Wild rice is not actually rice, but that doesn't make it less tasty, healthy, and easy to prepare. This type of grass is filled with vitamins, fiber, and an outstanding 4 grams of protein per 100 grams of cooked wild rice, so it's also an amazing source of vegan protein.
Although usually cooked as you would cook rice, wild rice can be popped like popcorn, and even if it doesn't get as big and fluffy or puffy as popcorn, the dried and cured grains of wild rice become a crunchy and delicious snack. Wild rice pops for the same reason popcorn does–the bit of moisture left in it after drying turns to steam and forces the whole seed to "pop" open when it gets hot. 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. Thus, how wild rice was "cured" after bring harvested will also affect its popping ability: wild rice that is dried more in the first place won't pop as well as wild rice that is dried less before being packaged or sent to market.
Popped wild rice works beautifully as a garnish for salads instead of croutons or nuts. Sprinkle it over raw or roasted vegetables, top creamy soups and pasta dishes to add crunch and flavor, or mix it with regular white or brown rice to add texture to your dishes.
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup wild rice
- Sea salt, to taste
Gather the ingredients.
Heat a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. When the pot is hot, add the vegetable oil. Swirl the pan to thoroughly coat the bottom with the oil.
Add the wild rice and shake the pan vigorously to coat the wild rice with the oil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-high, and shake the pan until you can hear the wild rice popping, or about 3 minutes.
Once you hear a popping sound, 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 the same way, so you will need to listen closely.
Once you can't hear any more popping, after about 7 minutes, turn off the heat, remove from the stove, and sprinkle the popped wild rice with fine sea salt to taste. Serve while hot.
Other Flavors for Popped Wild Rice
Don't feel like you need to stick to just salt. Other seasonings that work well with wild rice include:
- Earthy: Add freshly ground black pepper and flaked nutritional yeast.
- Umami: Add dried powdered porcini. It will add a lovely light mushroom flavor, which in combination with the wild rice is famous for its deliciousness.
- Herby: Add dried oregano, basil, and thyme.
- Spicy: Use pepper flakes and garlic salt to season the wild rice.