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Native American Recipe: Wild Rice + Sweet Potato

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Go back to the land.

Native American recipes deserve more prominence in American’s culinary and cultural landscape, especially at Thanksgiving. This Native American recipe for wild rice sauté with sweet potato is a nourishing, delicious place to start.

wooden dish with native american recipe for wild rice salad with sweet potato corn and mushrooms

What Are Native American Recipes and Cuisine?

Despite being the founding foodscape of our country, the Native American recipe and culinary culture is poorly understood.

Diverse, healthful, and deep with tradition, Native American cuisine is not a monolith, but a collection of regional foods that reflect the land, its native plants and game, and above all else, history. We see this history reflected in this Native American recipe for wild rice, from culinary historian Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D.

ingredients for wild rice salad mushrooms corn scallions onion garlic on marble

What Is Native American Food?

When is the last time you enjoyed food from an Italian restaurant? Mexican? An Irish pub, maybe? My guess is way more than you’ve eaten Native American food or cooked a strictly Native American recipe. And yet, its influences reach far and wide.

Native American cuisine dates back millennia, and reflects the local plants, game, and geography of individual tribes. For example, the native cuisines of the arid Southwest desert tribes would have been different from the tribes of what is now, say, New England. The climates, wildlife, and fauna are completely different. The common thread, though, would have been hyperlocal ingredients.

Native American Recipe for Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Sauté

Is Native American Food Healthy?

Ancient trade routes influenced cuisine as well. According to chef and Native American food historian Lois Ellen Frank, evidence of non-native foods like chocolate and quinoa have been found in various Native American archaeological sites as far away as North Dakota.

Later, Native American food took a sad turn when vast populations were either killed or forcibly removed from their land — the only land they knew — by white settlers and government programs. This forced Native Americans to rely on unfamiliar (and often unhealthy) commodity rations and other foods they did not know how to raise by themselves.

Today, though myriad issues still remain, there has been a movement toward a “New Native” cuisine, going back to the original ingredients and foodways of indigenous people, adopting a sustainable, regional Native American diet focused on fruits, grains, beans, vegetables, and some wild game.

sauteed corn and mushrooms in pan with scallion for American Indian vegetable recipe

Native American Recipe Notes: Wild Rice Sauté With Sweet Potato

  • Wild rice. Dr. Frank writes that wild rice “is a Native American grain that is part of the Ojibwe communities and native to the Great Lakes regions.” She recommends purchasing from Native Harvest, where the heirloom rice is “hand harvested by canoe as it has been for generations, and grows naturally in the lakes of these areas.”
  • Practically speaking, wild rice takes a long time to cook — over an hour. So be sure to cook your wild rice in advance.
  • This wild rice sauté is delicious on its own, but serving it over a baked sweet potato is even better.

wooden dish with native american recipe for wild rice salad with sweet potato corn and mushrooms

Did you make this Native American recipe for wild rice and sweet potato for Thanksgiving? How did it go?

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Native American Recipe for Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Sauté

Native American Recipe: Wild Rice Sauté With Sweet Potato

A nourishing, special dish from an award-winning Native American chef.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Potato Roasting Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Indiginous
Keywords:: american indian, indigenous, native american, paleo, sweet potato, thanksgiving, vegan, vegetarian, wild rice
Servings: 6 to 8 people as a side dish
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (about 10 ounces)
  • 2 cups brown cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice (from about 3/4 cups dried)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons fresh green scallions, finely sliced (about 3 to 4 scallions)
  • Roasted sweet potatoes, to serve (optional)

Instructions

  • Cook the wild rice according to the package directions. This will take about an hour.
  • While the rice cooks, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic cloves and cook until they start to blacken. Toss and lightly blacken on all sides. remove from heat and place into a small bowl to cool. Once the garlic cloves are cooled, finely chop them.
  • Heat a medium- to large-sized pan. Add the olive oil and add the onions and sauté, stirring for 4 minutes to prevent burning. Add the blackened garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
    Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the dried cherries or cranberries and stir. Cook for another few minutes and then add the corn kernels. Stir and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice, salt, and pepper. Stir for two minutes more, until completely hot.
    Ed. Note: I used about 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt.
  • Remove from heat, garnish with fresh sliced scallions, and serve immediately.
    This wild rice sauté can be served on its own, or over a roasted, halved sweet potatoes that have been drizzled with a mixture of 1 cup maple syrup, juice of 1 lime, and 2 teaspoons mild to medium chili powder.

15 comments

  • camden keith

    I have been using your website for my genius hour at school

  • Sofia Graf

    5 stars
    I am really happy after learning the recipe for Wild Rice Sauté With Sweet Potato. But instead of using olive oil, may I use pure ghee for preparing the dish? I like ghee flavor and I found ghee creamier and can add a better creamy mouthfeel altogether. Any suggestion?
    I prefer using Milkio grass-fed ghee for all my recipes.

  • I am planning to make this dish for my bookclub this week. We are reading ‘I am the Grand Canyon,’ Thank you so much for the recipe

    • Unpeeled

      That’s so great to hear! I hope you enjoy and enjoy book club. Thanks for letting me know.

  • 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe, as well as the resource for uncultivated wild rice. (Most of the rice available for purchase these days is ‘cultivated’ and not actually wild.)
    Growing up, wild rice from the area near Leach Lake, Minnesota was a frequent part of autumn and winter meals at home, often served with red cabbage and wild duck. My mother was an excellent cook, and the memories of those meals have stayed with me for decades.
    I look forward to making more Native American recipes.

    • Unpeeled

      Thank you for this note! I am so glad that you enjoyed the recipe, and I love hearing about growing up with local wild rice and how your mom served it. She certainly sounds like a wonderful cook. I hope to feature more indigenous recipes in the coming months. Thanks again for sharing this.

      • Debbie George

        It will be more helpful to not include non indigenous foods when claiming something an indigenous recipe such as lime in this recipe. Still it looks good!

        • Unpeeled

          You are absolutely right! Even thought lime is not listed as a main ingredient, it is offered as an option for a final flourish. Good call, and thanks so much for writing.

  • 5 stars
    🙂 Nice to see a Native American recipe represented. Thank you.

  • Paulina

    5 stars
    I plan on making this for Thanksgiving this year, as I did last year.

  • 5 stars
    This was very good. I made only the wild rice, but loved the flavor and I felt very healthy. Thank you for teaching me more about Native American cooking and ingredients.

  • Mary Jo Hogan

    Thank you for this Native American wild rice recipe and the narrative. I can’t tell if you publish only Native recipes — this page isn’t clear. I signed up for your weekly newsletters, and really hope it pertains to Native culture and recipes. Thanks!

    • Unpeeled

      Hello and I am so glad that you enjoyed reading this. I think it is so important to highlight and give more weight to the role of Native American food and cooking — and its history and impact. Unpeeled is a general food and cooking website that features a range of recipes, as well as interviews with women in food. Our goal is to present a range of cultures, cuisines, and cooking and baking techniques. This will include more Native American recipes in coming months, so stay tuned. In the meantime, thank you again for joining and for this lovely comment. Best, Lisa (Editor, Unpeeled)

      • Jan Dunn

        5 stars
        Thank you for this excellent article on Native American cooking. I was inspired to make a Native American inspired Thanksgiving this year after reading what Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote about the Three Sisters in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. I am really interested in Native American recipes, When I did a vision quest on Bear Butte, S. D., I noticed that quite of few of the Lakota women brought buffalo stew to eat. I am interested in traditional foods and what vegetables tribes like the Lakotas used. The Ojibwe who lived more in the woodlands and around lakes had pecans, maple syrup, and wild rice. One of the longest names in the Ojibwe language is a modern word for Blueberry pie that has fifty-four letters!!!!

5 from 6 votes

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