Healthy holiday side dish: Cranberry, apricot, pecan rice pilaf

Many traditional holiday foods are based around animal products, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat dry lettuce all weekend.
By Angela Liddon

rice pilaf, vegan, food, health

One of the questions I'm most frequently asked around this time of the year is, “What healthy recipes can I make for my upcoming holiday meals that will impress those skeptics [who]?"

Eating vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or other special diets can be challenging, especially around the holidays. Many traditional holiday foods are based around animal products, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat lettuce all weekend. And who knows, once you get your feet wet, you might find yourself hosting your very own vegan holiday dinner! I hosted my first vegan Thanksgiving in 2010 and was so glad I did. Not only did my vegan holiday meal go over well with everyone, but it helped my family see that vegan food can be just as delicious, if not more so, than traditional fare.

We’re just four weeks away from the holidays and I’m sharing this delicious cranberry, apricot and pecan wild rice pilaf that I recently made for a big dinner. It's the perfect complement to any holiday meal. You might want to double the batch for a big dinner party as this pilaf goes fast!

Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf

Vegan and gluten-free

Stuffing need not apply; this wild rice pilaf is a show stopper! Bring it to your holiday dinner to dazzle and impress the toughest critics. The beauty of this dish is that it looks like it is much more time-consuming than it really is (our little secret) and it’s also very low in oil. The addition of fresh cranberries adds a very light tartness to the dish that balances out the sweetness from the dried fruit very well. It can also be made a day in advance to help save you time. If making in advance, be sure to leave out the pecans until just before serving and reheat in the skillet.

Yield: 4.5-5 cups



  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 cups chopped celery + 1/2 cup, divided
  • 1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (be sure to use gluten-free if required)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4-1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, thinly sliced


  • Preheat oven to 325F and toast the pecans for about 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Sautee onion, oil, and garlic in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add 1.5 cups chopped celery and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  • Add wild rice, broth, bay leaf, and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low-medium and then cover with lid. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.
  • After 30 minutes, uncover, stir, and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Note that wild rice cooking times can vary a lot so keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  • Remove bay leaf and stir in the dried fruit. Season to taste and stir in the sliced fresh cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped raw celery. Stir in toasted pecans.

Note: Dish can be made one day in advance. Do not add pecans until just before serving. Allow to cool then place in an air tight container in the fridge. Reheat in a skillet just before serving and stir in pecans.

Angela Liddon is the creator of Oh She Glows, a popular healthy vegan recipe website. She is also one of Chatelaine's Women of the Year 2011. Angela’s passion for healthy vegan food is contagious and she’s eager to show others that vegan (and often gluten-free) food can blow your taste buds away.


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