What is Wild Rice? How to Cook Wild Rice. All About Wild Rice.

Wild rice is a misnomer if ever there was one. It’s not rice, and most of it isn’t wild.

Wild rice’s real, scientific name is Zizania and there are four types.

Palustris, Northern wild rice, is grown in the North American great lakes, or in Minnesota where it’s the state grain; Texana was grown in Texas and now almost extinct due to pollution; and Aquatica, is grown on the Atlantic side of the North American continent.

Latifolia, is grown, increasingly rarely, in China (it’s sometimes known as Manchurian rice) where the grains aren’t used, but the swollen stem is eaten as a vegetable.

All the species grow in water, and in North America wild rice was originally harvested from a canoe. It remains difficult to harvest, and difficult to grow, and as a result it’s more expensive than ‘real’ rice.

wild rice recipe
Harvesting wild rice from a canoe. Wild rice is native to North America.

What does wild rice taste like?

From a culinary point of view, it has an intriguing nutty, smoky flavour, a chewy, long, smooth texture, and a glossy dark brown to black colour. It can make a dish look stunning and exotic – you can sprinkle it for example onto a green salad. Much of the smoky flavour comes from the drying process, and cooking wild rice with herbs – tarragon or lavender – helps to bring out the nutty aromas more strongly. Nuts – pistachios and hazelnuts for example – or nut oil will emphasise this nuttiness. It’s a strong taste. Wild rice goes well with robust chicken dishes, such as Popular Paterson Chicken…. it’s less good with delicate white fish.

Is wild rice good for you?

Nutritionally it’s got a lot going for it – high in fibre and protein and low in calories – it’s also gluten-free.

How long can you keep wild rice?

Uncooked wild rice keeps almost indefinitely. Cooked wild rice will keep for up to a week in the fridge, and for six months in the freezer (it keeps well frozen).

How long should you cook wild rice?

How long should you cook wild rice? On the packet I have, it suggests 50-55 minutes; Tilda suggests 45-50 minutes for its giant wild rice, then taking off the heat and keeping pan covered for a further five – both these methods specify that the rice should puff and burst. This slightly ruins the sleekness of the rice, but it does absorb additional flavours well. On the other hand, I’ve seen some suggestions of a mere 8-10 minutes, with it being clear that the grain should not split. Although the rice retrains its glossy blackness, this is, in my view, a bit hard core….. for the sort of people who chew glass. My culinary hero, Yotam Ottolenghi, suggests 40 minutes and that time, in my view, gives the optimum compromise. If you buy wild rice mixed with ‘real’ rice you are more constrained by the cooking time of the ‘real’ rice which will be horrible if overcooked, so go with the recommended 20-25 minutes for that.

What can you do with leftover wild rice?

If you have any leftover vegetables as well as the rice you can make a terrific salad. Mix the cooked wild rice and the leftover vegetables together in a salad bowl. Add olive oil; raisins – and/or other dried fruit – cranberries and apricots; some dry-fried cumin seeds (crushed in a pestle and mortar); dry-fried and chopped hazelnuts, or other nuts; snipped parsley and mint; some Urfa pepper flakes. Stir. Make a dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar, mustard, garlic, peeled and crushed with textured salt. Dress. Serve!

Recipe for a glorious, nutty, smoky wild rice

Serves 3-4


  • 120g/4 oz/¾ cup wild rice
  • 480 ml/2 cups water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • A couple of bay leaves


  1. Rinse and drain the rice
  2. Boil up the water and dissolve the stock cube into it
  3. Add the rice and the bay leaves
  4. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes* – see note above
  5. Drain and serve

Wild rice is particularly good with butter, lemon juice, pepper and chopped tarragon.

Or, for the quantities above, with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and a couple of tablespoons of chopped chervil, parsley and chives.

Other posts you might find interesting

For a post with tips to help you make the perfect risotto, follow this link

For a post about jasmine rice, which has nothing to do with jasmine, follow this link

For why Basmati is the champagne of rices, follow this link.

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