A tasty salad consisting of wild rice, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts. Great as a main dish with added chicken or as a side dish without chicken. Add this easy make-ahead recipe to your fall or winter meal plan!
Not only is this yummy salad healthy, quick and easy, but it is also versatile. You have the freedom to use any type of rice or grain (quinoa would be nice), any type of dried fruit (dried cherries, raisins), and any type of nut or seed (maybe slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds). There are plenty of ways to change up this salad to make it your own!
Another great example of this dish’s versatility is its ability to be served as a side dish. Omit the chopped chicken and serve this chilled salad next to grilled chicken, steak or even seafood. You could even serve it with “the turkey” on Thanksgiving! If I didn’t like stuffing so much… I would! Also, a great dish to bring to a potluck.
Obviously, the main ingredient in this dish is rice. I chose to use a quick favorite… Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice Fast Cook. I like how this rice comes with a packet of seasonings which adds a bit more flavor to the recipe. However, the sodium in this packet is high, so to cut back only use about 1/2 the packet. I also cut back on the amount of olive oil from 1 tbsp to 1 tsp.
If you use chicken you’ll need about 1 1/2 lbs. Pick up a couple of bags of dried fruit (my favorite combo is dried apricots and Craisins) and a small bag of chopped walnuts. For the dressing, all you need is extra virgin olive oil, 100% pure maple syrup and a lemon.
The best thing about this salad is you can make it ahead! Stick it in the fridge and dinner is ready when you are! Sure, you can enjoy this salad immediately, but it’s even better served chilled.
1. Bake, Saute, or Grill Chicken then cut into bite-size pieces.
I prepared my chicken breasts by baking them in the oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, you have plenty of time to complete the rest of the prep.
2. Cook the rice.
Since I use Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice Fast Cook, this rice cooks up really fast… 10 minutes and it’s ready. To cut back on sodium use 1/2 of the seasoning packet. Also, decrease the olive oil to 1 tsp, especially since the dressing will contain evoo.
3. Chop the Dried Apricots.
If you want to soften and plump the dried apricots, place them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for about 5 minutes and then drain the water. Honestly, I don’t bother with this extra step because I find that once I add the apricots to the warm rice mixture, they get warmed up enough to plump up and the texture is perfect.
4. Toast the walnuts.
Toasting the walnuts only takes about 5-6 minutes and is well worth the effort to give your salad that extra dimension of flavor. Simply throw your chopped nuts in a dry pan and toast on medium heat until you start to smell the nutty aroma and can see the nuts browning. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on them.
5. Make the Simple Dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp maple syrup. You don’t need any extra seasonings or salt because you’re already getting that from the rice packet.
6. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl, Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
On The Side
Fresh Green Beans make an excellent accompaniment to this salad. Simply boil on the stove-top for 15-20 minutes and drain. Add a little salt and pepper, a pat of butter, and you’re set.
I absolutely love this salad! The flavor, the crunch from the walnuts, the tanginess and sweetness from the dried fruit, and especially the ease in making it! It shows up on my Fall and Winter meal plans at least 3 or 4 times. If you have leftovers, it’s great for lunch. Perfect for a potluck and sophisticated enough even for a holiday meal.
*Picky eater tip: I reserved some chicken on the side for my picky daughter before I mixed it all together with the rice. She loves apricots and dried cranberries, so I gave her a few of those on the side too while encouraging her to try some of the salad. My son, on the other hand, loved the salad. He’ll eat anything with rice!
CHICKEN AND RICE SALAD WITH DRIED FRUIT
- 1 6.2 oz box Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice Fast Cook with 23 Herbs and Seasonings (water plus 1 tsp olive oil to prepare)
- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and chopped into bite-size pieces)
- 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
- 1 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
- While chicken is *cooking, prepare rice on stove-top as directed on package.
- Optional: Place chopped dried apricots in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow apricots to soften. Drain water.
- Transfer prepared rice to a large bowl. Add chopped chicken, apricots, cranberries, and walnuts. (Reserve a few walnuts for top.) Mix well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and mix well. Sprinkle the reserved walnuts on top.
- Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.