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Thanksgiving Rice Stuffing for Turkey

Published on: November 14, 2021
A bowl of rice stuffing for turkey

Thanksgiving is the holiday I look forward to every year! It is one of the few times we are able to get the majority of the family together and thankfully, this year, we will have almost everyone from my side here. I’m so grateful for this! Then, there is the food. While the table is full of traditional dishes, I do like to mix it up and try some new things and I’m doing that with my rice stuffing for the turkey this year. Yes, rice for Thanksgiving!

I’ve been busy planning my menu and other than pumpkin pie, my favorite dish is the stuffing. While I usually make a pretty typical bread and sausage stuffing, this rice stuffing has all the flavors of traditional stuffing, I’m just swapping in a nutty wild rice blend as the base instead of bread.

There are a lot of things to love about this stuffing.

First, it is easy to make – easier than bread stuffing.

Second, it is a great make-ahead dish and it is easy to reheat.

Third (and my favorite thing about it) it won’t dry out the way a breadstuffing will.

So, let’s get to it!

Ingredients for Rice Stuffing

  • Start with the stuffing base. I love the variety of rice in this Lundberg Farms Wild Rice Blend. It is made of a mixture of brown, black, red, and wild rice. This makes it a really pretty base for this dish. It has a nutty flavor and is nice and hearty rice, so it is a perfect base for this stuffing. I cook it in broth to really add some flavor but that isn’t necessary! I picked it up at my local grocery store, but you can also order it online if you can’t find it. 
  • Next the seasoning base. Aromatics come into play here. What are aromatics? Celery, onions, and a little garlic. Just a quick saute in some olive oil!
  • A little crunch and just a bit of sweetness: Diced apple and dried cranberries. I added the apple to the celery and onion and sauteed it all together quickly. I used a Honeycrisp apple for this stuffing as I like the sweetness, with just a little bite. If you prefer more of a bite, try a Granny Smith. Or if you want a little more sweetness, a Gala apple would work well too.
  • Then the crunch. The apples and celery give a little crunch but I felt it was missing something so I added toasted chopped walnuts. A classic combination, so no real surprise but the walnuts added a bit of crunch that was needed.
  • Finally, the spices and herbs. Again, I stuck with the classics – a little thyme and sage. Dried or fresh, they both work well in this. 

Stovetop or Cook Inside the Turkey?

Yes, I grew up with every turkey being fully stuffed and cooked that way. Then, eventually, the warnings about food safety issues surfaced, and well, we went to a non-stuffed bird and I’ve stuck with that. I’m not a fan of stuffing that is cooked inside the bird anymore. It ends up just too wet and soggy for my taste. Now, I agree, that stuffing outside of the bird can get dry, but I think I fixed that issue with this recipe. The rice doesn’t dry out the way bread does.  

This stuffing is cooked on the stovetop and is ready in about a half-hour. Most of that time is just cooking the rice and you can get everything else ready while the rice cooks.

Making the Rice Stuffing

This stuffing is pretty easy to pull together.

Step 1

Cook the rice. I recommend cooking it in turkey or chicken broth to get a little extra flavor boost.

Step 2

While the rice is cooking saute the onions, celery, garlic, and apples in a bit of olive oil.

Step 3

Add the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper to the apples and vegetables.

Step 4

When all the broth has been absorbed by the rice and it is tender, it is time to mix everything together. Put the rice in a large bowl and gently mix in the celery, onion, and apple blend. Stir it well to combine all the ingredients and get all those delicious spices spread throughout the dish.

If you made it ahead, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to reheat it.

Step 5

Just before serving mix in the cranberries and walnuts.

        Storage Tips

        The best part of serving rice for Thanksgiving is that you can easily make it ahead and free up some precious stovetop space for the big day.

        You can make it up to 2 days ahead of time, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. About an hour before serving remove it from the fridge.

        Remove the plastic wrap and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.

        Place it in the oven that has been preheated to 350°F. It will take about 30 minutes to warm up.

        Note: If you are cooking for a large crowd and have doubled or tripled the recipe, allow more time or break it into smaller dishes to heat up before serving.

        Other Recipes you will love

        Italian Stuffed Mushrooms – A perfect holiday appetizer

        Brussel Sprout Salad – a delicious side salad

        Roasted Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts – A delicious side dish

        I hope you have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving!

        A bowl of rice stuffing for turkey

        Rice Stuffing

        An easy holiday side dish that can be made ahead and is perfect for gluten-free diets. It can easily be doubled or tripled for large family dinners!
        5 from 1 vote
        Prep Time 15 minutes
        Cook Time 30 minutes
        Course Side Dish
        Cuisine American
        Servings 6
        Calories 170 kcal


        • Large skillet
        • Medium saucepan


        • 1 cup brown and wild rice blend Lundberg Farms is what I used
        • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
        • 1 tbsp olive oil
        • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion
        • 1/2 cup diced celery
        • 1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple cored and diced
        • 1/4 tsp dry thyme
        • 1/8 tsp dry sage
        • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
        • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
        • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
        • 2 tbsp toasted, chopped walnuts


        To cook the rice

        • Place broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add rice and stir. Then cover tightly with a lid and reduce the heat to simmer. Allow to simmer for about 40 minutes, checking only to see if the liquid has been absorbed.

        To make the stuffing

        • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring to prevent it from burning, for 3 – 4 minutes.
        • Add the diced apple, thyme, sage, and salt and pepper and continue to stir over medium heat for an additional 3 – 4 minutes, just until the apple begins to soften slightly.
        • Once the rice is done and all the liquid has been absorbed, stir the rice into the onion, celery, and apple mixture to thoroughly combine. Mix in the cranberries and toasted walnuts.
        • Place the mixture into a serving dish. At this point, it can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and cover it with aluminum foil. Place in a 350°F oven and heat for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring part of the way through.


        Calories: 170kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 4gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 350mgPotassium: 90mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 1mg
        Keyword Brown rice, Holiday, Stuffing
        Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

        1 thought on “Thanksgiving Rice Stuffing for Turkey”

        1. Pingback: Don't Stress - It's Easy to Safely Prep Your Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

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        Laura M. Ali, RD holding a bowl of pomegranate seeds

        Hi! I’m Laura!

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