Wild Rice Salad with Butternut Squash and Arugula

january 16, 2016

wild rice salad with butternut squash and arugula

The most versatile salads have several characteristics. They are easy to assemble and have components that may be made ahead of time so that putting all together is a snap. They may be served as a salad course, or as a side dish. They can stand alone, or serve as the base for grilled meats, seafood or tofu. Here is such a salad, made to please a variety of palates and served recently at a holiday dinner in my home.

I have made this salad twice, tweaking the second time to add texture and flavor. It has been my breakfast, my lunch and my dinner. My testers have pronounced this version their favorite. After the richness of holiday foods, we’re all ready for clean eating and more mindful of what our bodies need to feel best. My idea is that when you must chew thoughtfully, you are less prone to mindless eating and shoveling down your meal in a hurry. The hefty chewiness of wild rice will do that for you, just as lentils and beans will ask you to slow down and enjoy the process blissfully.

wild rice salad with butternut squash and arugula

More texture, both earthy and sweet : creamy cubes of roasted butternut squash, crunchy toasted pecans and dried cranberries. Baby arugula is not just for color and show; that wonderful umami taste tames both the sweetness and the vinegar tang. You needn’t bother with making a vinaigrette; oil and vinegar are added separately, letting the ingredient flavors shine on their own.

wild rice salad with butternut squash and arugulawild rice salad with butternut squash and arugulaThe individual components of the salad may be made ahead, then combined at least one hour before serving, which makes this salad a favorite for feeding a crowd at your house or for bringing to a cozy gathering. Leftovers make a filling lunch, especially when tossed with bits of cheese or cubes of smoked turkey.

Wild Rice Salad with Butternut Squash and Arugula

wild rice salad with butternut squash and arugula

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

serves 6-8 as side dish, 4-6 as main dish salad


one cup wild rice
¾ cup pecan halves
1 ½ cups butternut squash cubes (about 8 ounces)
½ cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup thinly sliced shallot
4 cups (packed) baby arugula
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
neutral oil like canola
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse wild rice; add to 2 quart saucepan with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  3. Bring to boil, give a stir, and simmer, covered, until wild rice is tender but still firm, about 45 minutes.
  4. Drain and add wild rice to large mixing bowl to cool.
  5. Toast pecan halves in oven on baking sheet until fragrant, about 12 minutes; when cool, chop coarsely and add to mixing bowl.
  6. Toss butternut squash cubes with about 1 teaspoon canola oil and a pinch of kosher salt on a large baking sheet and bake until just tender, about 20 minutes; add to mixing bowl.
  7. Add dried cranberries and shallot to bowl with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and gently toss together.
  8. Add olive oil and gently mix to coat, then white balsamic vinegar.
  9. Chill mixture to develop flavor at least one hour and up to 2 days ahead.
  10. Just prior to serving, adjust seasoning and toss mixture with arugula.
  11. This salad will last in the fridge a couple of days; any longer and the arugula wilts.

cook’s notes

  • if chopped before baking, some pecan pieces get burned, so I bake larger halves, then chop
  • the salad will taste strongly of vinegar when first made, but as it rests in the fridge, you will notice the acidity decreases
  • wild rice is bland, so season fearlessly with salt and pepper
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