rice, Roasted Chestnuts, and Cranberries
- Quick Glance
- 1 H, 15 M
- 3 H
- Serves 8
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
*How To Substitute Peeled Chestnuts
If you prefer not to roast your own chestnuts, you can buy peeled chestnuts in vacuum-sealed packages, cans, or jars at specialty foods stores. If they’re packed in liquid, drain it off. Prepared chestnuts are usually boiled rather than roasted, resulting in some flavor loss. To improve their flavor before using, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and roast them in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 12 to 14 minutes.
Recipe Testers Reviews
The combination of wild rice and chestnuts is so very good, it guarantees this dish will be a winner. Add in some herbs and dried fruit and it's downright festive. The fact that you can make it ahead and and bake it the next day makes this pilaf a clear winner for holiday entertaining. Note that you'll need at least 12 ounces of wild rice to get 2 cups of uncooked rice, so if your rice comes in small boxes or packets of 6 or 8 ounces, you'll need to buy two. You'll also want to buy and prep extra chestnuts, as there will usually be some bad ones that you'll have to discard.
The longest cook time is the rice. It will take about 10 minutes to come to boil, and then needs to simmer for 40 minutes, so it makes sense to start the rice first. You can then prep and roast the chestnuts while the rice is cooking. The dried fruit needs to soak for the same amount of time as the chestnuts roast, so do them simultaneously and they're ready when the oven time goes off. The vegetables can be prepped and sautéed in the 20 minutes that the chestnuts are roasting and fruit is soaking. Then the dish become a matter of assembly, and you can bake right away or the next day.
My wild rice was not fully tender after 40 minutes of simmering, and as the recipe warns, the liquid was not absorbed, so you will need to drain it. The rice did become fully puffed and tender during the baking phase, and the finished dish was perfect. I would call this 8 servings if there are a lot of other dishes.
This is a festive holiday side dish alternative to bread stuffing or dressing that looks beautiful on the table and on the plate. The nuttiness of the slightly chewy wild rice and sweetness of the fruit go together well, and then there is the crumbly sweetness of the chestnuts as well.
Preparing the chestnuts and cooking the wild rice is labor- and time-intensive, respectively, but if not at the holidays, when? (Actually, this combination would be good at pretty much any time one wants to expend the money and effort, using frozen raw or jarred pre-cooked chestnuts when the fresh ones are not seasonally available.)
It requires careful work and a very sharp paring knife to make the “x" on the flat sides of the chestnuts, and the bigger the “x” the easier I have found it to peel the chestnuts when they are out of the oven and cooled just enough to handle. I did not have to return any stubborn ones to the oven but did have several that were bad.
I used reduced-sugar Craisins. This was served alongside breaded pork chops, cranberry sauce, and cauliflower with cheese sauce. Everything looked beautiful together on the plate.
This wild rice with roasted chestnuts is definitely better the next day after the herb flavors have a chance to settle into the dish. The rice initially tasted a bit bland and I found myself wanting more flavor. I think adding some shallots or garlic would help give the recipe some more depth of flavor.
Peeling the chestnuts is definitely the most labor intensive part of this recipe.