What is Wild Rice?

What is wild rice?

Also known as water oats and Indian rice, wild rice is a grass containing grains which can be harvested and consumed. Growing best in shallow lakes or slow-moving streams, wild rice can be recognized by its flowering tops which are visible above the water. In addition to humans, aquatic animals eat wild rice such as ducks and marsh birds.

Due to its excellent health benefits, wild rice is increasingly becoming popular as a food staple in the United States and is being widely cultivated to satisfy the growing demand. Principally grown in Minnesota and California, where it is the state grain, wild rice is grown in paddy fields much like the ancient Asians raised this grain.

What is Wild Rice Nutrition?

Rich in protein, wild rice also contains beneficial amino acids and dietary fiber. It is also gluten-free, low in fat and contributes potassium, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin to one's diet. The only issue with wild rice is its ability to become infected by ergot, an extremely toxic fungal disease which can be fatal if consumed. Wild rice grains which are poisoned by ergot will appear pinkish or purplish and be larger than normal. Ergot infection is the reason the U.S. prohibits importation of wild rice from other countries.

Similar to other whole grains, wild rice is winnowed first in order to divide the chaff from the grain itself. Also, the outer hull must be removed because it is indigestible. The wild rice purchased in grocery stores is actually a hybrid version called "paddy rice". Paddy rice tastes slightly different then wild rice but still retains its nutritional value.

What are Whole Grains?

Whole grains, like wild rice, incorporate all of the natural nutrients of the whole seed. In other words, after the grain has been processed (hulled, crushed or cooked) it will still retain the same vitamins and minerals as before it was processed. Some whole grains include:

  • buckwheat
  • millet
  • oats
  • wheat
  • rye
  • corn

How to Cook Wild Rice

Wild rice can be steamed, baked, boiled or cooked in the microwave depending on the recipe. Make sure the wild rice is rinsed well and remember that one cup of raw rice will give you three or four cups of cooked rice. When cooking with grains, these rules can be applied as well. Most wild rice recipes will call for rice that has been initially steamed or boiled.

  • Steaming wild rice: bring rice to a boil in saucepan, then reduce heat and cook until kernels are tender and popped.

  • Boiling wild rice: put rice in boiling water containing one teaspoon of salt. Boil for around 40 to 45 minutes or until rice is tender. Kernels which have been boiled will stay intact and not pop like steamed rice kernels.

What is Wild Rice Recipes?


In addition to being an excellent side dish, wild rice can also provide a delicious dessert.

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Brown sugar or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted
  • Milk, soy milk, or cream

Steam rice in saucepan until all water is absorbed and the rice has popped. Mix with the sugar, cherries and maple syrup. Warm before serving and top with hazelnuts and choice of milk. You might also like making a casserole from wild rice, sliced turkey, mushrooms and cheese, or other leftovers you may have after a holiday dinner.


  • 5 Slices finely chopped bacon
  • 1 Medium finely chopped onion
  • 1 Cup wild rice
  • 2 ½ Cups chicken stock
  • 1 Bunch chopped scallions

Cook bacon in skillet until crisp; stir in onion and cook until tender.
Add rice, stir and cook for 1 minute; add chicken stock and mix well; simmer for 45 minute until tender.
Sprinkle with scallions; serves 6.


This is a favorite dish when you learn what is wild rice.

  • ½ Pound pork tenderloin sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 Cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Cup sliced celery
  • 1 Cup sliced green onion
  • 1 Cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Can (8 ounces) water chestnuts sliced
  • ½ Pound snow peas
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 Cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon dry sherry
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ Teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ Cup cashew nuts

Slice pork and set aside; heat oil and garlic in heavy skillet for 30 seconds.
Add pork and stir fry over high heat for 2 minutes until meat is no longer pink.
Add celery, green onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts, pea pods and ginger.
Stir fry 5 minutes over high heat until vegetables are tender crisp.
Toss in wild rice until evenly blended.
Mix cornstarch with sherry, soy sauce and salt; add to the juices in the pan and cook about 1 minute.
Toss mixture together to coat everything with the glaze; sprinkle with cashews.

The question of what is wild rice is best answered by referring to its versatility and amazing health benefits, in addition to the many recipes you can find implementing this highly useful whole grain. So it is important to ask the question what is wild rice?

› Wild Rice

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