Cranberry Rice Pilaf
No more boring white rice when you make Cranberry Rice Pilaf with pecans and caramelized onion! Makes a hearty vegetarian side dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Now that we talked about how to make the best cookie tray, how about something a little savory to get you through the holidays?
As much as I love cookies, at some point you need to eat real food so you aren’t in a constant sugar coma.
One request I got from you is to include more side dishes.
Since we’re almost halfway through December, I wanted to make something festive and easy to serve for your Christmas dinner for two.
(If you don’t celebrate Christmas, rice pilaf for two still makes a delicious winter side dish.)
I don’t think I can get any more holiday than Cranberry Rice Pilaf For Two with pecans and caramelized onion (unless I add candy canes or something. Which I’m not).
Cranberries and pecans seem to be prominent flavors for winter. Why not add them to dinner? This Cranberry Rice Pilaf is buttery and toasty with some sweetness and crunch.
Want to turn it into a main dish? Stuff the rice in these Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash.
You can also serve this as a vegetarian side dish for your Thanksgiving Dinner For Two.
What is rice pilaf?
Rice pilaf is a side dish where you fry the rice in oil or butter for a minute before you finish cooking it in broth or stock.
What is the difference between rice and rice pilaf?
The difference between white rice and rice pilaf is the cooking technique.
With regular rice, you boil together the rice and water. There is very little flavor involved, making it an ideal blank canvas for when you have a sauce like my Spicy Beer Shrimp.
With rice pilaf, you fry the rice in fat for a minute before adding stock or broth. Both the fat and broth add extra flavor, making it ideal for serving as its own side dish.
How To Caramelize Onion
The key to making caramelized onion is to cook it low and slow in butter. That means low heat without rushing through the process.
Caramelizing onions takes some time, but they’re oh so worth it. Cook them in butter for about 20-30 minutes until they turn a nice golden brown color.
You might need to make a double batch as you, uh, taste test during the process.
How To make Cranberry Rice Pilaf
First, you caramelize your onion for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
Then you add your rice and cook until translucent, about 1 minute.
Slowly stir in your broth, dried cranberries, and salt. Cooking your cranberries directly in the broth helps plump them up so you don’t have to do that prior to using them.
Once the broth is boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and cover your pan with a lid. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
And as difficult as they may sound, once the rice is done you need to let it sit and rest for 10 minutes. This helps achieve a fluffier texture as well as letting the flavors meld a little more.
What Does Rice Pilaf Go With?
I often pair rice pilaf with a main protein, such as chicken, salmon, or even lamb.
If you’re vegetarian, you can serve rice pilaf with stuffed butternut squash.
How To Make Rice Pilaf Ahead Of Time
If you’re making this cranberry rice pilaf for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you may want to plan ahead because of the caramelized onion.
Cook the caramelized onion 1-2 days ahead of time then refrigerate until ready to finish the recipe.
Don’t have time to caramelize? Dice the onion instead then saute until they start to soften, about 5-8 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Half of a small white or yellow onion, sliced*
- 1/2 cup dry long white rice
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth/stock
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- In a large skillet over low heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the onion and a big pinch of salt. Cook until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Add the rice and cook until the rice turns translucent, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in the broth, cranberries, and salt. Turn the heat up to medium then bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low then cover with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. If needed, add more salt to taste.
- Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Stir in the pecans and parsley.
*Want to make this dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas but need to save time? Make the caramelized onion 1-2 days ahead then refrigerate until ready to finish the recipe.
*Don't have time to caramelize? Dice the onion instead then saute until they start to soften, about 5-8 minutes.