Harvest Rice Salad

If you’re looking for an easy, make ahead side dish for Thanksgiving then you’ve got to try this delicious Harvest Rice Salad!

The side of a bowl of Harvest Rice Saladon a wood background.

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A had her first day of preschool yesterday (cue allllll the mommy tears!). You guys, I seriously cannot believe it! I could have sworn I just brought my gal home from the hospital yesterday in her teeny little newborn onsies!!

I won’t lie, I was a little nervous. When they started letting her spend a day here and there in the preschool room (to prep her for the permanent move) she was a little bit hit or miss. There would be some days that she’d come home all excited and tell us about how much fun she had in the big girl room. Many of A’s friends from the toddler room had moved up a few months prior to her, so she was always super excited to have been able to see them.

But there were other times that she’d be a little sad about it. Now let me be clear, she wasn’t at all sad about the new room or any of the teachers or students in there. She was sad because she missed her old room, specifically her old teachers. A has always loved her teachers in each of her rooms. But I think now that she’s older and can communicate much better, it’s helped her relationship with these particular teachers flourish even more. And they’re pretty awesome as well!

A spoonful of Harvest Rice Salad with the bowl in the background.

We’ve gone out of our way to really build up the move to preschool. J and I talk all the time about how she’s a big girl now (which brings the added bonus of leverage in terms of behavior!). Since daycare was closed on Friday for open house, I took the day off from work and after we left the open house, I took the girls to Target and let A pick a special first day of school outfit and even nail polish! Much like her mother, she loves her some Tar-jay, so this was a pretty big deal for her.

That morning, she woke pretty late and was totally dragging and a bit grouchy. When we got to daycare, she was in a pretty good mood and stayed that way through our first stop which was T’s new toddler room (staaahhhppp- I can’t believe she’s considered a toddler now!!). But when we got to her new room, A got quiet and a bit intense. She didn’t have much to say to anyone and when it became apparent that J and I were about to leave, she began to cry.

A overhead shot of Harvest Rice Salad.

My heart broke a little. I gave her a hug and told her to be brave and to choose to make it a great day (she might have rolled her eyes at me- she’s obviously my daughter!!). We then made a quick exit- I think with daycare and school drop offs, there comes a point where lingering only makes it worse.

It ended up being ok. I called later in the day to check on her and they said she perked up pretty quickly. When we went to pick the girls up, they were both in a super happy mood and it was clear that they had an awesome day. I know it will only get easier from here!

So this rice salad has been simmering in my brain for a while. It was inspired by a wild rice salad that they had in the salad bar at my cafeteria at work. For many, many months I had been dreaming of that salad and I knew I had to make my own version.

The more I thought about it, the more I kept imagining this to be a surprisingly non-traditional Thanksgiving side dish that keeps coming back for more and more helpings. Celery and shallots give this a fantastic crunch which plays nicely with the nuttiness of the rice. Quick note on this- I used the slicing surface on my box grater to shave the celery, but you could also slice it thin with a knife.

A close up of Harvest Rice Salad in a wooden bowl.

I went with a rice blend containing wild rice because I cannot for the life of me seem to locate plain wild rice anywhere around here (but if you can, you’re always welcome to use that!).

The dried cranberries add an awesome and much needed sweetness; they also look totally festive and seasonally appropriate! But my most interesting and possibly controversial addition is the crumbly blue cheese.

A bowl of v with a pink towel and serving spoons.

I am a long-time, dedicated lover of all the various blue cheeses out there. And while they didn’t include this in the rice salad at work, I was enjoying my rice salad on the same plate as a green salad that had some crumbly blue on top and when some of the cheese found it’s way into my rice salad, I was not even slightly sad about it! I think it adds an extra special zing to this dish. But if that’s not how you roll, feel free to skip it or serve it on the side.

This is super easy to make ahead and is best served cold! So if you have a big family gathering coming up (I’m looking at you, Thanksgiving!) then you should probably make this and pat yourself on the back when everyone tells you how delicious it is! 🙂

Harvest Rice Salad in a wooden bowl with serving utensils on the bowl.

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Other great holiday side dishes include:

Harvest Rice Salad

10 minPrep Time

25 minCook Time

35 minTotal Time

Yields 6-8 side servings


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  • 1 8oz. package of the plain rice blend of your choice, cooked as per package directions and cooled.
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups shaved celery (use the slicing surface on your box grater or slice it thin with a knife)
  • 1/4 cup crumbly blue cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Stir well to mix.
  3. Refrigerate until it's time to serve it.
  4. Enjoy!


This lasts up to a week in the refrigerator.

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This Harvest Wild Rice Salad is the perfect make ahead side dish for Thanksgiving or any other party. It's an easy recipe to make with dried cranberries, shallots, celery and crumbly blue cheese. Everyone will be coming back for seconds!
This Harvest Wild Rice Salad is the perfect make ahead side dish for Thanksgiving or any other party. It's an easy recipe to make with dried cranberries, shallots, celery and crumbly blue cheese. Everyone will be coming back for seconds!


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