Just take one look at this beautiful salad – it truly is a jewel! I love this gorgeous, subtly sweet side dish with forbidden rice, roasted butternut squash, apples, fresh mint and pomegranate arils. Jeweled Black Rice Salad is a healthy vegan side dish for Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, Sukkot, or any fall holiday.
For the upcoming holiday season, my recipe development has focused on easy, make-ahead recipe choices and plant-based options. This gorgeous and nutritious Jeweled Black Rice Salad checks all the boxes. It’s flavorful, nourishing, and so beautiful on the holiday table. Black rice (also sometimes called Forbidden Rice) is rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and detoxifying phytonutrients. That rich, dark color is also a lovely backdrop to all of the colorful ingredients!
I’ve incorporated pomegranate arils, grated apples and date syrup as symbolic holiday foods. Roasted butternut squash makes a toothsome seasonal addition. The chopped pecans add a slight crunch, bringing the whole autumn-inspired dish together. Overall, it’s a sweet (but not cloying) side dish with a refreshing aromatic punch, courtesy of fresh mint.
This Jeweled Black Rice Salad can be made ahead, which makes it an excellent choice for Rosh Hashanah or Thanksgiving. Black rice tends to keep its shape and texture well over time. It’s tasty at room temperature or chilled. If you’re making ahead, be sure to stir in the fresh mint just before serving.
Jeweled Black Rice Salad
- baking sheet
- parchment paper
- large and small bowls
- 1 cup black rice (I recommend organic “Forbidden Rice”)
- 1 1/2 lbs peeled cubed butternut squash (about 4 cups)
- 6 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 tbsp date syrup or maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt divided, plus more to taste
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1 cup water
- 3 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice divided
- 2 green apples
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey (substitute date syrup or agave to make vegan)
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)
- Note: black rice comes in many varieties, some with slightly different cook times. If you’re not using Forbidden Rice, follow the cooking instructions on your rice package. You want the rice cooked to a tender texture, but not mushy.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Boil 1 3/4 cups water on stovetop. Add the black rice and 1/4 tsp salt, bring back to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Cook the rice for about 30 minutes.
- While rice is cooking, in a mixing bowl combine butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tbsp date syrup (or maple syrup), 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and a small pinch of cayenne. Stir to coat all of the butternut squash pieces evenly.
- Spread squash out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, place in the oven, and roast for 10 minutes. Stir the squash, moving the pieces from the outside in and the pieces from the inside out. Roast another 5-15 more minutes, checking every 5 minutes, until the largest pieces are tender and browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
- When rice is done cooking, remove from heat and let stand covered for a few minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool to room temperature. If you want to cool it more quickly, transfer it to a cold mixing bowl and continue fluffing with a fork to air it out.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of water with 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice. Slice the green apples in half, cut out the cores with a melon baller, and grate the apple halves into the lemon water. Discard any peel that is left behind after grating. Let the grated apple stand for 3 minutes in the lemon water, then drain.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 tbsp honey, and 1/4 tsp salt. Whisk vigorously while drizzling in 1/4 cup olive oil to create a dressing.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked rice, cooked butternut squash, grated apples, 3/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup fresh roughly chopped mint, and 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (arils) - if you're making ahead, save the mint to stir in just before serving. Pour dressing over the ingredients and toss gently with a large spoon until the dressing is well incorporated. Add additional lemon juice or salt to taste.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. I prefer room temperature, the flavors seem to shine best that way. Salad tastes best served within 24 hours, but will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. I do not recommend freezing this dish.