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Try something different and make Wild Rice Stuffing this holiday season, my new favorite for an alternative to the usual bread stuffing! This savory side dish is flavored with pork sausage, studded with apples, dried cranberries, and crunchy pecans for texture. And it’s naturally gluten-free!
Easy Wild Rice Stuffing Recipe
Filling wild rice stuffing is a gluten-free spin-off of traditional sausage and sage stuffing, with wild rice standing in for the bread. A savory mix of onions and celery forms a flavorful base that’s lightened up with chunks of fresh apples and sweet-tart dried cranberries. The stuffing is finished with pecans and a swirl of balsamic vinegar for a hint of smokiness. It’s a fantastic side dish to all sorts of roasted meats including, of course, turkey!
Why You’ll Love This Wild Rice Stuffing with Pork
I love all of the Thanksgiving sides, and this wild rice stuffing recipe has become a new favorite. But you don’t have to save it just for the holidays – it’s great as a weeknight side dish too. Here’s why you’ll love this stuffing recipe:
- Naturally gluten-free. I don’t mind buying a box of gluten-free stuffing at the store if I’m in a rush. But everything always tastes better when it’s homemade! All of the ingredients in this wild rice stuffing recipe are gluten-free, so skip the box and make it yourself.
- Easy to adapt. I love hearty stuffing, and this recipe doesn’t disappoint. However, if you feel like omitting the sausage, it’s easy to adapt this stuffing to be vegetarian.
- Packed with flavor. There are so many amazing flavors going on in this dish from the sauteed onions to the slow-cooked apples to the earthy sage. This is a stuffing that you’d never call boring.
- Keeps well. If you need to make a few dishes in advance of the holiday meal, this stuffing recipe is a sure thing. It will keep well in the fridge and reheats beautifully, so go ahead and make it a day or two in advance to save yourself some time.
What You’ll Need
A few grocery store ingredients are all you’ll need for this hearty stuffing. Here’s a quick overview of everything included in this recipe. The full ingredient amounts are shown in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Wild Rice Blend: See my notes further down about what kind of wild rice blend to use in this recipe.
- Chicken Broth: You can also use vegetable broth or water.
- Olive Oil: I use extra virgin olive oil in my recipes.
- Pork Sausage: Pork sausage makes this into a hearty dish
- Apple: Choose a firm cooking apple like Granny Smith.
- Onion: Onion gives the stuffing a wonderfully savory undertone.
- Celery: Celery combines with the onion to create the flavorful base of the stuffing.
- Thyme: I used dried thyme in this stuffing recipe.
- Salt and Pepper
- Pecans: Pecans make the stuffing nice and crunchy. You could substitute chopped walnuts if you prefer.
- Dried Cranberries: I like to include dried cranberries in stuffing for a seasonal touch and a hint of tart sweetness. I have also used quartered dried apricots.
- Sage: Fresh sage gives the stuffing a lovely earthy note.
- Balsamic Vinegar: A little bit of balsamic vinegar is used to finish the stuffing.
- Sage or Parsley: Optional, for garnish.
Wild Rice vs Regular Rice
Wild rice is distinguished from regular white or brown rice by its appearance and texture. The long, black grains and chewy, slightly firm texture as well as its nutty taste make wild rice stand out from other types of rice. It also takes longer to cook than regular rice. Technically an aquatic grass with an edible grain, wild rice is native to North America.
How to Make Wild Rice Stuffing
You can follow along with my steps for making wild rice stuffing below. I’ve given two cooking options – one has you serve the stuffing straight from the skillet while the other has you bake it in the oven after cooking it on the stove. Be sure to check the recipe card below for the detailed instructions.
- Recipe preparations. If you wish to bake the stuffing, preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat a 1 1⁄2-2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook the rice. Cook rice according to package directions, replacing the water with broth.
- Cook the aromatics. Saute the sausage, apple, onion, and celery with the thyme and salt and pepper in a skillet until the apple and onion are tender.
- Add remaining ingredients. Stir in the pecans, cranberries, and sage, and cook for another few minutes.Remove from the heat.
- Combine with rice. Add the cooked rice and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.
- Serve or bake. You can serve the stuffing now, or place it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Tips & Variations
Play around with a few of my variation options and follow my tips below to help you make the best wild rice stuffing:
- Make it vegetarian. You can easily make this stuffing vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and omitting the pork sausage. You can either leave out the sausage or substitute a vegetarian sausage you like.
- Try different meat. If you don’t want to use pork sausage, you can use chicken sausage. You could also try chopped bacon or diced ham in place of the sausage.
- You have several serving options: The stuffing can be served hot and straight from the pan or you can bake it in the oven after you cook it on the stove. This will make it golden and slightly crisp on top.
- Prepare the stuffing in advance. Put together the stuffing a day or two in advance of when you want to serve it. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. Then, add a splash of chicken broth, place it in a baking pan, and warm it in the oven.
- Note that cooking time will vary depending on your wild rice. Cooking time varies by the brand and style of your wild rice blend. Some are quick-cooking, and only take about 15 minutes. Others are not parboiled and will need a full 45 minutes. Either type can be used in this recipe but will affect the overall cooking time. I have used Rice Select Royal Blend, which is a quick-cooking variety, and Lundberg Wild Rice Blend, which is a long-cooking variety. Both types work well in this wild rice stuffing recipe so it’s up to you what you choose.
Make It A Meal
Wild rice stuffing is a great side gluten-free dish to all sorts of meat main dishes including holiday turkey! Here are a few other suggestions for how to round out this recipe into a full meal:
- Serve wild rice stuffing for Thanksgiving. This stuffing recipe is a wonderful gluten-free stuffing choice for your Thanksgiving turkey. And, it’s homemade! My Herb Roast Turkey makes the best Thanksgiving turkey, and it will go perfectly with wild rice stuffing.
- Add other vegetable sides. Serve stuffing with classic Thanksgiving sides like Maple Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole, Honey Roasted Carrots, and more.
- With roasted meats. Serve this wild rice stuffing with other roasted meats like Rosemary Balsamic Roast Chicken or Bottom Round Roast for a change from potatoes.
- Alongside a salad. Try a salad with stuffing for a lighter meal. My Roasted Asparagus Salad or Easy Greek Salad are nice, vegetable-packed choices.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Fridge. Store leftover wild rice stuffing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezer. Spoon cooled rice into an airtight, freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating as outlined below.
- Reheating. To reheat it, add a splash of chicken broth, then place it in an oven-safe dish and warm it on low heat in the oven. Or, you can place the stuffing in a skillet and reheat it on the stove over medium-low heat until heated through.
Wild Rice Stuffing
- 1 ½ cups wild rice blend , rinsed
- 2 ¼ cups chicken broth , or enough to replace water per the package directions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound bulk pork sausage
- 1 medium apple , diced
- 1 medium onion , finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery , diced
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage , plus additional for garnish if desired
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Optional fresh sage or parsley , for garnish
- Optional: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat a 1 1⁄2-2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. (see Note)
- Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the wild rice blend, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or according to package directions (see Note) until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, apple, onion, celery, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, breaking up the sausage and stirring frequently until the sausage is cooked through and the apple and onion are tender.
- Stir in the pecans, cranberries, and sage, and cook for another minute or two until the pecans give off a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat.
- Add the cooked rice and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.
- Serve immediately or transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and cover. Bake at 325°F for 20-30 minutes, until heated through. Garnish with additional minced sage or fresh parsley, if desired.
- The stuffing can be served hot straight from the pan or you can bake it in the oven. This will make it golden and slightly crisp on top. This also allows you to prepare it in advance, and then heat it through in the oven before serving. If you have made it a day or two in advance and stored it in the refrigerator, you may want to give it a splash of chicken broth before warming it in the oven. You can also reheat it in a skillet.
- Cooking time varies by the brand and style of your wild rice blend. Some are quick-cooking, and only take about 15 minutes. Others are not parboiled and therefore, will need the full 45 minutes. Either type can be used in this recipe, but will affect the overall cooking time. I have used Rice Select Royal Blend, which is a quick-cooking variety, and Lundberd Wild Rice Blend, which is a long-cooking variety.