It's true, you can "pop" wild rice much like popcorn. As you can see in the picture, it doesn't get as big and fluffy or puffy as popcorn, but it does pop, turning dried and cured grains of wild rice into a crunchy, delicious, crave-able snack. Popped wild rice also works beautifully as a garnish. Think of using it the same way you'd use croutons or nuts. Sprinkle it over composed salads, especially those featuring fall vegetables, or add it to the top of creamy soups for crunch and flavor.
To "Pop" Wild Rice
- Heat a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan with a fit-fitting lid over high heat. When the pot is hot, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom with the oil.
- Add 1/2 cup wild rice, shake the pan vigorously to coat the wild rice with the oil on the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-high, and shake the pan until you can hear the wild rice popping.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep shaking the pan until the popping slows. Note that wild rice will not make as much noise as popcorn does—it doesn't fly up against the lid in teh same way, so you will need to listen closely.
- Sprinkle the popped wild rice with fine sea salt to taste, if you like, and serve while it's still hot.
Makes about 1 cup of Popped Wild Rice.
Don't feel like you need to stick to just salt. Other seasonings that work well with wild rice include freshly ground black pepper and flaked nutritional yeast.
If you happen to have dried porcini powder sitting around (not in ever spice cabinet, perhaps, but it should be!), it will add a lovely light mushroom flavor, and people who love wild rice know that it pairs beyond beautifully with everything mushroom.
Why Does It Pop?
Note that wild rice pops for the same reason popcorn does: the bit of moisture left in it after drying heats, turns to steam, and forces the whole seed to "pop" open when it gets hot enough.
For that reason, wild rice that has been stored for a very long time will pop less than more recently harvested wild rice, since more of its moisture will already have evaporated out.
For that same reason, how wild rice was "cured" after bring harvested will also affect its popping ability; wild rice that is more dried in the first place won't pop as well as wild rice that is less dried before being packaged or sent to market.